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

    so many chrsitians are anitisemitic and yet this is what they believe in.

    April 20, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
  2. Mike - Dallas

    Sounds familiar... is the Pope running for the republican nomination?

    April 20, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
    • BADGUY

      With Rick Santorum..I think HE WAS! I think Rick had been "outfitted" with an "HDMI" port that led to the Pope's X-Box controller!

      April 20, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
  3. the second coming of the secondguy

    I am a catholic and it saddens me to see how much damage this pope is doing to our church and it's sad that Pope John Paul's work to spread good will is being undone single handedly by this Nazi

    April 20, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
    • Faithful

      You are NOT a Catholic. Catholics are intelligent people – they KNOW the Holy Father was only 15 years old when the war ENDED! That hardly makes him Himmler now does it?

      April 20, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
  4. TracyTackett

    Dear Pope Fartface the IV: when was the last time you heard about nuns raping little boys? Never? Great.

    April 20, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
  5. Leucadia Bob


    April 20, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
  6. pdxmum

    Yeah, well, at least the nuns aren't out molesting anyone. I guess in the Pope's eyes that's preferable to being a 'radical feminist'. You know, because wanting to be treated with the same respect as a man and wanting the same voice as a man is such a totally radical idea.

    April 20, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
    • BADGUY

      A FAR right wing sect, within the Catholic Church, "Opus Dei" was founded by a Fascist Priest who sided with Franco during the Spanish Civil War (and said he "admired" Adolph Hitler). Josemaria Esciva HATED women. Even today, the sect requires that women who live in the sect's "centers" clean the rooms of male members and wash their cloths. He blamed women for the down fall of mankind and that demeaning work would help "cleanse their souls". This right wing Pope is VERY attuned to Opus Dei and hopes to use it to eliminate leftist and progressive elements in the Church. Going after the Nuns is just one more example of Josemaria's contempt for women.

      April 20, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
  7. prophet

    People who belong to Our Saviour are praying for the misled christians to understand that they have been misled by the christians and their chrsitian religions.

    April 20, 2012 at 2:34 pm |
    • TracyTackett

      Methadone clinic down the block closed, Bubba?

      April 20, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
  8. Gerry Daley

    The Catholic Church in the US is nothing more than a wholly owned subsidiary of the Republican Party...the Republiban, as it were.

    April 20, 2012 at 2:34 pm |
  9. longtooth

    There is a time for every season. A time to gather stones to throw. A time to gather sticks to burn nuns at the stake. I hope the Pope's robes aren't flammable.

    April 20, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
    • TruthTeller

      Funny, but true. Come on religion is increasingly uncorrolated with ethics, faith and right-doing. Today and in the 21 century it is more like a fetish, than a set of priciples of ethics and respect for life through time. Turn your back on these cults of fetishes and find the light and guidance of virtue INSIDE not in some dark curch with a masacist statute of a human sacrifice.

      April 20, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
  10. prophet

    people who believe in Our Saviour have to accept that they will become Jewish if they are genuinely in search of The Truth of Our God and HIs Salvation.

    April 20, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
    • MoN

      Jesus is the messiah.

      Now shut up and go take your sleeping pills

      April 20, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
    • TruthTeller

      In my experience of knowledge and thoelogy what you say is not true. Spritual awaking makes one aware that being a slave sprit wether Jew or other slave religions is exactly what it says it is. It is the offering of the illuminated ones of masses of unilluminated humans for the purpose of keeping humanity illuminated and god life. for example the state of Israel is more like and offering of children of Israel from Yahoveh to Azazel. And the holocust of jews in WWII is more of a pagan offering of human sacrifise for development purposes. So as you spritually evolve, you become less and less interested in Jewish religions (being Islam, Judism, Christianity, or other slave mentality) and more and more interested in a notion of God and holiness that is one with humanity and not a separate set of myths.

      April 20, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
  11. Rebecca

    Having been raised Roman Catholic for the first 18 years of my life, I can state with certainty that it is impossible to be both a woman and a Roman Catholic. If you are one, you can never truly be the other. Fact.

    April 20, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
    • MoN

      Liar.... how so?

      April 20, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
    • longtooth

      You've been called a liar! Actually, a woman can be a true Catholic. You just have to give up your mind and your body to the Holy Roman Church, do as you're told, and keep silent. The College of Cardinals, the largest group of men who've never been in a relationship with a woman, clearly know what's best for you.

      April 20, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
    • Alyssa

      I'd agree if you said it's 'impossible to be a feminist and believe in the equality of men and women' and still claim to be Catholic. Whether you like it or not- the Catholic church does not believe men and women are equals. They believe that each gender has special qualities to bring to the table. Some say 'equal but different'.....but we tried that game before civil rights and we all know there is NO such thing as equal but different....either you ARE equal or you are NOT. One of the reasons we left (one of the MANY reasons) is that we wanted to start a family and it PAINED me to think of having a daughter and telling her she could NOT become a priest. I don't want to raise my children with the belief that men are higher than women.

      April 20, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
    • BADGUY

      Burn her!!!!....She's a WITCH!

