VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - A six-year row between activist American nuns and Vatican officials who had branded them radical feminists ended on Thursday with the nuns conceding to demands that they keep within the doctrine of the Roman Catholic church.
The clash with the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), an umbrella group representing 80 percent of U.S. nuns, became a national issue in America, with many supporters accusing the Vatican of bullying them.
The Vatican investigated the group for three years and then in 2012 issued a stinging report saying the LCWR had “serious doctrinal problems” and promoted “radical feminist themes incompatible with the (Roman) Catholic faith”.
The Vatican criticized the group for taking a soft line on issues such as birth control and homosexual activity.
Many nuns said the Vatican’s report misunderstood their intentions and undervalued their work for social justice.
LCWR was put under Vatican oversight, which ended on Thursday with a joint final report.
While the final statement was at times conciliatory, speaking of “mutually beneficial” and “fruitful” conversations between the two sides, it included clear concessions.
It said LCWR’s publications should “address spiritual matters rather than engage in formal theological inquiry” and be based on “sound doctrinal foundations”.
“To this end, measures are being taken to promote a scholarly rigor that will ensure theological accuracy and help avoid statements that are ambiguous with regard to Church doctrine or could be read as contrary to it,” it said.
The group, which had also been criticized for hosting speakers with views that were not fully in line with Church teachings on sexual morality, would see to it that in future they “have due regard for the Church’s faith”.
During the investigation, the nuns received wide support among American Catholics, particularly within the liberal wing, as LCWR leaders traveled around the United States in a bus to defend themselves against the accusations.
Supporters said the nuns had helped the Church’s image in America at a time when it was engulfed in scandal over sexual abuse of minors by priests. They were praised by many Roman Catholics and the media for their work with the poor and sick.
After signing the final report with three Vatican-appointed officials, four LCWR nuns met Pope Francis.
In a statement, they said they were “deeply heartened” by “his expression of appreciation for the witness given by Catholic sisters through our lives and ministry”.
Editing by Louise Ireland