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. Michael D.


    What? God doesn't keep you up-to-date? ...shocked I tell you, shocked!


    April 19, 2012 at 5:21 pm |
    • Chris

      Pretty sick. Nice little cult you have there satan benedict

      April 20, 2012 at 10:07 am |
    • Chris

      re·li·gion noun \ri-'li-j?n\
      A mass human psychosis that usually results in participants believing in incredibly silly crap and acting like total retards.......

      April 20, 2012 at 5:08 pm |
  2. David

    lol..and yet the Conservative right yet again will be all over Fox news tonight trying to convince us that there is no war on woman.

    April 19, 2012 at 5:21 pm |
    • GodPot

      It's the war on Christmas their fighting that must be sapping all their resources...

      April 19, 2012 at 5:26 pm |
    • GodPot


      April 19, 2012 at 5:26 pm |
  3. marcus

    the fact there are an estimated 1 BILLION catholics worldwide, says a LOT about the intellectual capacity of the average human.. they'll follow a religion with rampant pedophilia, a religion run exclusively by men running around in cult garb, imitating cult-like rituals.. it's so sad to see how little humanity has progressed over the past 100 thousand years..

    April 19, 2012 at 5:19 pm |
    • visitor

      It actually has a lot going for it, for a religion...unfortunately, this latest crop of Bishops and this d-bag of a Pope are going to drive any last thinking woman out of it.

      April 19, 2012 at 6:39 pm |
    • Isaac

      You forgot that it is also infested with a Satanic cult as per its former chief exorcist, Father Amorth. When he was interviewed by Catholic news agency, he said that there were priests, monsignors and cardinals practicing Satanic rituals in the Vatican. If anyone has an opportunity to read a bit of RC history, it is the most vile, evil that anyone has witnessed. Back during Vatican ll, one of the cardinals said, after a plea for God's help, "We don't need God because we have the cardinals to decide." Catholics have a political figure, an ambassador, from Italy, in Washington, in the guise of a spiritual head, but in fact he is protecting the political interests of a state set up by Mussolini. I still cannot understand why any true American swearing the oath of allegiance can be faithful to this foreign power.

      April 19, 2012 at 7:37 pm |
    • crackedskull44

      Oh yes how vile. Too bad the RC were the ones that also took part in modernizing science. Lets forget Pasteur and Cassini. Pick and choose all you like, but the truth hurts.

      April 20, 2012 at 11:30 am |
    • gerald

      Rampant with pedophillia? In the US the percentage of priests convicted of this crime is far lower than the general public. Less than 2% to about 7% in the general public. The fact is our society is sick. Your facts are skewed by your prejudice.

      April 20, 2012 at 11:46 am |
    • crackedskull44

      let me expand the list of "idiots" for you as you state:

      Pasteur: Germ theory of Disease
      Nicholas Copernicus: Discovered earth revolves around the sun
      lenoardo da vinci: Well, enough said
      Pierre Duhem – French physicist and philosopher of science
      Gregor Mendel – A MONK who discovered genetic inheritance

      Far superior minds to your own...

      April 20, 2012 at 11:54 am |
  4. Ivan

    Well, I am sure they are not ass raping anyone.....maybe that is the problem.

    April 19, 2012 at 5:18 pm |
  5. nino

    Organized religions are the TRUE evil of the world!!! It's a boys club, women are second class human being. the difference between catholics and muslim is VERY small, as you can see!!!

    April 19, 2012 at 5:17 pm |
    • Justin

      I couldn't agree with you more. I was raised catholic but have since distance myself from the church because of the extreme hypocrisy and corruption. The only moral individuals in the church are the nuns who have been oppressed for centuries. Look at the catholics who actually try to do good for humanity (Mother Theresa and Sister Mary Scullion just to name a few). While the men (Bishops, Cardianls, and Pope) only care about money and power. The Catholic Church disgusts me, I wish the nuns would break off and from their own church, one that cares about the poor and needy instead of themselves.

      April 19, 2012 at 5:37 pm |
  6. Michael D.

    "The greatest educated knowledge and wisdom on earth is found among the Catholic clergy. God bless"

    Really? Where might one find that? It must be quite the elusive animal, as no one has been able to point out the "educated knowledge" or the "wisdom" thus far.

    April 19, 2012 at 5:16 pm |
    • crackedskull44

      here let me help you...

