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. Ty Davis

    Uh oh the Catholic Church is scared of losing even more followers!! Here's a tip, clergy: get relevant, stop manipulating people, and end the scandals!!!! -excatholic

    April 20, 2012 at 1:32 pm |
    • Faithful

      Ty – You're an EX-Catholic? I'm sorry for your loss.

      April 21, 2012 at 11:19 am |
  2. Joe

    Christianity is a complete joke. That religion of hate, violence, bigotry, and intolerance needs to go away. The other religions need to be right behind it...

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

      Yiu'll see how funny it is 3 minutes after you die!

      April 21, 2012 at 11:21 am |
  3. ZoeyJ

    My last QUESTION............in todays world with war, unemployment, disease, hate, hunger, homeless, etc.......
    WHO would really listen to an OLD MAN who wears a long dress and red Prada shoes and a bad hat ????
    This is 2012........I am a masculine tattooed gay man, if I dressed that way and said what the Pope says .............
    WHO THE HELL WOULD LISTEN OR BELIEVE ME ???????????????????????
    (I would probably be mugged)

    April 20, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
  4. Ellen

    And the Catholic Church wonders why we leave in droves! "Daddy" will now be keeping the nuns in their places, but not the priests.

    April 20, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
  5. TomS

    Has CNN given up on unbiased reporting? I expect this kind of report from FOX. It is quite obvious where the commentator stands on this issue.

    It also gives everyone a chance to vent about the Catholic Church, which I'm sure helps everyone feel better about themselves.

    I think I'll try the other "unbiased" new sources.

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

      U are leaving CNN ............Please don't tease all of us 🙂

      April 20, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
    • Primewonk

      Tom – the report has been released to the public. Please post where this article about the report is wrong.

      April 20, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
  6. Deligoer

    Take that you silly bruts! I left that Church because of the Male Dogmas running it. You were scared of us then, you're scared of us now. The Earth will only come to Peace when Women Rule.

    April 20, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
  7. wildwallaby

    Hurting children gets you a circus to hide the accused and guilty. Talking about conception to death improperly gets you in trouble? Sure, that makes perfect sense.

    April 20, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
  8. billx

    This is the holy version, or sister plan, on the dynomic duo's WAR on Women. He makes republicans proud.

    April 20, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
  9. wonderwall

    Maybe they should "convert" to be Episcopalian. All the same rites as the Catholic, but with women Reverends and openly gay.

    April 20, 2012 at 1:23 pm |
  10. stanton


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

      TRUE.......don't forget BINGO !!!

      April 20, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
  11. ELH

    "dogma–a principle or set of principles laid down by an authority as incontrovertibly true"

    Whatever the Pope says is the truth.
    Whatever Obama says is the truth.
    Whatever Romney says is the truth.

    We're screwed.

    April 20, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
  12. Alyssa

    When you can't even keep the nuns 'in line'....you've got SERIOUS problems! Glad we left and found a tolerant church.

    April 20, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
  13. Aerin

    Good for the Nuns.

    The Bishops can go to H3LL.

    April 20, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
    • ZoeyJ

      and THE NUNS (for the most part) are GOOD 🙂

      April 20, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
  14. Fuyuko

    Of course, do you honeslty expect an all male patriarchy to value issue for women and anything that doesn't fit into their narrow world view.

    April 20, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
  15. ZoeyJ

    This is just nature taking its course.........The Pope has judged and condemned gays, birth control, abortion, other governments, etc..............
    Sad to say now it is the NUNS turn.........Jesus protect us from Your followers............
    Maybe the Pope is in the mood for a good torture session imposing his doctrine, it has been awhile!

    April 20, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
    • ZoeyJ

      PS.............I can't wait for the Bishops and Priests turn, we will all want to tune in for that !!!

      April 20, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
  16. Joan

    Good for the Vatican!! If you want to claim being a Catholic, then abide by the rules! If not, don't let the door hit you on the way out!

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

      @ Joan
      You define stupid so well...........

      April 20, 2012 at 1:23 pm |
    • xeno

      But do let your husband beat you if you get out of line?

      April 20, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
    • Primewonk

      I wonder what would have happened if Galileo and Bruno had kept quiet?

      April 20, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
    • MK

      Good for YOU, Joan!! Good for you for being submissive to a bunch of child-molesting men! Good for you for following blindly whatever they say without thinking for yourself! Good for you!!

