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Catholic women who have been consecrated by the church to a life of perpetual virginity in the service of God are furious at the Vatican for a new ruling that suggests virginity is no longer necessary.

The 39-page document published by the Vatican earlier this month, explains “spousal and fruitful love for Christ is not reducible to the symbol of physical integrity,” the Guardian newspaper of London reported.

The ruling was a response to bishops who reported an increasing number of women being called to the vocation.

The paper said it’s believed there are about 5,000 consecrated women in at least 42 countries. The largest populations in France, Italy and Argentina.

Distinguished from nuns, they wear regular clothing and don’t live in communes.

The U.S. Association of Consecrated Virgins said the new doctrine is “deeply disappointing.”

“It is shocking to hear from Mother Church that physical virginity may no longer be considered an essential prerequisite for consecration to a life of virginity.”

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