April 19th, 2012
03:05 PM ET

Vatican blasts American nuns, calls for reforms

By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

(CNN) - The Vatican is turning up the heat on a group of nuns it says are operating outside of the Roman Catholic Church's doctrines.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, the church’s doctrinal watchdog, on Wednesday announced the conclusion of a years-long “doctrinal assessment” investigation of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, which represents 80% of the Catholic nuns in the United States.

The “assessment reveals serious doctrinal problems,” said the report, which called for major reforms.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith appointed Archbishop Peter Sartain of Seattle to institute those reforms.

The report singled out a Washington, DC social justice group called Network, which is run by nuns and the Resource Center for Religious Institutes, which assists members with financial and legal resources.

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The Vatican report, made public by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, said the doctrinal assessment began in part because of the group’s dissent on the Holy See’s teaching on the ordination of women and human sexuality.  The Catholic Church ordains only men to be priests and says sex is to be reserved for between a man and woman who are married in the eyes of the church.

The assessment said that a Leadership Conference of Women Religious conference yielded “manifest problematic statements and serious theological, even doctrinal errors,” that went unchallenged.   It also said the event promoted “radical feminism”and decried the “prevalence of certain radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith in some programs and presentations sponsored by the LCWR...”

While the assessment praised the social justice work of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, Network and the Resources Center for Religious Life, it said the groups were “silent on the right to life from conception to natural death” and on the Church’s view on “family life and human sexuality.”

The report also took note of public statements from the nuns that opposed the Catholic Bishops. The Leadership Conference of Women Religious and Network vocally disagreed with the Bishops' conference's position on the Affordable Care Act, which they supported and the Bishops did not.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith called the current doctrinal and pastoral positions of the groups “grave and a matter of serious concern,” because of the global influence of the groups.

Pope Benedict XVI approved the request from the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith to intervene and the implementation of their recommended changes, the doctrinal office said in its assessment.

Some of the changes to come include a revision of the LCWR statutes, a review of programs including their annual general assembly, and a review of their ties with Network and Resource Center for Religious Institutes.

Cardinal William Levada, a former Archbishop in the United States and now the Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, said in a statement that the the Vatican process is aimed at “fostering a patient and collaborative renewal of this conference of major superiors in order to provide a stronger doctrinal foundation for its many laudable initiatives and activities.”

The sisters, for their part, expressed surprised at the findings. “Because the leadership of LCWR has the custom of meeting annually with the staff of CDF in Rome and because the conference follows canonically-approved statutes, we were taken by surprise," the Leadership Conference of Women Religious said in a statement.

"This is a moment of great import for religious life and the wider church," the statement continued. "We ask your prayers as we meet with the LCWR National Board within the coming month to review the mandate and prepare a response.”

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

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

soundoff (1,705 Responses)
  1. Randy Dowdy

    The RCC became upset when no children were molested by this group. Since they weren't meeting the molestation quota, the RCC had to invent a problem to scorn them with. More molesters per capita are in the RCC than the rest of the population.

    May 18, 2012 at 11:20 pm |
    • Cat

      Read Plato and get up to speed.

      June 1, 2012 at 9:50 pm |
  2. Congregation for The Doctrine of Deceit

    the same people who are supposed to investigate the child abuse. the present pope was the head of this do nothing org. before becoming pope. easier to pick on women i guess.

    May 17, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
  3. Trib

    This is all just a knee-jerk reaction to the Nunn at the hotel in the priceline commercial.

    May 16, 2012 at 7:38 am |
    • MikeB59

      Now that's funny.

      May 16, 2012 at 11:14 am |
  4. mdreader

    The Roman Catholic Church is run by money grubbing vile, evil, closeted hypocrites....this is all about diverting attention away from their abuse of boys

    May 16, 2012 at 7:32 am |
  5. YouBetterThink

    So just what is so unjust about an organization (in this case, the Catholic Church) requiring it members, and especially its leaders or administrators to adhere to the core teachings and mission of the Church? Employers fire employees every day in this country for not being on board with the company's goals – so please tell me why the Catholic Church cannot do the same? The fact is that these nuns do NOT represent all nuns in America and these particular nuns have been at odds with Catholic teaching for quite some time now – despite the Church being rather patient with them to comply with doing what they vowed to do – adhering to the Catholic faith.

