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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.

CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories

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. mack

    This is all Whoopi Goldberg's fault

    April 19, 2012 at 6:35 pm |
    • OrangeW3dge

      Finally !!! Someone has figured out who is "behind the curtain"

      April 19, 2012 at 6:41 pm |
  2. tateman

    You go Girls! Jesus and God (One and the Same) are supporting your courage and strength! Bring the Catholic Church out of the Dark Ages.

    April 19, 2012 at 6:34 pm |
    • G

      Why don't they report on how Orthodox Judaism segregates their women. Catholicism never discriminates against women. Women are blessed more than men.

      April 19, 2012 at 6:46 pm |
    • tateman

      As long as Women stay in their place, the Catholic Church loves them.

      April 19, 2012 at 6:59 pm |
  3. Empedocles

    When you recognize that The Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith is the modern incarnation of the Inquisition (yes, it's true, you can look it up, ask a Catholic religious, whatever) and that the Church NEVER abandoned the Inquisition and that it has kept alive this organization uninterrupted since its founding in the 16th century, When you consider that Joseph Ratzinger (he's since changed his name you know) was appointed Prefect in the 1980s (yes under our lamented J-P II !) it all makes the usual perverted sense, does it not?

    April 19, 2012 at 6:33 pm |
    • Nonny Mouse

      No one expects the Spanish Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith!

      April 19, 2012 at 7:13 pm |
  4. Demonstrate

    Eric,

    Pretty sure the nuns in the picture are not the ones under the "crackdown". Those nuns generally do not wear habits. Anyway in your terms this story is like finding reporters working for Foxnews on the CNN's payroll.

    April 19, 2012 at 6:32 pm |
  5. OrangeW3dge

    So, we need a Religion Spring, then

    April 19, 2012 at 6:32 pm |
  6. ReaganDem

    I'm a Roman Catholic and I'm going to butt in. This is nothing more than a distraction, intimidation and flexing one's power, which has nothing to do with Christianity. If you read the article very carelfully there are vivid statements that conclude that this so called investigation was unwaranted and unnecessary.

    April 19, 2012 at 6:31 pm |
  7. Observer

    At least the Pope is consistent with the Bible which discriminates against women and apparently says nothing about molesting children.

    April 19, 2012 at 6:29 pm |
    • G

      adultery is a sin. What the eff are you talking about?

      April 19, 2012 at 6:39 pm |
    • Kalessin

      It's a typical ploy..take one bad thing that a select few did and apply it to a religion representing about a 5th of the world's population. Guilt by association.

      April 19, 2012 at 6:41 pm |
    • Magic Jew

      Apparently Kallesin believes child molestation is okay as long as you're Catholic.

      April 19, 2012 at 6:45 pm |
    • G

      Molestation is no more prevalent in the Catholic religion as in other religions. We just bore the brunt of the attacks by greesy plaintiff's lawyers, and the anti-Catholic media.

      Stay strong fellow Catholics. Don't let these vicious attacks undermine your faith. We have a great, peace-loving relgion. WE help the poor more than any other religion. And we don't creat war, and starve populations, like other people do.

      April 19, 2012 at 6:50 pm |
    • Magic Jew

      Except your god is imaginary so all of this faith stuff is just silly. Here let me prove it to you:

      Dear God,

      Please cure world hunger.

      Sincerely,
      The 16,000 children that die daily from starvation

      April 19, 2012 at 6:52 pm |
    • G

      Many of them being innocent Palestinian children in Gaza being starved and deprived of resources by Israel's govt.

      April 19, 2012 at 6:54 pm |
    • G

      Many of them being innocent Palestinian children in Gaza.

      April 19, 2012 at 6:55 pm |
    • Magic Jew

      Is your god unwilling to feed innocent Palestinian children?

      April 19, 2012 at 6:55 pm |
    • G

      Not even "our God" can get through that militarized wall, or the gun-slinging settlors.

      April 19, 2012 at 7:02 pm |
    • martog

      Magic Jew.....that is perfect. Thanks

      April 19, 2012 at 7:02 pm |
    • martog

      'G', supposedly your gawd can do anything. What the Hell are you talking bout??

      April 19, 2012 at 7:04 pm |
  8. Patti

    Why don't the sister's do themselves a favor and operate outside of the Roman Catholic Church by quitting a draconian, misogynistic, hypocritical, pedophile transferring organization.

    April 19, 2012 at 6:28 pm |
    • MaryM

      AMEN

      April 19, 2012 at 6:30 pm |
    • G

      Why don't you worry about your own life, and your own religion (whatever it might be). Catholicism is the only truly tolerant and selfless religion that serves the poor and the disabled.

