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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. Jim

    Vatican will NEVER change. If you think that you can't follow the teaching of God via the Catholic Church run by the Vatican, there are plenty of other churches that you can go to.

    June 1, 2012 at 7:00 pm |
  2. DarthWoo

    Why, they're proving the Vatican's point by even defending themselves. The Bible itself says essentially that a woman's place in church is to sit down and shut up. They should just quiet down and submit to the patriarchal hierarchy, obviously.

    June 1, 2012 at 6:54 pm |
    • Catholic Clarity

      No it doesn't. Mary was given full freedom to answer the question. Her answer was yes. She is a model for all women. We do think for ourselves. We do evaluate situations on a daily basis. What seems to annoy so many, though, is that we inform our conscience with our faith so the teachings of the Church (teachings, not the sins of others) do have a part in shaping our life decisions!

      June 1, 2012 at 7:30 pm |
  3. Disgusted Catholic

    WAKE UP VATICAN, CARDINALS, BISHOPS, and Church leadership of every category! I hope the good Sisters and Nuns stick to their guns and cease to take the scrutiny and questioning by the male-dominated leadership of the Church. Quite frankly, I think they would be far more effective if they totally severed ties with the administrative part of the Church and started their own organization. There is no rule that prohibits this except in the minds of the scholars and academics of the Church. I'd love to see a few of them on the streets ministering to the hungry, sick, and suffering the way Jesus did. But wait, they may get their robes of honor dirty with the grime of every day life. You go girls! I'll be out there supporting you every way I can. I'll not give the Church one more cent until it cleans up it many dirty houses and learns some manners! And please, quit treating people like sheep. We are not stupid and don't need to be told what to think and do! How insulting.

    June 1, 2012 at 6:49 pm |
    • Catholic Clarity

      Stop treating people like sheep? tee hee...wonder how Jesus would respond.

      June 1, 2012 at 7:26 pm |
  4. Delmar H. Knudson

    Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear, when from out of the past come the thundering hoofbeats of the Vatican! Torquemada rides again. Just keep your little boys away from the priest.

    June 1, 2012 at 6:48 pm |
  5. Robin

    None of you who are bashing the Catholic church would bash Islam, Buddist or Judism – would you; hypocrites.

    Further more as a Catholic; please continue, I will pray for you to find peace as I know that the Muslims, Buddist and Jewish faithful be praying for you as well.

    June 1, 2012 at 6:47 pm |
    • Mike

      Islam doesn't have a foothold across 30% of the US population, now does it? Good. When it does, call me and I'll bring my axe.

      June 1, 2012 at 7:06 pm |
    • Chris

      Robin,
      Many of us bash any religion that promotes mysogyny, violence, or general ignorance. Please dont feel special because this time it happened to be your religion that did something incredibly backwards and ignorant. Pray all you want, most of us have managed to find our own peace without an imaginary being telling us he loves us but will burn us in fire forever if we anger him.

      June 1, 2012 at 7:07 pm |
    • Robin

      Chris

      You sound like your at peace. Little secrette you already know, your not in control. Peace

      June 1, 2012 at 7:18 pm |
    • Catholic Clarity

      My complaint exactly! Everyone is supposed to be tolerant, yet government thinks it can force Catholics to perform abortive procedures to end the life of a living being. Everyone is supposed to respect others' religious beliefs, but without any understanding, people freely take swings not only at the Catholic Church, but at the majority of its believers and servants who are innocent and only faithful to their beliefs, offending no one. (Notice I say most – as in any segment of society, there are some who do not act honorably.)

      June 1, 2012 at 7:28 pm |
    • Jen

      The government does not force Catholics to perform abortions. The government doesn't force any ANY DOCTOR to perform abortions.

      I hope you are not equating birth control pills and abortion, because if you are you no nothing about birth control pills. 98 percent of Catholics use birth control. If the church is so stressed out about their congregants using birth control they should ex-communicate them. That will leave about 3 people.

      June 1, 2012 at 7:34 pm |
    • Disgusted Catholic

      I will disagree with any faith tradition (religion) that teaches one set of rules, yet practices another. I have seen too much hypocracy in many different branches of the universal church, Catholic or otherwise. I am so at peace!

      June 1, 2012 at 8:14 pm |
    • Delmar H. Knudson

      We don't need to bash Islam. They bash each other. They killed thousands and thousands of muslims in the Iran – Iraq war. Saddam gassed tens of thousands of Shiites and Kurds in his country, killing anyone else who got in his way (even his own relatives). And the Sunni, Shiite, Alawite, Twelver, Sufi, Kharjite, Ahmadiyya, Quranists spend a lot of time hating and killing one another. Bashar Assad and his Alawites are trying to wipe many other muslims off the map (and they do remarkably well at it).

