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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. bob

    Why do you think Republicans are Religious ?

    10) excuse to abuse the earth and everything on it for money
    20) control
    30) goto 10

    June 1, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
    • closet atheist

      I'm tend to vote republican. Not one iota of religiosity in my body.

      June 1, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
  2. worshipatpeace

    Go, Sisters, Go! You have done so much good and asked for so little! Great suggestion from OnlyOne – I too will send my contribution to the LCWR.

    June 1, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
    • just sayin

      The only peoiple who act Christ like and are real Christians are Nuns. I find this interesting.

      June 1, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
    • OnlyOne

      For others that wish to donate, go to lcwr dot org.

      June 1, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
    • Kirk Jordan

      To: JUST SAYING...
      The only people I known that really act like Christ are my JW nieghbors.

      June 1, 2012 at 6:03 pm |
  3. cybercmdr

    The Axis of Medieval strikes again!

    June 1, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
  4. Marc in Florida

    Leave it to the women to save the Catholic church. Good for you girls!!! My kudos to Nuns everywhere, they simply do their job and do it well with humility and grace. The male church hiarchy – what a disgrace. It's time for a woman Pope, it won't be the first time!

    June 1, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
  5. ipmutt

    More anti Chatholic rant from the most godless and immoral mainstream media outlet there is. This is not the place you want to come to for input on maters of morality.

    June 1, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
    • OnlyOne

      So why are you here? Presumably your "maters" would be more adequately addressed at Faux News.

      June 1, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
    • james dean

      Nor should people look to the Catholic Church for their moral compass, given their pedoplilia and money laundering.

      June 1, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
    • Popenschmirtz Evil Incorporated

      Morality? What would the Catholic Church know about morality? They have consistently proven that they have no concept or code of morality. They are totalitarian, intolerant, dictatorial, self-dealing, inhuman . . . and they also have a bad side.

      Catholicism is Fascism with silly hats.

      June 1, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
    • Me

      Yes, let's keep the topic of morality within the Catholic church. Surely they have done nothing amoral in recent times.

      Oh, well there is "that", but... never mind.

      June 1, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
    • closet atheist

      religion = morality

      logic fail. thanks for playing.

      June 1, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
  6. GOPlies

    Religion was created by man to control the populace...

    June 1, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
  7. Pamela

    Go for it nuns give the pedophiles hell.

    June 1, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
  8. Haitianus

    This should be a forum for Catholics only, not for people of other faiths who already had a bone to pick with the Church. This is not an article to question the relationship between the Pope and the divine. This is between American Nuns and the Church. Leave this forum to Catholics!

    June 1, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
    • Lol

      oh gee.. you would like to be left alone? but every opportunity, you would like to bring as many heathens to your lord as possible? Equality, y'all!

      June 1, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      Ummm, this is an article about the CC, it is not a CC forum......
      Thee CC feels free to comment on my world, so I feel free to comment on the CC.

      June 1, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
    • aka Casey Barnes

      Yes, Jesus Christ, as "The One Outside The Forum of The Catholic Church" will indeed have his say very soon.
      See: Matthew 7:15-24

      June 1, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
    • JoeP199

      OK, I'm Catholic, and I say "You Go, Ladies!" The hierarchy of the RCC abdicated any claim it had to moral superiority the first time it covered up the actions of a pedophile priest.

      June 1, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
    • Kirk Jordan

      Yes, Jesus Christ, as "THE ONE Outside The Forum of The Catholic Church" will indeed have his say very soon.
      See: Matthew 7:15-24

      June 1, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
    • Me

      Exactly. Any viewpoint that might bring you to better understand the world might bring with it the danger of you forming an opinion that is not yours to choose.

      June 1, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
  9. Jim

    I'd rather see some nuns voice their opinions than have some priests touch little boys

    June 1, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
    • Fidelio

      Some nuns abused kids in care too! Or are you totally ignorant?

      June 1, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
    • JoeP199

      To Fidelio: You have heard the 2 wrongs don't make a right, thing, haven't you?

      June 1, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
  10. shuffler

    Being a Nun is big business now. It used to be part of religeions. Now they have representation so it has obviously dropped to a business relationship now.

    June 1, 2012 at 2:33 pm |
    • JoeP199

      You'll say anything, no matter how idiotic it is, to support the RCC hierarchy, won't you? Or are you just a tea party troll, trying to find another forum for your anti organization rhetoric?

