Dec 16, 2014 6:25 AM

Vatican praises, thanks US nuns in olive branch

The Associated Press

VATICAN CITY (AP) The Vatican went out of its way Tuesday to mend fences with American religious sisters, thanking them for their selfless work caring for the poor and promising to value their "feminine genius" more while gently suggesting ways to survive amid a decline in numbers.

The report, the long-awaited results of the Vatican's controversial three-year investigation into U.S. women's religious orders, was most remarkable for what it didn't say. After years of tension and distrust, there was no criticism of American nuns, no demands that they shift their focus from social justice issues to emphasize Catholic teaching on abortion, no condemnation that a feminist, secular mentality had taken hold in their ranks.

Rather, while offering a sobering report on the difficult state of American congregations, the report gave a positive view of the sisters' contributions to the church and reflected a merciful and encouraging tone that is characteristic of Pope Francis, the first Jesuit pope.

The report, as a result, offered a radically different message, in both tone and content, to the 50,000 sisters living and working in the U.S. than that of another Vatican office investigating an umbrella group of their leaders.

That investigation, conducted by the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, resulted in a Vatican takeover of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious in 2012. The doctrine office determined that the LCWR, which represents the leaders of 80 percent of U.S. sisters, took positions that undermined church teaching and promoted "radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith."

The Vatican's congregation for religious orders has long sought to distinguish its broad investigation from the more narrow doctrinal assessment carried out by the orthodoxy office, and its report Tuesday made clear that two very different messages are coming from the Holy See about U.S. nuns.


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