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. rjbodin

    and those of us who believe that Jesus is the teacher are not leaving. this is our church too. Christ was all about full table fellowship and we will regain His church for the Father vs. men who call themselves fathers, monsignors, excellencies, eminencies and holy fathers. none of the latter is biblical. we will stay and speak truth to male authority.

    June 12, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
    • New Gawker

      Where's the part about raping little boys? Seems like that's truly ingrained in the church.

      June 12, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
  2. Keel Hauler

    I find the idea of a "rogue nun" appealing.

    June 12, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
    • Don Canard

      careful, it might become a habit

      June 12, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
  3. mork

    I stopped reading at 'talking snake' Sorry, just cant take this religion seriously. A talking snake? Right. ok.

    June 12, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
    • buu

      there was also a talking ass...but I know some of them.

      June 12, 2012 at 3:20 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      yes a talking snake and a talking donkey (just like in Shrek!) there are also dragons, unicorns, satyrs and c.ockatrice, though they don't talk.

      June 12, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
    • Frank

      The talking burning bush I thought was always a good one. People literally beieve this stuff.....even today.

      June 12, 2012 at 3:23 pm |
  4. Writer Eva

    As a former student of Catholic nuns, I can only hope the new generation of "Sisters" can provide a more balanced curriculum for their students than the hard line "our way or excommunication" teaching that I received. One year I was taught that "A Catholic who no longer believes in the Catholic Church has a duty to his/her soul to find a church in which he/she can believe". The next year, I was told, "a Catholic who leaves the Catholic Church is forever damned." After requesting explanation of these conflicting doctrines, I received answers that boiled down to "believe what we tell you and don't ask questions or you will go to hell". Sorry – I don't think so!

    June 12, 2012 at 3:10 pm |
    • Madtown

      don't ask questions or you will go to hell
      Psychological abuse. So sad.

      June 12, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
    • Brenden

      Thank you for having the courage to question.

      June 12, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
    • New Gawker

      Bend over and take it or go to hell. And if you tell anyone you're going to hell.

      June 12, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
    • seigell

      Realize that is is now these same Nuns which are being "slapped down" for being Too Liberal and Lenient. And that the "Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith" is the very same "Spanish Inquisition" of the Catholic Church – just renamed to something less "tainted". Remember, it was the "Spanish Inquisition" who burned people at the stake for such crimes as "Thinking the World is Round" and "Earth orbits the Sun". So, of course, they couldn't be wrong about the Nuns...

      June 12, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
  5. rjbodin

    i side with the nuns who bring us close to God and not to a patriarchy who remind me of the people Jesus railed against. the hierarchy have lost all moral authority and scramble to regain it in a futile game characterized by fear, dictatorship and harassment. very christian wouldn't you say?

    June 12, 2012 at 3:10 pm |
  6. IAM

    Those nuns look mean and rebellious.

    June 12, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
    • Madtown

      Nonsense. They look like anyone's grandma. They both look like they bake a mean apple pie.

      June 12, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
    • IAM

      UHHH!! I was just joking. Of course they are not mean. I was thinking they could be anybodies aunt, with a good baked apple pie.

      June 12, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
    • Madtown

      I know you're joking! I thought it was funny.

      June 12, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      seriously people, look up the word 'sarcasm'. while you're at it, look up 'satire'.

      June 12, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
  7. Dexter

    What about the first century Christian congregation, has anybody forgot on how the true church should operate not as a church but as a congregation. Paul, Timothy and others including Jesus Christ most importantly established true religion in case most of you forgot.

    June 12, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
    • IAM

      II thought that was Abraham ?

      June 12, 2012 at 3:10 pm |
    • Carbon

      Actually the Jews created a monotheistic religion that wasn't limited to a specific geographical locale. Jesus didn't plan to create a new religion; he was a Jew and planned to stay that way.

      June 12, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
  8. Bootyfunk

    Bible Fun Fact:
    Are you female? Have you ever engaged in premarital s.ex? Even if you're married now, did you have s.ex even once before you were married? 98% of American women have. Do you know what the bible says is the punishment for such wh.orish behavior? Let's check and see:

    "But if this thing be true, and the tokens of v.irginity be not found for the damsel: Then they shall bring out the damsel to the door of her father's house, and the men of her city shall stone her with stones that she die: because she hath wrought folly in Israel, to play the wh.ore in her father's house: so shalt thou put evil away from among you." (Deuteronomy 22: 20-21)

    Well, looks like we must drag the non-virgin woman to her father's doorstep and there, with help from the whole town, stone her to death. Sorry 98% of women, Yahweh says you have to die. I'm guessing you're going to Hell, too.
    (Please note this punishment does not apply to men who do the exact same thing.)

    *** The good news for women is that last 2% of women left after we stone the rest to death sure will sure be popular with the fellas.

