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The Vatican appointed an American bishop on Wednesday to lead an overhaul of an umbrella group representing the vast majority of U.S. nuns after church investigators discovered "serious doctrinal problems" within the group, including the promotion of "radical feminist themes incompatibale with the Catholic faith."
The New York Times reports that the crackdown on the Leadership Conference of Women Religious was the result of a lengthy investigation into the group that began in 2008. Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle will oversee the reform effort.
The women's group, which was formed in 1956 at the Vatican's request, represents roughly 4 in 5 American nuns. The organization speaks out on policy issues, especially those pertaining to social justice, and provides leadership training to the approximately 57,000 nuns it represents.
The religious disagreement between the Vatican and the LCWR has a lot to do with end-of-life and abortion debates in the U.S., especially in the context of President Obama's health care reform law. As the BBC notes, the Vatican chastised the group for ignoring the church's stance on euthanasia and abortion, and for making public statements that "disagree with or challenge positions taken by the bishops" in the U.S. The Vatican is also upset with the group for apparently challenging church teaching on homosexuality and male-only priesthood.
According to the Times, the reforms will take place over a five-year period, and will involve the approval by the archbishop of every speaker the Leadership Conference has at their public events, a revision of their group statues, the replacement of the group's handbook, reforming the group's stances on issues to reflect those of the Vatican, and an investigation into the Leadership Conference's connections to Network, a Catholic-run social justice group founded by nuns, and the Resource Center for Religious Life.