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. prophet

    the vatican is itself a transgressor of the bible

    April 20, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
  2. prophet

    whats interesting here is that the vatican catholics are doing things outside of the bibles doctrines.

    April 20, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
    • ZoeyJ

      You have a point, but don't sink to their level............

      April 20, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
    • Faithful

      Go and play in the traffic! Wuss

      April 23, 2012 at 9:28 pm |
  3. TamarS

    it's really sad to see how out of touch with the world the catholic church hierarchy is. we have been fighting it since 1963 but they insist on having it be a boys club with unequal treatment of women. sad, very sad.

    April 20, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
    • Jorge

      The CC believes that Jesus was the one that implemented the male only Tradition. And it does not matter if it sounds like a bunch of trash, these nuns can disagree and leave the Church whenever they want.

      April 20, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
  4. Jorge

    The nuns are not being forced to stay in the Church. If they feel like they have "had enough", they could leave. The problem here is that these nuns want to stay and preach Catholicism, even if the leaders of the faith are saying that what they are preaching is NOT Catholicism. The nuns have all the power to disagree and leave the Church if it is what they want.

    If the Catholic Church is "killing" itself by not implementing social reforms, then so be it; but one thing is for sure, the nuns are not being forced to "go down with the Church".

    April 20, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
  5. ZoeyJ

    WE ALL NEED TO STOP THIS HATING ON THE POPE................NOW..............
    instead we should all be looking forward to his next visit to AMERICA !!!

    April 20, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
    • SomeGuyInNC

      Um, why? So he can try to push us around a bit more?
      Have the old buzzard come back once he's relevant, please.

      April 20, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
    • Jorge

      Yes, to Los Angeles. CA could use the money generated by a papal visit.

      April 20, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
    • ZoeyJ


      I would like to see on the Popes next visit to America if he could continue to be so judgemental, CRUEL and hateful of these woman on American soil.
      I am a Jew, but I have worked with Nuns in the past, they are my friends, family and I am offended that this "POPE PERSON" is honored and is respected with such hate and negative thoughts/doctrine/agenda by people of God.

      April 20, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
    • Norman

      nope-the pope is an evil twisted hateful man-we shoudl all pray for his death

      April 20, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
    • Faithful

      Norman – if you're praying for the death of a evil, twisted, hateful man – you have effectively cursed him. Since HE is Christ's representative on earth, he has protection so your curse won't hurt him.

      BUT you know what happens to curses, don't you? If they can't harm the one you cursed, the curse comes back to you.

      You seriously need to sleep with one eye open.

      April 23, 2012 at 9:35 pm |
  6. Nax

    I was a priest and a monk who left the Church in 2002. I got in trouble by allowing a DISCUSSION about women's ordination in a college classroom. Sisters, I assure you, you will be more effective leaving the Church than staying in it and allowing it to disrespect and silence you. The Catholic Church is a whitewashed tomb, and it's getting so bad you can smell the stench seeping out from it.

    April 20, 2012 at 1:47 pm |
    • ZoeyJ

      THANK YOU...........the nuns are the kindness, compassion and love of the church.

      April 20, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
    • SomeGuyInNC

      Agreed. Ex-Catholic here, saying that when it comes to carrying out the commandments of Jesus himself, nuns rock.

      But having said that, being in a convent these days must be like being married to an abuser. Whenever I speak to a nun, I want to say, "lady, he ain't gonna change, the bruises are only going to get worse, so get out of the house now."

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

      I went to a Catholic all girls high school that was a 'sister' school to a Jesuit all boys school. We had SEVERAL nuns teaching...EX NUNS that is 🙂 We had 4 I believe, and they left for various reasons- ALL b/c they were 'just a bit too liberal' for the church's liking....I went to a Jesuit college too and GOODNESS! The pope should hang out there! OPENLY gay priests telling kids it's OK to be gay and to date and that God loves them and that what they are doing is not a sin! HAHAHAHHA!!! LOVE those Jesuits!

      April 20, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
    • Faithful

      Nax – I don't believe . You don't become a priest AND a monk. It's one or the other. IF you were once either one of them and you left – YOU obviously had a personal problem. Don't shove it on the Church.

      April 23, 2012 at 9:38 pm |
  7. eliaswittenberg

    Translation: the Pope is a bully and a tyrant.

    April 20, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
    • Rick O'Shea

      You for got misogynist.

      April 20, 2012 at 1:57 pm |


      April 20, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids


      but people like you do say exactly that.

      April 20, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
  8. Andy M

    Look up Share International for hopeful information on something extraordinary happening – miracles and signs of hope everywhere! There is a really interesting story to research, beyond all the superficial religious controversy and shallow news stories of the day. Humanity's future holds great promise.

    April 20, 2012 at 1:44 pm |
  9. Andy M

    The Teacher awaited by Christians (and other faiths under different names) is currently returning into the world. Not a vengeful figure out to punish and reward, but a man among us who is concerned about the major problems of our time – starvation in the midst of plenty, war & peace, saving our environment, and showing humanity a bright future ahead if nations learn to share and cooperate together.

