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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. AME

    The Vatican had a crackdown on seminaries a few years ago and no one cried over it....

    April 19, 2012 at 7:54 pm |
  2. David

    The Vatican is the Anti Christ that the bible talks about in Daniel and revelation. Martin Luther knew that back in the 1400's

    April 19, 2012 at 7:54 pm |
  3. Greg C.

    I applaud the Church for confronting doctrinal issues; it's no surprise so many want to attack the Church because it does not agree with "modern" thinking; how dare they not support a culture of self-indulgence, a culture of "if it doesn't support what I want, I will just interpret as I see fit" mentality...how dare they not conform to the principles of holy matrimony...surely the Church has lost its mind...no, as a fellow protestant, I am glad the Church is taking a stance on this...as for attempting to character assassinate the Church leadership for "leading"....resorting to name calling and ridiculing them on the basis of mis-deeds of others, makes you a hypocrite and cast you the lot with those that are enemies of the faith whether Catholic or Protestant.

    April 19, 2012 at 7:50 pm |
    • Fail

      total, wholesale fail.

      April 19, 2012 at 7:52 pm |
    • Dan

      Which "others" do you speak of? The priests? I hate to break it to you, fella, but they aren't "others".

      April 19, 2012 at 8:00 pm |
    • Primewonk

      Greg – 98% of all post-pubertal Catholics use or have used birth control. Why does the "church" tolerate this?

      April 20, 2012 at 8:33 am |
  4. Dan

    So, can anyone tell me the difference between how the Catholic church views women and how the Taliban views women? Anyone?

    April 19, 2012 at 7:49 pm |
    • TC

      Stoning sound like a difference to you?

      April 19, 2012 at 7:50 pm |
    • Dan

      I said 'views' women, not 'treats' women. Obviously, reading comprehension would not be your strong suit.

      April 19, 2012 at 7:52 pm |
    • TC

      I comprehend fine – it's your pointless line of questioning.

      April 19, 2012 at 7:54 pm |
    • Dan

      Yes, you showed that clearly... with your wholly invalid answer. So tell me, how do the Catholic churches views and the Taliban's views on women differ?

      April 19, 2012 at 7:58 pm |
    • AME

      Seems like a great difference to me:
      http://www.dignityofwomen.com/

      April 19, 2012 at 9:29 pm |
  5. Lizzy10

    First I have to start saying really idiotic things at mass, like "and with your spirit" and "I am not worthy to receive you under my roof" or some such nonsense, and now the Bishops and the Pope are condemning nuns. Are they trying to drive people away from the Catholic Church in droves? If you can't question a religion, it's a cult. Maybe it's time to start being Agnostic.

    April 19, 2012 at 7:48 pm |
    • TC

      Your post indicates your knowledge of the mass – zero. So your comment is invalid.

      April 19, 2012 at 7:52 pm |
    • Fallacy Spotting 101

      Post by 'TC' is a form of the ad hominem fallacy.

      http://www.fallacyfiles.org/glossary.html

      April 19, 2012 at 8:02 pm |
    • Lizzy10

      TC, I've gone to mass for 53 yrs, so your post is invalid.

      April 21, 2012 at 7:11 pm |
  6. Catholic Arkansan

    I know Archbishop Peter Sartain, the man who will be implementing the reforms, and he is a very good man. I knew him back when he was just a Bishop in Arkansas, and his character is beyond question.

    Some of the responses I've read here in the thread are extremely disrespectful to my religion, and I think you should all be ashamed of yourselves. Respect the Catholic freedom to order its religion however it wants to; if you don't like it, just don't mess with us, leave us alone

    April 19, 2012 at 7:44 pm |
    • TC

      I agree with you but you have 3 types here – other Catholics, evangelical Catholic haters who know nothing of salvation history and atheists. The atheists have nothing better to do than comment on religion which they don;t believe – talk about wasting your time.

