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American nuns come out swinging against Vatican in face of ‘radical feminist’ accusations
Protesters in New York show support for American nuns in the face of Vatican criticism.
June 1st, 2012
09:42 AM ET

American nuns come out swinging against Vatican in face of ‘radical feminist’ accusations

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

(CNN) – The leadership representing most of America’s nuns came out swinging Friday against the leaders of the Roman Catholic Church, in the face of charges from the Vatican that the nuns are espousing “radical feminism” and straying from church teaching.

The Vatican’s criticism of the American nuns has “caused scandal and pain throughout the church community, and created greater polarization,” the Leadership Conference of Women Religious - which represents about 80% of American nuns - said in a statement Friday.

The board of the group had convened in Washington this week for three days of special meetings, provoked by an April assessment from the Vatican that said America’s nuns had largely gone rogue and warned that they could be a negative global influence on the church.

The Vatican report said that at an annual gathering of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, guest speakers who preached "radical feminism" went unchallenged. The report also said the nuns were too focused on social justice and not enough on opposing abortion, euthanasia and same-sex marriage.

The Leadership Conference of Women Religious said Friday that the assessment “was based on unsubstantiated accusations and (was) the result of a flawed process that lacked transparency.”

“Moreover, the sanctions imposed were disproportionate to the concerns raised and could compromise (the nuns’) ability to fulfill their mission,” the statement continued.

The Leadership Conference’s 22-member board said that its leaders would travel to Rome this month to meet with the head of the Vatican’s Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, the office that launched an investigation of the American nuns several years ago.

Hours later, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement from Archbishop Peter Sartain in which he vowed there was a wholehearted commitment "to dealing with the important issues raised by (the Vatican's) doctrinal assessment and the LCWR board in an atmosphere of openness, honesty, integrity and fidelity."

"I look forward to our next meeting in Rome in June as we continue to collaborate in promoting the important work of the LCWR for consecrated life in the United States," said Sartain, who heads the Archdiocese of Seattle. "The Holy See and the Bishops of the United States are deeply proud of the historic and continuing contribution of women religious - a pride that has been echoed by many in recent weeks."

Pope Benedict XVI, a theologian by training, was the head of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith for decades before he was elevated to papacy. In interviews conducted while he held that earlier post, he spoke often about growing the church by pruning - becoming smaller but more devout before expanding.

Church experts say that the nuns have a few options in responding to one of the most powerful offices in the church. They could accept the assessment, negotiate or resign en masse and form a new group outside the watchful eye of the Vatican.

–CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor Eric Marrapodi contributed to this report.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Catholic Church • Vatican

soundoff (1,467 Responses)
  1. Jesus Christ

    That is because priests, bishops and the pope do not have interest in women, they only have interest in little boys.

    June 1, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
  2. Nuckin Futz

    Catholicism is one of the most misogynistic religions around. That pope and his priests live like kings while all those nuns are expected to live in poverty and preach the good word (men are superior). It's a cluster D#%$@ for many reasons.

    June 1, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
    • mikeM

      Get your facts straight. There are many nuns that don't live in poverty, and there many priests/monks that do. Orthodox Jews as well as Muslims totally ignore women.

      June 1, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
  3. frank

    How can anyone or any group in this world be "too focused on social justice"?

    June 1, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
    • OnlyOne

      It's easy – for those imbeciles that believes that what this world desperately needs is more condemnation, hatred and judgement passed around.

      June 1, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
    • mikeM

      OnlyOne. Just because people have different opinions than you, does not mean they are imbeciles. Some of us give more importance to moral judgement because it allows a society to function better. At the same time, people like myself must recognize that we lack the discipline to live up to our own standards,

      June 1, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
  4. Victor Bobier

    Ah Yes the Inquisition, as that is what the Doctrine of the Faith used to be called, the Nuns need to form a group and get out from Under the Vaticans thumb. But then the Vatican will pay hush money for pedophile priests whom Ya can't trust, Nuns? As trustworthy as one can get, I wish the Nuns well and success too.

    June 1, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
    • OnlyOne

      Better yet, they need to stay EXACTLY where they are – and continue to tell the Vatican off. Until this right-wing disease afflicting the Church sees some pushback, it will continue to spread like the cancer it is.

      June 1, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
    • DJ

      I agree with OnlyOne. The nuns should stay, stand their ground and do their very best to keep this all out in the open and transparent. It will be telling to those of us in the pews to see how this plays out. The Vatican reaction will help us decide whether our charitable donations should go to the Church or to another charity of our choosing. However, I fear that we will never know what the Vatican reaction end up being... I mean if an organization is willing and able to hide pedophilia for many many years, they can probably suppress information about this "dispute" as well. Wow... just typing that made me more disenchanted with my own church. *sigh* I don't know what to believe anymore.

