American nuns face Vatican over rogue charges
Sisters Pat Farrell and Janet Mock met with Vatican officials over claims their group had gone rogue.
June 12th, 2012
12:05 PM ET

American nuns face Vatican over rogue charges

By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

(CNN) - After weeks of anticipation, the leaders of American's largest umbrella group of nuns met Tuesday with the Vatican to address charges the nuns had gone rogue.

At the Vatican, Sisters Pat Farrell and Janet Mock, president and executive director respectively of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, sat down with Cardinal William Levada, head of Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith - the church's doctrinal watchdog group, and Archbishop Peter Sartain of Seattle, who is charged with bringing the nuns back in line with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Vatican.

The sisters and church officials met to discuss a doctrinal assessment finding the influential group of American nuns had strayed too far from the church's teachings.

In a statement afterward, the nuns said, "The meeting had been requested by the LCWR to address what the conference considered deficiencies in the process and the results of the doctrinal assessment of the organization released by the CDF in April."

“It was an open meeting and we were able to directly express our concerns to Cardinal Levada and Archbishop Sartain,” Farrell said in a statement from the nuns' group.

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In a statement, the Vatican said, "The meeting provided the opportunity for the Congregation and the LCWR officers to discuss the issues and concerns raised by the doctrinal assessment in an atmosphere of openness and cordiality."

The Vatican reiterated that under canon law, which dictates how the church operates, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious "remains under the supreme direction of the Holy See in order to promote common efforts among the individual member institutes and cooperation with the Holy See and the local Conference of Bishops."

Cardinal William Levada, head of the Catholic Church's doctrinal watchdog group, had called the face-to-face meeting critical

"The purpose of the doctrinal assessment is to assist the LCWR in this important mission by promoting a vision of ecclesial communion founded on faith in Jesus Christ and the teachings of the Church as faithfully taught through the ages under the guidance of the Magisterium," the statement continued.

The Leadership Conference of Women Religious is a group of 1,500 nuns who lead more than 300 religious orders. Together, its members represent 80% of the 57,000 nuns across the United States.

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The group's board met two weeks ago in Washington for the first time to discuss the assessment, saying it “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 group said in a statement.

The lengthy doctrinal assessment, released in April, listed a number of concerns church officials had with the sisters.

It said that at an annual gathering of the group, guest speakers who preached "radical feminism" went unchallenged. The report also alleged sins of omission, saying the nuns were focused too heavily on social justice and not enough on opposing abortion, euthanasia and same-sex marriage.

Levada, an American who was formerly archbishop of San Francisco, earlier had called the face-to-face meeting in Rome critical.  "Such a personal encounter allows for the opportunity to review the document together in a spirit of mutual respect and collaboration, hopefully thereby avoiding possible misunderstandings of the document’s intent and scope," he said in a statement at the time of the assessment.

"As the issues evidenced in the doctrinal assessment involve essential questions of faith, the Holy Father has given the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith a special mandate to collaborate with the (Leadership Conference of Women Religious) in a renewal of their work through a concentrated reflection on the doctrinal foundations of that work," Levada said.

The nuns' group said their leaders will return to the United States and discuss its options with members at their annual meeting in August.

The Leadership Conference of Women Religious was formed at the behest of the Vatican and is still under the auspices of the Holy See. One approach the nuns are said to be considering is the "nuclear option," with the sisters resigning en masse and forming a nonprofit group outside the Vatican's reach.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Belief • Bishops • Catholic Church • Pope Benedict XVI • Vatican

soundoff (702 Responses)
  1. Atheist2012

    See who says the Vatican isnt progressive.They let two cross dressers be Nuns didnt they? Oh wait those are women, I could of sworn I saw an adam apple. Sheeesh I guess we know now why they became Nuns!!!

    June 13, 2012 at 3:27 am |
  2. Kindness

    Sorry to everyone not responding to comments, it would really be a full time job...these posts are my personal testimony... Which is all I have. They are for the public to know and others that have found christ.... To relate to. I do read all the comments... Again ... This is my experience... Thank you.

    MY personal testimony.
    A thought to consider without an ego response

    Accept Jesus christ as your lord and saviour. You never know how soon is too late. Transcend the worldly illusion of enslavement.
    The world denounces truth....