      June 1, 2012 at 8:24 pm |
  6. Jack Watcher

    Before you all go running around praising the nuns, check out the Magdelane Sisters in Ireland. We are talking pure horror here. Nuns are just like priests or any other human. Some are good and some are bad. It's just that the RCC has such a control/ power thing going on that they have lost all claim to being moral. Google the Magdelane Laundry. I went to RC schools in Ireland and many nuns were sadistic beasts.

    June 1, 2012 at 6:46 pm |
  7. RobinMO

    You go girls. Some Catholics who actually care about other people. A nun should be Pope, then maybe we would see some real Christianity from the church.

    June 1, 2012 at 6:40 pm |
  8. ohgran

    If women had a leadership role in the Catholic church, they would NEVER have allowed the abuse and cover up that occurred toward children or a clearly warped understanding of women and their bodies! Time to get serious about placing women at the alter so we can have confidence in our leadership being for ALL. And even as important would be for priests to marry bringing an understanding of issues/problems of families. "Celebate" men can't possibly understand as they have shown.

    June 1, 2012 at 6:40 pm |
    • Jack Watcher

      Ohgran and others with like views, please Google the Magdelane Sisters or the Magdelane Laundry. I was educated in Irish schools by nuns when I was very young and some of those women were sadistic beasts. It's not the gender, it's the church. But I will say that I have known a number of very Christian nuns, and some Christian priests for that matter. Just very few.

      June 1, 2012 at 6:51 pm |
    • Catholic Clarity

      If?! Women DO have leadership roles all over the Church! If you want to understand woman's role in the Church (quite similar to the mini Church we call family), check out the Imagine Sisters movement: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x6sge19dMVw

      June 1, 2012 at 7:33 pm |
  9. BADGUY

    Why is my tax money being pulled out of public schools and being put into Catholic schools (in Wisconsin). I protest!

    June 1, 2012 at 6:38 pm |
    • Jean

      It's also in the works in Louisiana.

      June 1, 2012 at 6:39 pm |
    • ppedo

      Apparantly enough people in Wisconsin have convinced their legislators that a better education is available in parochial schools and the legislators have responded appropriately

      June 1, 2012 at 6:57 pm |
    • Robin

      Why is my tax money going to public schools while I pay for Catholic school at the same time?

      June 1, 2012 at 7:04 pm |
    • Thinks2010

      @ppedo–If they had responded appropriately, they would have improved public schools.

      June 1, 2012 at 7:09 pm |
  10. seamus

    I had three aunts who were nuns. They devoted their lives to the church and her peoples' needs. This pope, and the current church are a disgrace to their memories.

    June 1, 2012 at 6:34 pm |
    • BADGUY

      Hopefully the current scandal in the Vatican causes him to resign.Enough of the right wing gangster!

      June 1, 2012 at 6:40 pm |
    • greatniece3xnuns

      Ditto. I had three great aunts who served and this church just spit on their legacy.
      Now I know I made the right decision to leave the Catholic Church.

      June 1, 2012 at 6:40 pm |
    • Catholic Clarity

      Spit on their legacy?! I don't understand! They took vows to serve this Church and the laity and many religious communities "spit on" the beautiful habit they wore as if it were unnecessary and meaningless! So many people today want the Church to change teachings that have been in place for a couple of millenia!! Give me a break. Your aunts and great aunts would be horrified by so much of what is going on – both inside and TO the Church today!

      June 1, 2012 at 7:35 pm |
  11. PK

    @ Bill Deacon, Sorry Bill, but during the last last Bush election, the catholic church ordered their membership to vote against the democratic candidate in violation of their 501c3 status, not support a candidate but an order. That's when I stopped going to church and let them dictate to me how to goose step to their orders and not be allowed to think for myself. To Bob S, you are right on and to Wolfpack, the Vatican did remain silent except for the few priests and nuns who dared to speak out and lost their lives because of it.

    June 1, 2012 at 6:31 pm |
    • Mr Rational

      Funny you say "goose step". Want to ready something interesting: How about the quote printed in Time Magazine 1940 by Albert Einstein : "Only the Church stood squarely across the path of Hitler's campaign for suppressing the truth". Yep, not the university intellectuals, not the scientists or artists – but The Church. And that's a fact. . Game over.

      June 1, 2012 at 6:42 pm |
    • DJ

      Ordered to vote a certain way? Wow, do you hear other voices?

      June 1, 2012 at 6:47 pm |
    • Catholic Clarity

      I am a voting Catholic and I have never been ordered to vote for a particular candidate or party. In contrast, I have only been encouraged to follow my conscience and get out and VOTE...that is to say to fulfill my duty as a citizen.

      June 1, 2012 at 7:37 pm |
  12. Tyler

    Still more evidence that christianity is as bad as the other religions it complains about- chauvanistic, bigoted, and backwards. The end has come for christianity.

    June 1, 2012 at 6:25 pm |
    • Mr Rational

      The church has been around for 2000 years, much longer than your new age philosophy -and the church is not going anywhere. Media brainwashing has corrupted a whole generation of young people against the church, because of the media's left stance vs the church being more conservative – they'll see the truth, but hopefully not too late..

