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U.S. nuns meet with Vatican over its critique of their work

June 12, 2012 |  9:57 am

VATICAN CITY -– Top doctrinal officials at the Vatican met Tuesday with Roman Catholic nuns from the United States who are seeking to mitigate a harsh Vatican judgment of the organization they represent.

Statements from both sides described as open and cordial the meeting between two senior Vatican officials and the American nuns who have been accused of promoting "radical feminism."

The controversial assessment has prompted a large show of support for the sisters. But the Vatican reiterated Tuesday that it expects the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) to change its ways to energetically promote church doctrine “as faithfully taught through the ages.”

LCWR President Sister Pat Farrell said in a statement that “it was an open meeting and we were able to directly express our concerns” to Cardinal William Levada, who heads the Vatican’s doctrinal office, and Seattle Archbishop Peter Sartain, the man chosen to oversee reforms ordered by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Farrell and conference executive director Janet Mock came to Rome to discuss the results of a four-year-long “visitation” by Vatican inspectors of their organization, which church leaders felt had become too independent and had strayed too far from Roman Catholic orthodoxy.

The inspectors' assessment, issued April 18, said that while the LCWR had done good work in areas of social justice, it had been “silent” on those issues that command the utmost attention of the church leadership: abortion, euthanasia, homosexuality and the ordination of women.

It said investigators had found “serious doctrinal problems which affect many in consecrated life,” and ordered a major reform that would be overseen by Sartain and two other bishops.

The LCWR, which represents 80% of the 57,000 Catholic nuns in the U.S., said that it was stunned by the judgment and that the investigation process had been flawed. Farrell said Tuesday that the meeting with the Vatican had been requested “to address what the conference considered deficiencies in the process and the results” of the doctrinal assessment.

Since the assessment was issued, the LCWR has received an overwhelming demonstration of support from many quarters, including ordinary Catholics, theologians and many religious orders who praised the work of American nuns in helping the poor and sick and educating millions of youngsters.

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-- Sarah Delaney

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