      June 1, 2012 at 5:02 pm |
  5. Marlou Ordelt

    Universal Catholicism always sucked in my book....

    June 1, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
  6. sh3llz

    With all the infighting going on within the catholic church. The debates across protestant lines on whether to support gay marriage or not. Islamic countries forever in turmoil. People leaving temples in eastern religions because they havent found enlightenment, all the way down to the Amish cutting each others beards..... The Great Harlot is weakening from within. Its only a matter of time before that beast shes riding turns and destroys her.

    June 1, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
  7. Joann

    I'm on the sister's side. They know what Jesus really would do.

    June 1, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
    • sh3llz

      Jesus wouldnt be catholic.

      June 1, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
    • frank

      amen! it seems like those who live and work in the community would know better what the world needs than those who live in a palace with a full staff attending to them

      June 1, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
    • Joann

      touchѐ! 🙂

      June 1, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
  8. w.g.

    The vatican is still in the STONEAGE ! The nuns in the US should receed from the vatican

    June 1, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
    • OnlyOne

      No, they should stay where they are and continue to be a thorn in the Vatican's side. Clearly, they're the only ones with balls in this fight.

      June 1, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
  9. Lynn

    The Catholic church is just a facade for a "GOOD OLE BOYS CLUB" and it "followers" are shouldering the burden of its abuse, lies and misguided ways. So what do they do when things are not going well? ............................................................ .........................THEY BLAME THE WOMEN !

    June 1, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
  10. OnlyOne

    Congratulations, sisters. The Church needs strong women like you at a time when even the men that disagree with our disastrous clerical leadership are too afraid to speak out against it.

    June 1, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
    • a blast

      Hold on... Remember – the church has had all the answers for 2000 years already. It doesn't need anything.

      June 1, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
    • OnlyOne

      For a Church that has "all the answers", they're sure paying out handsomely in lawyers fees and lawsuit settlements.

      June 1, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
  11. Glenn Quagmire

    Boy, I have to be honest; I'm rather disappointed with my google alert for "swinging nuns" giggity.

    June 1, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
  12. Copper's Donut Shoppe

    It is time to send this religion crap to the dustbin of history
    enough have been slaughtered
    enough has be stolen from the poor
    enough crimes against humanity have been forgiven and instigated by the pope
    confiscate all church property world wide and sell it
    spread the money around
    "strangle the last king with the intestines of the last priest"

    June 1, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
  13. Just a Thought

    The Pope is right. Most of the convents in North America have been highly influenced by the secular American culture. However, there are some very good, orthodox orders still in existence.

    June 1, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
    • Nuns With Guns

      American culture – dynamic, prosperous, creative, diverse, exciting, free.

      Catholic culture – narrow, repressed and repressive, stagnant, controlled.

      June 1, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
    • If you don't like it

      @nun with guns = were the nun's forced to be nuns?
      I don't get how somebody decide to be part of a group to latter challenge it's structure. Don't like it? Get out there! I'm not sure how someone becomes a nun, but I guess obedience to the Pope is in their top ten requirement , so now you don't like it? Again, get out of there and find a job elsewhere.

      June 1, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
    • Nuns With Guns

      "I don't get how somebody decide to be part of a group to latter challenge it's structure" – it's called progress, and virtually every group does it. Even the Pope comes in and changes things. How would you like to be told that about American government? "Sorry, but we don't let anything be changed." Corporations? "Computers? No, we don't change anything. The abacus works fine." The human race – "What, leave caves? Are you crazy?"

      June 1, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
  14. RayJacksonMS

    Resign en mass and start your own charity to help the hungry, sick and poor. It is either that or you will go down and to jail with the pedophile pope and his child raping monsters.

    June 1, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
    • If you don't like it

      Well said! Don' t like it? Move on.

      June 1, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
  15. RLGESQ1

    If I told my boss to "shove it" I'd either get fired or have to resign. Same to the nuns. Who else will hire them?

    June 1, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
    • OnlyOne

      Poor analogy. The Vatican doesn't hand the nuns their paycheck – your boss does. The nuns are largely self-funded – that is precisely why the bishops are running scared.

      June 1, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
    • 1safechick

      Nuns are basically indentured servants to the Church, but with no hope of freedom later. Unlike priests they don't get pay or a retirement; they work for food and shelter and their love of the Lord. The number of nuns is dwindling quickly (nobody wants to be a slave and the Church's archaic philosophies aren't helping either). The Church is being foolish in distancing themselves from the very people that do all the heavy lifting.