    June 12, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
    • Samuel

      Wow so bang her, then bang her. Does she get out of trouble if you marry her later?

      June 12, 2012 at 3:10 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      sorry, excuses just won't due.

      June 12, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
    • Humanist11

      Great post! I wish I could see the faces of all the tongue tied bible thumpers out there after they consider this. They don't talk about these stories much in bible class because it does not fit their picture of a kind and gentle god. The bible is simply bogus and that is all there is to it.

      June 12, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
    • New Gawker

      sounds a lot like Islam.

      June 12, 2012 at 3:27 pm |
  9. Don Canard

    they should do as they're told, after all, old men know best.

    June 12, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
    • Which God??

      Really Don? I call bullshyte. The CDF is nothing more than the old 'Holy Inquisition.' It has more to do with bullying one into toeing the line. The nuns are people, ot vatican or xtian slaves for the priests.

      June 12, 2012 at 3:10 pm |
    • Brenden

      I would hope this is sarcasm, but absent of any further witty remarks, I condemn you as an as.shat.

      June 12, 2012 at 3:19 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      he's obviously being sarcastic. man, sarcasm is hard to get for some people. lol.

      June 12, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
  10. rdeacon

    Go Sisters go!!!

    June 12, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
    • Jesus Pimp

      They are wh ore s that do not know their place.

      June 12, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
  11. Samuel

    God bought me a great big ball pit. But I got pink eye.

    June 12, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
  12. Jesus Pimp

    Nuns are nothing more than society rejects. They need the Pope to use his backhand on them once in a while. They are glorified servants of the Catholic Church. Now go clean the Pope's bathroom NUNS.

    June 12, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
    • Keel Hauler

      Go away.

      June 12, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
    • Jesus Pimp

      So you disagree with my post I take it.

      June 12, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
    • Jesus Pimp

      Look at the beasts in the picture and tell me they are not rejects. I wouldnt poke them with the Popes ^*ck. Of course they love and serve God..they don't have a freaking choice.

      June 12, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
  13. Colin

    A few questions should help highlight the absurdity of Catholicism

    The completely absurd theory that all 7,000,000,000 human beings are simultaneously being supervised 24 hours a day, every day of their lives by an immortal, invisible being for the purposes of reward or punishment in the “afterlife” comes from the field of:

    (a) Astronomy;

    (b) Medicine;

    (c) Economics; or

    (d) Catholicism

    You are about 70% likely to believe the entire Universe began less than 10,000 years ago with only one man, one woman and a talking snake if you are a:

    (a) historian;

    (b) geologist;

    (c) NASA astronomer; or

    (d) Catholic

    I have convinced myself that gay $ex is a choice and not genetic, but then have no explanation as to why only gay people have ho.mo$exual urges. I am

    (a) A gifted psychologist

    (b) A well respected geneticist

    (c) A highly educated sociologist

    (d) A Catholic with the remarkable ability to ignore inconvenient facts.

    I honestly believe that, when I think silent thoughts like, “please god, help me pass my exam tomorrow,” some invisible being is reading my mind and will intervene and alter what would otherwise be the course of history in small ways to help me. I am

    (a) a delusional schizophrenic;

    (b) a naïve child, too young to know that that is silly

    (c) an ignorant farmer from Sudan who never had the benefit of even a fifth grade education; or

    (d) your average Catholic

    Millions and millions of Catholics believe that bread and wine turns into the actual flesh and blood of a dead Jew from 2,000 years ago because:

    (a) there are obvious visible changes in the condiments after the Catholic priest does his hocus pocus;

    (b) tests have confirmed a divine presence in the bread and wine;

    (c) now and then their god shows up and confirms this story; or

    (d) their religious convictions tell them to blindly accept this completely fvcking absurd nonsense.

    I believe that an all powerful being, capable of creating the entire cosmos watches me have $ex to make sure I don't do anything "naughty". I am

    (a) A victim of child molestation

    (b) A r.ape victim trying to recover

    (c) A mental patient with paranoid delusions

    (d) A Catholic

    The only discipline known to often cause people to kill others they have never met and/or to commit suicide in its furtherance is:

    (a) Architecture;

    (b) Philosophy;

    (c) Archeology; or

    (d) Religion

    What is it that most differentiates science and all other intellectual disciplines from religion:

    (a) Religion tells people not only what they should believe, but what they are morally obliged to believe on pain of divine retribution, whereas science, economics, medicine etc. has no “sacred cows” in terms of doctrine and go where the evidence leads them;

    (b) Religion can make a statement, such as “there is a composite god comprised of God the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit”, and be totally immune from experimentation and challenge, whereas science can only make factual assertions when supported by considerable evidence;

    (c) Science and the scientific method is universal and consistent all over the World whereas religion is regional and a person’s religious conviction, no matter how deeply held, is clearly nothing more than an accident of birth; or

    (d) All of the above.

