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US Cardinal Bernard Law Photo by: AP

Former Boston archbishop Bernard Law reportedly behind Vatican crackdown on US nuns

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US Cardinal Bernard Law Photo by: AP

Controversial former Boston archbishop Cardinal Bernard F. Law reportedly pressed the Vatican to investigate the largest association of Catholic nuns in the United States, according to Boston.com.

On April 18, the Vatican announced its initiative to ensure U.S. nuns conform to Church doctrine.

The Vatican has accused the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, which is based in Silver Spring, Md., and represents about 57,000 nuns, of undermining Roman Catholic teaching on the priesthood and homosexuality.

Robert Mickens, a columnist for The Tablet, a British Catholic weekly, reported that the Vatican's crackdown was petitioned by Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori and that Law was "the person in Rome most forcefully supporting Bishop Lori's proposal."

However, Lori has denied the accusation in a statement issued to the Globe on Friday through the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

“Bishop Lori did not petition the CDF to conduct the current doctrinal assessment of the [Leadership Conference of Women Religious], nor would it have been appropriate for him to do so," the statement said.

Other reports from Sandro Magister, writing in an Italian publication, and John Allen of the National Catholic Reporter have indicated that Lori and Law used their influence to help initiate the Vatican’s actions against the nuns.

And in a second statement to the Globe, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops appeared to at least partially confirm those reports, saying that Lori, when he was chairman of the US bishop’s doctrine committee in 2008, fielded complaints about US nuns and provided the Vatican with copies of speeches then on the nuns’ website.

Also, both Magister and Mickens, traced the Vatican’s effort to exercise greater control over US nuns to 2008, when a committee on which Law served began an audit of Catholic women’s religious orders.

Sister Annmarie Sanders, a spokeswoman for the nun's organization, said they know little about the origins of the Vatican's action.

Law resigned as Boston's archbishop in 2002 after articles in the Globe reported that he had allowed priests accused of sexually molesting children to continue serving in parish ministries.

Vatican watchers in the States say that Law's influence in Rome has been underestimated.

“Until last year when he turned 80, Cardinal Law was active on a number of the Vatican’s most influential congregations, and that has allowed him to assert his views on a wide range of church issues,’’ said Richard Gaillardetz, a theology professor at Boston College.

Since turning 80, Law has relinquished his seats on all Vatican congregations, but Gaillardetz says he believes Law will continue to be an influence in Rome.

“The fact that he steps down from those congregations doesn’t mean someone isn’t having a cappuccino with him to talk about the next appointment in the United States,’’ Gaillardetz said. “He can play an enormous role."

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