    Accepting Jesus Christ (for me) resulted in something like seeng a new colour. You will see it .....but will not be able to clearly explain it to anyone else..... Its meant to be that way to transend any selfism within you.

    Also... much the world arranges "surrounding dark matter into something to be debated" in such a way that protects/inflates the ego.

    The key is be present and transcend our own desire to physically see evidence. We don't know anyways by defending our own perception of dark matter.

    Currently.... most of us are constructing our own path that suits our sin lifestyle. Were all sinners. Knowing that we are is often an issue. But both christians and non are sinners.

    We don't like to Let go and let god. We want control to some degree. This is what Jesus asks us to do. "Follow me".
    It's the hardest thing to do... but is done by letting the truth of scripture lead you (redemptive revelation)... as I said .

    Try reading corinthians and see if it makes sense to you. Try it without a pre conceived notion of it being a fairy tale.
    See the truth...
    do we do what it says in todays society... is it relevant... so many have not recently read and only hinge their philosophy on what they have heard from som other person...which may have been full of arogance pride or vanity..

    Look closely at the economy ponzi, look at how society idolizes Lust , greed , envy, sloth, pride of life, desire for knowledge, desire for power, desire for revencge,gluttony with food etc .

    Trancsend the temporal world.

    Just think if you can find any truth you can take with you ....in any of these things. When you die your riches go to someone who will spend away your life..... You will be forgotten.... history will repeat iteslf.... the greatest minds knowledge fade or are eventually plagerzed..... your good deeds will be forgotten and only give you a fleeting temporary reward . your learned teachings are forgotten or mutated..... your gold is transfered back to the rullers that rule you through deception. Your grave will grow over . This is truth .

    Trancsend your egoism and free yourself from this dominion of satan. Understand you are a sinner and part of the collective problem of this worldly matrix... Repent.... Repent means knowing (to change) The Holy spirit (within) will convict you beyond what you think you can do by yourself. Grace is given to those who renounce the world. That are" in" the world but not "of " the world.

    Evidence follows faith. Faith does not follow evidence..... Faith above reason in Jesus Christ.

    Faith comes by Reading or Hearing the word of god from the bible . Ask Jesus in faith for dicernment and start reading the new testament... You will be shocked when you lay down your preconceived notions and ....see and hear truth ... see how christ sets an example ... feel the truth....

    Read Ecclesiastes. Read corinthians.

    You cant trancend your own egoism by adapting a world philosophy to suit your needs. Seek the truth in Christ.

    Sell all your cleverness and purchase true bewilderment. You don't get what you want ....you get what you are in christ.

    I promise this has been the truth for me. In Jesus christ .

    Think of what you really have to lose. ...your ego?

    Break the Matrix of illusion that holds your senses captive.

    once you do . you too will have the wisdom of God that comes only through the Holy Spirit. Saved By grace through Faith. Just like seeing a new colour.... can't explain it to a transient caught in the matrix of worldly deception.
    You will also see how the world suppresses this information and distorts it

    You're all smart people . I tell the truth. Its hard to think out of the box when earthly thinking is the box.
    I'ts a personal free experience you can do it free anytime . Don't wait till you are about to die.. START PUTTING YOUR TREASURES WHERE THEY REALLY MATTER >
    Its awsome and It's just between you and Jesus

    my testimony

    Romans 10:9

    "If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved

    June 13, 2012 at 12:41 am |
    • shimmernrot

      Oy vey

      June 13, 2012 at 3:16 am |
    • .

      Click the report abuse link to get rid of this troll. Hopefully soon they'll block their IP address from posting.

      June 14, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
  3. Basil Fawlty

    Until the Catholic Church tackles the pedophile problem they have ZERO authority over the minds and souls of men. And women!

    June 12, 2012 at 11:56 pm |
  4. A Catholic

    I hope the nuns get a stern reprimand.

    June 12, 2012 at 11:14 pm |
    • Herne

      wow that's harsh dude...i thought reprimands were only reserved for pedophile priests.

      June 13, 2012 at 12:27 am |
    • Silent Claw

      Why? Because they aren't adhering to the strict policies of the catholic corporation? Hell, catholicism isn't even a religion anymore. Let me know why they start murdering and torturing people again. Otherwise, they're completely obsolete.

