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.

CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories

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. asdf

    I never understood how women can be Catholics. Why would you ascribe to a religion that literally defines you as an underclass? Women catholics are like black KKK members.

    April 20, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
    • JCMars

      What a bigot you are! Hope your brown shirt fits properly.

      April 20, 2012 at 1:10 pm |
    • BADGUY

      I think the "brown shirts" are the one's who wear red cloaks over the top!

      April 20, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
    • Isaac

      Have you heard of the battered wife syndrome? That is how Catholic women stay in the church. I recall one of my neighbors asking me, "What is the alternative?", even though she agreed with the abuse of women, children and laity. I asked her is she would take that abuse from her husband. Her eyes opened up. I asked her what she would do if she would take that abuse from any other organization. It is like being in an abusive relationship and then asking, "Where else can I go?" Surely we are not meant to stay. And for those who say that they are meant to fix it then I am afraid that it is the Stockholm syndrome. I can assure you that leaving an abusive relationship will not get you to hell. Ask yourself: "Where are the fruits?" Then run!

      April 20, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
    • BADGUY

      I think the Catholic Church's ideals ARE a women's religion! Historical data points to it being practiced mostly by women in ancient Rome. Early Christian burial sites that have been excavated...WERE MOSTLY WOMEN!. it's the dogma and control MEN imposed on that religion to consolidate their economic, political and MILITARY power that warped it's original direction.

      April 20, 2012 at 1:37 pm |

    Rules regarding "politicial Activity" for 501(c)(3) certified religious organizations (in order to keep their tax free status):

    "Under the Internal Revenue Code, all section 501(c)(3) organizations are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office. Contributions to political campaign funds or public statements of position (verbal or written) made on behalf of the organization in favor of or in opposition to any candidate for public office clearly violate the prohibition against political campaign activity. Violating this prohibition may result in denial or revocation of tax-exempt status and the imposition of certain excise taxes"

    April 20, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
    • xeno

      I wonder, then, how the mormon church hasn't had it's tax exempt status revoked after what they did regarding the California ballot a few years ago?

      April 20, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
    • BADGUY

      Could be since it was directed at a specific issue not a candidate.

      April 20, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
    • RevMum


      Yep, you're right. BUT>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

      We really don't want to tax churches. You have NO IDEA how much good they do in the world, many without prosletyzing at all or pushing political agendas – just for love of others

      AND, speaking strictly as a citizen – it's a BARGAIN in terms of good of the country.

      April 20, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
    • BADGUY

      RevMum – I would agree...IF...the Catholic Church stays out of Politics. But...so far...it hasn't. It's radio stations, it Archbishop's letters and comments to the press are just an extension of the right wing, Republican, propaganda machine. NO WAY. The Catholic Church has been "rabidly" right wing since the Kerry/Bush election, with one or two Archbishops supporting Bush against Gore. It CAN'T DO that under IRS rules for 501(c)(3) tax free status. It is in violation of the "terms and conditions" for it's tax free status.

      April 20, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
    • RevMum

      BADGUY, I get your point, and you're right. It was underscored this week, with a Catholic bishop compared Obama to Hitler. And, there's that Catholic priest on FOX, whose name escapes me, who shills for far right R's. (How obscene.)

      If they keep this sort of thing up, there really will be a serious move re tax-exempt status. But I hope not. These sorts really are the 1% of Chrisitanity. Or the 1% of that which passes for Christianity, anyhow.

      Sigh. Not of relief. Just garden-variety sad.

      April 20, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
  3. CK

    Makes sense that the Pope and his cronies don't like what the nuns are doing. It's an all-male, conservative, patriarchal organization, and historically, such groups try to control women, such as in women's fights to get the vote, to get birth control, to have abortion made safe and legal, to own property, and the list goes on and on. I grew up catholic, escaped, and recovered. Thankfully, as an altar boy, and going to an all-boys school, I made it out unmolested. It's time for the light of freedom, justice, inclusion to shine into the dark recesses of this antiquated organization...and yes, because they don't believe in church/state separation apparently, it's time for them to pay their taxes like the rest of us. Go nuns, fight 'da man!

    April 20, 2012 at 1:00 pm |
    • Woman

      the nun organization should declare their independence and leave the church

      April 20, 2012 at 1:26 pm |
  4. closet atheist

    Love the headline!! Anything that involves "blasting" nuns gets my attention....

    April 20, 2012 at 1:00 pm |
  5. realitypgh

    Anyone ever read or seen Joseph Campbell's Power of Myth? The catholic myth has been abusing and killing people for thousands of years. These men are irrelevant, only they don't know it yet.

