VATICAN CITY — The Vatican has launched a doctrinal investigation into the leadership of Catholic sisters in the United States, reportedly because they have not sufficiently promoted the Vatican line on homosexuality and other issues.
The Leadership Conference of Women Religious, an association that gathers the leaders of most of the country's women's congregations, said it was informed of the "doctrinal assessment" in a letter from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican's orthodoxy watchdog.
The doctrinal investigation is separate from another Vatican-ordered study looking into the quality of the life in more than 400 U.S. women's religious institutes. That study was launched as the church grapples with the dramatic decline in the number of American nuns and sisters over the past several decades.
In a statement Tuesday, the Leadership Conference said the new doctrinal study would look into its activities and initiatives, but it provided no details.
Calls to the Vatican spokesman were not returned late Wednesday. A spokeswoman of the conference, Sister Annmarie Sanders, declined to comment beyond the statement.
The National Catholic Reporter, an independent newspaper, said the Vatican ordered up the probe because the sisters had not addressed problems raised by the Vatican in 2001 about their promotion of church teaching on homosexuality, salvation and the priesthood, which the Vatican says is reserved for men.
The newspaper cited a letter from the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Joseph Levada, to the conference saying the Vatican had concluded that the problems raised in 2001 remain based on the "tenor and the doctrinal content" of speeches given at the conference's annual meetings.
The conference said it was confident going into the investigation, saying it believed it had been faithful to its mission of serving leaders of women's orders "as they seek to further the mission of Christ in today's world."
The conference says it has more than 1,500 members, who represent about 95 percent of the 59,000 women religious in the United States.