Battle of wills: Tiny order of French nuns takes on Vatican

WireAP_acd8bd58e4e94879bb0a5d7b24c4e63f_12x5_992Source: Associated Press


VATICAN CITY (AP) — The Vatican has an unusual dilemma on its hands after nearly all the nuns in a tiny French religious order threatened to renounce their vows rather than accept the Holy See’s decision to remove their superior.

The sisters argue that the Vatican commissioners sent to replace their superior general, who is also the niece of the order’s founder, have no understanding of their way of life or spirituality. The church’s conclusion — contained in a summary of its investigation provided this week to The Associated Press — is that the Little Sisters of Marie, Mother of the Redeemer are living “under the tight grip” of an “authoritarian” superior and feel a “serious conflict of loyalty” toward her.

The standoff marks an extraordinary battle of wills between the Vatican hierarchy and the group of 39 nuns, most in their 60s and 70s, who run homes for the aged in rural western and southern France. Their threat to leave comes at a time when the Catholic Church can hardly spare them, with the number of sisters plummeting in Europe and the Americas.

The unlikely revolt had been brewing for years but erupted in 2017, when the Vatican suspended the Little Sisters’ government and ordered the superior, Mother Marie de Saint Michel, removed. The Vatican says it took action after local church investigations in 2010 and 2016 found an excessive authoritarianism in her rule and serious problems of governance.

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