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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. A Serpent's Thought

    God needs not people nor the papacy nor any of the nunnery to be God, the Father of all Creation and husbandry of each and every creation so established! The Love God has & is more than enough for establishing all mannerisms of life and living beings! Until death parts one adue are we but creatures of habitual considerings, hardly ever considering Godliness ideals but mostly denying God and Godliness treasures of spiritualness. God will never be destroyed yet only misconstrued and communionally hated by constrained aptness of willing distracters made to benefit only the id or ego of the disingenuous placards of lamentiveness!

    June 1, 2012 at 12:50 pm |
    • Zeus

      You know this as fact? Stop spreading gossip that has no factual back up. Your god is no more real than any other god. Simply declaring something as true does not make it true.

      June 1, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
    • Theresa

      Please repeat your submission in English.

      June 1, 2012 at 12:59 pm |
    • Frogman

      Not to be rude, but are you an English language learner?

      June 1, 2012 at 1:08 pm |
  2. anagram _kid

    And this is how new franchises of Christianity come about. Time for people to realize that being a good person does not require membership or fees.

    June 1, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
    • Zeus

      nor religion.

      June 1, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
  3. Cheo

    All religions were created by men-not women-to control the masses.They have discriminated against women from the beginning and in "the name of God" have created more wars,deaths and destruction than anything else in the world.Religions are nothing more that dictatorships in the "name of God"...pure bull!!!

    June 1, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
    • KAJD

      Amen!

      June 1, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
    • Zeus

      and they disguise this by a little charity work and "spiritual guidance" Humans are capable of good without the powerful heirarchy declaring BS

      June 1, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
  4. Christine

    I am not a Catholic, but my first job after high school was working for the Sisters of Mercy in a small, midwestern school library. Anyone who think that these women are delving into goddess worship is either delusional or a liar. These women ate truly do Christ's work here and deserve to be priased, not censured.

    June 1, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
  5. John Steriff

    Protesting. Protestant. Perhaps Luther was right after all?

    June 1, 2012 at 12:45 pm |
  6. Frogman

    First, Congregation of the doctrine of the faith is also known as the inquisition.
    Second, the nuns, "child be a negative global influence on the church" for sharing the same values as Christ. This is unlike the priests who were raping little boys and the bishops and cardinals and Pope who were covering up for them. Those guys must have been a positive global influence on the church. There has never been a more unchristian group of people than the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church.

    June 1, 2012 at 12:45 pm |
  7. Interested48

    You go girls!!!! Always loved the nuns. They were the ones who did all the work and got none of the credit.

    June 1, 2012 at 12:45 pm |
    • Jim O'Rourke

      I was educated for 12 years by nuns. They were the best even though the would give be a swat with a ruler once in a while. They were spiritual,dedicated and my mentors. They were never respected by the male clergy. Maybe that's why I now have a Methodist femal minister as my mentor. I am 71 years of age and am still a child of God.

      June 1, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
    • Me

      The American nuns are in dire need of catechism.
      If they knew their faith, they would not dare to do what they are doing.
      Notice, the only problem is with the AMERICAN nuns.
      I'm an American Catholic and if Catholics know their faith
      they would not condone this action by the nuns.

      June 1, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
    • Bernadette Kohl

      AMEN !

      June 1, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
    • Zeus

      @ Me,

      That's because they are brave and intelligent.

      June 1, 2012 at 1:00 pm |
  8. Jon

    It would be great justice if all those old men have to start washing dishes and emptying bedpans when their servants (nuns) all quit.

    June 1, 2012 at 12:44 pm |
  9. LOL Religion

    They ARE going against the Church.

    All of the Abrahamic religions are misogynistic, and the RCC is certainly no exception to that rule. These nuns are lucky the Pope isn't burning them as witches, because that's exactly what was done in the past before secular governments reigned the church in.

    1 Timothy 2:12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.

    June 1, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
    • chipndale

      You Moron,
      Chridt did not specify gender when he said....

      Matthew 25:31-46
      New International Version (NIV)

      The Sheep and the Goats
      31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

      34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
      37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

      40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
      41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

      44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

      45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
      46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life. ”

      June 1, 2012 at 12:52 pm |
    • Zeus

      Would you dummies stop quoting the Bible... It doesn't make something factual. USE LOGIC

      June 1, 2012 at 1:06 pm |
    • LOL Religion

      The passage you keep spamming has nothing to do with the point I was making, chip.

