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Vatican Says U.S. Nun Association Doesn't Adhere To Church Teachings

The Vatican has ordered a crackdown of an American organization representing most nuns in the United States. The Vatican ordered an investigation of the group in 2008 and today it said it was appointing an American archbishop to oversee a reform of the group.

The AP reports:

"The Vatican agency cited the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, the largest umbrella group for Roman Catholic religious sisters in the United States, for using materials that 'do not promote church teaching' on family life and sexuality, for sometimes taking positions in opposition to the nation's bishops and for being '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.' ...

"Seattle Archbishop Peter Sartain will manage the five-year reform, which will include rewriting the group's statutes, reviewing all its plans and programs — including approving speakers — and ensuring the group properly follows Catholic prayer and ritual."

In the the eight-page report, the Vatican also said it concerned about the group's "radical feminism" that "risk distorting faith in Jesus and his loving Father who sent his Son for the salvation of the world."

The Catholic News Service reports that LCWR, which is based in Maryland, represents "about 80 percent of the country's 57,000 women religious."

The AP points out that while the report doesn't directly mention President Obama's healthcare law, it did mention the social justice group NETWORK, "which played a key role in supporting the Obama administration's health care overhaul despite the bishops' objections."

LCWR did not comment but back in 2009, The New York Times ran a piece about the investigation. These two paragraphs from that piece seem to get to heart of the matter:

"Some sisters surmise that the Vatican and even some American bishops are trying to shift them back into living in convents, wearing habits or at least identifiable religious garb, ordering their schedules around daily prayers and working primarily in Roman Catholic institutions, like schools and hospitals.

"'They think of us as an ecclesiastical work force,' said Sister Sandra M. Schneiders, professor emerita of New Testament and spirituality at the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley, in California. 'Whereas we are religious, we're living the life of total dedication to Christ, and out of that flows a profound concern for the good of all humanity. So our vision of our lives, and their vision of us as a work force, are just not on the same planet.'"

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Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.