      Whatever our specific rites are dogmas is our business. Stay away.

      April 19, 2012 at 6:52 pm |
  9. albuspwbd

    Boy if the Vatican would put this much effort into getting all the priests who abuse children, the world would be a safer place. Leave those Nuns be. Words from a Catholic.

    April 19, 2012 at 6:28 pm |
    • G

      Abuse claims are greatly exaggerated by plaintiff lawyers (who got rich bankrupting various Church dioses), anti-Catholic media, anti-Catholic Catholics (like yourself), and other religions who want to undermine our Faith. Also, there's no higher percentages of abusers among Catholic clergy as among leaders of other religions. Look this up.

      April 19, 2012 at 6:38 pm |
    • chief

      so just because they are statistically proportional to others (you say) then we should ignore them even though we know their names in most case.... your a pathetic aplogist that enables ped priest to continue due to your denial

      April 19, 2012 at 6:54 pm |
    • G

      No. But if we say molestation is prevalent among Catholic priests (which it's not), then it's equally prevalent among all religions.

      If I'm a pathetic apologist, then you're one too. Why don't you fess up to the rampant molestation in your religion (whatever it may be)??

      April 19, 2012 at 6:58 pm |
  10. Mathew 7:3

    "Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?"

    April 19, 2012 at 6:27 pm |
  11. Lee

    I am not surprised at Rome's dictum. The Catholic church is led by a bunch of chauvinsists, especially the italian Cardinals and bishops. It was the italian Cardinals and bishops that said tthere were no problems in Italy and Europe of child abuse by priests, it was only an American thing. As it turned out the scandal turned out to be just as big in Italy. This could have been handled with better finesse. Modern day nuns do lots of good social service, I will pray for them they resolve this dispute.

    April 19, 2012 at 6:26 pm |
  12. whitebirdusmc

    Roman Catholic Church = Taliban in the way they treat women.
    You go girls.
    Quit RCC as soon as I was old enough to be on my own and have NEVER been sorry. I was never just breeding stock.

    April 19, 2012 at 6:26 pm |
    • lolz

      lol... are you sure you checked the sign on the door to the church? or the school? i didn't think i'd ever read anything so truthless.

      April 19, 2012 at 6:43 pm |
    • whitebirdusmc

      Glad you find it amusing lolz. Raised catholic, had several families in the parish that had 7+ kids and two that I went to high school with had 15 each. What would you call it besides 'breeding stock'?

      April 19, 2012 at 7:02 pm |
  13. Cindy

    This is a prime example of why Catholic men should not be in high-order politics. The Catholic church will try to run the country. This is a pagan religion where women are 2nd class citizens at best, put on this earth to procreate these men.I have more respect for Warren Jeffs than I have for the Pope. I hope he does not plan a visit to this country, he is not welcome. Don't forget, this Pope was once a Nazi.

    April 19, 2012 at 6:25 pm |
    • Argle Bargle

      He still is.

      April 19, 2012 at 6:27 pm |
    • Patti

      I didn't think it was possible to read a post by someone as outspoken as myself. Well said!

      April 19, 2012 at 6:31 pm |
    • lolz

      So you have respect for child rapist Warren Jeffs? Might as well be Islamic then. Check please.

      April 19, 2012 at 6:40 pm |
    • G

      The Pope was never a Nazi; and he is more than welcome to visit this country. In fact, I will be blessed to have him visit our country. And remember, Italy, a very Cathlic country, was the first country in the world to give women full rights. And the Church supported it 100%. So go bark up a different tree.

      Hail to Catholicism and hair to our great Pope. Keep strong!

      April 19, 2012 at 6:44 pm |
    • tateman

      The Pope was conscripted into the Hitler Youth at the age of 14 which was the law at that time. He was a very reluctant participant and did not go to meetings, etc. As a German soldier he deserted and went back home. He never held the Nazi views. His cousin with Down Syndrome was taken by the Nazi's and murdered. So the Pope cannot be accused of being a Nazi.

      April 19, 2012 at 6:57 pm |
    • Nonny Mouse

      Excuse me, but as a pagan I find that comment offensive. Most pagan religions hold the feminine divine in equal standing as the masculine.

      April 19, 2012 at 7:16 pm |
    • Nonny Mouse

      And FYI, the modern generic umbrella term 'pagan' usually means something outside the big 3 monotheistic faiths.

