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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. anna

    These women dont even look like nuns, it is a pity that the habit has been left behind.
    To me a nun should look like a nun.

    June 12, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      i wish all nuns looked more like the hot nuns i see on halloween wearing high heels and fishnets.

      June 12, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
    • Luch

      yes sadly most have left their habits and their vows of obedience behind...God bless the true Ctaholic nuns that still wear their habits and have not been polluted by the gospel of radical feminism

      June 12, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
    • Madtown

      God bless the true Ctaholic nuns that still wear their habits and have not been polluted by the gospel of radical feminism
      --------
      A.K.A, give in and continue to be subordinant to repressive, archaic dogma created by men for the benefit of men.

      June 12, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
  2. LoyaltoVatican

    Sounds to me like good old Bernardo Gui needs to be brought back for a new Inquisition! These nuns need to be excommunicated immediately. LEAVE OUR CHURCH ALONE!!!! If you want to be a radical, feminist heretic, go join the protestants!!!!

    June 12, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      yeah! we want to live in the dark ages! so let us!

      June 12, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
    • Drew

      Hey guess what, it's their church just as much as it is yours, and they've given their lives to serving it. Put up or shut up

      June 12, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
    • Mimi

      yes and if you want your children to be abused, send them to church. Guess what, Mommy, Father B touched my pee pee. You can proud of your Catholicism!

      June 12, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
  3. The Master

    CHURCH = CONTROL

    June 12, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Catholics hate a master debater.

      June 12, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
  4. Justus E

    The Catholic Church is being persecuted once again. If you don't like the teachings then get out and find your own way. No one is forcing you to come to the Catholic Church but if you do then follow what it teaches. It is your God given free will to do so. Shame on these women who feel they have to do something like this, satan the prince of lies and deciever is at it again. Trying to bring down the Church. why the Catholic Church? because even satan knows who God is and where you find HIM.

    June 12, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
    • Drew

      Here's the thing: These nuns don't "have" to do anything. They have every right to try to reclaim the Catholic church, just as much right as the old men who run it have to bully everyone into seeing their way. No one cares what you think, the sisters are playing by their own rules, as is their right

      June 12, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
    • OnlyOne

      It is close-minded fundamentalists like yourself that are actually blind to the Church's teachings. Feel free to pat yourself on the back and tell yourself that you're better than these nuns.. before looking up Matthew 23 and reading what the bible has to say about hypocrites like you.

      June 12, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
    • Luch

      Drew..you are an idiot...they arent supposed to play by their own rules...they took vows of obedience...thank God the liberal prders are dying out...they have done enough irreperable damage to the church

      June 12, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
    • Drew

      Of course they aren't "supposed" to play by their own rules, but that is all the more reason to do it

      June 12, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
    • Justus E

      Drew, "recalim the Catholic Church" what the heck? these nuns are not following the teachings. The doctrine, so if you go to say a university, there are rules you have to follow steps you have to take in order to reach your goal of receiving your diploma, masters or whatever. The Caholic Church is stating that these "nuns" are not teaching what they are suppose to be teaching as nuns. Isn't that why they became nuns, to follow and teach what the church believes and teaches... And for you Onlyone, I am not a close minded fundamentalist...and "blind to church teaching" ? No. And I didn't say I was better than they are. It's hard to understand why people do what they do and say what they say. I follow the teachings of the Church and I'm proud to be a practicing Catholic. It is my right and I will fight for my religion and my belief in Jesus Christ.

      June 12, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
    • Drew

      Like it or not, human beings think and act for themselves. These nuns are part of the church, and if they don't like the way the church is what is to prevent them from trying to change it?

      June 12, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
  5. Bootyfunk

    i'm pretty sure this is how every catholic meeting goes:

    http://www.southparkstudios.com/clips/104226/rampant-misconduct

    June 12, 2012 at 3:27 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Instead of an intelligent comment on the issue, you post a derogatory cartoon? Then you wonder why Catholics feel we are being attacked by morons.

      June 12, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
    • Drew

      Get a sense of humor Bill Deacon, it's something that a whole lot of Christians sorely lack

      June 12, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      come on, you didn't laugh once? even at the parts you know are true?

      June 12, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      I'm as good natured as the nest person. Want to hear a nidgar joke? The true parts are funny. How about a Polish one? I know a funny one about a blind guy and a Jew. Or are Catholics the only fair game?

      What I hoped to find was some rational discussion and even some valid thoughts from those who think differently than I do. But all I get throughout all of these articles is thoughtless diatribes that are mostly are false and always derogatory.

      But the one about the Jew is really funny. And true.

      June 12, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
    • Drew

      Deacon, there is a big difference between making fun of an entire race or religion and making fun of an insulated group of men in charge of one of the most powerful organizations in the world. The former is offensive and unacceptable, but the latter is actually a healthy thing. Questioning authority of any sort is a human duty

      June 12, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      wow, according to you, can't make a joke about anyone. and sorry, religious jokes do not equal racist jokes. nice try though. go buy a sense of humor.

      June 12, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      "But the one about the Jew is really funny. And true."

      sounds like you're the one not joking.

      June 12, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
    • Luch

      I repeat Drew you are an idiot...sorry you are a bigoted, prejudiced idiot

      June 12, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
    • Drew

      That's a pretty common response from thin-skinned religious people

      June 12, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
    • Frank

      Bill, your pedophile infested cult should be ridiculed and just die off. You and your fellow pedophile supporters are repugnant to decent people.