      June 1, 2012 at 6:35 pm |
    • sam

      Mr Irrational, that 'new age philosophy' was around thousands of years before christianity, and christianity borrowed heavily from it. Damn, are you that dense?

      June 1, 2012 at 6:40 pm |
    • Jean

      The Church in its present form has been in existence a much shorter time. The early centuries were turbulent ones as different sects fought for supremacy within the Church (Ebionites, Marcionites, Gnostics, etc.).

      June 1, 2012 at 6:46 pm |
    • Jean

      It is curious that many Christian rituals, practices, and holidays have their roots in pagan practices.

      June 1, 2012 at 6:53 pm |
    • Pilrim

      Tyler you are a JERK

      June 1, 2012 at 7:09 pm |
    • sam

      Pilrim must have worked on that comeback all day.

      June 1, 2012 at 7:28 pm |
  13. PurQi

    You GO girls- stop the male dominated Vatican and their last two thousand years of male created dogma and failure to acknowledge and protect women's rights. There is ONE GOD who demands that we live with truthfulness, honor and integritty. Even if you have to resign en masse- do it! It is time for practicality, common sense and the wisdom of women to come back into fashion

    June 1, 2012 at 6:21 pm |
  14. gary

    RCC is all about control, male domination, bureaucracy, inquisition. End the RCC; it's a sick, dangerous cult.

    June 1, 2012 at 6:16 pm |
  15. Silver

    I think the nuns must decide if they want to pursue their own goals, whether to renounce their vows and start their own cause or to do what the Vatican asks of them. This is the same old issue, if you want to be part of an established group with a well-defined mandate and requirements then you must honor your commitment after you join. The Church is not a social club and it cannot alter its mission and remain the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church is not a trendy organization that follows prevailing progressive social sensibilities. It is intended to be faithful to the scriptures of the Bible and the Bible is not a work in progress. While people can try to transcribe the spirit of the scriptures into current settings, there are basic tenets that are clear and cannot be changed for convenience. The Church is not designed to be convenient but instead it purposely demands a certain amount of sacrifice of personal liberties in order to sanctify a person's faith, to preserve and promote values designed to protect humanity without regard to time or popular sentiment.

    June 1, 2012 at 6:13 pm |
    • joe

      Could not agree more. To the nums, you want to resign knock yourselves out. you took vows and you should stick to them. You want to support abortion, gay marriage, and contraception, then find yourself another church because that is against everything the Church stands for. It survived for 2000 years and many of them without nuns so if you go, there will be problems, just remeber one thing, Christ stated "I am with you all the days, even until the ends of the earth and the Gates of Hell will not prevail against you."

      June 1, 2012 at 6:52 pm |
    • Thinks2010

      @Silver–Your argument has some logic to it. However, one thing it presupposes is that those who established and modified church doctrine got their interpretation right. Considering they chose to ignore certain presumably inconvenient gospels, etc., when creating the bible the church uses and on which it supposedly bases its doctrine one can easily question their claims of authority based on the teachings of Christ and divine revelation since it is obviously incomplete and has proven incorrect in the past. By refuses to evolve, the Catholic Church is as good as denying the possibility of continuing divine revelation which, when viewed in a certain light, is as good as saying God is dead to humanity for all intents and purposes.

      June 1, 2012 at 7:04 pm |
    • Catholic Clarity

      No one has modified the doctrine of the Catholic Church. The only ignoring of the Bible were the books left out and verses changed for convenience by Protestant churches long after the canon was set. Christ has come...there is no need for further divine revelation!

      June 1, 2012 at 7:40 pm |
  16. krysta

    the ladis are not nuns ,loosk houskeepers

    June 1, 2012 at 6:12 pm |
  17. See: JW.org

    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 6:07 pm |
    • gary

      Deut 23:1

      June 1, 2012 at 6:19 pm |
  18. beelzabarber

    Of course they are angry!!! All those single ladies and they play second fiddle to the alter boys

    June 1, 2012 at 6:05 pm |
  19. BADGUY

    I think the current Pope, Joe Ratzinger, has not purged the training he received in the German Army, during WWII. Too many similarities still linger!

    June 1, 2012 at 6:04 pm |
    • Catholic Clarity

      Have you ever seen him...met him? Your words are created from vicious rumor and misinformation. They could not be further from the truth. Now what I can't decide is if you just wrote them to try to stir up those who love him.

      June 1, 2012 at 7:43 pm |
  20. bpuharic

    Bernard Law is heading up the persecution of the nuns. He left Boston, as Archbishop, one step ahead of being indicted for aiding and abettting child molestors. Guess he figured he needed a hobby because children don't count but nuns do

    June 1, 2012 at 6:03 pm |
    • Catholic Clarity

      Huh? Uh...he's on a committee.

      June 1, 2012 at 7:42 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.