Philomena – the critically acclaimed bitter-sweet comedy directed by Stephen Frears and starring Judi Dench – has been accused by The Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary of distorting the truth in its depiction of an order of Irish nuns as “uncaring and heartless”.

The movie tells the real story of Philomena Lee, an Irish woman who fell pregnant as a teenager in Ireland in 1952 and was sent to the convent of Roscrea to be looked after as a “fallen woman.” When her baby was only a toddler, he was whisked away by the nuns to America for adoption. Philomena spent the next fifty years searching for him in vain. Her story was later told by BBC correspondent Martin Sixsmith in the book “The Lost Child of Philomena Lee.”

Sister Julie Rose, the order’s assistant congregational leader, said Philomena “does not tell the whole truth, and in many ways is very misleading”. The order were denied a copy of the script and failed in attempts to delay the film’s release so they could respond, she told The Tablet magazine.

Sister Julie denied the order destroyed any records and said they never received any payment in relation to adoption. Philomena, which was released last Friday, took £1.51 million at the UK box office in its opening weekend.