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Vigil supports nuns reprimanded by Vatican

Backers decry call to reform

Mary Hart of Hanover, Joanne Riley of Brookline, Mary McNamara of Milton, and Jean Mackey of Quincy at the vigil.

ARAM BOGHOSIAN FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE

Mary Hart of Hanover, Joanne Riley of Brookline, Mary McNamara of Milton, and Jean Mackey of Quincy at the vigil.

Supporters of a group of Catholic nuns, who were reprimanded last month by the Vatican for conduct that officials say contradicts church teaching, held a solidarity vigil Tuesday outside a cathedral in the South End, where some expressed anger and dismay over the rift.

“There’s no need to investigate the nuns,” said Ann Carroll of Arlington, one of about 50 attendees at the prayer vigil outside the Cathedral of the Holy Cross.

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Carroll referred to a report issued by a Vatican agency that cited the Leadership Conference of Women Religious , a Maryland group of more than 1,500 nuns, for conduct that runs counter to church doctrine.

On Tuesday, backers at the vigil said the leadership conference, which was founded in 1956 and supports a number of social justice initiatives, has done much to help the most vulnerable members of the public.

“Oh, my, let’s say I support the leadership conference 110 percent,” said Sister Hilda Carey, adjunct English instructor at Boston College.

Jim FitzGerald, executive director of the Call to Action in Chicago, one of the advocacy groups that has organized a series of vigils for the leadership conference in dozens of US cities, said at Tuesday’s event that attendees have a message for the Vatican.

He said they want to “let the Vatican know that this is not OK, and they should rescind their statement to reform” the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. Other vigils have been held in Boston in recent weeks.

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A spokesman for the Archdiocese of Boston referred questions about the group and the vigils to the Vatican.

In an eight-page report published last month, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican arm that oversees church doctrine, outlined a number of areas of concern.

Among the issues, the report stated, is that speakers at the leadership conference ­assemblies have made unacceptable statements, including one nun’s address about some sisters “moving beyond the church or even beyond Jesus.”

The report also referenced letters that leadership conference officers had sent to the Congregation protesting the Holy See’s actions on questions of women’s ordination and sexuality.

While the leadership conference has backed many causes that are in harmony with church doctrine, the group is silent on the right to life from conception to natural death.

The report lays out a number of steps to remedy the situation, including the creation of new leadership conference programs to provide “a deepened understanding of the Church’s doctrine of the faith.”

In a statement on its website, the leadership conference said its national board is meeting this week to discuss the report.

The leadership conference has maintained that it does not knowingly invite speakers who contradict established doctrine, and that speakers’ words are their own and do not imply intent on the part of the group, according to the report.

Earlier this month, the Globe, citing three Catholic publications, reported that Cardinal Bernard F. Law, who resigned as head of the Boston Archdiocese in 2002 at the height of the clergy sexual abuse scandal, played a role in the decision to sanction the Leadership Conference of Women Religious.

Travis Andersen can be reached at tandersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.

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