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April 19th, 2012
03:05 PM ET

Vatican blasts American nuns, calls for reforms

By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

(CNN) - The Vatican is turning up the heat on a group of nuns it says are operating outside of the Roman Catholic Church's doctrines.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, the church’s doctrinal watchdog, on Wednesday announced the conclusion of a years-long “doctrinal assessment” investigation of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, which represents 80% of the Catholic nuns in the United States.

The “assessment reveals serious doctrinal problems,” said the report, which called for major reforms.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith appointed Archbishop Peter Sartain of Seattle to institute those reforms.

The report singled out a Washington, DC social justice group called Network, which is run by nuns and the Resource Center for Religious Institutes, which assists members with financial and legal resources.

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The Vatican report, made public by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, said the doctrinal assessment began in part because of the group’s dissent on the Holy See’s teaching on the ordination of women and human sexuality.  The Catholic Church ordains only men to be priests and says sex is to be reserved for between a man and woman who are married in the eyes of the church.

The assessment said that a Leadership Conference of Women Religious conference yielded “manifest problematic statements and serious theological, even doctrinal errors,” that went unchallenged.   It also said the event promoted “radical feminism”and decried the “prevalence of certain radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith in some programs and presentations sponsored by the LCWR...”

While the assessment praised the social justice work of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, Network and the Resources Center for Religious Life, it said the groups were “silent on the right to life from conception to natural death” and on the Church’s view on “family life and human sexuality.”

The report also took note of public statements from the nuns that opposed the Catholic Bishops. The Leadership Conference of Women Religious and Network vocally disagreed with the Bishops' conference's position on the Affordable Care Act, which they supported and the Bishops did not.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith called the current doctrinal and pastoral positions of the groups “grave and a matter of serious concern,” because of the global influence of the groups.

Pope Benedict XVI approved the request from the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith to intervene and the implementation of their recommended changes, the doctrinal office said in its assessment.

Some of the changes to come include a revision of the LCWR statutes, a review of programs including their annual general assembly, and a review of their ties with Network and Resource Center for Religious Institutes.

Cardinal William Levada, a former Archbishop in the United States and now the Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, said in a statement that the the Vatican process is aimed at “fostering a patient and collaborative renewal of this conference of major superiors in order to provide a stronger doctrinal foundation for its many laudable initiatives and activities.”

The sisters, for their part, expressed surprised at the findings. “Because the leadership of LCWR has the custom of meeting annually with the staff of CDF in Rome and because the conference follows canonically-approved statutes, we were taken by surprise," the Leadership Conference of Women Religious said in a statement.

"This is a moment of great import for religious life and the wider church," the statement continued. "We ask your prayers as we meet with the LCWR National Board within the coming month to review the mandate and prepare a response.”

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Belief • Bishops • Catholic Church • Christianity • Pope Benedict XVI

soundoff (1,705 Responses)
  1. Are You Kidding?

    Got reforms for the Catholic church..........allow priest to merry...allow nuns to merry and pay them. Because the church that Peter founded is not what it should be. It is morally bankrupt and has no more grounds to point fingers at others by past acts. It is not serving god!

    April 20, 2012 at 12:37 pm |
    • f. carter

      Are you kidding: how long since it been that the likes of you was release from looney farm?...careful those guys in the cookie wagon are coming after you old boy!

      April 20, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
    • ZoeyJ

      @ f. carter.......you are a perfect example of the demanding need for additional funding for increased mental health services.

      April 20, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
  2. BADGUY

    I think the Chinese Government was Smart! They allowed the Catholic Church to function in China, but they required it NOT be tied to Rome! The Vatican is an independent country with a VERY right wing leader...and a very AUTOCRATIC leader too boot. What OTHER organization in our history OTHER than the Nazi Party and the Communist Party had such strength in the United States? All three reported to an overseas government that DID NOT have the best interests of the United States in their thoughts or actions. The Catholic Church is just another foreign menace as far as I'm concerned. They should be investigated NOT as a religion but as a foreign threat that has deep roots in our country and our government. Rick Santorum and two members of the Supreme Court attend the same , right wing, Opus Dei Church in Virginia. 6 of the 9 members of the Supreme Court are Catholics. A large number of our Senators and Congressmen are Catholic. The Nazi's and the Communist Party NEVER attained THAT level of "penetration".

