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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. TruthTeller

    Who desings the Pope's costumes. That is what I wanna know

    April 20, 2012 at 3:10 pm |
    • ZoeyJ

      I have contacted the "FASHION POLICE" to review the Pope...........Joan R. should have some sound tips

      April 20, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
    • ZoeyJ

      To waste Red Prada's with that tent like dress, makes him look huge.........he needs a new stylist.

      April 20, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
    • Dani3l

      I don't know, but he shoud really ask QEII who does hers, because those gowns don't flatter his figure at all.

      April 20, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
    • Futon Torpedo

      From my understanding there is an italian designer that makes ALL of the popes present & futures clothing. This one familys fashion house has the contract "sewed" up.

      April 20, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
    • ZoeyJ

      I know of some Queens who could help the Pope with fashion...............

      April 20, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
  2. Corpus Christi, TX (Body of Christ, TX) resident

    Reading some of these comments makes me cry when Santorum dropped out 😦

    April 20, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
    • *facepalm*

      Because you support Obama? A Santorum nomination would have made a second term a lock.

      April 20, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
    • TruthTeller

      No offense, But I made a promise not to make any cheap shot jokes about his name when he was a candidate. But please consider the humor in your comment. " when santorum dropped out" yaack

      April 20, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
    • ZoeyJ

      Relax and get in your car and drive to Crawford, find comfort with the Bush Tribe or have a free glass of Kool-Aid and join the Mormon Klan............Sad to waste the drama and tears for that useless reason.

      April 20, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
  3. Dani3l

    For those unfamiliar with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, you have probably heard of it by its earlier name – the Office of the Holy Inquisition. No, it's never gone away.

    April 20, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
    • Futon Torpedo

      Bingo!

      April 20, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
    • TruthTeller

      What does it do? How can you get a job there? oath of provery and oath of keeping it in the pants are fine by me. It seems like a rewarding life But do I have to believe the myths to work there?

      April 20, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
  4. clarke

    Well these nuns do good things and they don't molest little children. Leave the nuns alone, they are your only saving grace, they are good people. I bet if they were male, this would not be a problem. What the nuns have tolerated, from these self righteous men of the cloth, is shameful.

    April 20, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
  5. Ahmed

    Islam will take over the world soon

    April 20, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
    • Phosphorus

      Nah, we have far too many liberation missiles to allow that.

      April 20, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
  6. Futon Torpedo

    Why hasn't the "Church" sent the Inquisition to burn these nuns as witches? :o)

    April 20, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
    • Dani3l

      The CDF -is- the Inquisition. Really.

      April 20, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
    • Futon Torpedo

      Dani31

      I know. I'm surprised some of these nuns haven't died accidentally.

      April 20, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
    • Dani3l

      They haven't been blowing the whistle on money-laundering at the Vatican Bank like John Paul I did. 😉

      April 20, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
    • ZoeyJ

      The Pope doesn't want to get his new dress soiled

      April 20, 2012 at 3:19 pm |
  7. holdem

    Catholic church once again trying to put women in their place.

    April 20, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
  8. Phosphorus

    Religion: A viral transmission of toxic memes that can cause the host a wide range of physical, emotional, and neurological disorders, or in extreme cases may lead to the death of the host and/or additional members of the population.

    Virus: A molecular religion.

    April 20, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
  9. Liberal

    And the Vatican is wondering why so many people are leaving the church, why so many pews are empty on Sunday. If only they spent this much energy on protecting all the children who have been molested by rogue priests!

    April 20, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
    • ZoeyJ

      LET THE POPE SIT ALONE IN HIS OWN PEW !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      April 20, 2012 at 3:20 pm |
    • Joseph

      Actually, the CDF is the body responsible for investigating clergy abuse. Clearly, they're looking for other work. 🙂

      April 20, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
  10. prophet

    the sad thing is that theer are many chrsitians such as marsha and thier arrogance is astonishing. Well theiir comments actually show who they are and this is why they need Salvation.

    April 20, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
    • Phosphorus

      Freedom from religion is salvation.

      April 20, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
  11. prophet

    marsha is a racist and a facist and we are praying for her as she obviously has no kindness in her so its obvious that the name she prays in has no effect.

    April 20, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
  12. Huh?

    So, I shouldn't trust nuns trying to make women equal, but I should trust bishops and priests trying to turn 'little girls and boys" into "women and men" before their time.. no, thank you.

    April 20, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
    • GodPot

      You would think with the supposedly "Almighty God" on their side he would be able to prevent his servants from r a p i n g our children or at least make sure they were found out and removed from "His Church" as quickly as possible. That or it's not "His Church"... or maybe their God thinks testing childrens faith by letting the Holy person they put their trust in r a p e them is a good idea and builds charachter...

      April 20, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
    • Phosphorus

      I wonder if the priests think that they are just filling the little boys with "holy spirit?"

