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. Foreverwar

    They should think about joining the rest of us who live in this century.

    April 20, 2012 at 10:13 am |
    • Jim

      Why should the teaching change for your little insignificant world? To make YOU feel better?

      April 20, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
    • Primewonk

      @ Jim – because what these churches – catholic and others – "believe" is simply wrong. What they tell their members to believe is simply wrong. Gays are not icky. Women are not less than men – er, wait – women do not have a differnt function in life as sevants of god.

      This is no different than the catholic church of the 1600's proclaiming that heliocentricity was heretical, or the SBC in the 1860's proclaiming that god wanted them to own black people.

      Who better to tell the "leaders" they are wrong, than the very members of the church?

      April 20, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
  2. Carol Palmeri

    Just another reason to leave the church.... glad I did.

    April 20, 2012 at 10:13 am |
    • Jim

      Now you are alone 🙂

      April 20, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
  3. NauticalMan

    Amazing. Decades of sweeping molesters under the rug, but now they go after nuns. But hey, their woman, right!?

    April 20, 2012 at 10:11 am |
    • Emm


      April 20, 2012 at 10:16 am |
    • Jim

      There are and have been millions of priests that have lived and acted according to the Truth. Don;t use the acts of a few hundred as an excuse

      April 20, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
  4. Anonymous

    After reading the posts, not so sure it is the Catholics that are the issue....feels like its the bunch of people that post horrible comments on a democratic website. Wish people would just be polite to everyone.

    April 20, 2012 at 10:10 am |
  5. To Atheist & Theist

    Atheist & Theist are debating in a room suddenly bom explode – now they don't need to debate they know the truth.

    Christopher Hictchen criticize Mother Theresa, Mother Theresa prayed for him. THEY ARE DEAD – NOW BOTH OF THEM KNOW THE TRUTH.

    YOUR TIME TO DIE WILL COME – don't worry you will know the truth.

    April 20, 2012 at 10:10 am |
    • Well said

      Well said!

      April 20, 2012 at 10:12 am |
    • edhensley

      They are both dead, so they do not know anything anymore. Hitchens knew the truth before he died. Mother Teresa did not.

      April 20, 2012 at 10:15 am |
    • Joe

      And your point is?

      April 20, 2012 at 10:38 am |
  6. blessings

    We must be true to our "Conscious". The problem is we all believe we are being true to our Conscious. The nuns have asked for prayer and prayers are on the way for them and for the rest of us Catholics who are as divided in our beliefs and loyalties as the country is divided on policy. Yet, Christ will prevail!

    April 20, 2012 at 10:09 am |
    • willard43

      Do you mean "conscience?"

      April 20, 2012 at 10:16 am |
  7. Carl

    If these nuns realize that discrimination against women and gays is morally wrong... why are they still catholics? Doesn't that doctrinal immorality make it clear that this divine inspiration stuff is all nonsense?

    April 20, 2012 at 10:09 am |
    • Jim

      They are confused and perhaps think too much of themselves

      April 20, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
    • Jim

      It sounds like YOU are confused also

      April 20, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
    • Primewonk

      Jim – if the "church" still taught that heliocentricity was blasphemous, should the church members who knew that this was wrong, sit quietly and say nothing?

      April 20, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
  8. killallthewhiteman

    They were not molesting, judging, and bossing around enough people.

    April 20, 2012 at 10:08 am |
  9. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things..

    April 20, 2012 at 10:06 am |
    • Carl

      Then why not pray for atheists to become religious? And if it doesn't work, give up on this BS.

      April 20, 2012 at 10:10 am |
    • just sayin

      There are 7 billion people on the planet, what makes you think the opinion about prayer begins and ends with you? God bless

      April 20, 2012 at 10:13 am |
    • willard43

      What does that remotely have to do with this conversation?

      April 20, 2012 at 10:17 am |
    • Primewonk

      @willard – it hass nothing to do with this, or any other story.

      This is an ignorant, fundiot (fundamentalist îdiot), sockpuppet troll. This troll has dozens of fake ID's and he or she spams every board here.

      April 20, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
  10. EJB

    I gave up Catholicism for Lent in 1978.

    April 20, 2012 at 10:01 am |
    • Chris

      Are you done trying to control everybody with your cult?

      Pretty sick

      April 20, 2012 at 10:06 am |
    • Blaise

      Yes–Christ spits the lukewarm from his mouth.