    April 20, 2012 at 12:35 pm |
    • f. carter

      Man no wonder they call you bad guy...I agree with you destroy the catholic church, and hang guys like Billy Graham

      April 20, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
    • Faithful

      You feel better now after your girlie hissy fit?

      The Catholic Church is a threat to the USA [which you Yanks reckon is the most powerful force on earth????? Make your mind up, purleeeeze! You lot haven't WON a single thing since WW2 and THAT was mainly because RUSSIA turned on the Nazis!
      Since then, you LOST in Vietnam, big time; Somalia; Iraq; Afghanistan; and the Arab Spring [ which might have worked if your "leader" hadn't stuck his nose in!]

      Streuth – while YOU'RE snivelling on about a threat from the Catholic Church, Russia and China are closing in quietly but definitely. I'll bet THEY'RE glad of your stupid smokescreen.

      When Germany was in the pits – they blamed the Jews. You're in the pits heading for 3rd world status – You gonna blame the Catholics??? – Not your own greed? Not the fact that you couldn't vote a decent Presidsent just ONCE? Not the fact that you won't blame China or Russia because they're BIGGER and more powerful than you????? No, thought not!

      April 20, 2012 at 12:50 pm |
    • J.W

      Faithful what are you talking about? Why do we have to win wars to be the best country? And so you think if any country attacked the US they would beat us? That is doubtful.

      April 20, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
    • Susan

      Well put, you are so right! They are dangerous and indeed a huge menace!

      April 20, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
    • Susan

      Faithful – DECAF, babe, DECAF!! None of us are quite sure what your rant is about, but rest any research into the history of the Catholic church will tel you all you need to know. They are evil and need tobe stopped.

      April 20, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
  3. lisa

    So sad, get with the times.

    April 20, 2012 at 12:34 pm |
  4. CatholicandProud

    You are judging people and not what the church teaches. There have always been sinners, both inside and outside the church. That is why Jesus who came to save us from our sins. If you want to find fault, you can go all the way back to Cain and Able, or how about Judas, the betrayer. Study the church, find your faith and stop listening to the media as the source of your information. God bless!

    April 20, 2012 at 12:32 pm |
    • notea4me

      Yes. We have a sinner running the church in Rome.

      April 20, 2012 at 12:46 pm |
  5. Breanna

    So they want people to have, generally, freedom, and the church is staunchly against that. How is this news?

    April 20, 2012 at 12:30 pm |
  6. Tom

    This saddens me greatly, sadly, the teachings of Jesus seem to be ignored by the men who run the Church. Where does Jesus deal with this issue? What does he say, specifically? Show me his words. These are flawed interpretations by men who control the church and won't let go of that control. Let Priests marry if they want and let Nuns be ordained as Priests. We would have a better church, community and world.

    April 20, 2012 at 12:28 pm |
    • Former Catholic

      So true!! Such a simple solution, but apparently it's too complicated for the old man in Rome.

      April 20, 2012 at 12:36 pm |
    • Marley

      Your first problem is putting too much credence in some mythical PERSON called "Jesus". It doesn't matter whether this PERSON existed or not or whether he said this or that. What was written in the Bible by men are out-of-date and often irrational ideas that should not be used to justify any human social behavior in 2012.

      April 20, 2012 at 12:37 pm |
    • f. carter

      Hell yea tom, ordain gays, females, and anybody over 21, who needs tradition and popes, I say bring down the pope and anybody over thirty!

      April 20, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
    • JT

      "It has served us well, this myth of Christ" – Pope Leo X

      April 20, 2012 at 12:46 pm |
    • f. carter

      you want to be happy tom, then let the church handle their own bns, they been around longer then you and I...it's guys like you that want to bring the church down, and let all kind of free thinkers ruin the church? you still not happy Tom, become a Protestant

      April 20, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
  7. xeno

    It will forever amaze me that in the face of such evidence that religion is just a group of old men afraid of women, in the face of such evidence that religion is NOT about compassion for others, but rather control of others, that there are so many out there that dare not question it. I applaud the nuns!

    April 20, 2012 at 12:24 pm |
    • Surf_Dog

      "Those that believe in absurdities will continue to commit atrocities."
      – Voltaire

      April 20, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
    • ZoeyJ

      THANK YOU FOR SHARING YOUR WISDOM AND COMPASSION!!!