      June 1, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
  10. WASP

    work is soooooo boring i'm actually reading this story seeing i've read everything else on cnn. lmao! pope is in italy, nuns are in america........don't see how he has any say over here. but whatever.

    June 1, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
    • Me

      The Catholic(Universal) Church. Rome has precedents over the entire universe, America is just a corner of it's authourity.

      June 1, 2012 at 12:59 pm |
    • Dangerkittie

      If you work in Florida but your boss is in Canada, do you really think he has no say over what you do?

      June 1, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
  11. Victor Matese

    Atheist are the most religious people I've ever met. They are always ready to engage Christians with conviction and emotion.
    They relish in their ability to condemn the belief in a God or a Spirit World. They never mention the Sister Theresa's of the world, it's always the corruption and the immorality within the Church. I'm not the most devout Christian nor am I even sure about what I believe. Whenever I am asked, I'm always honest, I don't know. Nobody truly does. I believe that it's all beyond our understanding. Anybody – and that includes Atheists and Christians – who tells me that "They Know" – is a liar. I do know one thing, and that is that almost every Atheist I've ever met does believe in a god. Themselves. If that's good enough for you then more power to you......but back off on The Christians. Everybody I know and love believes in a Spirit World and a Higher Power. I've met dozens of Atheists, especially young under 30 tattooed video junkies. I respect your belief in yourselves but in my eyes you're a bunch of aging, tattooed bipeds pontificating the same garbage I was forced to hear in the 60's.

    June 1, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
    • LOL Religion

      Thanks for making it clear that you don't know what the definition of 'religion' or 'religious' is.

      Atheists are religious like bald is a hair color.

      June 1, 2012 at 12:46 pm |
    • Mopery

      You may honestly say that you don't know for sure, but you should have educated yourself enough by now to at least make a guess as to which is more likely:

      A. That there is an omnipotent being who created everything in the universe, a being who not only watches our every move, but who cares enough about our actions to either damn us to an eternity of torment upon our death, or to welcome us with open arms into an eternal paradise.

      Or...

      B. That mankind created god(s) in an early attempt to explain the natural world at a time when we knew next to nothing about the world around us.

      Which would you say is more likely?

      June 1, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
    • Ace

      My friend, you need to get out more.
      I know quite a few atheists and not a single one of them matches the description you just presented.
      I'll agree with you that a troll is a troll no matter which faith (or lack of) they claim, but I'm sure you will agree that pendulum swings both ways.
      Interestingly, you say that all atheists you know believe in themselves as a deity. Once more, never met anyone fitting that description. Most I know are humanists; people who care about the rest of humanity regardless of their faith and who adhere to a moral code just as noble as anyone, just without a deity as the center of their life.
      But again, religion aside, I agree with you that a troll is a troll... And I'm sure you will agree these folks hail from both sides.

      June 1, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
    • edgalbraith

      Victor: You said, "almost every Atheist I've ever met does believe in a god." That's an impossibiity...Can't BE an atheist and believe in god. OK...I understand what I think you're saying, and it's unvarnished crap. So you think when someone says they don't believe in god they're lying? Hmmm.

      June 1, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
  12. Guess what?

    Jesus was gay, anyway.

    June 1, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
    • edgalbraith

      Probably true.

      June 1, 2012 at 1:06 pm |
    • derp

      He dressed in drag, hung out with handsome young men, and never had s ex with a woman.

      BONE SMUGGLER!!!!

      June 1, 2012 at 1:32 pm |
  13. m0rtis

    Huh... guess they don't like being treated second class, or told what to do. Where have I heard that before? Certainly wouldn't be from the folks that request, nay demand, marriage equality.

    *sits down and takes his shoes off* "Here, walk a while."

    June 1, 2012 at 12:39 pm |
  14. Jerry

    The liberal doctrine of 'What's In It For Me' has been allowed to creep into churches everywhere. Only when they return to serving Christ will their witness be effective. Rev 3:20

    June 1, 2012 at 12:38 pm |
    • Happy Jack

      I've been a card carrying liberal all my life. That is not a liberal doctrin. That is a capitolist doctrin, typically pushed by conservatives.

      June 1, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
    • Interested48

      Liberals believe in "what's in it for everyone." Conservatives are the ones who are concerned only with themselves.

      June 1, 2012 at 12:44 pm |
    • steveB

      you have no clue what liberal even means. lol. Who tells you what to think?