      April 19, 2012 at 7:50 pm |
    • Gardengirl

      I'd like to feel in agreement with you but I can not. Your religion impacts others. Your religion was a huge support of outrageous Prop 8. Your religion is pushing human life to the future brink of extinction. We have too many people on earth already and your pope doesn't want anyone using birth control. 3rd world people are encouraged to have enormous families and access for them to any birth control is blocked by the church in areas where the church is dominant. Your church wants to impact MY country's politics. It becomes my business because of these things. If your church didn't impact others and didn't cover up priests se xually abusing children then I wouldn't have any opinion. But that isn't the case, very sadly.

      April 19, 2012 at 7:50 pm |
    • L.S.

      Sorry, but some Catholics and devout people do not agree with you or with him and are deeply offended by the behavior of this church, and feel that it needs to get a grip on its own morality before dictating to others, because it is clearly spiritually compromised. And we are allowed to say so. If somebody is behaving in a sick manner you do not stand by and pat them on the head and agree with every terrible thing they do, you speak up. Anything less is a cop-out and in my opinion does NOT show respect to church, to bible, or to Jesus. We were not put here to nod our heads like sheep and obey without thinking when leaders are corrupt.

      April 19, 2012 at 7:50 pm |
    • Dan

      Wow, it's really easy to lump people into just 3 categories when it suits your purpose. Never mind the underlying complexities of the situation, 3 categories is clearly enough.

      April 19, 2012 at 7:54 pm |
    • TC

      LS – I agree with you in challenging. Leadership in al organizations this day and age is appaling at best. I have little respect for most leaders I encounter but you don't attack foundational truths for poor leadership.

      April 19, 2012 at 7:56 pm |
    • AME

      The Vatican is not condemning nuns. Don't buy into that sensational yellow journalism. It's good for internal review to happen, and it's good for reform from within to happen.

      April 19, 2012 at 7:57 pm |
    • TC

      @Dan – that's the reality in most of these forums. In a purely Catholic topic, it is quite amazing the people it draws.

      April 19, 2012 at 7:57 pm |
    • Fallacy Spotting 101

      Root post by 'Catholic Arlansan' contains instances of the ad hominem fallacy, the circ-umstantial ad hominem fallacy, and the Willed Ignorance fallacy.

      April 19, 2012 at 8:01 pm |
    • GOD

      NO ONE'S CHARACTER IS ABOVE QUESTION

      April 19, 2012 at 8:16 pm |
  7. unionfry

    "I see a lot more holiness in the convents than I see in the chancery." So true! Priests are in no way superior to nuns, except in their own deluded minds and in the antiquated rules of the Catholic Church. It's one of the main reasons the Church is losing long time members.

    April 19, 2012 at 7:43 pm |
  8. ludvig

    Can the Inquisition Part II be far off?

    April 19, 2012 at 7:40 pm |
    • Krikket Fresh

      They haven't finished with the first one. There is still an official office of the Inquisitor – renamed but they acknowledge it the same office with the same duties.

      Is there anyone so simple-minded that they think the RCC hasn't tortured to death the occasional persons every so often even into modern times.
      Get real people. They still love to make people suffer and die horrible deaths. They just aren't burning people in public anymore.

      April 19, 2012 at 8:19 pm |
  9. Kimberly

    So once again, the stone age catholic church is making itself known to the world for the fraud it is. Its fine to cover up raping child molesting priest, but Nuns that dont ask for the permission of child raping priest to help the poor, THATS a problem. How can anyone be a catholic and not feel shame from this story...

    April 19, 2012 at 7:40 pm |
    • TC

      I feel shame for being human, being an American – I can go on and on. Every group I belong to is full of disgusting losers and so I ma clear – you are in that group with everyone else. So you should feel the shame as well.

      April 19, 2012 at 7:43 pm |
    • Fail

      The flaws in your attempt at an anal.ogy are glaringly obvious and fatal to the success of your feeble attempt.

      April 19, 2012 at 7:57 pm |
  10. Observer

    The Bible supports the inferiority of women and apparently doesn't specifically condemn child molesting.

    So what's the problem?

    April 19, 2012 at 7:39 pm |
    • Kimberly

      so true

      April 19, 2012 at 7:40 pm |
    • TC

      Jesus was pretty clear on the nature of harming children.

      April 19, 2012 at 7:41 pm |
    • Observer

      TC,

      Please list a Biblical reference to child molesting being an "abomination" or "sin".