      April 19, 2012 at 7:20 pm |
  14. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    April 19, 2012 at 6:25 pm |
    • chaz8181

      If you want to read the gruesome crimes committed by the RCC read the history of the world. and they still do. and they do the opposite of the teachings of Jesus

      April 19, 2012 at 6:32 pm |
    • Jesus

      Prayer doesn’t not; you are such a LIAR. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs!.*!

      April 19, 2012 at 6:47 pm |
  15. MaryM

    The "church" Better grow up or be left behind.

    April 19, 2012 at 6:24 pm |
    • G

      Left behind by who? You? What a loss!

      April 19, 2012 at 7:03 pm |
    • MaryM

      G, left behind by the masses of intelligent people and only the few ignorant sheeple like you will be left to follow the pedo preist

      April 20, 2012 at 11:55 am |
  16. Christopher Hitchens

    Sandra Fluke wept.

    April 19, 2012 at 6:23 pm |
    • Argle Bargle

      So does Jesus

      April 19, 2012 at 6:26 pm |
  17. OrangeW3dge

    It's all about power and money. Always has been. Men must stay in control of women because women cannot control themselves. Just go as Adam. That's why God spoke to him, and not to Eve, because men are supposed to be superior and be the boss in charge of the world, for God's sake. God made man so He gets to say what's what.

    April 19, 2012 at 6:23 pm |
    • Christopher Hitchens

      I can never tell when you're being serious.

      April 19, 2012 at 6:26 pm |
    • OrangeW3dge

      Well, that's because it's up to you to make up your own mind. I can only reflect what I've heard

      April 19, 2012 at 6:27 pm |
    • Caroless

      Or, man made the Catholic church, and its doc trine so they could control woman. If it's the chicken or the egg theory, I'll take God came first, then humankind came along and made the rest up for themselves. It's all about power for men, always has been...

      April 19, 2012 at 6:31 pm |
    • OrangeW3dge

      ALL cultures, historical to the present, have always diminished "Women". There must be a reason for that... maybe it's just plain old genetic makeup. Males are more "powerful" physically, and the world has been determined by it's physical properties. Because men have stronger muscles, they have ascended to the throne. Because of this, Women have developed the Spriitual side of humanity. The ultimate question here is why the Women have relinquished the throne of Spirituality to Men? Or is it that Men have wormed their way into ruling EVERY aspect of living.

      April 19, 2012 at 6:40 pm |
  18. Anav

    And of course, the most compelling and irrefutable evidence that the Catholic Church "hates" women and "subjugates" them
    is that the Church venerates Our Lady, as the Queen of Heaven, as well as a litany of female saints (Sts. Perpetua, Faustina, Theresa of Avila, Clare of Assisi, Bakhita, etc).

    The reality is that the Church is choosing to actively counter cafeteria Catholics, i.e. willful dissenters of Catholic teaching, which is a long over-due initiative, as such people are a constant source of scandal (that is, they create occassion of misleading the faithful, as well as the confused and ignorant, right into moral error). It would be highly uncharitable to simply watch the scandal without intervening.

    April 19, 2012 at 6:20 pm |
    • Thezel

      Amen!!!

      April 19, 2012 at 6:22 pm |
    • lolz

      Don't know what religious herb you're smoking, but it's not Roman Catholic. Put the bong down. Thanks.

      April 19, 2012 at 6:24 pm |
    • bsheresq

      Yes – the church "venerates" women with the worship of Our Lady, who is set before us as the ultimate example to follow. Hmmm – a virgin AND a mother – such realistic and attainable goals! Tells you right there what the church of child molesting misogynists really thinks of women.

      April 19, 2012 at 6:30 pm |
    • Patti

      The REASON there are so many cafeteria Catholics, is because there are so many outdated, ridiculous, chauvinistic rules that no one in there right mind would follow.

      April 19, 2012 at 6:34 pm |
    • lolz

      Neither the Church nor do the schools brainwash girls to follow in the footsteps of Mary. We learned about Mary. That's all. You might want to change your sources and meds.

      April 19, 2012 at 6:37 pm |
    • Jonquil

      The Pope clearly stated that Bishops determine The Church's morality and that Nuns must obey their dictation. Women can not be Bishops or The Pope.

      This is one of the main reasons (besides my grown-up, intellectual enlightenment) why I left The Church and don't regret it – nor will I ever. It is so, morally wrong, to declare that women can never be as holy as men. I don't care which positions of subservience women of The Catholic Faith are respected for; they can't be in charge. Ever. Supposedly, it's because Peter was the first Pope and he was a man and therefore, reasoning is; even though God did not say "And all following Popes shall be only men", The Catholic Church decided God intended only men to be in the highest positions of power. That's it. That's their official explanation. And it's a pretty poor one.

