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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

    If they don't want to follow the rules set out by the Vatican they should resign.

    June 1, 2012 at 12:09 pm |
    • GFreas

      Ding, ding, ding! We have a winner!

      June 1, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
    • KasichFatCat

      Maybe the Vatican should resign instead.

      June 1, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
  2. Floyd from Ilinois

    Always entertaining to watch an arrogant organization cannabalize itself.

    The last couple of years it's been the GOP, devoured by the Tea Party.

    That's not over yet, and now the new show – the Papacy vs. Catholics – is at the plate.

    Maybe this year we can enjoy BOTH exhibitions of self-immolation.

    June 1, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
  3. BigRed

    I am saddened that the Church has become irrelevant at a time when people need it the most. It has lost any sort of moral compass and is utterly strident in its condemnation of gays, women, science and contraception. It is baffling then while at the same time embracing child molester priests, thieves, and clergy who obstruct justice.

    June 1, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
    • GFreas

      The Church has remained incredibly consistent over its 2 thousand years of existence. It's teachings on gays, abortion, etc... haven't changed. The whiners have come out to attack the Church because they don't like what it has been teaching.

      June 1, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
    • Johnny

      The Catholic church is actually pretty good on science, as are a number of Christian denominations.

      It is typically fundamentalist sects that do not accept things like evolution, modern medicine, etc.

      June 1, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
    • Candace Clough

      It never had a moral compass, its only now being seen for what it always was, motivated by power over any concern for ppl

      June 1, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
    • Ralph

      The Church will survive, Belief will survive, and Athiests will survive.. Always been and will always Why can't PPL get along and accept the fact that it's okay to believe in God or not, without all the nasty hostility??? BOTH SIDES....... How about a little "Social Tolerance" (sorry for misspelling,)

      June 1, 2012 at 12:27 pm |
  4. prophet

    there were women at the cross of Our Saviour but there was also an Apostle as well so many on here are saying things they don't really know about. Women led us to sin but women are also helping us back to Our Saviour so they can redeem themselves.

    June 1, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
    • BigRed

      You say "women led us to sin". The absurdity of that statement is breathtaking.

      June 1, 2012 at 12:08 pm |
    • JerrySperry

      women led men to sin!!!??? such a disgusting religion...filled with hate for women, gays, athiests, young boys... etc...jesus wouyld be disgusted by the catholic church AND the catholic religion...filled with hypocrisy....so sad that it still remains a religion after centuries of abuse...centuries of tortue, hatred and abuse....why dear lord is trhe catholic religion still around?

      June 1, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
    • Bob

      @BigRed: You've obviously never read the Bible or heard of Eve.

      June 1, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
    • Brenda O'Connor

      Women led us to sin!!!!!!! PLEASE!!!!!!
      You have had your say, now climb back under your rock!

      June 1, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
    • BRUCE

      WHAT DOES BIEBER THINK OF THIS?

      June 1, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
    • Patricia

      Women led us to sin? So you think men are incapable of making decisions on their own? That's a radically negative thing to say about men. Whoa.

      June 1, 2012 at 12:14 pm |
    • JerrySperry

      @bigred...the bible was written by MEN and edited and abridged by MEN who had/have an agenda to dominate and persecute others for their benefit....jesus and God had / have NOTHING to do with a book. reading such a manipulated text offers NO information pertaining to any REAL God!

      June 1, 2012 at 12:14 pm |
    • rstlne

      Your comment taken together with the name you chose to represent yourself here combine into something rather scary. "Women led us to sin?" Really? Get a clue – the Bible you worship with was written by MEN, often writing of events hundreds of years in their own past. It was also copied and edited and translated by MEN many, many times. As those MEN were human, they were certainly fallible, and probably many of them made significant changes in their own bid for power. Do not preach to reasonable people therefore that every word or phrase in the Bible should be believed without reservation. The thought is ludicrous indeed.