      June 1, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
    • RLGESQ1

      Thanks, I didn't know nuns are self-funded, although I still thought that the bishops were their bosses. Being self-funded should make it easier for them to go do their own thing. Who will be left in the church to do what they do? Could form their own businesses and contract those same services back to the church?

      June 1, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
    • If you don't like it

      @ only one : definitely there is a money issue, but the problem is if the Pope says they are not longer Catholics, that's it. They can't comulge period. You might say say "who cares", but if you are a catholic, it is a big deal. They are catholic first and social workers later. It is intriguing, but the Pope has the last word here. Without the church blessing, they are just another charity organization. Ethan's a religious one, but not catholic. A true catholic would tell you the church is the only one. This a difficult situation for american nuns

      June 1, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
  16. indigo

    Pedophile priests are neatly swept under the rug but politicians who support pro-choice are excommunicated - a travesty IMO.

    June 1, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
    • mikeM

      It is a travesty. However I know of no politician that has been excommunicated. The church is too afraid of loosing their support, however small. As long as Catholics are willing to send their money to the bishops and the Vatican, the situation will not change.

      June 1, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
  17. mikeM

    The nuns are social liberals. Like several Hispanic Bishops they rather help illegals in the US, than fight against abortion and gays.

    June 1, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
    • bam

      yeah the nuns rather do what JESUS would want them to do not some radicals who oppress them want them to do.... odd

      June 1, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
    • Christine

      Being gay and having reproductive choices don't need to be fought against.

      June 1, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
    • indigo

      You need a reminder of Christ's teachings.

      June 1, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
    • OnlyOne

      Your "fight against abortion and gays" (sic) is NOT a Christian fight. It is a fight of hypocritical blowhards (read: conservatives) that willfully obsess with the "sins" of EVERYBODY else but themselves. Go find something else than MY faith to subvert in pursuit of your neanderthal compulsions!

      June 1, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
    • mikeM

      OnlyOne: Your faith? So the church supports gays? I don't obsess with the sins of the gays. I could care less if they want to infect themselves to oblivion. I do care when they want me to accept their lifestyle as normal, or when the Christians tell me I should love the sinner, but hate the sin. That's BS.

      June 1, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
    • mikeM

      Indigo: Why do I need a reminder of Christ teachings? I am not a Christian.

      June 1, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
    • Stuart

      I was looking in the bible for the support of the gay and lesbian lifestyle and the reference to blowhards and coming up a little short. Of course, neither did I find anything that said it is the Christian duty to oppress people of that lifestyle, or alcoholism, or having a bad habit of annoying people, or mocking people on a website, or calling people names. But, that doesn't make it right, either.

      June 1, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
    • 1safechick

      MikeM is NOT a Christian. He has turned his back to the teaching of Jesus.

      June 1, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
  18. generalizationsarebad

    Babylon The Great is falling fast

    June 1, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
    • Fearless Freep

      Seen the picture on the Euro ?
      (Bills and coins)
      They are rebuilding babylon.

      June 1, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
    • generalizationsarebad

      Catholicism is going down. She has stood on both sides of the battle field giving blessings while the young men slaughtered each other in both world wars. No one is exempt from serious crime forever.

      June 1, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
    • sh3llz

      Seems like the great harlot will be weakened from within before the government steps in the crush it.... All the other false religions will fall like dominos.

      June 1, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
  19. Christine

    You tell 'em, sistahs!

    June 1, 2012 at 1:47 pm |
    • Ann

      Your funny Christine

      June 1, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
  20. Rosslaw

    Who would have ever thought that men who prefer white dresses, turkish style pointy slippers and either are or protect child molesters would have difficulty dealing with the strong women who make up the religious orders that most Catholics see as the real face of the Catholic Church. This has nothing to do with doctrine.

    June 1, 2012 at 1:44 pm |
    • Stuart

      Do the clothes one wears have anything to do with how they deal with women? Do child molesters and people who protect them have trouble dealing with women? Is there a study out?

      June 1, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
    • anagram _kid

      Stuart,
      You are uniformed, but it is not entirely your fault since the meaning of clothing has largely been lost as we now ride in cars instead of on horseback. The clothes are extremely significant. Please do some research on the relationship of clothing and one’s station in life. I will give you a starting point – people who ride horses have more freedom (men vs. women) but are not carted (laity vs. clergy).

      June 1, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
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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.