      April 19, 2012 at 7:43 pm |
    • TC

      Here's one – and hindering would be sinful in this case

      Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."

      April 19, 2012 at 7:46 pm |
    • Observer

      TC,

      Yep. The Bible doesn't condemn child molesting. No "sin" or "abomination".

      April 19, 2012 at 7:49 pm |
    • Navy

      You need for the Bible to tell you that's wrong???

      April 19, 2012 at 8:22 pm |
  11. Judy75201

    I suppose pedo priests, however, are operating inside the roman catholic doctrines.

    April 19, 2012 at 7:37 pm |
  12. timi b.

    That is why I'm no longer a practicing Catholic. Worry more about the Priests, not the nuns.

    April 19, 2012 at 7:37 pm |
    • TC

      Great example of you letting what others do affect what you do1

      April 19, 2012 at 7:39 pm |
    • Gardengirl

      It's a great example of not being a hypocrite. If one doesn't support the actions of the church they should not remain in that church, giving that church $ and therefore power to do those things with which one doesn't agree.

      April 19, 2012 at 7:42 pm |
    • TC

      Yeah, so everyone should start their own church because of course, you know exactly what you are doing and are correct, right?

      April 19, 2012 at 7:44 pm |
    • Gardengirl

      No need to start your own. There are many out there already.

      April 19, 2012 at 7:52 pm |
  13. Supra

    "Doctrinal Assessment" sounds terrible

    April 19, 2012 at 7:35 pm |
  14. Authority

    About time. The bible clearly has women in a subservient role to men. If the Bible is the word of god, then these women need to be put in their place.

    All members of a religious order must respect god's authoritay.

    April 19, 2012 at 7:35 pm |
    • ya right

      May be God should take care of things himself. We all know we can't trust mankind with anything.

      April 19, 2012 at 7:46 pm |
  15. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    April 19, 2012 at 7:34 pm |
    • Bill

      I would rather teach my children the religion of any kind is a failed attempt to explain the world. It worked in the middle ages when people had no understanding of the world around them. Religion today causes more harm than good – my tours in Iraq and Afghanistan confirmed this.

      April 19, 2012 at 7:40 pm |
    • buckeyenonbeliever

      Do you even read the articles you post your utter garbage on?

      The article is about the church scolding women for not knowing their place. And your posting name is Atheism is not healthy for living things?

      That is so rich!!!!! This would be hilarious if you were kidding, but you are so far gone it is actually sad.

      Keep living the dream. Atheism is unhealthy? Hahahahahahahaha. Lollollollollollollollol.

      April 19, 2012 at 7:51 pm |
    • just sayin

      We all need Christ, people in Iraq and Afghanistan need Christ as well rather than the deceptive idolatry they are trapped under.Tossing all hope under the bus is not the answer to this world's problems, Jesus is. God bless

      April 19, 2012 at 7:54 pm |
    • just sayin

      Jesus is the answer, prayer is the connection. Now, what is the question? God bless

      April 19, 2012 at 7:57 pm |
    • Bill

      Just sayin the Muslims preach that Allah is the only way to salvation – if you or they had not been taught at such a young age to believe you wouldn't – if someone were to have an adult read the biblical story without having the associated guilt you would never buy it.

      April 19, 2012 at 7:59 pm |
  16. Gardengirl

    I do not understand how anyone can still be Catholic knowing what the church has done and does regarding pedophile priests, treatment of women, anti-gay legislation, anti-birth control at a time our Earth has too many people on it already and too many poor. The church does good things, too, but those can't outweigh all these things and organizations other than the church also do good things. Most Catholics do not support church doctrine or all church doctrine, anyway, but their $ is how the Catholic church manages to continue to promote these things. Without people as members giving $ the church could not do these things. How can people give money to those who cover up wide-spread pedophilia and demand women be 2nd class citizens, etc, etc?

    April 19, 2012 at 7:32 pm |
    • TC

      I don't know how anyone can belong to the human race or any nation or group that's filled with corrupt and sinful disgusting people but you are – so do omething to change it rather than complain.