      June 1, 2012 at 12:23 pm |
    • Allison206

      Women supposedly leading men to sin is the reason behind women having to wear the burqa. Why is the women's fault that "men" can not handle themselves and refrain form lacivious thoughts? Sounds like Prophet wouldn't mind if women in the US were forced back into second class status and were forced to wear "modest" clothes.

      June 1, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
  5. Alabama Jew

    Hey Vatican, leave the nuns alone. They are doing good work and helping millions of poor and neglected folks. They don't have to accept your misogynous philosophy about humankind. They are free to choose their mission(s) and you cannot dictate their choice(s).

    June 1, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
    • GFreas

      Well, they can dictate their choices if they want to remain Catholics. These nuns obviously don't want to be Catholics anymore, except that they like being taken care of by Church funds. Typical liberal mentality; ask for handouts and demand changes.

      June 1, 2012 at 12:08 pm |
    • Johnny

      Why wouldn't the Vatican, the leadership of the Catholic church, be able to dictate the mission of Catholic nuns?

      Surely the point of an hierarchical organization is to create a leadership structure where those at the top dictate the objectives for those below?

      June 1, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
    • BigRed

      @GFreas is a troll looking for attention. Duly noted.

      June 1, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
    • GFreas

      Big Red – I'm a troll because I'm defending the Church? Wow, just wow.

      June 1, 2012 at 12:14 pm |
    • OOO

      @GFreas
      Can you leave the liberal bashing out of it? You have no grounds to support your anti-liberal bigotry.
      Otherwise you are making a good point. The catholic church is set up as an organization of people with like-minded beliefs. If you don't share those beliefs, start your own organization.

      I suspect that the nuns (and others) would be open to this. However, lacking the necessary support to branch off on their own, they are forced to accept the alternative of trying to change the church.

      June 1, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
    • GFreas

      It's liberal mentality. I'm not bringing politics into this, just calling attention to a mindset that, of course, is connected with a political ideology but is nonetheless an independent mindset, separate from politics.

      The nuns don't have the power to change things because the Church is not a democracy. If the Church were a democracy, then the liberal/political analogy would be perfect. Let them leave the Church and see who listens to them, who supports them. No one; they have a voice only because they are Catholics.

      June 1, 2012 at 12:23 pm |
    • Jen

      They leave and watch the rest of the female population walk out with them. Have fun hanging out with a bunch of men every Sunday at mass.

      June 1, 2012 at 12:27 pm |
  6. CA Liberal

    The Catholic Church has never had any respect for women. Just think of the Holy Trinity. The Father, the Son and ?????what the Holy Mother.........no she got booted for the Holy Spirit. Whatever that is.

    June 1, 2012 at 12:04 pm |
  7. steveB

    Gerald, the weak are the priests and not the nuns, and also people like yourself who lack the ego strength to think for yourself or be tolerant of others.

    June 1, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
  8. Ed

    Colin – much appreciated your "test". Very entertaining. *smiles*

    June 1, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
    • Loin's Share

      Thanks Ed. I guess I'm doomed to hell.......I wonder which one, though. I guess all the gods who I don't believe in will have to wait their turn to get at me after I die. Like that scene from flying high.

      June 1, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
    • GFreas

      Colin's obviously a disgruntled h0m0s3xual who blames the Catholic Church for all that's wrong with his life. That whole part on g@y s#x was the giveaway.

      Get some faith Colin; think outside of the box, beyond what you can see.

      June 1, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
    • Wrath of Lucifer

      Colin is obviously a critical thinker who is far to intelligent to be judged by the likes of people who believe in a imaginary god and as$backwards religious book that promotes hate and bigotry.
      BTW thinking outside the box would be getting on with your life without the oppressions of religion. Math science and physics are truth not mythical stories from 2000 years ago written by men who had no knowledge of these subjects. Fact.

      June 1, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
    • GFreas

      Ah, yes, math, science, physics has all the answers, LOL. People who say that usually aren't scientists. Most scientists believe in God, heh, heh.