      Pasteur: Germ theory of Disease
      Nicholas Copernicus: Discovered earth revolves around the sun
      lenoardo da vinci: Well, enough said
      Pierre Duhem – French physicist and philosopher of science

      April 20, 2012 at 11:49 am |
  7. visitor

    There were too Silent for the Bishops? They didn't get into the trenches about abortion enough for the Bishops? I'll bet they aren't even making coffee enough for the Bishops, and aren't caddying for them either. The NERVE.

    Proof positive that church is a MAN's Church. Women, shut up and cook and wipe ar-ses. That's all you're good for.

    April 19, 2012 at 5:16 pm |
    • MarylandBill

      No one requires these women to be Catholic Religious. Choosing to be a member of a religious order in the Catholic Church means accepting the Church's doctrines; all of them, not just those you happen to agree with.

      April 19, 2012 at 5:20 pm |
    • J.W

      I think if there is a church doctrine that many do not agree with there should be a discussion of that doctrine, and perhaps a revision of it.

      April 19, 2012 at 5:24 pm |
  8. Bill Ball

    Time for you to leave grasshopper

    April 19, 2012 at 5:16 pm |
    • Bill Ball

      Sorry, I meant " grasshoppers"

      April 19, 2012 at 5:17 pm |
  9. jason snowpeas

    I love it when non-sense falls apart!

    April 19, 2012 at 5:15 pm |
  10. marjee123

    And they covered up all those pedofile priests. The Catholic Church is sure predjuiced aren't they. Hide the men and scold the women.

    April 19, 2012 at 5:11 pm |
  11. Mary Bryant

    The Catholic church has more to worry about than a bunch of nuns. Most Catholic doctrine is not Bible based and has been
    written by man. Read the Bible people!

    April 19, 2012 at 5:11 pm |
    • JIM

      You may not recall, but you are merely a rib. If and when you evolve to attain a brain, then your opinion will be requested – so it is written.

      April 19, 2012 at 5:16 pm |
    • lou

      Fact check.... The Bible is also written by man

      April 19, 2012 at 5:18 pm |
    • MarylandBill

      The history of the Bible and the history of the Church are tied together. The books of the New Testament may have all been written in the 1st or very early 2nd century, but they were sifted out from all the alternate books by the Church and assembled into the Bible over the next 300+ years. No Church no Bible. That Church later split to form the modern Orthodox and Catholic Churches, both of which look a lot more like the early Church than modern "Bible based" Churches.

      April 19, 2012 at 5:24 pm |
    • Hannitysdog

      Bible based? Written by man?

      Oh the irony.

      April 19, 2012 at 5:24 pm |
    • J.W

      How do we know the Catholic church looks more like the early church?

      April 19, 2012 at 5:26 pm |
    • btinc

      Oh, yes, reading the Bible will solve the Catholic church's problems. Because there is only one interpretation of biblical writing.

      April 20, 2012 at 11:03 am |
  12. relmfoxdale

    Boy, when your nuns are considered too progressive, you know you've got problems.

    April 19, 2012 at 5:09 pm |
  13. Nonimus

    It may just be the way the article is written, but are they really reprimanding the nuns simply for being "silent" on "right to life" and "human s.exuality.”?

    Seems silly...

    April 19, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
  14. Snow

    Wow.. this church really do ha.te women everywhere, huh? even those who pled.ged their life to them are not left out.. Why do women ever follow them?

    Oh.. I get it.. I think those men are mad that women get to wear more dres.ses than they do.. 🙂

    April 19, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
    • bannister

      I think you hate women.

      April 19, 2012 at 5:11 pm |
    • JIM

      Snow you may wash and iron my shirts. You don't have ot keep your dress on if your'e of the proper proportions and weight. Don't mention it, no need to thank me for my generousity.

      April 19, 2012 at 5:13 pm |
  15. Denis

    Every time there is a news article regarding the Catholic church, there is a major split between what the Vatican thinks, says and does, and what a lot of Catholics actually practice and believe. It's ironic that the Vatican is calling for "reform" in this case and not seeing that doctrinal differences are inevitable. I'm shocked by either the stupidity, or attempted power play done by the Vatican.

    April 19, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
    • just sayin

      "I'm shocked by either the stupidity, or attempted power play done by the Vatican."
      Some of us are not shocked. The Catholic Church/Vatican is a dying animal that doesn't know it is dying yet.

