A group of US theologians and Catholic organisations has written to Pope Francis criticising the Vatican's treatment of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), NCR Online reports.
This effort, announced on Monday by the group Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, might represent the first direct appeal known to be received by the Pontiff regarding LCWR, a group that represents some 45,000 U.S. Catholic sisters and has been placed under a sort of receivership by the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
There have also been a number of other efforts undertaken by U.S. Catholics to reach Francis on the LCWR issue, including an online petition organized in May that reached nearly 10,500 signatures.
'We believe the recent criticism of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) has been unjust,' reads Monday's letter, which is signed by half a dozen theologians, the heads of Catholics in Alliance and the Franciscan Action Network, and former leaders of the Center of Concern and the Catholic Theological Society of America.
'It seems to have ignored your call for a 'poor Church working on behalf of the poor' and opted instead to unjustly accuse the LCWR of failing to keep in the forefront the very teachings you rightly have said must be put into proper perspective, especially when compared to the overwhelming need for our Church 'to be led by shepherds who smell like the sheep' and who concentrate on the needs of 'the least' amongst us,' the letter continues.
'We ask today only that the work of these women be honoured instead of criticized and that their devotion not be impeded by the retributive sanctions of the past few years,' the letter concludes. 'We very respectfully wish you to know that we Catholics love our sisters and believe that their unselfish service is the most authentic demonstration of your vision of our beloved Church.'