      June 1, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
    • derp

      "Ah, yes, math, science, physics has all the answers, LOL. People who say that usually aren't scientists. Most scientists believe in God, heh, heh."

      Complete and total garbage.

      http://w w w.christianpost.com/news/survey-one-third-of-scientists-believe-in-god-39753/

      1 out of 3. And that is from a christian post article.

      And the higher and harder the degree, the lower the % that believe. The more you learn, the less you accept fairy tales.

      June 1, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
  9. Amanda14

    The definition of a the Church is: The whole visible society in communion with the pope, the Church of Christ. So maybe the nuns should follow the doctrines of the church if they want to be Catholic. The marks of the Catholic church are: One-In doctrine, sacraments, and head (the pope); Holy-its sacraments and teachings lead men to holiness; Universal-meaning the same doctrine and sacraments and head throughout the world; and Apostolic-can be directly traced to the Apostles and Jesus Christ. Therefore we need to be in that church if we want to be Catholic. We need to obey the Holy Father. Not do our own thing.

    June 1, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
    • T-Max73

      You strike me as someone who is in great need of being de-programmed. As a prior member of the Greek Orthodox Church, we too were told that we were the "One Apostolic Church" and that the RCC strayed from Jesus' teachings and established a "man-god" in the Pope. Much more likely is that man created the idea of a divine being in order to exercise control over other human beings. This is exactly what we are seeing here, so please don't be an apologist for the irrational and intolerant and misogynistic organization of the Catholic Church. Peace.

      June 1, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
    • Just Passing By

      In other words – shut up and follow orders from the same people who enabled a mass system of child abuse?

      Riiiiight.

      June 1, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
    • GFreas

      The teaching of the Church does not condone h0m0s3xual acts with pubescent boys by g@y priests. You got a problem with the priests, not the Church. BTW, pedophilia in government schools far exceeds the percentages in the Church.

      June 1, 2012 at 12:18 pm |
    • Johnny

      T-max73: Both the nuns and the Vatican believe in their God. To be Catholic is, in essence, to follow the Vatican. The argument that the nuns can submit/negotiate or resign is the situation they are in - pointing that out does not make one an apologist.

      Your post is irrelevant, in as much as it fails to address either the situation in the article or the post you are responding to. A little more logic and a little less zeal would make your contributions more relevant.

      June 1, 2012 at 12:19 pm |
  10. MH

    The sisters work in the trenches, handling problems day-to-day, while the Vatican pontificates babble from the dark ages. Left up to the Pope and his tired 'old' henchmen, the world would be lead back to the days of the inquisition. The pope needs to start reforming his office and the church hierarchy and let the sister do the job they were called to do. They clearly know the mission of Christ better than a bunch of out of touch fools.

    June 1, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
    • Marilynn Heilman

      Thank you! You really get it. Now if only those arrogant, self-righteous, "celibate" old men in the Vatican would only get it. Leave the nuns to do the work of caring for the poor, the abandoned and the abused. It's those women who follow Mother Teresa's lead in "doing unto others as they would have done to them." At least SOME people in the Catholic structure understand the meaning of love.

      June 1, 2012 at 12:14 pm |
    • Marilynn Heilman

      @ MH: Thank you! You really get it. Now if only those arrogant, self-righteous, "celibate" old men in the Vatican would only get it. Leave the nuns to do the work of caring for the poor, the abandoned and the abused. It's those women who follow Mother Teresa's lead in "doing unto others as they would have done to them." At least SOME people in the Catholic structure understand the meaning of love.

      June 1, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
  11. A Serpent's Thought

    A loving God is Godly loving. No one needs to love God for God to be Godly. The weightiness of living one's life transpires one's living ways. No matter the hate and anger, God will ever be God. God waits till one's very end! After death becomes one, God will be there waiting for one's passing away! God bless and be good for Christ's sake!