      April 19, 2012 at 7:36 pm |
    • Gardengirl

      I think you should try a better comparison. I did not ask to be born but I'm here. People may be born Catholic by their parents' choice but they CHOOSE to remain Catholic and give $ to support the church and therefore policies with which many disagree. I am doing something right now. I"m posting this and some may read it and maybe some will question why they are supporting the church given what their support helps further in the world. I help work for positive change in my job daily (quite different from posting here). What do YOU do? Make excuses for staying part of a church that is doing bad things to the world? Encouraging non-use of birth control in an overpopulated world is VERY bad.

      April 19, 2012 at 7:40 pm |
    • JD

      I'm with you on that, Gardengirl. Ignore TC as he's not smart enough to know you can't change the whole world by yourself.

      April 19, 2012 at 7:42 pm |
    • L.S.

      I agree!

      April 19, 2012 at 7:58 pm |
    • AME

      The United States government has done many crimes against humanity and yet Americans continue to be Americans.

      April 19, 2012 at 8:00 pm |
    • Beth

      That is a better analogy that TC's analogy to being human. However, it still isn't a good analogy. You can choose a different church or different religion tomorrow. You can't switch countries so easily. Also, our country is a democracy and the people have some say in how we conduct our country via elections, voicing opinions to elected officials, protests, consumer choices which influence big business, donating to politicians running for office and much more. We can make all sorts of change in our country. Catholics can make ZERO change in the Pope's opinions and decisions as he is making very clear to us all. You have ZERO power to reform your church. Your church does wrong and you are powerless to stop it and by paying membership/dues to your church you enable these wrongs. Saying what you said is a way to close your eyes and do nothing.

      April 19, 2012 at 10:01 pm |
  17. Muneef

    Priests and Nuns should be allowed to have a marriage life beside their religious works and services...it is not fair nor it is GOD's will to deprive those from their natural life... Allowing this will with time resolve many issues we hear about the Catholic Church... This issue of allowing marriages was told by me in the past blogs that spoke about scandals within the Catholic Church... It is not fair to deprive those living souls from their rights of living in the name of Religion as every human has his needs and women as wives are a great mercy to men as husbands... Amen.

    April 19, 2012 at 7:31 pm |
    • Supra

      I've never understood why an omnipotent being would have a "will". By definition an omnipotent/omniscient being should be free of petty human emotions and desires / feelings.

      April 19, 2012 at 7:38 pm |
    • Muneef

      Another comment of mine was that they should allow divorce and remarriage of men and women rather than jailing them spiritually when they can no longer love or live with each other... As if their marriage was a mistake they are to live it for the rest of their lives... It is rather a partnership between both and if cannot continue with each other then they should be allowed to divorce each other and each look for a happier marriage with some one else...

      April 19, 2012 at 7:39 pm |
    • Muneef

      Sopra.

      It isn't GOD's will and you will not find it in any other religion other than Catholic I suppose...

      April 19, 2012 at 7:45 pm |
    • drgene

      The Catholic magisterium(ordinary teaching authority) has enunciated its rationale on male-only priesthood as follows:'
      1. JESUS Himself chose only males to be Apostles(forget that BS in the Gospel of Mary with Magdalene as apostle)
      2. JESUS Himself insisted Celibacy was preferable to marriage in His religious leadership.
      3. Orthodox mainstream tradition has affirmed male-only priesthood since 2nd century.
      4. Priestly celibacy was a long-standing tradition made official & mandatory in the 11th century.
      5. The hypothesis(Aquinas)that male priest are more Sacramental images of Jesus:can See Jesus better in seeing a man.

      There is no explicit rationale given by Jesus for male-only apostles- so this-maybe Judaism creeping into apostolic Kerygma
      as is the number of Twelve apostles–part of the New Israel Judaeo-Christianity movement in earliest churches

      Jesus explicitly wanted NO PRIESTHOOD, or TEMPLE, or RITES–all flaws He condemned in TORAH and 1st century rabbinic Judaism. But Christianity–with PAUL(a Jew) introduced priesthood & sacramental rites within 40 years after Jesus death.

      Jesus was NOT Patriarchal–contrary to feminist allegations. Indeed He was open to both men and women as equal Disciples.
      So male leadership is Not a form of Patriarchalism–in Jesus, at least. Maybe it is in Peter,James,and Paul.

