Vatican hopes for "mutual understanding" with U.S. nuns

VATICAN Mon Jun 11, 2012 11:21am EDT

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VATICAN (Reuters) - The Vatican said on Monday it hoped to reach a "mutual understanding" with a group of American nuns criticized by a recent Vatican report as feminist and politicized.

On Tuesday, nuns from the Leadership Conference of Women's Religious (LCWR), whose 1,500 members represent some 80 percent of the more than 60,000 American Catholic nuns, will meet Vatican doctrinal officials to discuss their differences.

In April, the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which Pope Benedict headed for many years before his election in 2005, issued a blistering report on the LCWR.

The report was issued after a Vatican investigation determined the LCWR had "serious doctrinal problems" and promoted "radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith".

It criticized the LCWR for challenging bishops and for being "silent on the right to life", saying it had failed to make the "Biblical view of family life and human sexuality" a central plank in its agenda.

Many nuns said they were hurt by the Vatican's report, which they felt misunderstood their intentions and work for social justice.

"We hope that we can reach a mutual understanding of the reasons behind the Congregation's position and have a constructive approach to the process that has started," the Vatican's chief spokesman Father Federico Lombardi told reporters on Monday.

"Obviously there is a hope for a positive usefulness for all parties, for the church and the persons involved, and for the orders of nuns."

Critics of the Vatican's report said the nuns' work with the poor and sick had helped the image of the church in the United States at a time when it was engulfed in scandal over sexual abuse of minors by priests.

American nuns and bishops have been at odds over several social issues. The nuns supported President Barack Obama's health care reform, while the bishops opposed it.

The Vatican has named Seattle Archbishop Peter Sartain and two other U.S. bishops to undertake the reforms of the LCWR's statutes, programmes and its application of liturgical texts, a process it said could take up to five years.

Sartain and the two bishops will be present at the meetings with the nuns and Cardinal William Leveda, the American head of the doctrinal department.

(Reporting by Philip Pullella; editing by Andrew Roche)

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