    April 20, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
    • Isaac

      Read the American Holocaust by Professor Stannard and see what murderers the Catholic churchmen really are. We are talking millions killed. Stannard is a well respected former Yale prof. All of us know the way Church helped Hitler during WWll. We won't talk about the Inquisition and the subsequent wars. For a religious organization, they sure have done a lot of killing.

      April 20, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
    • BADGUY

      Certainly the Catholic vote for the Nazi Party brought it to power in 1933. AND, shortly thereafter...the vote of the Catholic Center Party WITH the Nazi Party, gave Adolph Hitler the Dictatorial powers that lead Germany to World War II. Later, a "falling out" DID occur between the Catholic Church and the Nazi Party, but it was NOT about Hitler's policies toward the Jews. Rather, it was the Hitler's cancellation of the Neutrality "understanding", between the Nazi Party and the Catholic Church that caused a "parting of the ways".

      April 20, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
  6. Magic Jew

    The Vatican can lick my balls.

    April 20, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
    • Peter

      And wouldn't they just love to!

      April 20, 2012 at 12:59 pm |

    I think when Bush met with the Pope (2 times!) they stuck a deal. The Pope got support from the Republicans to slow down the lawsuits and the monetary awards for the Priest Scandal and the Republicans got the Pope's support in "swinging" the 57 Million Catholics to the Republican "cause". Can I prove it? No! But JUST LOOK at the "cozy" relationship between the Republicans and the Pope's Archbishops, ever since and make your OWN decision!

    April 20, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
    • asdf

      the GOP and the holy see didn't strike a deal, they just have similar interests.

      April 20, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
  8. kurmugn

    The Catholic church never has been right about any issue. They even put their self-serving spin on biblical interpretations.
    1. Call no man "Father"
    2. Pray to nothing or no one except God, the Father (not St. Christopher, Virgin Mary, Jesus, etc)
    3. Have no idols (not St. Christopher, Virgin Mary, Jesus, etc)

    April 20, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
    • Johnn

      Do you call your dad "father"? i do, and see nothing wrong with it.
      We CAtholics ask for the intereception of others, which is cover in the bible, we don't pray and adore them.
      The reference of the bible in regards idolatry is very clearly stated, but yuo seem not to be able to understand it. During those things where other god like figures. Please use to pray to the Sun, the Moon, The Rain, and The Romans had many gods as well. Since our Lord is a jealous person, he doesn't want us adoring and praying to anything else outside his faith.

      April 20, 2012 at 1:10 pm |
    • jamie

      Your God is a jealous person? How petty is that... I broke up with a jealous boyfriend.. it wasn't meant to work out...

      April 20, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
    • RevMum


      Our Lord is not a jealous person. .

      WE are jeaous people, and ascribe that quality to God as a means of explaining a concept in ways mere people can understand.

      God's way better than that, really.

      April 20, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
    • Isaac

      kurmugn, you are correct! The other guy, Johnn, is rationalizing his belief. In fact, in the one instance when Saul attempted to get in touch with the dead, we know what took place: he lost his kingdom. There are very strict prohibitions against talking to the dead. And get this: who decides if they are saints? Their RC church and this too is contrary to the Bible which states that all are saints and priests. Note also who most of the saints happen to be and in what country they happen to reside in? How convenient?

      April 20, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
  9. xeno

    I know this isn't about what's in the article, but what always amuses me is people that buy all of this "Not of this World" junk. I just do not understand how religious people square in their mind that Jesus would want them to buy a bunch of junk to plaster all over their car and wear all over their clothing. A small cross, other small religious symbols, sure, but this NOW stuff is just such an obvious exploitation of belief in the name of money, it's fairly disgusting.

    April 20, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
  10. palintwit

    Sarah Palin is the only one who can heal and re-unify our country. She must return to her motorhome and resume her cross country tour. She will have to visit cities both large and small, speaking only to "real Americans", dispensing her sage advice and folksy, homespun common sense solutions. We can be a great nation again but we must all follow the "Palin Path". In the days , weeks, and months to come, I will elaborate on the "Palin Path" so that everyone has a clear understanding of Sarah Palin's vision for our country.

    The first step in following the "Palin Path" is to swear an oath of loyalty to Sarah Palin. Most of the time a newbie will be asked to make a small donation to her political action fund. Also, newbies are usually required to provide a list of friends and family members who may not agree with Sarah Palin's vision for America.

    April 20, 2012 at 12:54 pm |
    • jeff

      hillarious! 🙂

      April 20, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
    • PulTab

      Agree with Jeff.