      April 20, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
    • fred

      GodPot
      Again you have confused God with man or Satan. There is an obvious difference. Please use a small g when referring the god you make up. God does not do or think the way you make out. The God of Abraham was best reflected in Jesus. If God was to stop the terrible things you say God would never have created man in the first place. No God Pot end of discussion.

      April 20, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
  13. bxgrrl

    Ratzi'd investigate Jesus too. He was a "radical."

    April 20, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
    • Futon Torpedo

      Jesus was radical yes...but he was Jewish. He has nothing to do with the catholic church.

      April 20, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
  14. GodPot

    There was a time when the origin of lightning was debated, and one side said it was their God and the other side said it was their God and people fought long and bloody wars in the names of Teshub, Indra, Taranis, Bayulgen, Thor, Huracan, Jupiter and Zeus and yet none of them had it right. What makes you any different when debating which doctrine or God or spirit is responsible for our origins then those people who had so much faith in their belief they were willing to give their lives in defense of it. Does strength of belief have anything to do with veracity of a claim? I think the answer would be obvious to anyone with an IQ above 60 but it seems like there are millions of you who find no relation between your current faith and ancient humans faith in their invented Gods. You just keep thinking to yourself "They were silly ignorant people who believed what their priest class told them, but not me, I know truth when I hear it, and my priests would never lie to me for their own benefit..."

    April 20, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
    • fred

      God Pot
      What you miss is that the vast majority of humans from earliest recorded history sought out God. You make an assumption why they were seeking God without any basis in fact and without any evidence whatsoever to support your assumption. In short you just made up a line out of thin air to support your belief. The facts we know is virtually all sought after God and were willing to die after finding God. The facts we know is nothing has changed to date. The facts we know is that those who seek God according to their source find God provided they seek in earnest.
      You have nothing to counter what is known and what is fact. Although atheists claim not to have a belief they all spout from the same basic atheist bible. That bible lists the same old tired arguments against God, the Hebrew Bible and believers. Satan, Dawkins or the Collective function as much as a god as say the Hebrew God, your source code or atheist bible functions the same as the Hebrew Bible and the Collective (atheists) function much as believers. In short I am saying you are correct there have been many gods over the years and you should not count yours as any more different or any more divine then those of us with IQ’s fewer than 60.

      April 20, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
  15. why

    Good thing the Catholic church is irrelevant, otherwise this could be a problem

    April 20, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
    • Really?

      really? because the largest sect of Christianity doesn't really matter...right?

      April 20, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
    • why

      Largest sect my just counting heads. Most Catholics don't know what the Catholic church stands for and the ones that figure it out leave in droves. It's irrelevant because there is no cohesive message that allows that church to turn numbers into influence.

      April 20, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
  16. prophet

    it will be solved soon when Our Saviour arrives.

    April 20, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
    • Laughing at a total dipwad

      HA HA HA HA HA!

      April 20, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
    • Bob

      Why do you think he's returning? He wasn't nailed to a boomerang.

      April 20, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
    • BBPatriot

      You mean Santorum? He's just dropped out.

      April 20, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
  17. prophet

    i was right about christian antisemtism, marsha who commenst on here has shown us this. We are praying for her and Forgive her.

    April 20, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
    • Marsha

      God does NOT like your people anyway...... you are no longer God´s "chosen" people since you denied Christ and made the Roman kill him

      April 20, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
    • Bob

      Marsha, does you god really want you to act like this? Oh, he died and left you the spokesperson position. My bad.

      April 20, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
    • Futon Torpedo

      Marsha,

      Shhhhhh you are making rational thinking Christians look bad. 🙂

      April 20, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
  18. Aaron

    I guess the Vatican hasn't read the Bible: Judge not that ye not be judged...Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.

    April 20, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
    • gerald

      What is more imporant than reading the Bible is understanding it. You have a bit of a problem with reading and comprehension.

      April 20, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
    • Bob

      Ah, Gerald, you were appointed Chief Interpreter. You are truly the Chosen One... oh, and Mr. Congeniality, too! Congrats.

      April 20, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
    • *facepalm*

      With tens of thousands of different xtian denominations and much room for dissent and differing opion within those denominations, why do you think you, @gerald, happen to understand it correct? Why are you better than everyone else?

      April 20, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
    • fred

      facepalm
      Why are you better than everyone else? You have a core belief as do Christians or Witches. In case you have not noticed everyone must think their belief is correct in order to act out on it. So welcome to the human race you are a unique individual just like everyone else.

      April 20, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
  19. Jeff

    someone should seriously "blast" the Roman Catholic Church. All religion for that matter. the pope and his protection of pedophiles, the fact he sits on a golden throne and demands pious behaviour from his followers... ugh. disgusting.

    April 20, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
    • Futon Torpedo

      But they have really cool hats.

      April 20, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
  20. The Holy Ghost

    If only the church put this much effort into investigating child abuse by priests!!! Nuns have been one of the few untarnished areas of the church. Bad pr move and so very sad for the nuns who already tolerated such unacceptable inequality. I cannot support a doctrine that holds that I am inherently inferior in G-d's eyes.

    April 20, 2012 at 2:39 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.