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U.S. Nuns Had "Serious Concerns" About Vatican's 2012 Investigation

The Leadership Conference of Women Religious released a lengthy statement detailing their personal reactions to the three-year study of their feminist practices by the Catholic Church.

Posted on May 15, 2015, at 12:56 p.m. ET

When the Vatican ended its deep review of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious on April 16, both parties agreed not to speak to the media for 30 days.

Pictured are Sister Pat Farrell, right, and Sister Florence Deacon.
Seth Perlman / AP

Pictured are Sister Pat Farrell, right, and Sister Florence Deacon.

Four executive members of the LCWR published a statement on May 15, voicing for the first time their "preliminary personal observations and reflections" since the April 16 mandate concluded.

Speaking on the initial impact of the Vatican's assessment of the LCWR's practices, which had been deemed "radical" and "incompatible with the Catholic faith," the sisters expressed having felt "deeply saddened" by the scandal that ensued within the church and related religious communities.

The statement also discussed the public humiliation "as the false accusations were re-published repeatedly in the press."

While the U.S. women religious stated their concerns with both the findings of the assessment and the process by which the 2012 assessment was prepared, they were transparent about their communication with the three bishops assigned to the study.

"We engaged in long and challenging exchanges with these officials about our understandings of and perspectives on critical matters of faith and its practice, religious life and its mission, and the role of a leadership conference of religious," the statement read.

Much of that dialogue included "communal contemplative prayer," and was not always comfortable.

"The choice to stay at the table and continue dialogue around issues of profound importance to us as US women religious had its costs," the nuns said.

They added that the difficulties they faced were further exacerbated by "the ambiguity over the origin of the concerns raised in the doctrinal assessment report that seemed not to have basis in the reality of LCWR's work."

The U.S. nuns also acknowledged the widespread frustration brought on by their agreement with the Vatican to refrain from speaking publicly about the investigation and its aftermath. They maintained, however, that their non disclosure was necessary in order to foster honest dialogue between the two parties.

The statement recognized that many from the religious community perceived the 2012 assessment as "an attempt to suppress the voice of LCWR which was seen as an organization that responsibly raises questions on matters of conscience, faith, and justice."

Despite what the sisters called "arduous, demanding work" of the extensive deliberations with the Catholic Church, they ultimately called the experience a transformative one, and have already implemented one of the recommendations that came out of the probe: theological reviews of their publications.

"However challenging these efforts are," the U.S. women religious said, "in a world marked by polarities and intolerance of difference, perhaps no work is more important."

Read the full Leadership Conference of Women Religious here.

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