The largest umbrella group for U.S. nuns on Friday broke weeks of near-silence on a stinging Vatican report that they had undermined Catholic teaching, saying the inquiry was "flawed" and based on "unsubstantiated accusations" that were causing pain throughout the church.
The Leadership Conference of Women Religious had been considering for six weeks how they should respond to the Vatican findings, which accused them of promoting "certain radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith," while failing to emphasize core teaching on abortion.
After three days of discussion and prayer, the conference board decided to take their concerns to a meeting June 12 in Rome with the Vatican orthodoxy watchdog, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
The Vatican investigated the group for more than two years and concluded in April that the organization has "serious doctrinal problems," including taking positions that conflict with the American bishops and undermine Catholic teaching on the all-male priesthood, marriage and homosexuality.
The report praised the group's social justice work, but said they hadn't spoken out on abortion and other important teachings.
Vigils and protests defending the sisters have been held nationwide, including in front of the Vatican's U.S. embassy in Washington.
"The report has furthermore caused scandal and pain throughout the church community, and created greater polarization," the board said.
On Friday, Seattle Archbishop Peter Sartain said the Holy See and the bishops are "deeply proud of the historic and continuing contribution" of sisters and that he looked forward to speaking with them in Rome.