Vatican tells accused U.S. nuns they remain under its authority

(Sister Pat Farrell (R), president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), and Sister Janet Mock, the executive-director, walk in Saint Peter's Square following a meeting with Cardinal William Levada at the Vatican June 12, 2012. REUTERS/Max Rossi)

The Vatican on Tuesday sternly told leaders of American nuns who were accused of being too feminist and politicised that their group “remains under the supreme direction of the Holy See”. The nuns, who requested the meeting to face Roman Catholic doctrinal officials over the accusations, said they would go back to the United States to decide their next move.

“We had open dialogue,” said Sister Pat Farrell, president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), after she and Sister Janet Mock, the executive-director, met Cardinal William Levada.

In April, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which Levada heads, issued a blistering report on the LCWR, which represents some 80 percent of the more than 60,000 American Catholic nuns. The assessment was issued after a Vatican investigation determined the LCWR had “serious doctrinal problems” and promoted “radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith”.

A Vatican statement said the meeting provided the opportunity to “discuss the issues and concerns raised by the doctrinal assessment in an atmosphere of openness and cordiality.” But the statement sternly reminded the nuns that the LCWR “remains under the supreme direction of the Holy See”.

Vatican attacks popular U.S. nun, bans her sexuality book from Catholic schools

(The marble statue of St. Peter under the Vatican dome inside St. Peter's Basilica, May 11, 2003. REUTERS/Max Rossi)

The Vatican has criticized a popular American nun, saying her book on sexual ethics, including topics such as masturbation and homosexuality, contradicted Catholic teaching and must not be used by Catholic educators.

The Vatican’s doctrinal department, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, issued a stern “notification” on Monday about Sister Margaret A. Farley, a member of the Sisters of Mercy and a professor emeritus of Christian ethics at Yale University.

Insight: Papal butler’s journey from trusted servant to accused Judas

(The Pope's butler, Paolo Gabriele (bottom L) arrives with Pope Benedict XVI (R) at St. Peter's Square in Vatican, in this file photo taken May 23, 2012. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi/)

Just after dawn on Wednesday, May 23, Paolo Gabriele said goodbye to his wife, passed by the bedrooms of his three children and left to start another day in the service of the man Roman Catholics believe is the vicar of Christ on Earth.

By the end of the day, Pope Benedict’s butler would be branded a traitor and some, including an Italian cardinal, would compare him to the most famous betrayer in history – Judas Iscariot, the man who turned Jesus over to the Romans.

Vatican says “Vatileaks” scandal is a brutal personal attack on Pope Benedict

(Pope Benedict XVI conducts the holy mass of Pentecost Sunday in Saint Peter's Basilica at the Vatican May 27, 2012. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini )

The Vatican on Tuesday denounced the theft of secret papal documents as a “brutal” personal attack on Pope Benedict as a powerful group of cardinals hunted more culprits behind the biggest crisis of his pontificate.

With the crisis over leaks of sensitive documents deepening, the third most senior figure in the Vatican fired a bitter salvo in the Vatican’s official newspaper L’Osservatore Romano.

Scandal-hit Catholic order head admits covering up priest’s lovechild

(Pope John Paul II (R) blesses Father Marcial Maciel, founder of the Legionaries of Christ, during a special audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican November 30, 2004. REUTERS/Tony Gentile )

The leader of the Legionaries of Christ admitted on Tuesday he knew for years the scandal-plagued Roman Catholic order’s most famous priest had fathered a child but still allowed the popular cleric to preach about morality. The order, still reeling from revelations that its founder was a sex abuser and drug addict with two secret families, suffered another major blow last week when it admitted that Father Thomas Williams, an American based in Rome, also had led a double life.

But the question that had been left hanging after the first admission was how long Williams’ superiors knew. In a letter to members published on the order’s website, the order’s leader, Father Alvaro Corcuera, said he found out about Williams’s child “early in my new assignment” as director-general, which began in 2005.

Catholic order knew for months about scandal of popular priest’s child: Vatican official

(Pope John Paul II blesses Father Marcial Maciel during a special audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican. Pope John Paul II blesses Father Marcial Maciel, founder of the Legion of Christ, during a special audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican November 30, 2004. REUTERS/Tony Gentile)

Leaders of the scandal-plagued Legionaries of Christ religious order knew that their most famous priest had fathered a child for many months before they acknowledged it this week, a top Vatican official told Reuters on Wednesday.

The once influential religious order, still in crisis following revelations that its founder was a sexual abuser with two secret families, suffered another major blow on Tuesday when American Father Thomas Williams admitted to having fathered a child with a woman in Rome.

Vatican says efforts to heal rift with SSPX traditionalists are “encouraging”

(A traditionalist priest prays during an SSPX ordination ceremony in Econe, southwest Switzerland June 29, 2009. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse)

An ultra-traditionalist Roman Catholic splinter group has provided an “encouraging” response to Vatican demands that they accept non-negotiable doctrinal principles as a condition for their full re-entry into the Church.

The Vatican said on Wednesday it had received an answer from the dissident Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX) to the Holy See’s ultimatum a month ago that the group clarify its doctrinal position or risk a painful break with Rome. “The response is encouraging, it is a step forward,” said Vatican spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi.

Pope Benedict, 85, says he’s in last stretch of life but God helps him go on

(Children dressed in traditional Bavarian costumes dance for Pope Benedict XVI during the Pontiff's 85th birthday celebrations in the Clementine Hall at the Vatican April 16, 2012. REUTERS/Gregorio Borgia/Pool)

Pope Benedict marked his 85th birthday on Monday saying he is now in the “last stretch” of his life but sure that God would help him continue his mission.

Benedict, who has looked tired and drawn recently, is one of history’s oldest reigning pontiffs – and already older than his predecessor John Paul II was when he died in 2005.

Pope Benedict marks milestones this week amid signs of frailty and succession talk

(Pope Benedict XVI leaves at the end of the Sunday Angelus prayer in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican April 15, 2012. REUTERS/Tony Gentile )

Pope Benedict marks two milestones this week and while his health appears stable, signs of frailty have again prompted speculation over whether he will be the first pontiff in seven centuries to resign.

Benedict, one of the oldest popes in history, turns 85 on Monday, and on Thursday he marks the seventh anniversary of his election as successor to the immensely popular John Paul II.

Pope Benedict reaffirms ban on women priests, assails Austrian “call to disobedience”

(Pope Benedict XVI looks on as he leads the Chrismal mass in Saint Peter's Basilica at the Vatican April 5, 2012. REUTERS/Max Rossi )

Pope Benedict has restated the Roman Catholic Church’s ban on women priests and warned that he would not tolerate disobedience by clerics on fundamental teachings. Benedict, who for decades before his 2005 election was the Vatican’s chief doctrinal enforcer, delivered an unusually direct denunciation of disobedient priests in a sermon at a morning Mass on Holy Thursday, when the Church commemorates the day Christ instituted the priesthood.

The pope responded specifically to a call to disobedience by a group of Austrian priests and laity, who last year boldly and openly challenged Church teaching on taboo topics such as priestly celibacy and women’s ordination. “Is disobedience a path of renewal for the Church?,” he asked rhetorically in the sermon of a solemn Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica on the day Catholic priests around the world renew their vows.