      April 20, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
    • f. carter

      You right Joe open the whole thing to who ever wants to come in...who is afraid of virgin wolf......I say bring down the establishment

      April 20, 2012 at 12:34 pm |
    • Eli

      It amazes me that "religion" is interpreted in such a way. Not all Christians act and believe as the Catholic church does. My faith tradition has a woman as it's official leader, believes in equal rights for all, and openly admits and ordains gays. Do not be unfair to all of Christ's followers based on any one doctrine or one group. Peace and blessings.

      April 20, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
    • f. carter

      Xeno we should let guys like you become pope...you is so savvy and so smart!

      April 20, 2012 at 12:59 pm |
  8. ZoeyJ

    I am not Catholic.............
    Could someone please tell me..........Would the Holy Mary be proud of this Pope's doctrine and behavior ???

    April 20, 2012 at 12:23 pm |
    • notea4me

      I am and no she wouldn't.

      April 20, 2012 at 12:26 pm |
    • D. Clemens

      Simply said, because he is fighting for her Sons Church on earth.

      April 20, 2012 at 12:29 pm |
    • f. carter

      Hell no Zoey, I say hang the pope....happy now?

      April 20, 2012 at 12:35 pm |
    • ZoeyJ

      F. Carter..........sorry, I am not a HATER !!!

      April 20, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
  9. Bernie

    About time the Vatican acted. Many, many orthodox nuns have suffered under the dictatorial regimen of the Leadership Conference and the leaders of their own local communities. The only orders growing are those faithful to the Magisterium -the heterodox are dying off. This is not to say there haven't been dedicated hard working nuns in those orders, it's just that you don't have to be a nun to do the work they have done. The radical liberals have strayed off far and wide, doctrinally. God bless the nuns and sisters who taught me 60 years ago. They were 'real' Catholic nuns who did an amazing job of educating youth and caring for the spiritual and physical needs of any and all, regardless of beliefs. BTW, the snarks, trolls and anti-religion among you could not possibly hold a candle to those dedicated nuns. They gave everything for others. What have you given that hasn't been pried out of you?

    April 20, 2012 at 12:23 pm |
    • notea4me

      I remember those nuns, but not fondly!

      April 20, 2012 at 12:28 pm |
    • D. Clemens

      My grade one teacher was a nun. So where a number of priests and nuns to follow. They where the most wonderful people, and I'll never forget them. I thank God every day for His Church.

      I'm afraid for those of you writing in who are so anti church. Your eternal souls are in mortal danger. Your hatred will destroy you.

      April 20, 2012 at 12:35 pm |
  10. Don Horn

    It's hard to be Catholic these days. We don't need to reform our nuns, we need to reform our Bishops.

    April 20, 2012 at 12:22 pm |
    • D. Clemens

      There are lots of places that reform is needed....but the greatest amount of disciplining is needed with the people themselves. We are living in the time of the great apostacy and most of you are blind to that by materialism, selfishness, envy , greed and lust.

      A question to the non believers..what will you say to our Lord, when you on your judgement day , before him on your trembling knees. Man alone cannot save himself. Its only through our Lord that any will see heaven. His church on earth is here to help with that through the blessed sacrements. So, as a word of warning, maybe it would be a good time to ease up on the antichurch crap.

      April 20, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
    • Eli

      Perhaps instead of being worried about we will say when we appear before our Lord, we should live our lives as Christ would have us live it. I don't serve Him for a reward of heaven or a fear of hell, I serve Him because he is my Lord.

      April 20, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
  11. the voice of reason

    If life begins at conception, then you should be able to get a tax deduction on the fetus. But then you would have to pay it back if you had a miscarriage. Hmmmm....what CAN you do?? Wait until it's born? Oh, the IRS already says it has to be born first. Good idea.

    April 20, 2012 at 12:20 pm |
    • jbcal

      And if life doesn't beging at conception why can someone be charged with two counts of murder if they kill a pregnant woman? Just curious.

      April 20, 2012 at 12:30 pm |
    • BRC

      that's only in some states, in others they have to prove that the fetus was capable of breathing on its own otherwise it is just one count. Of course, you could also say that because killing a woman who is TRYING to have a baby (as opposed to one who is not), is killing here and taking away an intent to bring a new life. if a woman never intends to bring about a new life, and stops it early in teh process of her own volition, that is a very very different thing.

      April 20, 2012 at 12:38 pm |
    • Danno

      Every natural miscarriage is God's abortion.

      April 20, 2012 at 12:44 pm |
    • BRC

      @Danno,
      An in-law of mine once said that she believed her daught had suffered a miscarriage because "God" wanted her to be able to help and comfort others who have them. That "God" is clearly a dick.