    May 3, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
    • chief

      then the church should fire them... and then they could decide if they wanted to follow the catholic churches teachings or actually think for themselves

      May 14, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
    • Lisa

      You're right but usually one gets fired for theft, not showing up, drugs, etc. In this case, the Church would be firing them because they won't sit down and shut up as women are supposed to do according to the Church doctrine.

      Why any woman would willingly be a member of the Catholic Church is beyond me. Clearly these women are leaders and have thoughts of their own. They would do well to move on, let their brains be their doctrine, and leave behind the old men's club who still refuses to deal with the pedophiles among them even today.

      May 17, 2012 at 8:12 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      Because that is not how we roll.

      June 11, 2012 at 5:23 pm |
  6. carol kling


    April 29, 2012 at 8:30 am |
    • stan

      Too bad they didn't teach you where the Caps Lock key is on your keyboard... the animals!

      May 3, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
    • chief

      hey tard.... open your hands when you type

      May 5, 2012 at 11:22 pm |
  7. chief

    i just checked the ped tracker database, there were 10,000 accused priests and 4000 convicted..... no nuns?

    April 28, 2012 at 6:45 am |
  8. Mr Old

    This is all a sham to distract everyone from the pedo-priests. Total bs. Just a lot of noise. Don't slow down on arresting those priests! We need to get every single one into prison for life.

    April 24, 2012 at 3:46 am |
  9. ME

    And the Vatican wonders why the pews are empty on Sunday? Pasty ol white men trying to brow beat the Nuns. Good move Vatican, good move.

    April 23, 2012 at 6:27 pm |
    • Faithful

      ME – My Church has 4 packed Masses every week – 1 Saturday evening; 1 Sunday at 9.30am; 1 at 11.30am and 1 at 12.30am. There's an extra at 7pm on Sunday – that's a bit quieter. The OTHER Church I sometimes go to in town has even more people.

      So why don't you go peddle your propaganda someplace else?

      April 23, 2012 at 8:57 pm |
    • danielwalldammit

      The Vatican has treated women with contempt for 2000 years. I expect they figure they can do it for another 2000.

      April 23, 2012 at 11:44 pm |
    • chief

      re faithful..... go peddle your voodoo christianity in some third world country.....

      May 5, 2012 at 11:23 pm |
    • Lisa

      Amazingly I think people still flock to their services. Even women who have long been treated as lowly individuals who should know their place in the world.

      Anyone who is still giving money to this organization needs to seriously think about tough love.

      They have clearly shown and still do today that they are above the law when it comes to pedophilia.

      May 17, 2012 at 8:15 am |
  10. Aroz

    God save us from free thinking Women.

    April 23, 2012 at 12:31 pm |
    • danielwalldammit


      April 23, 2012 at 11:46 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      God save us from brain-dead men.

      April 23, 2012 at 11:49 pm |
    • edken

      God made the women with free thinking ability and they hold up half the sky so why should He spare you from them. They make the world a better place.

      May 15, 2012 at 7:10 pm |
  11. magadred

    I find it very interesting that they are coming down hard on this particular group instead of their usual "hush it up approach" Oh wait, it is because they react to threats against reforming the status quo of equal representation for both men and women in church leadership. But for a very long time they remained client (and complicit I think) in regards to the host of allegations of priests abusing children. How is it any different from politics? Go after the groups that threaten your leadership while leaving those who are just ruining lives of children.

    How shameful is this!!!!!!

    April 23, 2012 at 7:38 am |
  12. David77

    The nuns should ignore this 'reprimand'. By the end of the year, the Christ will have come back openly and he will straighten out these bishops who think they are the boss and are authorized to speak on behalf of God. See http://www.christmaitreya.org

    April 22, 2012 at 6:23 pm |
    • HumanistJohn

      The christ will come back openly? Is he driving into town or what?

      April 26, 2012 at 7:17 pm |
    • CosmicC

      Openly? Surely, you don't mean he's coming out this time.

      May 3, 2012 at 4:20 pm |
    • TrueReality

      What happened to no one knowing the day or the hour of Christ's return, like he said himself in Matthew 24? Guess you must be one of those false prophets that chapter is talking about...

      May 3, 2012 at 5:34 pm |
  13. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    April 22, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
    • Vinny

      I was going to say something until I read other comments. Seems like a bunch of nuts are here. Better leave.

      April 23, 2012 at 5:56 am |
    • Pacoti

      You're nuts!