    June 1, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
    • Wrath of Lucifer

      If god is so great and the afterlife soooo much better than real life, kill yourself. You get to your heaven sooner and the rest of us are spared your retarded gibberish.

      June 1, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
    • T-Max73

      To those not indoctrinated into your belief system, everything you just wrote is nothing more than white noise. Peace.

      June 1, 2012 at 12:14 pm |
    • A Serpent's Thought

      Persecution 'seems' to be your trade-ship! Death naturally is what I wait for! Your words condemn and does little to comfort! Why are you so illed in your words-man-ship? Treachery awaits the leacherous one! Condemnations await those searching for holiness!

      June 1, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
    • Happy Jack

      Serpent,
      You talk like a 16th centurary orator. Why?

      June 1, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
    • A Serpent's Thought

      I seek not to 'indoctrinate' but rather to quench the thoughts of those who know and believe in God, the Fathe and Christ Jesus, the Son along with the Holy Spirit!

      June 1, 2012 at 12:27 pm |
  12. Jan

    Honestly, I'm not sure why most of them stick around with the rampant corruption and lack of morals that's gone on in that church forever (and continues to be allowed and covered up).

    June 1, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
    • T-Max73

      I think it's the "flock" mentality. Most Christians I know claim to be (in fact WISH to be) a "slave for Christ." It's the willingness to be led by the nose and told what to think instead of thinking for oneself. We see this all the time in cults-the only difference here is that this cult is more widely subscribed than most-yet this fact does not make it any more believable than the others.

      June 1, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
    • John

      Despite your revulsion, it still seems to have drawn you to this blog.....how odd. 🙂

      June 2, 2012 at 12:21 am |
  13. Brooklyn Boy

    Hopefully, this new controversey will help speed the end of belief in this idioic delusion that has no place in the 21st Century.

    June 1, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
  14. areacode612

    The Vatican is full of old smelly white dudes.

    June 1, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
  15. ron

    I hope they resign in mass. And even better: all the women in the Catholic Church need to leave or go on strike. This church, ruled by old men, would just about fade away without the faithful work and monetary support of the women. Women have no standing in the Catholic Church except to do most of the work.

    June 1, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
  16. Twisty Turny

    I love it. Whenever there is a story on gays, we find out how incredibly bigoted so many religious people are towards gays. When the story is about women, the bigotry against women comes bubbling out. Other religions? They hate that too. No religion? Yeah, more hate.

    And they think the problem is everyone else!

    June 1, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
    • Matt

      "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."
      ^^ This was my favorite line. Because, you know, with all the pedo-priests getting paid off and moved around, it's DEFINITELY the American nuns that are making the church look bad globally.

      June 1, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
    • Tek

      Love your comment and could not agree more!

      June 1, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
  17. Welled

    I don't know what they are upset about the Popes GF is a woman of course. The whole thing is a farce wake up.

    June 1, 2012 at 11:58 am |
  18. KasichFatCat

    The church is sounding more like Fox News and less like the golden rule.

    June 1, 2012 at 11:58 am |
    • Bob

      The church is espousing the beliefs they have had for a long, long time. None of this is new.

      June 1, 2012 at 12:14 pm |
    • LinCA

      @Bob

      You said, "The church is espousing the beliefs they have had for a long, long time. None of this is new."
      And they've been horribly wrong for all this time. Just because they've done something for a long time doesn't mean it's right.

      June 1, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
  19. Alien Orifice

    This is nunsense. (sorry)

    June 1, 2012 at 11:57 am |
  20. prophet

    what people need to know is that no one other than from the tribe of Levi can be a priest or a nun so really they have lost before thay begun ands because they are very misled people then we forgive them and pray for them

    June 1, 2012 at 11:57 am |
    • Alien Orifice

      prophet, what people need to know this?

      June 1, 2012 at 11:58 am |
    • Huebert

      And how would one know if someone is from the tribe of Levi?

      June 1, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
    • Marc

      I wear Wranglers... Wrong tribe!

      June 1, 2012 at 12:18 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.