      April 20, 2012 at 12:54 pm |
  12. Surf_Dog

    So nice to see that the suppression and OPPRESSION of women continues.

    And, thanks to Mr. Ratzinberger's Papacy for reaffirming that Catholism is just as endearing towards women as is Islam.

    Brilliant, just brilliant!

    The more I read the news of late, the more I have come to realize just how wise and far more intelligent cats and dogs are compared to us humans!

    April 20, 2012 at 12:20 pm |
  13. notea4me

    I guess the pope only sees the nuns doing the churches work like running the Magdalene Laundries. I really can't wait for god to recall this regressive joke of a pope.

    April 20, 2012 at 12:19 pm |
    • D. Clemens

      please,please, you ignorance is showing.

      April 20, 2012 at 12:22 pm |
    • notea4me

      Your not familiar with the Magdalene Laundries Clemens... It's how the church helped unwed mothers. Look it up my friend. Embrace the churches love!

      April 20, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
  14. KentuckyScience.com

    Who was the greatest man to have ever been born out of a mothers womb or the greatest man to have ever lived? Jesus is the Son of God, so the obvious answer would be Jesus. However, Jesus says that John the Baptist was the greatest. Jesus was not a liar, so why did he say the John the Baptist was greater than the Christ born of a virgin womb? John the Baptist is associated with loving God, since he prepared the way for Grace. If you are a Christian and you think that Grace is above the greatest commandment you are wrong. Don't take my word for it, read Luke 7:28. Jesus makes it clear that even those who love God the least in the Kingdom of God is greater. Talk about humility, that is remarkable humility by Jesus Christ. Jesus is associated with Grace, one can only get to heaven through the son. This fact alone should make Jesus the Greatest man to have ever come from a mothers womb, however Luke 7:28 can't be overruled. John the Baptist condemned Herod to Hell for being an adulator, since he had no desire to change his ways and Love God. (Mark 6:14-29) John the Baptist is associated with loving God, since he prepared the way for Grace. Why does this matter? John the Baptist got his head cut off for speaking the truth about consequences. It is obvious that Herod used his position as King to do whatever he wanted with complete disregard to God’s Word. That is why John rebuked King Herod! Herod was sinful and unrepentant for his actions. If a preacher tells his congregation that all they need to do is accept Jesus and be saved by Grace without informing them of the consequences of not being born again, then why should they have any regard to God's word? John the Baptist was not afraid to speak the truth about the importance of loving God. Money made Herod appear to have authority. How much authority does he have now?
    If God created something from nothing, then both something and nothing would be apart of him. The problem is that something and nothing are total opposites. Like good and evil. Nothing is associated with no movement, something is associated with movement and to be both would be like saying that truth and lies are the same. If God created something from nothing, he would not be a jealous God because he could easily turn something back into nothing. The point here is that no scripture in the Bible specifically states that God created something from nothing. Science is promoting it and the church is beginning to accept it.

    Our God is a God of the living and not of the dead, thus he has no plan to create nothing or become it. (Luke 20:38) In our God the creator of our Lord Jesus Christ, time has no beginning or end. Whose Son is the Christ? David thus calls him Lord, so how is he his son? (Luke 20:41-44)

    April 20, 2012 at 12:18 pm |
    • notea4me

      Sez who?

      April 20, 2012 at 12:20 pm |
    • tomnikoly

      Save it for Sunday, "reverend."

      April 20, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
    • the voice of reason

      I'm confused. Was Mary no longer a virgin after Jesus passed through the birth canal? Or did he magically appear in her arms? We know it wasn't in Decenber since that was a different holiday. I'm just SO confused about all of that.

      April 20, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
    • xeno

      "Who was the greatest man to have ever been born out of a mothers womb or the greatest man to have ever lived?"

      Hmm, let's see. Albert Einstein? Stephen Hawking? Isaac Newton? Jonas Salk?

      April 20, 2012 at 12:29 pm |
    • Primewonk

      I find you, your name, and your website revolting and disgusting. Yes, you and your ilk have a right to be ignorant. But wearing that ignorance as a badge of honor is just sad.

      April 20, 2012 at 12:30 pm |
    • fbscofield

      That may be the most unintelligible comment I've ever read on the internet.

      April 20, 2012 at 12:33 pm |
  15. JonfromLI

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't remember the Vatican calling on "reforms" for its American churches to crack down on clergymen who have been accused of preying on children. Maybe they should get their priorities straightened out over there. This isn't the 15th Century anymore.