      Toxic misogyny will sink this religion.

      April 19, 2012 at 6:53 pm |
    • MikeG

      No, Patti, the reason there are so many "cafeteria Catholics" is that catechesis is so poorly delivered in most churches and people are too lazy to look into the reasons for various articles of Church doctrine.
      It's a lot easier to simply say, "ugh, I don't agree with that," than it is to get out a copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and do a little reading to figure out why the Church takes the stands it does.
      Part of being a Catholic is being willing to submit to ecclesiastical discipline and part of what makes that easier is actually searching for the truth in what and why the Church teaches what it does.
      If you can't handle it, you will rightly be censured like this group of nuns. There should be no such thing as a "cafeteria Catholic".

      April 19, 2012 at 7:03 pm |
  19. lolz

    Feminism is another way to say lesbianism. These nuns aren't nuns, they're lesbian extremists. They don't belong in the Roman Catholic Church. That's all there is to it.

    April 19, 2012 at 6:19 pm |
    • Thezel

      If they want to disagree with the Pope, they can go ahead and commit heresy. Hell's waiting for them.

      April 19, 2012 at 6:21 pm |
    • alysej

      actually feminism just means that women are EQUAL with men. not superior. not lesbian. EQUAL. why does wanting to be treated fairly equate lesbianism?

      April 19, 2012 at 6:38 pm |
    • lolz

      tell that to a feminist and see if they can keep a straight face.

      April 19, 2012 at 6:46 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      so, lolz, I suppose real women are happy to just stay in the bedroom on their back servicing their husband, except when he wants a meal, the kids need looking after or it's time to go to church?

      April 19, 2012 at 8:55 pm |
  20. busterbobby

    My! The situation must be dire indeed for the Vatican to take time off from its daily campaign to torment gay people to bat up on nuns instead. Lord! A bigot's work is never done! And what exactly justifies the Church's doctrinal opposition to contraception? What did Jesus have to say about contraception? Uh....exactly! And anyway, we all know that if altar boys could get pregnant, the vatican would support contraception in a heartbeat.

    April 19, 2012 at 6:16 pm |
    • Thezel

      you're not a Roman Catholic.. so butt out..

      April 19, 2012 at 6:20 pm |
    • Rick Rosio

      As a native child raised Catholic I have great memories of the nuns from our school. Good women who where committed to teaching and compassion for the poor. SWITCH TO THE VATICAN:
      As a Catholic I am embarassed by you conduct. ALL OF YOU SHOULD HANG YOUR HEADS IN SHAME AND BEG GOD TO FORGIVE YOU . Your anti gay positions , your war on womens rights even your own Holy Women must be treated as if they are children and unable to think anything but doctrine, and only your view of the teachings of Christ. You in Rome moved pedophile priests for generations allowing them to continue to prey upon the innocent while always being the moral judge of all, while excluding yourselves from that judgement. Shame upon you for sitting upon riches that would make King Midas blush while poverty is rampant and you could provide food to the poor. Now we see the church playing politics as if it was the 14th century Italy and that is not the role of a church worthy of the teachings of Jesus. SHAME UPON YOU ALL
      I am at peace with God and thank him for everything and understand that someday the meak shall inherit the earth, while you stand in your splendid robes before God.

      April 19, 2012 at 6:28 pm |
    • busterbobby

      @Thezel Was the "butt" part intentional? Hilarious, either way. You're trying to say...what? That the Vatican's perpetual abuse of gay people, nuns and children is strictly an internal Church affair? I think not, especially when the Vatican donates millions to work its bigotry into the law codes of countries worldwide.

      April 19, 2012 at 6:32 pm |
    • albuspwbd

      To: Thezel

      you're not a Roman Catholic.. so butt out..

      Well I am a Roman Catholic and that doesn't mean kneeling to corrupt and criminal leaders of the Church. The church has committed sin and it is time for the true Catholics to break off from the corruption and begin anew. If you believe you must do everything the Pope says then you might as well become a Mormon and believe in magic underwear.

      April 19, 2012 at 6:36 pm |
    • Patti

      Excellent reply, Rick.

      April 19, 2012 at 6:37 pm |
    • Jim Hahn

      The whole celibate priest thing is rooted in money and power. If priests were allowed to marry, they might have heirs which would compete with the Church for inheritance. Anything a priests earns or is given belongs to the Church and must stay with the Church. Therefore they are not allowed to marry or have families.

      Contraception is banned because anything that prevents the creation of new Catholics is forbidden. When you're trying to build the Church up, the word of the hour is procreate (as often as possible).

      April 19, 2012 at 6:40 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.