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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. M

    What's ironic is that the Good Book was not written by the incorporeal hand of God, and the gospel of Jesus wasn't even included in the New Testament (because using scientific study deemed that Jesus didn't write it), so nothing actually written by Jesus. No, the Good Book was written by a group of self serving men with personal agendas and a lust for power, just as the men in the Vatican now have these same desires. Truth- times change, situations change, therefore people change. The Vatican most likely is putting itself on the path of extinction if it doesn't pull it's head out of it's proverbial a$$!

    June 1, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
    • me

      That's right St. Paul died a rich man. He ate to much caviar.

      June 1, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
  2. Sickofthevatican

    I am so sick of the Vatican!!!!!!!! A bunch of overbearing, egotistical, power hunger, draconian thugs that need to crawl back into the hole they came from. It is the 21st century Pope pea head the 37th not the 12th. Leave these beautiful hard working women along. They have made a huge sacrifice just to be a nun and they don't need any grief from a 12th century idiot in a pointy hat!!!!!!

    June 1, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
  3. Steve

    This is just another example of a what I believe is a flaw in all western religions. I put Islam in this group since it originated from the same source. It is not enough to do good works. All western religions also require an absolute vocal and visible subservience to the Orthodoxy as stated by the religious leaders. If your eyes are not properly dotted and your tees crossed your soul is in jeapordy. It does not matter if the leader is the Pope or an unafiliated declared minister who splinters from the scores of Protesant groups and has attracted a couple dozen followers. The demand for unconditional obedience is the same. In my opinion no man or women should have such power over another. It is a corruption of God's will in my opinion. I understand the need to ensure the ideals of a faith need to remain true. If not there is massive fragmentation and religion is just shopping for what is most comfortable to you. A good example is the fragmentation of the Protesasent movement. There is literally a thousand variations now. But on the flip side I am of the opinion Rome goes too far. The lack of transparency and of two way feedback make it much easier for crimes to be perpetuated like protecting priests who preyed on young boys. When you claim you are not answerable to any power on Earth, it is easy for power to corrupt.

    I think the leaders be it the little nondenominational church or the big religion with a billion followers have forgotten their reason for being. They should be serving and being servants to their followers, now demanding service of them. Can any of us see a Pope or other leader of a large western religion actually washing a persons feet? The King of all humbled himself and washed feet. If only the great leaders would actually listen to his word.

    June 1, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
  4. Ladybug

    Next time someone tells me Catholics aren't really Christian, I'll remember GFreas' comments and be inclined to agree.

    June 1, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
  5. sortakinda

    This story poses a big dilemma for our atheist friends. An opportunity to attack the pope, "the vatican" and all that is evil and stupid, in favor of sisters/nuns who on any other day of the week they would attack as "evil and stupid."

    June 1, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
    • Jim

      Not really. No, actually when you think about it, not at all. Nuns aren't the ones molesting children, showing no remorse, then covering it up. Have a nice weekend.

      June 1, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
    • sam

      You seem to be sortakinda delusional.

      June 1, 2012 at 4:50 pm |
  6. joe dokes

    More power to you, sister!

    June 1, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
  7. Dan

    Oh no the PRIESTS will get NUN of that.

    June 1, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
  8. Barbin

    Women of the Roman Catholic Church–you've been denigrated long enough. I hope you have enough spine to leave the Church en masse. The R.C. Church has never respected women, so its challenge to American nuns is not unexpected. Women will do better outside the church than in it.

    June 1, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
    • Lynsey Pug

      I'd much rather follow the teachings of the Nuns than a bunch of power hungry old men.

      June 1, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
    • maine liberal

      The Anglican Church has holy orders and they are Catholic.

      June 1, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
    • yessica

      We are able to receive salvation ONLY because a woman said YES to God. Virgin Mary is the mother of Jesus and she is the Queen of heaven. So do not say that women in the Catholic Church are denigrated in any way because Virgin Mary plays in an important role in a faithful Catholic. And she is a role model for any Christian woman. God bless you.

      June 1, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
  9. Crusade2267

    Well of course Nuns don't have time to persecute people. They're too busy being Good Samaritans.

    June 1, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
  10. Pope Bullies

    This just in the pope was seen at the local strip club with a fist full of dollars ready to be passed on to the less fortunate people!

    June 1, 2012 at 4:19 pm |
  11. Johnjon

    what do the nuns expect with a Nazi at the helm of the church?

    June 1, 2012 at 4:19 pm |
  12. genebrady

    The Catholic male leadership is made up of ignorant perverts. The Nuns should take their place.

    June 1, 2012 at 4:19 pm |
    • Jim

      At my school, the priests were gay, but not rapists! The nuns were. We have a real unfortunate group of women. Only one of them has gotten married as of age 62. Screw the nuns. They can be as bad as the priests!