      June 1, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
    • tom

      Your comment makes no sense, because your major premise is flawed. Having membership in an organization does not make you a business. By your reasoning, belonging to a little league team or civic organization turns you into a professional.

      June 1, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
  11. John

    I worked for the Catholic church for 25 years (I am a lay person). The great sisters are finally speaking up against how the church REALLY treated and still continues to treat them! What I saw and learned is terrible! The sisters live a life that NO ONE would choose. The church doesn't support them rather it has stopped them for so long in so many ways. The sisters are finally able to stop saying "YES, FATHER" to everything demanded by the good old boys network and feel comfortable doing so! You don't see the sisters living in lavish "rectories", driving expensive cars, etc. rather I know some who search for affordable housing which causes them to live in not the best of conditions. Sisters, keep speaking up! You've worked hard for the people of God and you don't need the church hierarchy to control you to do that any longer! By the way folks.....I am a male!

    June 1, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
    • Fidelio

      Cr@p. I was educated by nuns and worked with them as a teacher. Most were great. ALL had a superb standard of living and ALL were respected and asked for advice by priests.

      I NEVER once heard a nun criticize a priest for poor, or unequal treatment. We all criticized the grumpy – or bad tempered ones – but that was all.

      You're American so I'd expect your nuns to be less dedicated. After all you DO live life as if it's a movie – not real at all. If these nuns are so badly done to – why the heck don't they get out? I'll tell you why. Many of them were nobodies in "real life" Being a nun gave them status for the first time. Having got a taste for self-importance they want more – just like spoilt kids.
      To feed their vanity they agree with contraception etc The Vatican says "NO" and they're the bad guys????? Grow up.

      Oh – I'm a woman. Just mentioning it because you seem to attach importance to gender!

      June 1, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
    • sam

      Fidelio – you know jack about Americans, so I suspect the rest of your statement was made up in your head, too. Shame.

      June 1, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
  12. T

    In 2012, is it really necessary to embrace this 3rd century dogma and religion created to give Rome more control over the Jews and Pagans in the Roman Empire?

    With everything we know about science, physics, Astronomy, History, Geology and logic, do books written thousand of years ago, really have anything to say about what we know now?

    Do you really need a Vatican today?

    If you want to get technical, if there was a God and if Jesus was this God, he would have been sickened by what Christianity did to Rome. Jesus did not believe in wealth or building churches (Much less the Vatican). Jesus was a Jew and did not establish a new religion. The Roman Christians destroyed all of the Greek temples and monuments and used the marble and stones to build St. Peters Cathedral and the Vatican itself.

    Remember the words of Jesus Christ. "It would be easier for a Rich man to walk his camel through the eye of a Needle than to enter the Kingdom of God". Those are not my words, they are the words of the Catalistic of Christianity. Christ preached the end of the world would happen in the life time of the apostles and told them to save no thrift or money for tomorrow and give your possessions away and follow up him. Because the end of the world would happen in their lifetimes and they would not need it.

    Those are not my words, they are the Christian doctrines...

    Knowing and believing in the truth is better than imagining you are correct and embracing a delusion based upon tribal comforts.

    June 1, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
    • martog

      Dang,,,,,that's good!

      June 1, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
    • Johnny

      "With everything we know about science, physics, Astronomy, History, Geology and logic, do books written thousand of years ago, really have anything to say about what we know now?"

      What does science tell us about right and wrong? About how best to live? Science tells us nothing, because there is no objective standard by which to measure right or wrong. In the same way that science can only tell you about light based on the parameters we use (wavelength, intensity, etc.), science could be used to tell you how an action fits into a predefined system of morality - not whether it is inherently right or wrong.

      Ancient philosophies concerning morality (irrespective of what they say about the nature of the physical world) are relevant today because we have no better tools for determining right or wrong now than any people who ever lived.

      June 1, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
    • Fidelio

      Johnny – VERY well said. Thank you and God Bless.

      June 1, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
    • Snow

      @Johnny, "Ancient philosophies concerning morality (irrespective of what they say about the nature of the physical world) are relevant today because we have no better tools for determining right or wrong now than any people who ever lived."

      I agree what you say about the ancient philosophies about morality being valid today as much as they did at that time.. But why is it that you want to include EXACTLY one book from all the ancient philosophy texts? would you read through Quran or Vedas and accept it? Tread really carefully here, because if you say yes, your god will burn you in hell for eternity.. Therein lies the hypocrisy of your argument (and of christianity).