      April 19, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
    • just sayin

      However to the less educated ignorant masses, the Vatican is relevent.

      April 19, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
    • J.W

      It would be nice if the doctrine did change, but the infallibility doctrine may keep other doctrines from changing

      April 19, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
    • just sayin

      The greatest educated knowledge and wisdom on earth is found among the Catholic clergy. God bless

      April 19, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
    • Pat Kingsbury

      This latest from the Vatican just calls for another long heartfelt sigh. I'm afraid we're just doomed for more of the same until we get another Pope John or Vatican III. Instead of acknowledging the good works the nuns are presently doing, he looks for areas of contention that bother him. Or maybe it's just his way of getting on the 6:00 news.

      April 19, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
    • GodPot

      "the infallibility doctrine may keep other doctrines from changing"

      You would think that if God can grant a human the power to be infallible, he could grant them immortality or at least non-fall-ability as they got older...

      April 19, 2012 at 5:22 pm |
  16. William Demuth569ad87ce444b97a465a33fb2159cb9a3ce27adf

    Perhaps coded names?

    April 19, 2012 at 3:23 pm |
    • William Demuth569ad87ce444b97a465a33fb2159cb9a3ce27adf

      Or maybe a simpler code?


      April 19, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
  17. Bill

    The Vatican leaders are always trying to blast nuns. And boys.

    April 19, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Alas, they prefer to mow the carpet!

      Gym teachers one and all.

      No wonder they are trying to be liberal!

      Legendary cruelty.

      Now Class, SHUT UP!!!!!

      April 19, 2012 at 3:19 pm |
  18. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things

    April 19, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
    • Birch please


      April 19, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
    • 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 19, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
    • Michael D.

      Sure changed the lives of those altar boys....although the jury's out on those amputees praying for new limbs.

      April 19, 2012 at 5:18 pm |
    • tlapoint

      I've never known an animal or plant to feel the need to go worship a diety. As far as children–it's far better to teach them to rely on their intellect rather than the absolutely FALLIBLE religions that plague society today; then the future generations can extinguish this mass perpetuation of ignorance and weakness.

      April 19, 2012 at 5:21 pm |
    • marcus

      take a few minutes sometime to analyze how UNhealthy theism has been for children and other living things historically.. i have NEVER wasted a minute of my life filling my children's minds with religious rubbish.. i've taught them to love and respect and admire the vast beauty of nature.. try and make an actual case for your nic...

      April 19, 2012 at 5:23 pm |
  19. MC

    So the most important thing the vatican can address is a difference of opinion with some nuns. how about focusing on responding to the very serious problem of priests raping children. Get your heads out of your assess.

    April 19, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
    • Jnan


      April 19, 2012 at 5:07 pm |
    • WAN

      For your information, and please see the statistics.... out of 49,000 American priests 99.98% are holy men of God and the other 2% are pediphile.

      April 19, 2012 at 5:11 pm |
    • visitor

      2% pedophile, 100% accessories.

      April 19, 2012 at 5:18 pm |
    • Michael D.

      "For your information, and please see the statistics.... out of 49,000 American priests 99.98% are holy men of God and the other 2% are pediphile."

      And you're good with that number? Is that it?

      April 19, 2012 at 5:20 pm |
    • Dogonabone

      @WAN, with those numbers you've pulled from your hat, it's almost like not having any victims at all.

      April 19, 2012 at 5:33 pm |
    • Bob

      2% pedofiles, that we know of. How many famlies were paid off for their silence ? How many kid touchers were moved to other parishes to avoid arrest. Since you can now eat meat on Friday the scriptures must not be set in stone and are subject to change at the Popes discression

      April 20, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
  20. David Nelson

    Fox is pushing Right Wing Catholicism and CNN is pushing Left Wing Catholicism. Where is a christian to turn for news?

    April 19, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Perhaps reality?

      April 19, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
    • Nonimus

      What? God doesn't keep you up-to-date? ...shocked I tell you, shocked!

      /lousy sarcasm

      April 19, 2012 at 5:00 pm |
    • commenter

      I agree, news should be unbiased

      April 19, 2012 at 5:13 pm |
    • Iron Celt

      It would be best if, instead of taking time to watch/read the news, we could use that time to volunteer at the food pantry or just write them a check. But inertia and even the well-hidden location/details of the pantry make it hard.

      April 19, 2012 at 5:25 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.