Nearly all the members of a tiny French order of nuns told the Vatican that they will renounce their vows if church officials remove their leader, Mother Marie de Saint Michel, the Associated Press reports. The nuns maintain that the Holy See’s decision to remove de Saint Michel, whose aunt founded the order, reflects an institutional misunderstanding of how they live. The Vatican has contended, however, that members of Little Sisters of Marie, Mother of the Redeemer are enduring “the tight grip” of an “authoritarian” superior. Most of these 39 nuns feel a “serious conflict of loyalty” toward their superior, according to a Vatican report obtained by AP. While details of the superior’s alleged abuse of power haven’t been disclosed, church officials said that six nuns left the order within two years of her election to the role in 2000.“The grave acts posed by Mother Marie de Saint Michel are denounced and the sisters are called to religious and responsible behavior,” Cardinal Joao Braz di Aviz, a Vatican prefect, wrote the nuns this summer. The nuns, most of whom are in the 60s and 70s, operate homes for seniors in rural regions of southern and western France. If the showdown prompts the nuns to renounce their vows, it could deal yet another blow to the already thinning ranks of Catholic nuns in the U.S. and Europe.
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