      April 20, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
  11. KC

    Why doesn't the Church clean up its act in regard to those priests who are pedophiles? They have done far more grave damage than any women religious who are "feminists". They have hurt and taken advantage of so many people –especially young people–and still they stonewall to keep their perverts hidden. The nuns try to serve people, they live a modest lifestyle. They are willing to work with people whom society often looks upon as garbage. Until the Church becomes more transparent and admits its past transgressions it has lost credibility. Remember what they teach–something that they themselves have forgotten–better a man should have a millstone tied around his neck and be drowned than cause the little children to turn away from God.
    So many Catholics have turned away from the Church and in a great part this is due to the scandalous behavior caused by some of the priests. Let them take the beam out of their own eyes before they go after the women religious.

    April 20, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
  12. Mark in canada

    As a Catholic, I am appalled at the beahviour of my Church – not even allowing dissent wiht respect to a stance regarding a piece of legislation! You disagreed with our men! Shame on you! Now, plesae go do good works like we told you to do. No wonder none of these guys ever married. If any of them had ever dated one of my sisters and treated them that way, they would have been eaten up and spat out while my brothers and I watched and laughed! What a bunch of bullies.
    Just like the overzealous Muslims who embarass the great mass of Muslim people, these "leaders" don't follow the teachings of their inspirer – in this case, Jesus. These fellows hardly embody a gentle spirit. And, by the way, I defy any of them to tell me where Jesus said "no" to birth control or to twist whatever excerpt they choose to justify that policy. and also just like the rabid Muslims, these rabid catholics are mysoginists – what a surprise, a group that holds power over another group demonizing the powerless. Grow up, gents!

    April 20, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
    • asdf

      I've got bad news. If you disagree with the Pope, you aren't a catholic. Its one of the defining qualities of catholicism. So step in line, or get out. Can't go halfway.

      April 20, 2012 at 12:59 pm |
    • gjp

      I'm appalled at folks like you who think that they have the authority to overrule the Church in its teachings. Do you really think that the Church should change its teachings so that it fits into your lifestyle. That the Church should overlook infidelity, killing of the innocents and immoral behavior just because it is convenient for you?

      April 20, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
    • Ed

      You bring me hope.

      April 20, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
    • Sct in Pgh

      You tell 'em gjp- it's only the church that gets to decide when the killing of innocents and immoral behavior is appropriate. After all, with all of their experience they are the ones that can be "trusted" with making that decision.

      April 20, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
    • RevMum


      But the nuns weren't overruling the Church's teachings – it is perfectly within Church teachings to serve the poor and the needy.

      They've done nothing wrong!

      April 20, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
    • BADGUY

      I thought Americans dispensed with the "Right of Kings" when we showed George III the door? The idea that "God" chooses the leader who is to rule over us...and any descension, any disagreement, any revolution against God's "chosen ruler" was AGAINST GOD, sinful and a capital crime, was long gone out of American beliefs. BUT.... now you say we MUST BELIEVE in the "God Ordained Right" of the Pope's rule as a part of being Catholic?...doesn't that violate the American Ideal?

      April 20, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
    • Primewonk

      The church spent centuries claiming that heliocentricity was heretical. Was the church correct, or wrong.

      April 20, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
  13. Doug

    I'm with badguy. Time to remove the church's tax exempt status.

    April 20, 2012 at 12:49 pm |
    • ZoeyJ

      BINGO !!!

      April 20, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
    • Peter


      April 20, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
    • J.W

      That is stupid.

      April 20, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
    • realitypgh

      Agreed !!

      April 20, 2012 at 1:04 pm |
    • Peter

      MAKE THAT ALL CHURCHES, SYNAGOGUES AND MOSQUES The Catholic Church became irrelevant centuries ago, they exist only in the numbers of people who call themselves Catholic and yet do not practice Catholicism, they pick and choose, Time for this dying mongrel religion to be put to death, the sooner the better

      April 20, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
    • RevMum

      It would be a bad deal for America, though.

      And a hugely unfair thing to all the churches who are NOT shilling for politicians – they would probably get caught up in the loss of tax-emept status.

      April 20, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
  14. marsmotel

    We should bomb the Vatican and take all the treasures they stole from everyone else throughout the years. Thou shall not kill....please!

    April 20, 2012 at 12:46 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      ..so the difference between you and the al-Qaeda? If you can't beat or convert them kill them huh.

      Like I have said ... the words on extreme sound more and more the same.

      April 20, 2012 at 12:52 pm |
    • marsmotel

      How many people were killed in the name of god and jesus? I am sorry that you do not get humor. you probably believe in that book that has no applicable meaning in today's world.

      April 20, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
  15. BADGUY

    Anyone for removing the Catholic Church's 501 (c) (3) tax exempt status?

    April 20, 2012 at 12:45 pm |
    • marsmotel

      I am in on that one.

      April 20, 2012 at 12:46 pm |
    • PulTab


      April 20, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      ... and other groups that others might not like but we like....should we remove those as well?

