In light of the bad press that the Catholic Church has been receiving lately regarding the cover-up of sexual abuse cases, this report from KUOW, the local NPR affiliate in Seattle, that three Seattle-area Catholic women’s communities are under investigation by the Church, following complaints of “feminism” and “activism,” is a bit of a head-scratcher.

Three Catholic women’s communities in Washington state are being investigated by the Vatican. They were chosen for review as part of an extensive investigation into American nuns. The Vatican says it’s following up on complaints of feminism and activism.

The Archdiocese of Seattle says the Adrian Dominicans in Woodway, the Renton Sisters of Providence and the Tacoma Dominicans are on the list. Sister Joyce Cox is the Archbishop’s Delegate for Religious. She says it’s not clear what this latest development—or the entire investigation—means.

According to the report, the investigation was launched after the Vatican reviewed questionnaires that it had sent out to all women’s orders, which asked “about the extent of communities’ obedience to the Church and their handling of nuns who dissent.” The investigation, it seems, was initiated by Rome in response to answers on the questionnaire. Needless to say, if the reporting is accurate, this may give further credence to criticisms of Pope Benedict’s style of rule and specifically his handling of sexual abuse cases, both as Pope and previously as a Cardinal.

Related: A recent article in the New York Times casts light on the internal politics of the Vatican, with a focus on Pope Benedict’s track record when he was Cardinal Ratzinger.

[H/T: BoingBoing and Karen Gregory.]