    April 20, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
  10. Andy M

    These dogmatic arguments are big distractions from the reality of today. Religions must be there to support the people, provide healing and inner solace, but not to exclude and judge.

    April 20, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
  11. Sashatree

    Once AGAIN the male-dominated, closed minded, arcane, ANTI WOMAN catholic church, and its pompous leader with his big hats proves how insanely out of touch they are! No surprises judging from their past history!!

    April 20, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
  12. BK

    They get all up in arms about this? Where was your 'reforms' when your 'celibate' priests were molesting little boys? These people are monsters.

    April 20, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
  13. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    April 20, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
    • SomeGuyInNC

      Yep. Sends airliners into buildings.

      April 20, 2012 at 1:44 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      like rain dances change the weather.

      April 20, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
    • Desert Tripper

      Yep, prayer changes things – about the same ratio as random chance!

      April 20, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
  14. Sammy

    pedophile priest are ok....nuns who think for themselves? SHUT THEM DOWN!....gotta love catholics

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

      You got it, Sammy!

      April 20, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
  15. bill constantine

    Religion can be t he cancr of mankind. It controls people for their rights an d mentality. were we hear that the priest or church says that is god or bad and it is some other persons opinion only. Religon is good in its place. How many people out there are making money from Jeuses. Is your church helping the poor or sending bright kids on to college. .Remember that there are perverts within the church, so be carefull of your boys and irls. allways listen to them.Do not make priests and nuns their gods. becarefull out ther. give the facts to the childres as to what is out there..Bill he Greek from Sin city las vegas

    April 20, 2012 at 1:37 pm |
  16. Stephny

    These nuns are certainly welcome in the Episcopal Church!

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

      Help yourself!

      April 23, 2012 at 9:42 pm |
  17. Volator

    When these women became nuns, they took a series of vows. Among those vows is a vow to defend the Catholic faith and it's teaching. They also took a vow of obedience. Now, anyone who chooses to cast off those promises to God, may do so and take with them what ever consequences that holds for them. It is mighty arrogant to think that the CHURCH should follow you. God does not degenerate because man degenerates. God knew everything before he created anything. He does not change. If he does not change, the church cannot change. And, if you don't believe in God than I don't know why you would read this forum or care what the church does. Okay, resume hurling bricks.

    April 20, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
    • National Ethics Director

      Wow – well said.

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

      The hierarchy of the church is invested in nothing but power and money. It's been that way for centuries. It lost it's way a long time ago. So the claptrap about obedience is bull if the obedience is to that power structure.

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

      As much as I disagree with the RC church (and theism in general), you have a point. Either you believe the Church is the source of all truth & life everlasting, and must be obeyed.. or you don't.

      Besides, as painful as it may be, it's a lot easier to leave a holy order than, say, the US Marine Corps, if you disagree with a superior on matters of conscience.

      April 20, 2012 at 1:47 pm |
    • John

      Great Post! But I think your points are irrelevant because the people posting agains the Catholics are usually just as comfortable hurling insults at Jews, Mormons, Muslims, etc. Any- and every-one are fair game to this hate-filled 4% of America.

      April 20, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
    • lee

      I don't believe in a god or gods, but I definitely care what the Catholic church does simply because I care about people. The church affects many, many people. Sure it can provide (false) hope, but it is misogynistic, oppressive, anti-science and generally bad for people. When the Pope tells Africans that condoms are worse than AIDS, it has an affect on way more than Catholics.

      April 20, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
    • lee

      @John. I'm really not hate-filled and I think that you'll find most other atheists aren't either. Also note that the number of the non-religious is more like 15% http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irreligion_in_the_United_States not 4%. There are still less than half as many non-believers as there are Catholics, but we are gaining in a hurry!

      April 20, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
    • Norman

      volator-but deutoronomy orders women to marry their rapists-that changed, right? the bible is written by man, dumdum

      April 20, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
    • L

      yeah, and the priests also took a series of vows. and yet many priests commit the most egregious offenses upon defenseless children (who happen to be most loved by Christ) but the Catholic church turns a blind eye and sweeps it under the rug. talk about backward priorities here.

      April 20, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
  18. xeno

    If Jesus himself told the company that makes that "Not of this World" crap to stop selling that blasphemous junk, do you think they would listen? No. Religion isn't about goodness anymore, it's about money and control. Every time I see one of those stickers on someone's car, I think they're a sucker too lazy to actually devote to a religion, but would just rather buy something that says they are, so that their friends believe it. Lame.

    April 20, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
  19. yeahalright

    Make sure you get right on those uppity women and their thoughts.

    Make sure you delay and obfuscate and hide and enable and abet and delay and fight to the death when a sicko pervert priest molests a kid.

    Glad to see you got your priorities straight Vatican.

    April 20, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
  20. Andrew

    How dare those women view themselves as equal members of the human race.

    April 20, 2012 at 1:32 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.