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. chrissy

    @HeavenSent: I don't believe God would appreciate you calling his children dumb, foolish, and blind. He would want you to share your wisdom and understanding to show others the light, not down talk and judge them. I suggest you go confess your sins, you little devil you...

    June 12, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest


      Actually HS is fairly consistent with the bible, and that is "Believe of burn", I just decide to not call this wisdom, merely a scare tactic.

      June 12, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
  2. beezy

    I just love how cnn only lets people comment on articles about soon to be President Romney and religion so you liberals and athiests can spew your filth, hate, and lies.

    June 12, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
    • mendacitysux

      We're funny too

      June 12, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
    • Humanist11

      Religions spew filth, hate and lies more than any other type of organization on the planet. Atheists are some of the most friendly, down to earth people there are. They have excellent morals, treat people with respect, have the ability (and freedom) to consider other points of view, possess high integrity, are very confident, are involved in many charities, get to sleep in on Sundays and have guilt-free s-e-x just because they love the one they are with. The world has opened up for them and they are able to enjoy live as it was meant to be. Make friends with a few and you will see.

      June 12, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
  3. Doc Vestibule

    "The death sentence is a necessary and efficacious means for the Church to attain its end when rebels act against it and disturbers of the ecclesiastical unity, especially obstinate heretics and heresiarchs..."
    – Pope Leo XIII

    June 12, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
  4. bob aussie

    Wow! Every two years, more people than the number of nuns in the US die each year in auto accidents. Mormon, Catholic, Episcopalian, Baptist.... doesn't matter who, what, or where, when religions start worrying more about their organization, how much money they can raise, and how they are going to keep their people in line, and less on what really matters, they've lost the spirit of Christ... If they ever had it to begin with.

    June 12, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
  5. James

    What would a good Catholic like Newt Gingrich do? The pedophiles and serial adulterers are running the show. I didn't leave the Church it left me.

    June 12, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
  6. mendacitysux

    Hell hath no fury.......

    June 12, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
    • real_personn

      ...as a nun's scorn...

      June 12, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
  7. Humanist11

    It is nice to see some enlightened women emerge from the catholic church after so many centuries of oppression by the so-called religious leaders. I wish them well and hope they deliver a black eye to the vatican when this is over.

    June 12, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
  8. Humanist11

    I like their nuclear option in the last sentence. Quitting the RC church will certainly be another embarrassment to the Vatican.

    June 12, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
  9. Joshua

    So the nuclear option would be for the women who the Vatican are claiming to be not acting like catholic nuns, to say OK you're right we're not catholic nuns?

    June 12, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
  10. Samuel

    Staying here, thank you. Big man. Strong.

    June 12, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
  11. Floyd from Ilinois

    At least they were able to discuss it with civility.

    That's better than the American GOP can manage these days.

    June 12, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
  12. New Gawker

    The church may behave like it's the 1800's but luckily for the nuns it's 2012 and the Church can't burn them at the stake like they'd really like to do.

    June 12, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
  13. CatholicSchoolgirl

    I hope the nuns quit in mass and join the episcopal church. They don't need the pope or the misogynistic idiots who run the church. The Catholic Church has taken major steps backwards – pedophile clergy, against LGBTs, against contraception, against women priests. They are an antiquated organization that either needs to face reality or take their good old boy network and move to a desserted island (Alcatraz comes to mind) so they can play their games among themselves.

    June 12, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
    • Devil made me do it

      Alcatraz is way to cool for a bunch of antique priests.

      June 12, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
    • mendacitysux

      To another church splitting apart at the seams?? Great idea

      June 12, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
    • Humanist11

      Leaving one church for another seems rather silly, but I guess they might receive more respect in another organization that worships the "mystical sky daddy". Baby steps.........

      June 12, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
  14. dogface

    Please abolish the Vatican but let the Roman Catholic Church keep the property but UNDER the legal jurisdiction of Italy.

    June 12, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
    • crackedskull44

      Kinda hard considering it is a sovereign state under the Lateran Treaty...try again?

      June 12, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
  15. gonuns

    stop participating in the rotten system, and start just alternatives. there's no change from within.

    June 12, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
  16. gonuns

    nice try, sisters, but you're wasting your time on real rogues.

    June 12, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
  17. Aliasjack

    The "rogue" nuns are the only part of the Catholic church that is of any value anymore.

    June 12, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
    • Terry

      I wholheartedly agree, Aliasjack !

      June 12, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
  18. Honey Badger Dont Care

    First zombies eating people's faces off and now rouge nuns roaming the streets. It is truly the end of days.

    June 12, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
    • MATA

      It's thunderstorming right now which is probably the third sign of something. This may all be my fault because I have dogs and cats living together in my home.

      June 12, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
    • juanrbalboa

      I think only Sister Farrell is rouge. I think Sister Mock is more a peach, or even coral.

      June 12, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
  19. Name* Jaded

    What would Jesus do?

    June 12, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
    • palintwit

      He'd boink Bristol Palin.

      June 12, 2012 at 2:33 pm |
    • Honey Badger Dont Care

      What would Jesus do,

      for a Klondike bar?

      June 12, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
    • Devil made me do it

      Get nailed.....to a cross.

      June 12, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      God's Word is clear to those that listen. Read the word and then hear his voice. If you can't hear it then you are not living in Jesus's Truth.


      June 12, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
    • mendacitysux

      If you do hear it, call a psychiatrist quick

      June 12, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
    • Humanist11

      If it were up to Jesus' father he would probably just kill off the whole lot of them just like he did in Sodom and Gomorrah, the entire earth for Noah's flood and many other tales. I want my kids to grow up worshiping him and spend their entire lives setting their place in heaven.....NOT!

      June 12, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
    • Madtown

      God's Word is clear to those that listen.
      Where can I find this word, actually written by God? I'm very interested in reading it.

      June 12, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
    • Samuel

      God told me HeavenSent is full of it. And since God said it, it's the truth. Deny the truth and you deny your own faith.

      June 12, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
    • Carbon

      Jesus would shake his head in disgust. He was a rabbi that was pushing for temple reform and had no wish to start a new religion. Talk about the Law of Unintended Consequences!

      June 12, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
  20. Queen Barbara

    May Almighty God of Israel who connects us to himself through the living Holy Spirit free the Roman Catholic Church from the images and spirits of dead gods.

    June 12, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
    • Alan

      Take a nap and sleep it off honey............................

      June 12, 2012 at 2:34 pm |
    • New Gawker

      Buddha bless you.

      June 12, 2012 at 2:40 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.