      April 20, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
    • xeno

      Yes! Not only from the catholic church, but all churches. The Mormon church abuses their tax exempt status more than anything I've ever seen. You don't have to look hard to see that our tax dollars are going to support mormon business, businesses that then reserve the right to kick you out if you are a woman that dares bare her shoulders. No joke.

      April 20, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
    • ZoeyJ

      BINGO !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (YES)

      April 20, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
    • George Washington

      I'm for removing all religious organizations tax exempt status....... Why should I have to pay for someone else's religion?
      If you want a church or whatever, pay for it yourself.

      April 20, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
  16. jenifer4377

    i think the cathlic church is way out of touch with todays woman. one some of us fell we have tha right to be priest in this country. if woman can have the opptunaty to play a sport like basketball we then sould have the right to be priest. the next reason women need to be priest is that men are not ansering the call to priesthood in this country. women would love to help out with the roll of priest so every church can have a priest in house. it also make me sad to see how narrow minded a group of men are in todays world.that is why i hope the church loses the case in the surprem court.

    April 20, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
  17. Eli

    The nuns, like all of us, answer to a higher Source than the bishops or Pope. Thank God they listen to the Spirit.

    April 20, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
    • JCMars

      Which one? Margaret Sanger's or the "Spirit of St. Louis?"

      April 20, 2012 at 1:08 pm |
    • RevMum

      What an EXCELLENT comment.

      April 20, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
  18. RevMum

    A P:

    "I thought we were talking about the nuns, not the abuse scandal?"

    Methinks thee hit it squarely on the head there.

    There must be a great sigh of relief there in the Vatican, finally having something other than pedophilia to which to move the subject of public comment.

    April 20, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
    • BRC

      Even so, it's not really a great move. It's shifting from "you touch children" to "you belittle and discriminate against women". I'm sure there are sighs, but they're probably more exhaustion than relief.

      April 20, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
    • RevMum


      Ah, but "touching children" is not socially acceptable. Belittling women is.

      It's quite in keeping, actually, with the .77 women make per dollar value of work; the denigration of women in the Mormon,fundamentalist Protestant, and Roman Catholic churches, and with one of our two princiapl political parties.

      No comparison at all! 🙂

      April 20, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
  19. PulTab

    I'll bet they would like to blast some nuns. They're no little boys but they're better than nothing.

    April 20, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
    • kcy1907

      Religion is not a forum of social corectness. The word of God is final and if you are a believer you cannot "interpret" or "adjust" it to suit your social agenda.

      It's Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve. And women can't be bishops. That's the way it is.

      April 20, 2012 at 12:49 pm |
    • asdf

      Yeah its adam and eve.

      and then cain and eve, and able and eve. gross.

      April 20, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
    • George Washington

      kcy1907, the church interprets it all the time to suit their agenda, just like they have in this story. If you think the organization of religion, run by humans, is the word of God, you missed the part of the bible that spoke of Jesus..... Jesus defied the church of his day and their version of the "word of God".

      April 20, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
    • Isaac

      @kcy1907- No, you cannot interpret the word of God because that authority has been given to the pope, by the pope. How convenient. At one time, priests could marry. Strange how your so called church is founded upon Peter who was married. I guess you had to re-interpret the scriptures! Now you are attacking the nuns. I wonder why. Here is a hint: money! Yes, they are the only ones who have properties that are off bounds and the church needs them. Why? Because the Vatican bank has been shut down because of money laundering and the RC church has been pretty well bankrupted by its crimes. So, where does it go for money? To the nuns? How? By attacking them. It is the old RC story. This is not anything new. You have been doing this for the past 1700 years. It has nothing to do with a higher power and everything to do with earthly power. The sooner you learn that the sooner you will be free.

      April 20, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
    • Not a baby machine

      @Isaac – You are correct. Priest were allowed to marry at one time but when they died all their property went to their wives and family and the RC did not like that idea. They wanted all the land and money for themselves so they changed the rules to fit their wants.

      The RC only sees women as good for one thing – baby machines. Years ago when my mother lost her ability to have more children to cancer the RC turned it's back on her. Not once while she was in the hospital before and after her surgery did the reisdent priest come to visit her, even though she listed herself as Catholic. However, several of the other faiths represented at the hospital did come by to give their blessings and prayers. Time for the Church to wake up an realize that if they continue to push away women and treat them as anything less than equal in the eyes of God that they will find themselves all alone with no renewal of patrons.

      April 20, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
  20. aizen

    so this pack of child molestors still wont listen or understand how the world evolves. they are stuck in the stone age and should be left there. why would anyone care what the catholic church says or think and for that matter, any other churches in this planet??? they are all parasites and control freaks...tax them all please! religion is bad for human beings, it is a waste of time and energy!

    April 20, 2012 at 12:38 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.