      June 1, 2012 at 5:00 pm |
    • J.W

      I don't think nuns are supposed to get married.

      June 1, 2012 at 5:17 pm |
  13. Tom

    I think the nuns may have a handle on what Christianity is supposed to be about. If left up to the Vatican and the right-wing evangelilcals, Christianity is doomed.

    June 1, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
    • Cookie

      Consider who conducts their lives in a more Christ like way? The sisters who take a life-long vow of poverty and service to others or the pervs in dresses of gold huffing incense in the Vatican? hmmm...

      June 1, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
    • Jim

      Cookie has it right !

      June 1, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
  14. Cubes

    The solution is simple. If you don't like the teachings of the Catholic church, LEAVE! It is a THEOCRACY not a Democracy. Its been in existance for over two thousand years since our Lord founded upon Peter. HE chose 12 men to run it, not 12 women. The church will do just fine without these nuns. You can't have dissension in the ranks. The church has its laws. If you don't like them leave and convert to a religion that is more to your liking. Nuns either fall in line or leave.

    June 1, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
    • sbp

      People like you are WHY Martin Luther nailed the 95 Theses on the Church door. You just swallow it all, hook line and sinker. Wow.

      June 1, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
    • Cookie

      Good idea. I will leave. Thanks. Enough is enough.

      June 1, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
    • TRH

      Cubes: That's an interesting perspective you have. I personally think the world is a fundamentally different place than 2000 years ago and the catholic church has shown itself to be a dying dinosaur. It's only a matter of time befure what once was the most influential religious organization in the world will be nothing more than a minor blip in history.

      June 1, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
    • locksmith

      I am glad someone like you spoke, to show what this religion is all about.

      Ignorant men, who want nothing to do with real help towards people, and all about helping themselfs, by staying on top of the food chian, by degrading women, judy plain ignorance and hypocrisy.

      June 1, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
  15. Pope Bullies

    I heard he made all the Nuns get tats abover ther bums that stated "Professional Bull Rider" and made them go to sleezy hotels on the weekdays. Yep this pop has some bad "habits"! He stated later they were not tramp stamps but only positive affirmations that he got to see when they were riding his bull. 🙂

    June 1, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
  16. Demo Joseph

    P.S. The Church of Christ – is that Mitt's church? I know he knows all about religion. They believe in two or more women in the house. Hey those guys must be strong minded to handle two women under the same roof.

    June 1, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
    • Firstt

      Your story sounds so much like mine. I was in an abviuse relationship for 7 LONG years with a meth addict. I FINALLY got the courage to leave and never look back (after trying to leave for 5 years.....unsuccessfully). I'm now married to a man that treats me like a queen and we have a beautiful baby boy after getting my tubes "untied". Thank you for sharing your story! I know it will help someone else in a similar situation! 🙂

      July 29, 2012 at 11:35 pm |
  17. mnman

    The more I know Jesus, the less I respect the Men of power in the Roman Catholic Church!

    June 1, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
  18. Sharmon

    Just turn to Christianity. There is a form of doctrine that is destroying the church. The doctrine of man. Anything taught outside of the word of God is man's doctrine. The Bible is the only holy source of divine truth from Jehovah – The Almight! The Church of Christ or Church of God in Christ are good places to start. Read the Bible for yourself to make sure you are in the right place. Peace and blessing,

    June 1, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
    • Cubes

      @Sharmon. And whom do you think gave you protestants the bible? What group of MEN got together to codify its books? I advice you to read a little more on the history of Christianity and perhaps you'll understand who founded the Catholic church and who started yours.
      Best of luck.

      June 1, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
    • C.L. Mulders

      The fact alone that you write "Jehovah" proves that you haven't understood the Bible in the least. The Jews weren't allowed to pronounce the tetragrammaton (the name of God) JHVH, so they put the vowel-signs for "adonai" (my lord) under those letters to remind them not to pronounce the name. Some stupid Christian 'scholars' completely missed that point and decided God was actually called Jehovah. Bottom line? I have yet to meet someone who calls him/herself Christian who has even a superficial understanding of what the Bible actually entails. That which calls itself Christianity is a religion of the dead letter, a crime against god. Real Christianity has been murdered in much the same way Christ has.

      June 1, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
    • Mezmama

      And which version of the Bible would you be referring to? The one written over 2500 years ago or the one written last year? And which Books would you include? The ones determined by the RC Church or the original ones? They are all different you know. And which laws would you follow? All of them" Or would that be the ones you cherry pick for your own convenience?

      June 1, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
  19. Demo Joseph

    NO NO we do not have to follow the rules when they only apply to women, children, other churches or any one the the holly folks think are unpure breed. NO NO NO. Get real. God's house is our house too.

    June 1, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
  20. Oh Come On

    They all need to get a little nookie.

    June 1, 2012 at 4:14 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.