      April 20, 2012 at 10:16 am |
  11. momoya

    It's time to kick Catholicism out of America.. We don't need the law on our side, we just need to protest about as much as the folks for Trayvon Martin.. I mean, hasn't the catholic church done about a million more times harm than Zimmerman?! C'mon, let's route these fvckers out and kick 'em back to Europe.

    April 20, 2012 at 10:01 am |
    • Zog, Caveman Extraordinaire

      We will crush our enemies and see them driven before us!

      April 20, 2012 at 10:08 am |
    • Carl

      And hear the lamentations of their nuns!

      April 20, 2012 at 10:10 am |
    • J.W

      Where in Europe will they all live? There are a lot of Catholics here. The will not all fit in Vatican City.

      April 20, 2012 at 10:36 am |
    • Jim

      You are seriously foolish

      April 20, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
  12. MaryM

    GROW UP CHURCH, or you will be left behind

    April 20, 2012 at 10:01 am |
  13. SteveB

    The audacity of these nuns trying to stay relevant to the needs of God's children! They are the only hope for keeping the catholic church alive in the US. As a catholic I am so pround of these women for actually living out their faith.

    April 20, 2012 at 10:00 am |
    • blessings


      April 20, 2012 at 10:05 am |
    • Zog, Caveman Extraordinaire

      But that's just the point. They are NOT living out their faith.
      They are ignoring the misogynistic laws of their religion and the misogynists at the top don't like it.
      They have already turned away from the overblown and overdone micromanaging ways of the Vatican.
      They might as well form their own church now and ignore the Pope. They have too much sense to be good Catholics.

      April 20, 2012 at 10:12 am |
    • ForGoodOfAll

      I am proud of these women for taking a stand against female discrimination in the Catholic Church. It is about time!

      April 20, 2012 at 10:22 am |

    Life denying, female denigrating, PEDOPHILE protecting hypocrits who pay no taxes on billions in real estate holdings. Do they still have any credibility? Time to evolve past this BS!!!!!

    April 20, 2012 at 9:59 am |
    • Zog, Caveman Extraordinaire

      Trillions, not billions. It's amazing how so few people really have any idea of the full extent of the RCC holdings.

      April 20, 2012 at 10:13 am |
    • ForGoodOfAll

      I am glad that the dirty secrets, cover-ups, discrimination toward women, etc. are finally coming to light. There is a 'god' afterall, and 'he' does not approve of catholicism, at the least the way the pope, cardinals, bishops, priests insist on running things...

      April 20, 2012 at 10:31 am |
  15. Joe

    A Catholic, this maybe one of our darkest days of this century. I would say in a long time, but come on, this Church screws up a lot. And I mean lot. If this is the start of the so-called "War" the Bishops then I hope they are in for a serious surprise.

    April 20, 2012 at 9:57 am |
    • ForGoodOfAll

      As an former catholic who went through 13 years of catholic school (inc. kindergarden), I have renounced my religion due to the atrocious & pathetic scandals and cover-ups that have surfaced in recent years. I do not feel guilty about my decision; rather, I feel free from a tremendous burden...

      April 20, 2012 at 10:45 am |
  16. St. Umbridge

    What the church calls 'reform' is simply its way of trying to force back independent minded nuns, women and other believers who allow themselves to use their brains and be critical of church doctrine. They are the best in the catholic church, they would sustain and reform and renew the church, and bring back vibrancy. But oh nooooo, the pope can't have that. He must be in power through and through. So, the cath. church keeps dying out.

    April 20, 2012 at 9:57 am |
  17. chip

    Wow, way to take on the relevant issues of the day, Papists. Feminist nuns get rebuked while child raping priests get moved around and covered up. Way to show that selective outrage, you hypocrite in your ivory castle and golden robes!

    April 20, 2012 at 9:55 am |
  18. yakman2

    Cat Lick church out of touch with reality as usual!!!

    April 20, 2012 at 9:52 am |
  19. Billy C

    Weird. Weren't the same bishops crying just yesterday that *their* freedoms were being violated by the new healthcare laws?

    Why in the world is religious hypocrisy still news?

    April 20, 2012 at 9:50 am |
  20. Jake

    Wow. The Vatican is quite swift on nuns who have helped ALL people including those the Vatican sees as apparently not to be helped. Furthermore, the Vatican contends that these nuns are advocating what they see as extremist feminst view not consistent to the 100% male-dominated Vatican's views. Yet, for some reason it has taken the Vatican how many freekin' years to address the molestation of children under male priests? YOU GO NUNS! It is the Vatican who is doing Satan's work....you nuns are doing God's work.

    April 20, 2012 at 9:50 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.