Pope stands firm on reforming "radical feminist" U.S. nuns

Mon Apr 15, 2013 11:44am EDT
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By Philip Pullella

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Francis has reaffirmed the Vatican's criticism of a body that represents U.S. nuns which the Church said was tainted by "radical" feminism, dashing hopes he might take a softer stand with the sisters.

Francis's predecessor, Benedict, decreed that the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), a group that represents more than 80 percent of the 57,000 Catholic nuns in the United States, must change its ways, a ruling which the Vatican said on Monday still applied.

Last year, a Vatican report said the LCWR had "serious doctrinal problems" and promoted "radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith", criticizing it for taking a soft line on issues such as birth control and homosexuality.

The nuns received wide support among American Catholics, particularly on the liberal wing of the Church, as LCWR leaders travelled around the United States in a bus to defend themselves against the accusations.

On Monday the group's leaders met Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Mueller, the new head of the Vatican's doctrinal department, and Archbishop Peter Sartain of Seattle, who has been assigned by the Vatican to correct the group's perceived failings.

"Archbishop Mueller informed the (LCWR) presidency that he had recently discussed the doctrinal assessment with Pope Francis, who reaffirmed the findings of the assessment and the program of reform, " the Vatican's statement said.

The Vatican reminded the group that it would "remain under the direction of the Holy See," the statement said.

It was the nuns' first meeting with Mueller, who succeeded American Cardinal William Levada as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Levada, who retired last year, oversaw the Vatican's investigation of the U.S. nuns.   Continued...

Pope Francis holds a cross as he leads a solemn mass at Saint Paul's Basilica in Rome April 14, 2013. REUTERS/Max Rossi