Vatican seeks "reciprocal understanding" with U.S. nuns

American nuns are photographed in St. Peter's Square in Vatican City, in this 2005 file photo.
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(CBS/AP) VATICAN CITY - The Vatican says it's hoping to forge a "reciprocal understanding" with U.S. nuns over its recent crackdown on the largest umbrella group of American sisters.

Sister Pat Farrell, president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), which represents 57,000 U.S. Catholic nuns, is to meet Tuesday with the head of the Vatican's doctrine office, American Cardinal William Levada, as well as with the bishop who has been named to oversee a Vatican-mandated overhaul of the group.

The Vatican last month cracked down on the women's group, accusing it of undermining church teaching and imposing certain "radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith."

The Vatican agency office, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, recently concluded a two-year investigation by concluding the group has "serious doctrinal problems," including taking positions that undermined Catholic teaching on the all-male priesthood, marriage and homosexuality.

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The LCWR says the Vatican's charges were "based on unsubstantiated accusations and ... a flawed process," and said Farrell will raise the group's concerns with Levada.

The Vatican reprimand prompted an outpouring of support for nuns by Catholics and non-Catholics. Vigils, protests and prayer services defending the sisters have been held nationwide, including outside the U.S. embassy of the Holy See in Washington.

"The report has furthermore caused scandal and pain throughout the church community, and created greater polarization," the LCWR's board said.

Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said Monday he hoped the meeting would forge a "reciprocal understanding of the reasons" the Vatican made this move.