      June 13, 2012 at 1:43 am |
  5. bobo

    What a fraud. Why doesn't the Vatican preach against banking and the evil of interest any more? Fractional reserve banking (creating debt from thin air) and exponentially increasing debt is one of the most evil things ever invented (and I'm not even religious). Central banks only add to this problem. The vatican is one big fraud to go along with it.

    June 12, 2012 at 10:44 pm |
    • Atheist2012

      Get a life loser if you dont like free markets move to china, oh wait they have one of the most corrupt governments in the world, well how about Russia oh not so good either. How about greece, nope they suck to. Maybe Spain? I have a better Idea if your stupid enough to get yourself into so much debt you cant control it then you deserve to be taken advantage of! Get an f'n life!

      June 13, 2012 at 3:23 am |
  6. hippypoet

    for any and all believers of any god(s) who may or may not exist:

    we atheists need not prove the lack of existence of something that has no impact on our daily lives, however those that believe based purely on the idea of somethings existence is a bit disconcerting! Proof is the burden of those that believe. The real fact is that those who believe use the lack of proof to show how non believers can't show any proof of its non existence....circular agurments can be fun but i prefer ones that go places. Belief in god or any god type is nothing less then equal to that of children believing in santa – be good or else! Maybe that is what your believers problem is! – poor parental figures as children so you joined a cult who WHORships a make believe father ( who killed his son, btw)....not a very intelligent choice – but i guess i'd make pi$s poor choices too if i was taught to never lie all the while being lie too...that is gods way – don't lie but i can – double standard i believe is what its called! 🙂 go preach love while hating on more then half the human species!

    June 12, 2012 at 10:12 pm |
  7. Stunned

    This is why Christianity will be a thing of the past in 100 years.

    June 12, 2012 at 10:12 pm |
    • Casual

      100? I wish... Maybe a growth in the atheist growth rate, it would be a good start:-)

      June 12, 2012 at 11:00 pm |
  8. Ron D-

    The Roman Catholic Church is a dictatorship. It many be a benign dictatorship today, although it has been one of the most horrendous, depraved, abusive dictatorships in the past, but it is still a dictatorship. Either one follows the rule of the dictator, the Pope, or they live in sin and face possible retribution.

    June 12, 2012 at 9:49 pm |
    • dave gahan

      you don't know what you're talking about. Read good and reliable history books please.

      June 12, 2012 at 10:27 pm |
    • Chileno

      In that case, any group or club that has rules which all members must obey in order to be considered part of said group is also a dictatorship. If you don't like the Catholic Church's rules, fine, go join some other group. Just don't pretend you're Catholic, and then pick and choose to follow only he rules you think are suitable. In the case of these, nuns, they're free to do whatever they want -they just can't do whatever they want and call themselves "Catholic" at the same time.

      June 12, 2012 at 11:00 pm |
  9. ukin blome

    If the good Sisters want to leave the church of the unrepentant pedophiles to focus on Christian values I will support them.
    It's time for a Vatican free Catholic church.

    June 12, 2012 at 9:21 pm |
    • robert

      it already exists...it's called the Episcopal Church.

      June 12, 2012 at 10:29 pm |
    • Chileno

      Funny, Robert, how it is that many Episcopalians are migrating INTO the Catholic Church,then...

      June 12, 2012 at 11:01 pm |
  10. Dana

    The majority of people and all of the government of this country have done everything they can to rip apart religion. These so called sisters/nuns are another scene in the stage play of the Apocalypse. It's this country that will fuel the end of times and we all will go along happily and blindly.

    June 12, 2012 at 9:19 pm |
    • Frank

      It's you deluded supporters of your pedophile infested cult that is truly disgusting.

      June 12, 2012 at 9:21 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Frank How many priest have been identified as pedophile? How many priest are there?

      June 13, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
  11. blessedgeek

    So ready to crack down on nuns doing good but never ready to crack down on priests doing bad. Worse than Saudi Arabia.

    June 12, 2012 at 8:56 pm |
    • Dana

      blessedgeek>>><<< come on you just made up your name, right?

      June 12, 2012 at 9:02 pm |
    • dave gahan

      you must be a pedophile yourself, dude...grow up, man.

      June 12, 2012 at 10:30 pm |
  12. barbequebob

    The pope and the rest of the catholic church hierarchy are nothing more than a gang of corrupt old, power-hungry men.

