Vatican report on U.S. nuns is conciliatory, stresses teachings

Reuters News
Posted: Dec 16, 2014 7:21 AM

By Philip Pullella

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - A keenly-awaited Vatican report on Roman Catholic nuns in the United States struck a conciliatory tone on Tuesday, praising them for their social and educational work but urging them to stick to Church teachings.

The report is the result of an investigation launched in 2008 after some Vatican officials and U.S. bishops voiced concern that some American nuns had adopted a secular mentality and been infiltrated by what one official at the time called "radical feminism".

The inquiry, begun during the papacy of former Pope Benedict, involved 341 religious orders and about 50,000 nuns.

Sister Sharon Holland, a leading U.S. nun, told a news conference presenting the 12-page report that while many sisters at the time reacted with "apprehension and suspicion", the final report had "an encouraging and realistic tone".

The Vatican officials at the time of the investigation said some nuns did not sufficiently espouse Church teachings against abortion and homosexuality and that some had become too involved in political issues.

But Tuesday's report made no reference to any specific criticism and did not dwell on the controversy over the investigation, officially called an "Apostolic Visitation".

While its overall tone was highly positive, the report said orders of nuns in the United States "should carefully review their spiritual practices and ministry to assure that these are in harmony with Catholic teaching".

The report urged the them "not to displace Christ" as they go about their social work in hospitals, in education and helping the poor, the homeless and the marginalized.

It also asked the nuns to make sure that new recruits to the religious life receive "solid theological, human, cultural, spiritual and pastoral preparation".

The report acknowledged that a number of nuns during the investigation expressed the need for "a greater recognition" of the role nuns play in the Church and felt women should have more input into decisions that affect them.

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Pope Francis, who met a delegation of American nuns on Tuesday morning, has promised to appoint women to decision-making roles in the Vatican.

The report praised the nuns for "selflessly tending to the spiritual, moral, educational, physical and social needs of countless individuals, especially the poor and marginalized."

It acknowledged that nuns in the United States would face major challenges because their average age was 70 and fewer women are becoming nuns. There are about 50,000 nuns in the United States now, compared to a peak of about 125,000 in the mid-1960s.

(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Ruth Pitchford)