      June 1, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
    • T

      I believe Socrates writings tell us more about how to live our lives than the old testament

      And do you know what? It does matter to me whether Socrates was a real person or actual existed. Believing this is not a requirement for me to embrace the writings attributed to him. Unlike Christianity that must be infallible.

      June 2, 2012 at 1:08 am |
  13. martog

    1. You believe that the pope has personal conversations with God (that nobody else ever hears) and is infallible when speaking on matters of Church doctrine. You then wistfully ignore the fact that Church doctrine changes and that former popes therefore could not possibly have been “infallible”. Limbo, for example, was touted by pope after pope as a place where un-baptized babies who die go, until Pope Benedict XVI just eradicated it (or, more accurately, so watered it down as effectively eradicate it in a face saving way). Seems all those earlier “infallible” Popes were wrong – as they were on Adam and Eve v. evolution, heliocentricity v. egocentricity, and a host of other issues that required an amendment of official Church doctrine. You also ignore the innumerable murders, rampant corruption and other crimes committed over the centuries by your “infallible”, god-conversing popes.
    2. You reject the existence of thousands of gods claimed by other religions, but feel outraged when someone denies the existence of yours. You are blissfully (or intentionally) blind to the fact, that had you been born in another part of the World, you would be defending the local god(s) and disdaining the incorrectness of Catholic beliefs.
    3. You begrudgingly accept evolution (about a century after Darwin proved it and after accepting Genesis as literally true for about 2,000 years) and that Adam and Eve was totally made up, but then conveniently ignore that fact that your justification for Jesus dying on the cross (to save us from Original Sin) has therefore been eviscerated. Official Church literature still dictates a belief in this nonsense.
    4. You disdain native beliefs as “polytheist” and somehow “inferior” but cannot explain (i) why being polytheistic is any sillier than being monotheistic. Once you make the quantum leap into Wonderland by believing in sky-fairies, what difference does if make if you believe in one or many?; nor (ii) why Christians believe they are monotheistic, given that they believe in god, the devil, guardian angels, the holy spirit, Jesus, many demons in hell, the Virgin Mary, the angel Gabriel, thousands of saints, all of whom apparently make Earthly appearances periodically, and all of whom inhabit their life-after-death lands with magic-sacred powers of some kind.
    5. You bemoan the "atrocities" attributed to Allah, but you don`t even flinch when hearing about how God/Jehovah slaughtered all the babies of Egypt in "Exodus" and ordered the elimination of entire ethnic groups in "Joshua" including women, children, and trees or the 3,000 Israelites killed by Moses for worshipping the golden calf (or the dozen or so other slaughters condoned by the bible). You also like to look to god to for guidance in raising your children, ignoring the fact that he drowned his own – according to your Bible.
    6. You laugh at Hindu beliefs that deify humans, and Greek claims about gods sleeping with women, but you have no problem believing that God impregnated Mary with himself, to give birth to himself, so he could sacrifice himself to himself to “forgive” an ”Original Sin” that we now all know never happened.
    7. You disdain gays as sinners, but have no problem when Lot got drunk and committed father-daughter in.cest (twice) or offered his daughters to a mob to be gang ra.ped, or when Moses, time and again, offered his wife up for the “pleasures” of the Egyptians to save his own skin.
    8. You believe that your god will cause anyone who does not accept your Bronze Age stories to suffer a penalty an infinite times worse than the death penalty (burning forever in excruciating torture) simply because of their healthy skepticism, yet maintain that god “loves them”.
    9. You will totally reject any scientific breakthrough that is inconsistent with your established doctrine, unless and until it is so generally accepted as to back you into a corner. While modern science, history, geology, biology, and physics have failed to convince you of the deep inanity of your silly faith, some priest doing magic hand signals over bread and wine is enough to convince you it is thereby transformed into the flesh and blood of Jesus because of the priest’s magic powers (or “sacred powers” to the extent you see a difference).
    10. You define 0.01% as a "high success rate" when it comes to Lourdes, Fátima and other magic places and prayers in general. You consider that to be evidence that prayer works. The remaining 99.99% failure was simply “god moving in mysterious ways”. The fact that, if you ask for something repeatedly, over and over, year after year, sooner or later that thing is bound to happen anyway, has not even occurred to you. A stopped clock is right twice a day.
    11. You accept the stories in the Bible without question, despite not having the slightest idea of who actually wrote them, how credible these people were or how long the stories were written after the alleged events they record occurred. For example, it is impossible for Moses to have written the first five books of the Old Testament, as Catholics believe. For one, they record his death and events after his death. In fact, the chance of the Bible being historically accurate in any but the broadest terms is vanishingly small.
    Heavens, I could not fit them into ten. Maybe, if they pray hard enough to their sky-fairy, the Catholics can turn them into 10

    June 1, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
    • babs

      You are a bigoted fool. May you die a terrible death and go to hell for all eternity with the rest of the protestant republicans.

