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Vatican asserts authority over ‘feminist’ US nuns

The Vatican stressed its authority over a group of US nuns rapped for defying Church doctrine on Tuesday, as a delegation met Holy See doctrinal officials to put their case.

The Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), which represents around 80 percent of the 45,000 nuns in the United States, “remains under the supreme management of the Holy See”, Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said.

In April, a damning Vatican report had accused the group of “corporate dissent” from the Church’s teachings against homosexuality, and claimed it was pursuing “radical feminist themes” — accusations fiercely denied by the nuns.

The doctrinal officials aimed “to help the LCWR in the important mission of promoting a vision of ecclesiastical communion based on the Church’s teachings down the ages,” Lombardy said, as the Vatican insists the nuns fall into line.

The three-year inquiry by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which oversees Roman Catholic doctrine, criticised the LCWR in particular for taking liberal stances on contraception, homosexuality and female priests.

It found the LCWR had “serious doctrinal problems” and accused them of staying “silent on the right to life” and failing to promote the Church’s view of heterosexual family live and sexuality amid debates on the issues in the US.

The nuns have rejected the report, saying that they have not violated any teaching and finding fault with the way it was carried out, complaining that it was shrouded in secrecy.

Many said they were hurt by the Vatican’s public attack in a report which had “caused scandal and pain throughout the church community, and created greater polarization.”

Lombardi said the Tuesday’s closed-door meeting took place “in a open and cordial atmosphere,” but provided no details on the outcome of the talks.

The US church has been increasingly involved in social work and education, with nuns who have taken on areas previously reserved for men in the institution, including marriage counselling or psychological help.

Some members of the US church have also spoken out against what they view to be extreme rigidity on questions surrounding contraception and homosexuality.

In another crackdown earlier this month, the Vatican slammed a “sexual morality” book written by an American Catholic nun which justifies masturbation, homosexuality and divorce.

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