Report was completed two years ago but not made public

The final report of the Church’s investigation into American nuns is to be published at a Vatican press conference on December 16.

The apostolic visitation of institutes of women religious in the United States was set up in 2008 by Cardinal Franc Rodé, then the prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.

The visitation, according to the Vatican, was intended to “look into the quality of the life” of women religious in the US.

The report, written by apostolic visitor Mother Clare Millea, was finished in 2012 but not made public.

Speaking to the Detroit Free Press Vatican spokesman Fr Thomas Rosica played down speculation about the content of the report, saying: “It will hopefully be a very positive message for women religious in the United States.” He added: “There were a lot of unfounded fears.”

He stressed that the report was separate from the controversy surrounding the LWCR, which includes about 1,500 leaders of US women’s religious communities, representing about 80 per cent of the country’s 57,000 women religious. In April 2012, the Vatican ordered a major reform of the organisation, citing “serious doctrinal problems which affect many in consecrated life”. The reform was ordered by a different Vatican department, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Cardinal Sean O’Malley said last month that he hoped the final report would present a “positive experience that will contribute to healing in our Church and be helpful for the cause of religious life”.

During an interview on the television programme 60 Minutes he had said the doctrinal assessment of the LCWR had been a “disaster” in terms of the message it had conveyed as it “looked like a crackdown from men in the Vatican”.