ROME -- Pope Francis has backed the Vatican’s doctrinal crackdown on a major group of American nuns, reasserting the Roman Catholic Church's conservative approach to various social issues in a move that could cool the warm reception he has received from some liberal Catholics since taking office last month.
In a statement issued Monday, the Vatican said Francis had “reaffirmed” the doctrinal evaluation and criticism of U.S. nuns carried out last year by the Vatican under his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI. The assessment accused the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, an umbrella organization that represents most U.S. female Catholic orders, of promoting “radical feminism” and of ignoring the Vatican’s hard line on same-sex marriage and abortion.
At the time, the Vatican dispatched an archbishop to rewrite the group’s statutes and set up reeducation programs to bring nuns back into line, alleging that leaders of U.S. orders had challenged the church's teachings on women's ordination and ministry to homosexuals.
The move was denounced by Pat Farrell, then the head of the organization, as creating “pain and scandal.” Protest vigils were held outside churches, and a petition attacking the Vatican’s decision attracted 50,000 signatures.