    If I am found wandering the streets flagellating myself, wading into a filth river, mutilating my child’s genitals or kneeling down in a church believing that a being is somehow reading my inner thoughts and prayers, I am likely driven by:

    (a) a deep psychiatric issue;

    (b) an irrational fear or phobia;

    (c) a severe mental degeneration caused by years of drug abuse; or

    (d) my religious belief.

    Who am I? I don’t pay any taxes. I never have. Any money my organization earns is tax free and my own salary is also tax free, at the federal, state and local level. Despite contributing nothing to society, but still enjoying all its benefits, I feel I have the right to tell others what to do. I am

    (a) A sleazy Wall Street banker

    (b) A mafia boss

    (c) A drug pusher; or

    (d) A Catholic Priest

    June 12, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
    • flashtrum

      There are thousands of well-meaning and enthusiastic priests that do help people on a daily basis in a myriad of ways. other than that, I can't argue with you.

      June 12, 2012 at 3:10 pm |
    • Which God??

      Nice Colin. I must piont out that you need to say that most ministers of the 'other' faiths are in the same boat, delusional

      June 12, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
    • mork

      BEST POST EVER. Awesome.

      June 12, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
    • Humanist11

      You just made my day! I agree, best post ever!

      June 12, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
    • trypax

      Your first question shows you know little about Christianity; Jesus granted us free will but wants us to do good not because of being watched or rewarded but simply from the desire to do good. The second shows you know little about Catholicism, which has accepted evolution as scientific fact for over 100 years. Many American RCs may think otherwise because they have been poorly taught by the Bishops and led astray by fundamentalists. Your third question was just rude so I stopped reading there; please get some real education rather than just copy-and-pasting somebody else's words.

      June 12, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
  14. Dan

    "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-s-e-x marriage."

    God is much more concerned with the sins of the heart than social issues, conservative or liberal.

    June 12, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
    • New Gawker

      Then it's natural for the Church to stop these nuns, I mean what are they going to do next? Try to stop priests from raping boys???

      June 12, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
  15. NobodyButUs

    Bad nuns! Focusing on making the world a better place instead of the much more important work of telling people what they can't do! What were you thinking? As agents of the Catholic church, your job is to instill guilt and shame, and don't you ever forget it!

    June 12, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Your post, like many others shows ignorance of the fact that true social justice is founded on the right to life.

      June 12, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
  16. mickey1313

    I hope the nuns do what is mentioned in the final paragraph. The "holy see" is a croupt group of pederast protecting monsters, but while they do not want jail for child molester priests, they do want to ban ssm. Can you say hypocrites. Good for these nuns. Btw, I'm not Christian, i support equal rights for all.

    June 12, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
  17. Sashatree

    I'm sooooooo with the nuns on this!! It's sickening that the "good ole' boys" in Rome are attacking these women because they are spending too much time on social issues, and not enough time protesting about abortion or gay marriage!! That perfectly illustrates why I abhor the church!!!

    Nuns are the perverbial "boots on the ground" and devote their lives to serving their faith – and MAKING THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE by feeding the poor, clothing the naked, sheltering the homeless, teaching those who need to learn, tending to the sick and infirmed and these hypocrites in Rome should burn in Hades for what they're doing to them!!!

    June 12, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
    • Haitianus

      Are you Catholic or not. You are sooooo with the nuns......!!!!

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

      Agreed Sashatree. It seems that the Catholic church, in general, is more concerned these days with protecting itself and its power and preaching to others (while violating its own morals by moving pedophiles from church to church where they can repeat the pedophilia) than actually doing anything that would be considered Christ-like (which the nuns ARE doing).

      June 12, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
  18. ForGoodOfAll

    I commend these nuns that are following their hearts toward a reverant and sincere calling to work with non-profits outside of the Vatican's rule.

    June 12, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
  19. Bootyfunk

    look at those women. now bring up a picture of the pope. you tell me who's evil.

    June 12, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
    • mickey1313

      @booty, right, doesn't the pope look like the dark lord of the sith, from star wars

      June 12, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
    • Shadowflash1522

      Haha I know right, every time he raises his hands I expect lightning to come flying out of them!

      June 12, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Put up your picture so we can judge your character based on appearance.

      June 12, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
  20. pfft1234

    Nuns are the last group who has any respect from the majority of people. Personally, I think they should get rid of all the men and take over. They are nothing but a bunch of out of touch old farts... akin to yelling at kids to get off their lawn

    Nothing but a cult, I mean joke.. i mean... take you pick

    June 12, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
    • crackedskull44

      Cult implies you cant leave, you are free to leave whenever you like.

      June 12, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
    • Frank

      Tom Wolfe: "A cult is a religion that has no political power"

      June 12, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
    • rjbodin

      you are evil personified.

      June 12, 2012 at 3:11 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.