      June 12, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
  6. Carmen

    I am fed up with so called catholic nuns that can not make up their mind if they are nuns with obdience wows to the Chirch or femnists that obey to the NOW porg.
    The Catholic Church is not a buffet meal, where one mixes and choses what one likes and discards dislikes.
    Go form another church or join another more liberal and feminist.
    I am a practicing Roman Catholic that had to change parish because it was run as a feminist pro marxism cult.
    Please kick them out!
    There are plenty of nuns that do a fantastic job, this ones want to be priests.

    June 12, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
    • Samuel

      Ok Mel Gibson

      June 12, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
    • Drew

      I hope these nuns actually take over the church and turn it into an organization promoting social justice and human rights

      June 12, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      grobble grobble grobble! men should be in charge of women. grobble grobble grobble!

      June 12, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
    • OnlyOne

      The LCWR represents 80% of American nuns. If anyone's going to be kicked out, it will be narrow-minded, head-in-the-sand ideologues like yourself. Please feel free to remove yourself from my Church at ANY time and go back to the Southern Baptists or Pentecostals where you belong (assuming they'll even have you).

      June 12, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
    • Justus E

      AMEN sista! Well said.

      June 12, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
    • Miss Ann Thrope

      You left your parish because of "radical feminist" nuns, but not because of kiddie-raping priests? Great priorites, there.

      June 12, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
    • Mimi

      Get real! Most Catholic women don't give a hoot about church doctrine about birth control. Maybe it was for all the breeding so priests could have their pick of the young lucsious boys changing into their altar vestments.

      June 12, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
  7. m

    Stand your ground sisters!! You're dealing with pedophiles and criminals!!!

    June 12, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
  8. Gator Fan

    Don't women know their place in the Catholic Church? Silent, and second class!

    June 12, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
  9. Eternal Wisdom

    God bless the nuns for the blessed work they do. However, each and everyone of them was aware of the rules and expectations of the various religious organizations which they CHOSE to join. As a Catholic we believe that God has given all a 'free will'. Perhaps the nuns should decide, using their individual free will, whether they should leave the Catholic Church or not. It is human to error and devine to forgive! Our God is compassionate and loving.

    June 12, 2012 at 3:23 pm |
    • Drew

      It seems like they have already used their free-will to stay in the Catholic Church, and it is a little insulting of you to suggest that they haven't

      June 12, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
    • m

      Perhaps your should mind your own business, Pinhead!

      June 12, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
    • m

      And, you are obviously a pompous ASS!!!!

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

      Speaking as a cradle Catholic, I didn't "choose to join" anything. I do choose to stay, however, and fight hypocritical, narrow-minded busybodies that want to use MY faith for their toilet paper as they pursue their various and sundry political agendas.

      June 12, 2012 at 3:27 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      @EW

      So many things that I disagree with in your post and your religion. Escpecially omnisience and free will.

      June 12, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
  10. Pope

    One on the right is one hot-lesbian-nun. LOL :)

    June 12, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
  11. Sam

    At its root, this policing action by the pope is motivated by the same kind of thinking that suggests putting gays in concentration camps, and just as sure to backfire.

    June 12, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
  12. OnlyOne

    These aren't "Rogue" nuns. These are faithful nuns, courageously taking on a rogue patriarchal hierarchy.

    June 12, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
    • Carmen

      Of all thye millions of nuns the American feminists ones are the only whinning. Why is that? Because they want to be priests, leave the Church, nobody is forcing you to stay.

      June 12, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
  13. Jhera

    So, the nuns refused to focus on areas involving the rights to decide? The Vatican should follow their example.

    June 12, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
  14. Dr. Pete

    "...to discuss the issues and concerns raised by the doctrinal assessment in an atmosphere of openness and cordiality."

    Hmm... I believe they did this with Galileo.

    June 12, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Galileo? Really? Galileo is your benchmark for discussions of doctrine?

      June 12, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
  15. Easy E

    "Doctrinal watchdog group"? Sounds like a North Korean prison camp. Why anyone would want this level of micromanagement of their spiritual life is beyond me.

    June 12, 2012 at 3:19 pm |
  16. ron

    While the Vatican statement uses terms like "mutual respect" and "collaboration," what it really means is: women, do what you are told by a bunch of threatened and insulated old men.

    June 12, 2012 at 3:18 pm |
  17. rosethornne

    Good for the nuns! They ought to form their own group that is not dictated to by power-mad men.

    I frankly don't see any purpose to a bunch of autocratic pedophiles who are laser-focused on denying rights to one group of people meanwhile scurrying through the woodwork to hide their own wrongdoings.

    I am an atheist, but I went to Sunday school as a child and I remember things that sounded an awful lot like what those nuns are doing.

    ... along with the child sacrifice, zombie worship, vampirism, cannibalism, and flaming hypocrisy, that is. Blech.

    June 12, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
  18. Damo

    Riiiight. The nuns are the bad ones because of their "sins of omission" by not speaking out against euthanasia and gay marriage.

    Ya gotta laugh.

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

      Hahahah I can think of worse "omissions" made by cardinals, namely involving the protection of pedophiles

      June 12, 2012 at 3:19 pm |
  19. Satansspawn

    Sounds like the nuns have them by the balls.

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

      Which is exactly why they're squawking.

      June 12, 2012 at 3:23 pm |
  20. Satansspawn

    x

    June 12, 2012 at 3:14 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 and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.