      April 20, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
  17. uglybugger

    Boy, the Catholic Church really goes out and WORKS at making itself irrelevant. I hope those nuns tell the pope where to stick it and continue their work to make life better for real people, not red-robed old men who have long since lost touch with reality.

    April 20, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
    • Susan

      I so agree!

      April 20, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
    • Jim Delaney

      Now is the time for the Catholic Church of the USA to separate from the Vatican

      April 20, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
  18. Rosiewb

    Anyone who follows Catholic Doctrine follows what the Pope believes is correct. This is not a issue of political correctness this is a issue of faith. You either follow or leave your choic no one holds you tied to a pew in church.

    No one tells you to stay but if you says your are a catholic nun your follow your pledges that you make when entering your sisterhood to follow the mandated of your bishops, cardinal and the Pope. You were not forced into this postion it was your choice.

    I am tired of people thinking that church doctrine must follow what is considred "political correct" in America. The Catholic church is more than just this an American religion. The catholic church has been world wide for 2000 years. Yes there have been some terrible decisions made during the centuries since Christ and terrible things done in the name of God, but some of the best examples of the Catholic church are Mother Teresa and Pope Paul VI. They lived Jesus Christ messeage simply to 1) Love God with all your heart 2) Love you neighbor and take care of each other. If people could simply follow those two ideas that are over 2000 years old, what a better world we would have.

    So if you don't like their rules don't go to a catholic church find your own way to worship your higher power. But don't judge what you truly don't understand or think should be changed to be policitally correct.

    April 20, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
    • nigelrus

      I agree completely. That's why I was baptized catholic, went to catholic schools for 8 years and religion classes for 2 additional years – and now I refuse to set a foot in the catholic church. They're hypocrits!

      April 20, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
    • gjp


      April 20, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
    • gino

      This is the Inquisition all over again. At least we can hope they will not be torturing these nuns to get them to retract or burning them if they don't retract.

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

      To the person who stopped going to church because it's full of "hypocrites" ... don't bother staying away for that reason, because there's always room for one more!

      April 20, 2012 at 1:37 pm |
    • Alyssa

      While what you say is correct- the problem is that the church CONTINUES to focus on ALL the issues that DIVIDE us. As an example- our local Catholic church 3 years ago passed out a pamphlet from our local Bishop. It was on 'voting' It didnt name names but said...and I am NOT mincing words here...that if we vote for ANY candidate that is NOT pro life- that we MUST confess our sins in confession and NOT receive communion until we do so and that voting for a pro choice candidate- REGARDLESS of what that person believes about helping the poor or saving the earth is a GRAVE sin. My question is WHY focus on that?! Our Catholic church is roughly 90% DEMOCRAT and our church leaders KNOW this. WHY push us away? WHY tell us that we MUST vote REPUBLICAN??? This was the straw that broke the camels back for us- we never went back to church. We've joined a church that is a very tolerant church (United Church of Christ) and are baptizing our son there on Sunday. SO happy we left!

      April 20, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
    • MaryM

      Evolve or die, your choice church

      April 20, 2012 at 6:12 pm |
  19. Publius Novus

    I would greatly appreciate it if the Roman Catholic Church would refrain from pushing its views on marriage. The RCs can marry whomever they wish. And the rest of us can marry whomever is authorized by their own religion, or if no religion, by the state. The Pope has no business telling non-RCs who, what, when, or whether to marry.

    April 20, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
  20. PeteW

    The Church recently seems to be more about trying to control dissent (as if you can chain minds) and compliance with 200-year old bad policies / illogical logic in reaching contrived and untenable theological positions. What happened to Vatican II? (love God, neighbor). Or for that matter, doing the right thing? The Church has its collective minds stuck in the Middle Ages, and the present Pope's cardinal appointments just make things worse, locking in the totally inflexible thinking. This is the mindset that has emptied churches and cathedrals in Europe. A lot of people are voting with their feet by not attending Mass due to silly stuff like this from the Church. Have they left the Church, or has the Church left them?

    April 20, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
    • Zog, Caveman Extraordinaire

      Ah, but you can chain minds. It's called brainwashing.
      How can you ignore that? It's their biggest tool for committing crime!

      April 20, 2012 at 1:19 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.