Members of a U.S. Catholic order have welcomed the confessions of four former national guardsmen from El Salvador convicted of murdering three U.S. nuns and a lay worker in 1980 who now say that they acted on orders from their superiors.

The confessions of the four men were made in late March to two attorneys for the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, a New York-based organization that is representing the families of the slain women - Maryknoll sisters Maura Clarke and Ita Ford, Ursuline sister Dorothy Kazel and a Catholic lay missionary, Jean Donovan.The confessions are important since they confirm the long-standing position of the women's colleagues, families, and human-rights organizations that the murders could not have taken place without the approval of the Salvadorean military. The U.S. and Salvadorean governments, however, have maintained that the men acted alone.