    Time to dismantle this crime syndicate.

    June 12, 2012 at 8:49 pm |
    • DJ

      Your name speaks volumes about yourself Barbequebob, your ignorance is profound, stick to grilling hotdogs and ribs, and brush them ole greenteeth every once in a blue moon.....

      June 12, 2012 at 9:14 pm |
    • Awakened


      June 12, 2012 at 9:18 pm |
    • Awakened

      I totally agree with babequebob, the nuns should cut ties from the Vatican (a bunch of power hungry, insecure men who protect child-molesters). I propose Catholic Americans start donating their time and money to these nuns (so the money goes into good use of helping the poor and needy, and not to pay for defense fees for the child-molestation cases that are lined up in the court system as we speak). The Vatican exclusive men-only club should be ashamed and stop pontificating. We see right through the sherade...

      June 12, 2012 at 9:29 pm |
    • Jo Gordon

      You forgot arrogant, ignorant, self-absorbed, egotistical, gay, greedy old men!!!

      June 12, 2012 at 9:31 pm |
  13. Jean

    Face it, the church is scared of women. Why would that be? Of course, the religious subjugation of women predates Christianity. The Catholic church, along with others, just continues the practice. What are they afraid the women will do?

    June 12, 2012 at 8:22 pm |
    • Dana

      Even God realized his hore Eve. Easily corrupted even today and more deadly.

      June 12, 2012 at 8:44 pm |
    • Nick

      ^Seriously? lol

      June 12, 2012 at 8:51 pm |
    • Jo Gordon

      Run the church better!!!

      June 12, 2012 at 9:27 pm |
  14. Gregory

    It amazes me that the church can launch an investigation with such fanfare over "rouge" nuns not teaching the church's doctrine as they would like. When it comes to physiologically scaring children for life...even ONE is too many. Where the hell was the church then? Where are they now? It seems out of balance. The church has an image problem. It seems to come from lack of direction.....

    June 12, 2012 at 8:12 pm |
  15. Mike Hirrel

    To me the Congregation of the Faith's position is a little perplexing. Surely they do not insist that the magesterium's teaching have never changed in 2000 years. And if such change is admitted, then it cannot be wrong to advocate further change. As long as the nuns' positions are framed as advocacy and not teaching, what right has the Congregation to interfere? How can we ever be sure of truth if no one is permitted to challenge orthodoxy? And I must comment, finally, that the Congregation's claim that their concern is one of emphasis strikes me as disingeuous. To say that they should emphasize what we teach, and pay less attention to challenging our teachings, is just another way of saying that they should go away and not bother us any further. But the Congreation should be bothered. I don't know if the nuns are right, but I do know that it is high time for the Congregation to ask itself the same questions. Mike Hirrel

    June 12, 2012 at 7:58 pm |
  16. CuriousAboutStuff

    search your HEART – be HONEST with yourself – would YOU have been one of those that mocked, cursed and spit on Jesus while He was on the cross; and the ANSWER is ...

    June 12, 2012 at 7:58 pm |
    • Drew

      Of course not. Just because we aren't Christian doesn't mean we revel in the suffering of jesus

      June 12, 2012 at 8:03 pm |
    • Obviously

      what an idiotic question

      June 12, 2012 at 8:10 pm |
    • McCave

      No. It's a good question.

      June 12, 2012 at 8:37 pm |
    • Drew

      No, it's not a good question. A more concise way of putting it would be "are you a sociopath?"

      June 12, 2012 at 8:42 pm |
    • Veritas

      No. I thank Him nearly every day for the sacrifice He made for us all.

      June 12, 2012 at 8:47 pm |
    • Frank

      I would feel repulsed about any of the thousands of people nailed to these medieval torture devices, not just for this one poor deluded Jewish rabbi magician cult leader who conned a bunch of followers.

      June 12, 2012 at 9:15 pm |
    • Drew

      Food for thought though, the Catholic Church has in its history submitted others to tortures similar to the ones Jesus underwent

      June 12, 2012 at 9:46 pm |
  17. BigGuy

    Interesting that all the pedophiles in the Catholic church are men.

    June 12, 2012 at 7:53 pm |
    • Obviously

      Additionally, in a world still controlled by these "men," who lie, cheat, and steal for wealth and power, is it no surprise that the gods created by man are themselves, men? Good luck creating a religious following of one, omnipotent female goddess, even if it does make more sense...