      From this web of data, you can conclude that the Roman Catholic form of Christianity is Not in error in its own choice of celibate male priesthood. It was a Religious judgment-wise or foolish. But women priests would open the door to women bishops, and a woman Pope–logically at least. It would accelerate the already heavy femininization of the ordinary church leadership underway in the USA. Women are the primary church-goers,and nuns are the primary lay ministers already.

      Make your own judgment now. But base it on these Facts, not your own gender ideology, or generalizations about "religion' or the pedophile problem on Catholicism in recent years.

      April 19, 2012 at 8:00 pm |
    • AME

      There are plenty of lay ministries people who are married can get involved with, and the lay people are part of the priesthood of the baptized, even can be part of Third Orders which allow them to be involved in the religious works of nuns, sisters, monks, friars, etc. And married men are called to be the priest of the "domestic church" that is home life. Married men, with permission from their wives, can enter into the permanent diaconate. You don't have to change the priesthood or vowed religious at all. Different vocations mean different lifestyles and different responsibilities and different disciplines. Diversity is supposed to be a good thing, right?

      April 19, 2012 at 8:05 pm |
    • Muneef

      Women are natural mothers,they had born the heaviness and the pain of their carriage for nine months, they are the first schools teaching our generations of males and females, they are more responsible towards managing their houses and looking after the children, they are more merciful and cooperative in looking after the old and sick than men are,....women are more loving to their children than men...therefore I see that for a change the will be better Popes and Leaders than ever men were, after all we see today what is happening today in the world from hunger,illnesses to wars.. Men failed while women are like our mothers will take care of her children... We need to change those failures who care for nothing but positions,ranks and financial benefits even it to wipe the whole nations from earth...

      April 20, 2012 at 5:09 pm |
    • Muneef

      ...After all there would have been Jesus if it wasn't for his chosen mother...

      April 20, 2012 at 5:17 pm |
    • Muneef

      ...After all there would have not been any Jesus if it wasn't for his chosen mother...

      April 20, 2012 at 5:18 pm |
  18. Mike

    The tighter the Vatican squeezes, the more their control will slip through their fingers.

    April 19, 2012 at 7:31 pm |
    • Bill

      It cannot happen soon enough.

      April 19, 2012 at 7:41 pm |
    • Kimberly

      I absolutely agree. I have a feeling this is going to be one step too many for the pedos

      April 19, 2012 at 7:42 pm |
    • Shawn

      Reminds me of the line from Star Wars, when Princess Leia addressed General Tarkin: "The more you tighten your grip, Tarkin, the more star systems will slip through your fingers."

      April 19, 2012 at 7:45 pm |
    • unionfry

      Absolutely. The Vatican thinks it can coerce submission, but they will only alienate those who support the Church.

      April 19, 2012 at 7:48 pm |
  19. Lol

    The entire hierarchy of that Church deserves to die choking on a flaming turd.

    April 19, 2012 at 7:29 pm |
  20. Marie

    Having been named after my aunt the nun and having survived 12 years of Catholic school during the days of lots of nuns (I'm a baby boomer) I can say that this epitomizes why I left the church. I couldn't serve at the altar and I was repeatedly told that women were lower than men. It appalled me then and it appalls me now. I could never understand why "God" had to be male. God was supposed to be a spirit–transcending all humanity–and yet God had to have male characteristics? (I'm being polite but would love to use other words...).

    In any case, the guys just put another nail in the coffin of the church. Any woman with any self respect would not put up with this nonsense. God (the female one) bless the nuns!

    April 19, 2012 at 7:29 pm |
    • TC

      Baby boomers are why organizations are in such chaos – becasue you all run them! It's almost over and noe time to let someone else give it a try.

      April 19, 2012 at 7:38 pm |
    • JD

      TC needs to get out of his Mom's basement and get a real job.

      April 19, 2012 at 7:44 pm |
    • TC

      JD – mom's basement and job? I doubt you have achieved what I have thus far by the comment you posted.

      April 19, 2012 at 7:48 pm |
    • MaryM

      TC is an i d o i t, instant ignore

      April 20, 2012 at 11:52 am |
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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.