ST. LOUIS, Aug. 10 (UPI) -- The largest U.S. group of Catholic nuns decided Friday to begin talks with bishops ordered by the Vatican to rein in the church's sisters.
After meeting in St. Louis, the president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, Sister Pat Farrell, said the nuns would enter into a "conversation" with the three bishops that would be conducted "from a stance of deep prayer that values mutual respect, careful listening and open dialogue," the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
Farrell said, however, the nuns would "reconsider if the LCWR is forced to compromise the integrity of its mission."
KSDK-TV, St. Louis, said the LCWR, which represents about 57,000 American nuns, has come under criticism of the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faithful, and in April Rome said the nuns' organization had "serious doctrinal problems" that have left it outside some church teachings, including the all-male priesthood, birth control and homosexuality.
The TV station said Farrell, when asked what the nuns wanted, answered they desire is "to finally, at some end-stage of process, to be recognized and understood as equals in the church that are formed of religious life, can be respected and affirmed."
The Religion News Service reported that while the nuns' statement expressed "deep disappointment" with the Vatican's stand,they have hopes of "creating more possibilities for the laity and, particularly for women, to have a voice in the church."
"Dialogue on doctrine is not going to be our starting point," Farrell told reporters.
Farrell noted the "inherent existential tension between the complementary roles" of the church hierarchy and the nuns that is "not likely to change."
"In an ideal ecclesial world, the different roles are held in creative tension, with mutual respect and appreciation, in an environment of open dialogue, for the building up of the whole church," she said.
The Vatican's mandate, she said, "suggests that we are not currently living in an ideal ecclesial world."
The LCWR board is to meet for 2 hours Saturday with Seattle Archbishop J. Peter Sartain, the head of the three-bishop team appointed by Rome to bring the organization back in line with the church hierarchy.