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Nuns Enter Six Months In Infirmary As Seclusion Shattered Again

March 4, 1989

MORRIS TOWNSHIP, N.J. (AP) _ Five nuns entered their sixth month barricaded in their monastery infirmary despite a Vatican opinion that calls for an end to the protest and evicts two women from the religious order.

The Vatican told two of the women whose vows expired during the protest that they they must leave and are no longer considered members of the Order of Discalced Carmelites, the Paterson Diocese announced Friday.

Two others were told they should seek a different convent. A fifth, a 71- year-old nun who suffers heart problems, would be allowed to stay in the Monastery of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel, said Tim Manning, a spokesman for Bishop Frank Rodimer.

The nuns said through a spokeswoman that the letters are a last-ditch effort by the bishop to get them to leave.

″Nothing came here with a Vatican seal on it,″ said the spokeswoman, Betty Sutton. ″It’s the bishop’s final trick to get them out.″

Five of the 13 nuns at the monastery locked themselves in the infirmary Oct. 4. They said they feared their pending eviction for protesting liberalizations such as television and candy, which were initiated by the new mother superior, Prioress Mother Theresa Hewitt.

Mother Hewitt has called the lock-in a ″scandal″ and criticized the rebel nuns for disrupting the cloistered lifestyle at the convent.

Perhaps the nuns’ most unwanted notoriety came last week on an episode of ″Hooperman,″ which featured its star, John Ritter, falling in love with a nun - one of five on the program barricaded in their monastery’s infirmary, protesting liberalizations at the convent.

Rick Kellard, executive producer for the ABC series, said staff from the show saw news reports about the standoff and thought it would be a good way to have Ritter, who plays San Francisco detective Harry Hooperman, fall in love with a nun.

″Basically the episode is about him being very attracted to someone he can’t have,″ Kellard said.

The Rev. Timothy Dolan, a spokesman for the Vatican Embassy in Washington, D.C., said it could take two weeks or more before an appeal is heard by the Vatican’s highest court, the Apostolica Signitura.

Mrs. Sutton said the nuns were surprised the controversy has continued into its sixth month, but said they feel that indicated the Vatican is taking the case seriously.

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