      April 23, 2012 at 6:03 am |
    • Jesus

      Prayer doesn’t not; you are such a LIAR. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs!.!.*

      April 23, 2012 at 11:13 am |
    • mema

      Every belief blog...same thing: prayer changs things...followed by jesus(same person who posted the original post). Same exact post over and over and humm over...please spot....it has not changed anyones mind...and never will....its just like a broken record.....

      May 4, 2012 at 6:52 am |
  14. Reality

    How much money would the following save the US taxpayers and hoaw many lost "souls" would we save?:

    Saving 1.5 billion lost Muslims:
    There never were and never will be any angels i.e. no Gabriel, no Islam and therefore no more koranic-driven acts of horror and terror

    – One trillion dollars over the next several years as the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan will end.

    – Eighteen billion dollars/yr to Pakistan will stop.

    – Four billion dollars/yr to Egypt will end.

    Saving 2 billion lost Christians including the Mormons:
    There were never any bodily resurrections and there will never be any bodily resurrections i.e. No Easter, no Christianity!!!

    – The Mormon empire will now become taxable as will all Christian "religions" and evangelical non-profits since there is no longer any claim to being a tax-exempt religion.

    – Saving 15.5 million Orthodox followers of Judaism:
    Abraham and Moses never existed.

    – Four billion dollars/yr to Israel saved.

    – All Jewish sects and non-profits will no longer be tax exempt.

    Now all we need to do is convince these 3.5+ billion global and local citizens that they have been conned all these centuries Time for a YouTube,Twitter and FaceBook campaign!!!!


    April 22, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
    • Faithful

      Reality – Sadly , all you are is a wannabee theologian; economist; philanthropist and medical expert all rolled into one. If you don't understand any of my 'big' words, ask an adult.

      You failed miserably in ALL of the above so here's a plan – You go back to school [ preferably NOT in America because that failed system is the root of your problems] – Get an education ' and above all GET A LIFE. No Religion harms YOU. Butt out.

      April 22, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
    • Alley Loo Ya


      Did religion turn you into a b!tch, or does it just come naturally?

      April 22, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
    • Reality

      Only for the those interested in a religious update:

      1. origin: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F20E1EFE35540C7A8CDDAA0894DA404482

      “New Torah For Modern Minds

      Abraham, the Jewish patriarch, probably never existed. Nor did Moses. The entire Exodus story as recounted in the Bible probably never occurred. The same is true of the tumbling of the walls of Jericho. And David, far from being the fearless king who built Jerusalem into a mighty capital, was more likely a provincial leader whose reputation was later magnified to provide a rallying point for a fledgling nation.

      Such startling propositions – the product of findings by archaeologists digging in Israel and its environs over the last 25 years – have gained wide acceptance among non-Orthodox rabbis. But there has been no attempt to disseminate these ideas or to discuss them with the laity – until now.

      The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, which represents the 1.5 million Conservative Jews in the United States, has just issued a new Torah and commentary, the first for Conservatives in more than 60 years. Called "Etz Hayim" ("Tree of Life" in Hebrew), it offers an interpretation that incorporates the latest findings from archaeology, philology, anthropology and the study of ancient cultures. To the editors who worked on the book, it represents one of the boldest efforts ever to introduce into the religious mainstream a view of the Bible as a human rather than divine docu-ment. “

      2. Jesus was an illiterate Jewish peasant/carpenter/simple preacher man who suffered from hallucinations (or “mythicizing” from P, M, M, L and J) and who has been characterized anywhere from the Messiah from Nazareth to a mythical character from mythical Nazareth to a ma-mzer from Nazareth (Professor Bruce Chilton, in his book Rabbi Jesus). An-alyses of Jesus’ life by many contemporary NT scholars (e.g. Professors Ludemann, Crossan, Borg and Fredriksen, ) via the NT and related doc-uments have concluded that only about 30% of Jesus' sayings and ways noted in the NT were authentic. The rest being embellishments (e.g. miracles)/hallucinations made/had by the NT authors to impress various Christian, Jewish and Pagan sects.

      The 30% of the NT that is "authentic Jesus" like everything in life was borrowed/plagiarized and/or improved from those who came before. In Jesus' case, it was the ways and sayings of the Babylonians, Greeks, Persians, Egyptians, Hitt-ites, Canaanites, OT, John the Baptizer and possibly the ways and sayings of traveling Greek Cynics.


