The Vatican has launched a crackdown on the umbrella group that represents most of America’s 55,000 Catholic nuns, saying that the group was not speaking out strongly enough against gay marriage, abortion and women’s ordination.

Rome also chided the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) for sponsoring conferences that featured “a prevalence of certain radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith.”

The Vatican’s disciplinary action against the LCWR was announced on Wednesday, one day before Pope Benedict XVI marked seven years as pontiff.

In many ways, the Vatican’s actions against the LCWR encapsulated the kind of hard line that many expected Benedict — the Vatican’s former doctrinal czar — to take when he was elected in 2005.

“The current doctrinal and pastoral situation of the LCWR is grave and a matter of serious concern, also given the influence the LCWR exercises on religious congregations in other parts of the world,” said the eight-page statement issued by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which Benedict led for a quarter century before his election.

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