The largest organization of Roman Catholic nuns in the U.S. has been hit by a Vatican-ordered crackdown that brands the Leadership Conference of Women Religious as too "radical" and diverging from several core pillars of Catholic faith.
Among a number of "feminist themes" the official report claims against the Leadership Conference is its lack of support for the traditional definition of marriage, as well as pro-abortion and pro-euthanasia positions.
"Issues of crucial importance to the life of Church and society, such as the Church's Biblical view of family life and human sexuality, are not part of the LCWR agenda in a way that promotes Church teaching," the assessment reads.
The report also claims the nuns' group has been "silent on the right to life from conception to natural death, a question that is part of the lively public debate about abortion and euthanasia in the United States."
The majority of the LCWR nuns and sisters, more than 1,500 in number, work in social services, parish ministries, education, health care and religious education. The association, founded in 1956, has its headquarters in Maryland.
The investigation, entrusted to Cardinal William Levada as early as April 2008, made the following conclusions about the LCWR's alleged trespasses:
"The Cardinal offered as an example specific passages of Sr. Laurie Brink's address about some Religious 'moving beyond the Church' or even beyond Jesus. This is a challenge not only to core Catholic beliefs; such a rejection of faith is also a serious source of scandal and is incompatible with religious life.
"Such unacceptable positions routinely go unchallenged by the LCWR, which should provide resources for member Congregations to foster an ecclesial vision of religious life, thus helping to correct an erroneous vision of the Catholic faith as an important exercise of charity."
Further review will include an examination of ties between the Leadership Conference and Network, a Catholic social justice lobby. The Vatican has appointed an archbishop delegate to work with the LCWR to address these issues over the next several years.
A lawyer who has worked with the nuns over many years, Nick Cafardi, former dean of Duqesne Law School, said he does not agree with the report nor with the picture it paints of the nuns.
"I don't know any more holy people," Cafardi expressed. "I see a lot more holiness in the convents than I see in the chancery."
The report comes only weeks after Pope Benedict XVI publicly denounced priests and Catholic Church members who go against the Vatican's firm teachings against ordaining women pastors. The pope called attempts to elevate women to the role of priests "disobedience" and said Jesus only chose males to be his apostles.