      June 12, 2012 at 8:17 pm |
    • JJ452

      NOT TRUE!!!

      Hundreds of nuns, if not thousands have been accused of child molestation & TORTURE. In Ireland alone the Sisters of Mercy have lost almost all their property & had to pay out millions of Euros. The Sisters of Charity of Our Lady Of Refuge; sisterof the Good shepherd; Sister of Charity (Gray Nuns), etc. And the list goes on. The most hideous was in Canada where orphaned children were molested and literaly tortured. The very grouop of nuns in question here have refused to answer the inquires from S.N.A.P.. So before you go siding with these darling saintly ladies you had better do your research. Should I go on???

      June 13, 2012 at 12:06 am |
    • mickey1313

      Mother Teresa caused great anguish to the dieing, forbade visitors to there death beds and now she has been made a saint.

      June 13, 2012 at 2:33 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      Not a true statement Big Guy and I'm an ardent Catholic. Nuns as well as priest have committed atrocities which no Catholic can defend. The issue of pedophile clergy is not confined just to Catholics either, though we seem to get the brunt of the media attention. But the issue of this article is the adherence of the American nuns to doctrine. As heinous and delicious to wallow in as the child abuse scandals are, there are other issues.

      June 13, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
  18. Philoneus Monk

    Those nuns are NOT "rogues", as the CNN headline suggests. They are simply devout Christian women who wish to serve their "version" of Jesus Christ and the God that they love. They are free and should be free, to choose their mission on earth and to serve as they wish. The Vatican, and its "old boys school of old men stuck in the 15th Century ", should have no control over how the nuns serve humankind and whom they serve. All the other rhetoric is useless. Of course, the Catholic Church and its leadership does not fully realize the damage that they have done to their own mission.

    June 12, 2012 at 7:52 pm |
    • Veritas

      If that's what they want – fine. But they should leave the Church to do it. They willingly took VOWS to obey the laws of God. If they can't do that then we don't want them.

      You don't become a fireman and CHOOSE which fires you'll put out! You do the job you signed up for or you get the boot!

      I'm a Catholic woman who was educated by nuns in England. 99% of them were truly amazing people and they ALL kept to their vows no matter what!. I have to say that the 1% had mental issues but was still a lovely lady.

      If I'm honest I'd say that American nuns working by themselves – for themselves – without regard for the disciplines imposed comes as no surprise. They need to do the job they signed up for – nobody forced them. Either that or get out!

      I'd love for them to go out and join the police force – then try and work outside the job description and disobeying the head honcho. Streuth – they wouldn't last 5 minutes!

      June 12, 2012 at 8:57 pm |
    • DJ

      You don't have a clue what you are talking about. They took an oath to obey their Bishop and the Church, and they are not following the teachings of Christ and His Church and deserve to be admonished. They can leave and go suport gay rights, abortion and their other sinful practices. Maybe they can get a job with planned parrenthood and feel right at home murdering innocent children. We don't need them in the Church corrupting others.

      June 12, 2012 at 9:01 pm |
    • robert

      your last sentence is the most truthful and intelligent statement in this whole discussion.

      June 12, 2012 at 10:38 pm |
  19. James PDX Mostly Straight

    Squeezing out fetuses is dirty and makes you unclean in God's eyes for a month. 2 months if you squeeze out a filthy female.

    June 12, 2012 at 7:50 pm |
    • Veritas

      James – is it foreign to your nature to make a point without the use of [a] filth or [b] blasphemy? Just wondering.

      June 12, 2012 at 8:59 pm |
  20. JC

    I tell the Pope to show some respect to women since the rest of us men can't squeeze a fetus out of our penis'. Women are closer to the divine than the dirty old men who pretend to speak the word of God. Primates with collars.

    June 12, 2012 at 7:25 pm |
    • Dana

      Primates with collars, not my choice of description, how about The holy hores.,deflowered demons, trashy trollops?

      June 12, 2012 at 8:41 pm |
    • Veritas

      You wouldn't recognise respect if it bit your butt! Let's face it, you couldn't give a fiddler's fart about women- you just want to vent your hate against priests.
      Time to get back to your trailer. "America's got talent" is about to start.

      June 12, 2012 at 9:02 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.