By Jim Salter and Rachel Zoll ,AP
ST. LOUIS — A U.S. nuns group rebuked by the Vatican said Friday it would hold talks with the bishops appointed to overhaul the organization but would not “compromise its mission.”
Sister Pat Farrell, president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, called a Vatican assessment charging the sisters with tolerating dissent a “misrepresentation.” But she said the more than 900 women who attended the group’s national assembly this week decided they would stay open to discussion for now with three bishops the Vatican appointed to oversee them.
“The officers will proceed with these discussions as long as possible but will reconsider of LCWR is forced to compromise the integrity of its mission,” Farrell said at a news conference, where she declined to discuss specifics.
The organization represents about 80 percent of the 57,000 Roman Catholic nuns in the U.S.
The St. Louis meeting was the group’s first national gathering since a Vatican review concluded the sisters had “serious doctrinal problems” and promoted “certain radical feminist themes” that undermine Catholic teaching on all-male priesthood, birth control and homosexuality. The nuns also were accused of remaining nearly silent in the fight against abortion.
Farrell acknowledged the nuns’ plan going forward was vague, but noted the process was to last five years and had only just started. The board is expected to meet soon with Seattle Archbishop Peter Sartain, who will be in charge of the overhaul.
“Dialogue on doctrine is not going to be our starting point,” Farrell said. “Our starting point will be about our own life and about our understanding of religious life, and the (Vatican) document’s, in our view, misrepresentation of that, and we’ll see how it unfolds from there.”
The Vatican orthodoxy watchdog, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, undertook the assessment in 2008, following years of complaints from theological conservatives that the American nuns’ group had become secular and political while abandoning traditional faith.
The critique, issued in April, prompted a nationwide outpouring of support for the sisters, including parish vigils, protests outside the Vatican embassy in Washington and a congressional resolution commending the sisters for their service to the country.