      June 1, 2012 at 12:45 pm |
    • chipndale

      Jerry,

      We wouldn't want want nuns doing these things now would we?

      Matthew 25:31-46
      New International Version (NIV)

      The Sheep and the Goats
      31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

      34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
      37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

      40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
      41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

      44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

      45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
      46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life. ”

      June 1, 2012 at 12:46 pm |
    • Zeus

      You don't have a clue. Quoting the Bible does not make your case. It just makes you sound unintelligent.

      June 1, 2012 at 12:46 pm |
    • me

      Hey Jerry... you're an idiot and Jesus was a liberal... quit twisting scripture to justify your perverted view of the world and God... people like you are sick... God loves everyone, even losers like you... unless you believe he makes mistakes?

      June 1, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
    • OOO

      I think Jerry has left the building in shame.

      June 1, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
    • wishing

      Jerry, Your comment has nothing to do with the matter at hand. In fact, many would say that it is the Nuns who are pursuing a life of Christ-like service, and it is the Church which has lost its way among the distractions politics.

      June 1, 2012 at 12:52 pm |
    • Jerry's Dad

      Jerry, shut up and do your homework!

      June 1, 2012 at 12:52 pm |
    • Berman

      Yes, these nuns are totally in it for themselves...I mean, working in soup kitchens, helping the homeless, serving the poor...what a bunch of greedy, self serving, degenerate idolaters *roll eyes*

      June 1, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
    • What IF

      Jerry,

      You are in it to serve "Christ"? Why?

      Answer: So that YOU will purportedly get to spend eternity in heavenly bliss.

      Sounds like you are in it for YOURSELF too.

      June 1, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
    • Jerry

      @OOO: Not really. JUst amused by the posts from folks who don't understand what I wrote.

      June 1, 2012 at 1:04 pm |
  15. dave

    Perhaps the church should get out of politics. Seems to me they have enough moral decay going on without having to attack the only thing that still works, the nuns.. A day does not go by that a new disturbing story is reported involving child abuse. And the sisters and nuns are not involved.

    June 1, 2012 at 12:38 pm |
    • anagram _kid

      Agreed. They need to get out of Medicine and Education as well. Sales and merchandising are the fields they should stick to – selling afterlife insurance and telling members that as long as they give the company/church money and say they are members, they are free to be horrible human beings.

      June 1, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
  16. PauletteB

    In other words, the nuns are focusing on what JESUS, not the Vatican, said they should be focusing on.

    June 1, 2012 at 12:38 pm |
  17. steveB

    Lets all be angry at everyone else instead of working on ourselves...

    June 1, 2012 at 12:37 pm |
  18. TheZel

    If they don't agree with the Pope, leave the church. Personally, they should be excommunicated for heresy. The Holy Father is correct; time to prune the Church of the weak.

    June 1, 2012 at 12:37 pm |
    • chipndale

      And I repeat,

      from the mouth of Jesus himself.

      Matthew 25:31-46
      New International Version (NIV)

      The Sheep and the Goats
      31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

      34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
      37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

      40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
      41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

      44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

      45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
      46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life. ”

      June 1, 2012 at 12:49 pm |
    • Zeus

      The Zel,

      Your church is dying. Much like hundreds of other religions it will fade into history. People around the world can easily communicate and their knowledge is growing without having to listen to a backwards hierarchy based on mythology.

      June 1, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
    • Tony

      Weak? These nuns sound pretty strong to me. In any event, given the drop in the numbers priests and nuns, your suggestion would create a labor shortage in the church. There are already too few people getting into those occupations. I think the church, for its' own sake, should finally get beyond the middle ages. Its' crediblity with the public at large and even the "faithful" is at a low ebb.

      June 1, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
    • IMHOA

      Yes, TheZel, the nuns should leave the church. In fact, ALL women should consider leaving the church. Let's see how the boys in Rome do when they don't have women around to bully anymore...

      June 1, 2012 at 1:00 pm |
    • Bob

      Heil! to that one!! You're right, kamerad; weak sisteers, all of them!

      June 1, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
  19. PB

    Well, if there were "real" men in the Vatican and not child abusers or those who refused to investigate that situation thoroughly, maybe they would not need to accuse the American nuns of being feminists. "Judge ye not..."

    June 1, 2012 at 12:36 pm |
  20. Nell

    Really Vatican?! Don't you have some rampant pedophilia to sort out? Leave the nuns alone, and go handle your own business.

    June 1, 2012 at 12:36 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.