      June 1, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
    • Johnny

      Your diatribe is, in part, based on outdated information - for instance, Pope John Paul II agreed that popes are fallible, making your first point gibberish.

      If you have to hate people, at least know what you are hating.

      June 1, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
    • Fidelio

      Johnny – You give short brilliant answers to long ill-informed rants. Long may you continue! The Holy Spirit guides your thinking.

      June 1, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
    • sam

      Hmm...based on the 1st three responses to this, it seems you riled the crazies.

      June 1, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
  14. OnlyOne

    Keep it up, Vatican. Go after those terrible criminal nuns, and those rebellious girlscouts. Keep coddling the child rapists. Just remember this: Real men don't bully women.

    June 1, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
    • Fidelio

      The Vatican is telling the truth. The nuns can't accept that they are being 'cool' and 'trendy' at the expense of their vows!
      They need to pray more and show off less.

      June 1, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
    • Kelcy, Colorado

      This is a fight the Vatican will not win. This is not the day of the inquisition or the crusades. They can not silence or hide what is going on. It is almost like they have a bureaucratic psychological disorder that makes them live in la-la land. Even stating that the nuns focus on "social issues" versus the priests focus on contraception, abortion, gay relationships is farce. If one asks WWJD most assuredly he would be focused on social issues. And the Vatican has not leg to stand on when it comes to being able to tell right from wrong. Just look at the on going trials where they continue to defend as right their refusal to turn over to law enforcement those men who have committed grave sins against children as well as those that aided and abetted the abuse.

      June 1, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
    • Fidelio

      Kelly – The Vatican stated a fact. The nuns made a vow of obedience to the word of Christ. They need to keep the vow or get out! Simple.\Why are you getting your knickers in a twist over something that doesn't concern you?

      I know. You're being led by the nose by people cleverer than you to try to bring down the Catholic Church. With followers like you it's easier for them BUT still impossible. Jesus said of HIS Church "The gates of Hell shall not prevail against it" Cope!

      June 1, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
    • JoeP199

      To Fidelio: What's the matter? Are you afraid that the nuns will warn off the altar boys?

      June 1, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
    • OnlyOne

      Fidelio – The Church that Jesus founded – that the Gates of Hell will not prevail against – is the Body of Christ – not just the deluded higher ups in the clergy that think that their silly hats and outrageous salutations give them authority. The LCWR is PART of that Church, as are both you and I.

      June 1, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
    • sam

      Fidelio feels the nun's issues are 'cool' and 'trendy'. What are you, 80?

      June 1, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
  15. scoobypoo

    It's long past time go go, dear nunnies.
    Check out recoveringfromreligion dot org

    June 1, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
    • Fidelio

      Good – we need to get rid of the weeds. Small and loyal to God is infinitely better than big and hampered by dead wood!

      June 1, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
  16. longtooth

    Another example of the Holy Roman Church self-destructing. How far away from God these bureaucrats have fallen!

    June 1, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
  17. Amanda Hugginkiss

    What type of meat do Catholic Priests eat on Friday's? Nun.

    June 1, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
  18. NorCalMojo

    nun fight!

    June 1, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
  19. OnlyOne

    The yearly contributions that I'd normally send to my dear bishop will today be going to the LCWR. Even better, I'm going to make the contributions in his name, so they can thank him personally for it.

    June 1, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
  20. nolimits3333

    The three great evils in the world are the Catholic Church, Islam, and the Republican Party.

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

      Not necessarily in that order.

      June 1, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
    • Fidelio

      Wrong – the 3 great evils are Greed, Selfishness and the failed American education system.

      At this moment America is making Sodom and Gommorah look like a bunch of frigid maiden aunts! No wonder you're leaving a vapor trail to 3rd world status!

      June 1, 2012 at 3:05 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.