    April 20, 2012 at 12:14 pm |
    • ZoeyJ

      Agreed, when will the Pope address that issue ??? If I were Catholic I would not be proud of this behavior, values and moral coming from the "leader of the church" where is he leading the church ?

      April 20, 2012 at 12:18 pm |
  16. tomnikoly

    Religion needs to be marginalized and then ignored.

    April 20, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
    • D. Clemens

      You mean the way women treat you ...lol

      April 20, 2012 at 12:20 pm |
    • tomnikoly

      "D. Clemens

      You mean the way women treat you ...lol"

      Very funny. Would you care to expound on this?

      April 20, 2012 at 12:26 pm |
  17. CatholicandProud

    If you truly understood Catholicism instead of relying on the media for information, you would be much better off.

    April 20, 2012 at 12:09 pm |
    • ZoeyJ

      Tell that to all the people Catholic's tortured forcing your religion on people in the past.........judging others, preaching FEAR instead of love and forgiveness and now............attacking the nuns.........
      There is no excuse for this continued behavior.

      April 20, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
    • D. Clemens

      you are absolutely correct. It seems the media has two purposes . #1 to misinform and #2 to allow expression of antiChurch views

      April 20, 2012 at 12:18 pm |
    • tomnikoly

      I understand history. The Catholic church has a dark legacy that it will never be able to live down. It goes back to Emperor Constantine and it's all downhill from there until the Reformation, and all that did was limit the power of one religion and transfer it to another. Martin Luther was his own brand of fanatic.

      April 20, 2012 at 12:19 pm |
    • Daddy2010

      @ZoeyJ
      You make CatholicandProud's point. It's easy to find fault with any group, organization, etc., as they are made up of fallible people. Even easier if you never actually experience the group or understand it and just hate for the sake of hating.

      April 20, 2012 at 12:31 pm |
    • ZoeyJ

      DADDY2010..........
      Keep drinkin the Kool-AID !!!

      April 20, 2012 at 1:04 pm |
    • ZoeyJ

      FYI ...........DADDY2010

      I have experienced the group, I am gay, this group has judged me, hated me, and accused me of many sins without even knowing me as an individual........I HAVE EXPERIENCED THE GROUP.
      LASTLY, I really don't wish to experience being tortured for having my own thoughts, doctrine and soul – just because I do not follow your believes.
      Keep drinkin the Kool-Aid.

      April 20, 2012 at 1:09 pm |
  18. Bhicks

    Whoa whoa whoa! You mean to tell me a religious organization run by old men are telling women how to live their lives as well as practice said religion. Outrageous!

    April 20, 2012 at 12:09 pm |
  19. Katie

    The Catholic church has always been fearful of and therefore oppressive of women. Why else would the Bible not contain the gospels written by Mary Magdalene, instead making her a woman of ill-repute? Why else would they promote the ridiculous idea that Jesus' mother was a virgin when she bore him and downplay the fact that he had siblings? (One of those siblings was one of his disciples.) Why else would they deny that woman play any kind of real role in the Church hierarchy?

    Prior to the rise of strict monotheism, the dominant religions were based on fertility, and were largely female in nature. In the Jewish faith, the one God has both male and female aspects, but as that splintered into Islam and Christianity, God became 100% male and woman were relegated to supporting roles, often deemed as sinful by nature. Their fertility was something men began to see as something needing strict regulations because that was their only way of controlling the ability to give life.

    April 20, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
    • D. Clemens

      I cannot believe the absolute stupidity of many of the people posting comments here. Why is it that instead of people actually searching out the truth, they prefer to carry on with verbal diareaha, not knowing what they are talking about?

      April 20, 2012 at 12:27 pm |
    • tomnikoly

      "I cannot believe the absolute stupidity of many of the people posting comments here. Why is it that instead of people actually searching out the truth, they prefer to carry on with verbal diarrhea, not knowing what they are talking about?"

      The truth? Perhaps you could help all of misguided, stupid people. I assume from your remark that YOU know this....truth. Let's hear it.

      April 20, 2012 at 12:32 pm |
    • jbcal

      You've been reading to much of Dan Brown

      April 20, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
  20. ZoeyJ

    It is this type of behavior and abuse from religious leaders that is causing the continued decrease in followers..........Jesus protect us from Your followers !!!

    April 20, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.