An American Catholic nuns group have responded to Vatican criticism that they have not devoted enough time to speaking out against gay marriage.
The nuns were reprimanded for not making the ‘Biblical view of family life and human sexuality’ more prominent in their agenda, reports Reuters.
The Vatican accused the Leadership Conference of Women Religious of spending too much time focusing on poverty and social justice concerns.
A scathing ‘doctrinal assessment’ on Wednesday also slammed the group for being silent on abortion.
It accused the nuns of expressing political opinions that differed from those held by ‘the church’s authentic teachers of faith and morals.’
On their website, the group said: ‘The presidency of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious was stunned by the conclusions of the doctrinal assessment.’
Scott Appleby, an academic who studies the church added: 'This is more an expression of the Church feeling under siege by trends it cannot control within the Church, much less within the broader society.’
The Vatican statement has been seen as further evidence of Pope Benedict’s conservative views and attempts to curtail internal dissent within the church.
This includes repeated calls for the ordaination of women priests, which the Pope has again said will not be permitted.
The Conference of Women Religious is highly influential both in the United States and globally and represents 80% of America’s 57,000 Catholic nuns.