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. southernwonder

    religion is really meant for the 3rd world people, specailly middle east.

    June 12, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
  2. Trozzur

    The Vatican has the opportunity to temper its rhetoric and staunchly restrictive ways with our nuns. While the nuns reach out every day, the Vatican continues to close its doors through overt alienation, missteps, and obscuring the truth (priest abuse scandals, etc.). This is a defining moment – the opportunity is provided.

    June 12, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
  3. Omar

    Unfortuantely the teach according to Canon Law and not the Bible. The transfer of Sabbath to Sunday is the Mark of the Papacy; Mark of the Beast. Maybe they should look into this first.

    June 12, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
  4. jonp

    The Catholic loves little boys not women.

    June 12, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
  5. Danny Television

    One group does very important work in our communities.
    The other group is self-important.
    Guess which is which...

    June 12, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
  6. frank the tank

    Nuns bums and guns and at the end of each lvl you get to open little 12 year old treasure chest!

    June 12, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
  7. Sirned

    I think it's great that Nuns are going to 9 states protesting the cruel Ryan Plan... They say Jesus would never hurt the poor the way the Ryan plan does. They say we have enough for everyone and like Jesus who broke bread and shared it with everyone the Republicans just take, take take.... It's nice to see this going on...

    June 12, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
    • Rick James

      One of greatest ironies of politics is that the Republicans practice social Darwinism, yet reject actual "Darwinism" (evolution), while with the Democrats, it's the complete opposite. I'm not a huge fan of Obama, but given the House he has to work with, I'm surprised things get done.

      June 12, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
  8. palintwit

    Worth reposting... "New Rule: Stop comparing Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann just because they're both Republican women. And crazy. And know-nothings. And Jesus freaks, who claim to receive messages from God. Who both get their historical facts wrong all the time. Who both give off a sound that only animals can hear and makes microwaves explode. Seriously, stop comparing them." —Bill Maher

    June 12, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
    • XOR

      Thanks for staying on topic.

      June 12, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
  9. ReligionisDebauched

    Humans also believed the world was flat for thousands of years. Humans also believed in "pagan" gods for lot longer then 2,000 years. Or the earth was the center of the universe, fairies, dragons, sea monsters. Because you believe it doesn't make it true. Religion will continue, no doubt, but it will continue to change according to man's whim or will (not god's) as it always has since the dawn of time.

    June 12, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
    • Extra "Real" Not Fake God


      June 12, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
  10. Vampsh Black Sheep League of Doom Gardamun Family Circle Master Vampire High Priest


    June 12, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
  11. steve

    JC already with the Church. Its the people in the church who are the church. The vatican forgets they are just stewards not kings.

    June 12, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
    • JOE


      June 12, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
    • Joe from CT, not Lieberman

      That is difficult considering that they spent the majority of the last 15 centuries not only as spiritual leaders but also geographic rulers. They haven't gotten past being on an equal footing with the Habsburgs, the Bourbons, the Plantagenets, etc., even though their temporal power was broken by Napoleon, shattered by Garabaldi and finally obliterated by Mussolini.

      June 12, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
  12. HeavenSent

    The nuns need to reject the Pope and Catholic Church and join a "real" Christian church. Catholic Church = Church of the Father of Lies.


    June 12, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
    • Omar

      Sunday is a Mark of her authority. It is the Mark of the Beast. Study your bibles and stop accepting everythig taught from the pulpit. Do you really want to leave your eternal life in the hands of someone who may be (IS) misleading you???

      June 12, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
    • Leon

      great post.

      June 12, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
  13. Extra "Real" Not Fake God

    damn, i gotta get these hoes in line

    June 12, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
    • mendacitysux

      It's hard out here for a pimp

      June 12, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
  14. flip1

    I still cannot believe that with all its wealth, its brainpower, and its ability to affect change, the RC church still has an entire leg mired in ancient history, and the middle ages. Talk about fascism hijacking religion for its own reasons, the RC church stands second only to Islamic (and other religious) extremists in taking hostage its adherents and persecuting those opposed to its "sacred" tenents.

    June 12, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
  15. cathstar

    You go, girls!!! It's about time. Break away and show some women power! The men hae been in charge for way too long!

    June 12, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
    • flip1

      Work me, lord, work me!

      June 12, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
  16. Because

    " The report also alleged sins of omission" I guess the sisters forgot they were supposed to hate people.

    June 12, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
  17. Name*Eric

    Nuns on the run

    June 12, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
  18. mike

    Give em hell sisters..another inquisition..OMG cant the pope stop with this BS

    June 12, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
  19. Believer

    The nuns are not the rogues in this story. The rogues are the hideous old men who are coming after the most decent part of the Roman Catholic Church.

    June 12, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
    • Terry

      Thank you for the wonderful remark, Believer. I agree - the sisters truly are the most decent (and wonderful) part of the Catholic Church. Our faith and our communion with the people of God is all that is needed. Everything else is replaceable.

      June 12, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
  20. St. Xavier

    Leave it up to man to make a good story bad. Remember if man made it man will break it. If you take several people the number of people isn't all that emportant as long as it's not just one person, The story will change from one person to another as the story is told. How can any one believe a true story when it's told over an over again it changes. The problem with man is he can never keep the story true he has to make things up to please him self as the true story teller. Enjoy the bible it's just a book a good book with many voices.

    June 12, 2012 at 2:07 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.