      For added "pizzazz", Catholic theologians divided god the singularity into three persons and invented atonement as an added guilt trip for the "pew people" to go along with this trinity of overseers. By doing so, they made god the padre into god the "filicider".

      Current RCC problems:

      Pedophiliac priests, an all-male, mostly white hierarchy, atonement theology and original sin!!!!

      2 b., Luther, Calvin, Joe Smith, Henry VIII, Wesley, Roger Williams, the Great “Babs” et al, founders of Christian-based religions or combination religions also suffered from the belief in/hallucinations of "pretty wingie thingie" visits and "prophecies" for profits analogous to the myths of Catholicism (resurrections, apparitions, ascensions and immacu-late co-nceptions).

      Current problems:
      Adulterous preachers, pedophiliac clerics, "propheteering/ profiteering" evangelicals and atonement theology,

      3. Mohammed was an illiterate, womanizing, lust and greed-driven, warmongering, hallucinating Arab, who also had embellishing/hallucinating/plagiarizing scribal biographers who not only added "angels" and flying chariots to the koran but also a militaristic agenda to support the plundering and looting of the lands of non-believers.

      This agenda continues as shown by the ma-ssacre in Mumbai, the as-sas-sinations of Bhutto and Theo Van Gogh, the conduct of the seven Muslim doctors in the UK, the 9/11 terrorists, the 24/7 Sunni suicide/roadside/market/mosque bombers, the 24/7 Shiite suicide/roadside/market/mosque bombers, the Islamic bombers of the trains in the UK and Spain, the Bali crazies, the Kenya crazies, the Pakistani “koranics”, the Palestine suicide bombers/rocketeers, the Lebanese nutcases, the Taliban nut jobs, the Ft. Hood follower of the koran, and the Filipino “koranics”.

      And who funds this muck and stench of terror? The warmongering, Islamic, Shiite terror and torture theocracy of Iran aka the Third Axis of Evil and also the Sunni "Wannabees" of Saudi Arabia.

      Current crises:

      The Sunni-Shiite blood feud and the warmongering, womanizing (11 wives), hallucinating founder.

      4. Hinduism (from an online Hindu site) – "Hinduism cannot be described as an organized religion. It is not founded by any individual. Hinduism is God centered and therefore one can call Hinduism as founded by God, because the answer to the question ‘Who is behind the eternal principles and who makes them work?’ will have to be ‘Cosmic power, Divine power, God’."

      The caste/laborer system, reincarnation and cow worship/reverence are problems when saying a fair and rational God founded Hinduism."

      Current problems:

      The caste system, reincarnation and cow worship/reverence.

      5. Buddhism- "Buddhism began in India about 500 years before the birth of Christ. The people living at that time had become disillusioned with certain beliefs of Hinduism including the caste system, which had grown extremely complex. The number of outcasts (those who did not belong to any particular caste) was continuing to grow."

      "However, in Buddhism, like so many other religions, fanciful stories arose concerning events in the life of the founder, Siddhartha Gautama (fifth century B.C.):"

      Archaeological discoveries have proved, beyond a doubt, his historical character, but apart from the legends we know very little about the circu-mstances of his life. e.g. Buddha by one legend was supposedly talking when he came out of his mother's womb.

      Bottom line: There are many good ways of living but be aware of the hallucinations, embellishments, lies, and myths surrounding the founders and foundations of said rules of life.

      Then, apply the Five F rule: "First Find the Flaws, then Fix the Foundations". And finally there will be religious peace and religious awareness in the world!!!!!

      April 22, 2012 at 11:57 pm |
    • CosmicC

      While I'm on board for "saving" misguided people for believing in myths and could accept the supposed tax savings, I'm disturbed by the ingrained hatred in your statements.

      May 3, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
    • Athiest

      He's right. A lot of lives and money would be saved if the lies, violence, and hatred of religion would end.

      All you religious folk are setting fine examples here in your responses. LOL. Here's to you, for prefering to go on hating and killing each other and wasting resources all in the name of some invisible bearded guy in the sky. Bravo, children, bravo. How proud your invisible father figure must be.

      May 17, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
  15. sweetie pie

    Mr. Pope shoule look into the Catechumenal Way. They are also on the wrong path!!!!!!!!!

    April 22, 2012 at 10:58 am |
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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.