      April 20, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
    • TruthTeller

      Here you go: The sign of a true catholic is one that either hates god for all his worng-doings or denouces him, or admits that he or she has doubt. It is not that you are either a woman or a chatholic. It is more like that you are a women and you learned a set of eithics and traditions and virtues through catholisim and then you outgrow them by practicing until you found the areas that lead you to the next stage. Now, no reason to denouce Catholisims, it still helps some. It is more that now you need more. Maybe you need to know the esoteric teachings, maybe you need to know the secrets of life. I don't know but when you were a child you belived in Santa Clause and it served its purpose for the stage of your development. Now that you are an adult you don't hate santa cluase it is just that you know it is not a mythical creature who lives in the North Pole, But dear nobely born friend, by your charity and mine, santa cluase will still bring gifts to the poor childern who need the myth pass on the tradition, christianity is not the final stage of spritual development, but it is a rich tradition of human ideals think less of the well educated powerful and intelligent woman within you and a little more of those in need of help from that woman and you will reconnect with the reason why these myths and lies were held by our ansestors and passed on. improve and pass it on to the next generations and once you do that please let me know how. : )

      April 20, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
    • I Don't Get It


      Waht? I dnot udnersatnd you.

      April 20, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
    • Faithful

      I've been a practising Catholic woman all my life. I've been part of conferences concerning the Church, the Liturgy and Education. I've been asked to address a conference of Priests and Catholic men and WOMEN – answered their questions AND argued -and WON my arguments.
      Women who accept that they are less than men, do so because they have low self-esteem and poor education. All you need to be respected and accepted by men is to have confidence and EXPECT equality and you get it.

      Don't whine if you don't have a personality. It's down to you – not the Church. Cope! I can't stand snivellers who blame religion because IT can't fight back.

      April 20, 2012 at 4:10 pm |
    • I wonder

      "argued -and WON my arguments."

      How do you know that you won? Did they allow you to embroider 10 daisies on the altar cloth instead of 8?... or did they choose the CCD coloring book that you were campaigning for?

      April 20, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
  12. Veritas

    As much as I like Catholics and their form of worship (I'm married to one), it is times like this that make glad that I'm an Episcopalian – Catholic Lite: all the Catholic, none of the guilt (or bizarre/backwards beliefs like this one). In 1534 we did not break with the Catholic Church; we broke with the Pope. I think that is a good thing, especially with Pope's like Benedict. I think these nuns are right on the money and the Pope and his "Ol' boys" got this one wrong.

    April 20, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
    • TruthTeller


      April 20, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
    • Faithful

      You like the Catholic Church? Well Sweetheart, the Catholic Church comes with a Leader who is Christ's representative on earth. You stick with your breakaway group who couldn't hack a Pope who delivered Christ's message – that's your choice. We have ours and we like it the way it is.

      April 20, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
  13. *facepalm*

    It seems that the RCC would rather be a small cult here in America as it seems that with every statement they come out with they're trying to drive people away

    April 20, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
  14. prophet

    Our Saviour fulfilled Torah.

    April 20, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
    • TruthTeller

      not necessary true, WWII and other suffering of jews does fulfill some prophecies, but not sure if the suffering of the "chosen ones" needs to end. This ritual goes on until a jew is liberated. the problem is not the lack of serviour or his limits. The problem is the lack of readiness of people to assume a more evolve estate. I agree with your general sense that humanity usually surprises and evolves in ways and rates that might be inexplicable. But the idea that we have gotten back to the true estate, I am very much into believing, but not completly pursuaded yet

      April 20, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
  15. prophet

    you chrsitians are very misled, there is no chrsitianity, Its Judaism and Torah and this is a Fact.

    April 20, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
    • Marsha

      Yepp 2.2 billion Christians are "wrong" vs. 14 million Jews who are "right".

      Jesus is the Jewish and Christian messiah... get the fact straight your jew

      April 20, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
    • placate

      We atheists marvel when we see two religious nuts duking it out!

      April 20, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
    • GodPot

      @Marsha – So does that mean Islam isn't wrong either with almost 2 billion adhereants? Because if a lot of people believe something that makes it true, right? Just like when 99% of the planet believed the earth was flat...

      April 20, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
    • TruthTeller

      Oh yes, Christianity is another set of myths created for the slave masses, similar to the myths that subjugated the prechristian jews, but the AMEN RA reincarnation was used to keep some jews in a particualr path to light and keep some jews and gentiles in another path to light. Those who reject Amen Ra reincarnation are in a way right. There is no christianity, there is no devine law of love, keep holding on to those truths. We do need devolving humans for the next cleansing ritual if you insist. ; )

      April 20, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
    • Faithful

      God made a Covenant with the Jews. The Covenant included developmental bonds:-
      Adam – Marriage bond
      Noah – Household bond
      Abraham – Tribe
      Moses – 12 Tribes
      David – Kingdom

      The Chosen People rebelled and defied God. So God made a NEW Covenant. Not to replace , but improve and extend the original one.He sent His Son

      Jesus – Universal bond. The word Catholic means Universal. And Jesus died to save everyone in the world, if they want it.

      We're all God's children. Jesus is our 'big brother' who mediaites between us and God our Father. If you reject Jesus, you reject His and our Father. The choice is simple and it is ours to make.

      April 20, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
  16. Concerned Catholic Woman

    This angers and digusts me. The "Church" is not a church without people. I am considering leaving since I am tired of being angry about the injustices. Catholicism is no better than extreme Islam. Everything the Vatican does attempts to shut down the voice of women. I find it hypocritical since Jesus would never have treated women this way. I am not so sure I find the Pope to be infallible since learning more and more about the power struggles and jockeying for position done by the Italian mob of cardinals and priests against the others or "outsiders." If this truly is a powerplay going on to decide the new pope before this one dies off, the religiosity and divinity of conclave DOES NOT EXIST. Therefore, the Pope is NOT infallible. Greed and power seem better represented than living like Christ. Bless the nuns for educating millions, feeding the hungry, caring for the downtrodden, housing the homeless, clothing the naked, healing the sick. They truly are the spirit of the Catholic Church and the best example of Christ.

    April 20, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
    • Marsha

      "Catholics are no better than Muslim extremist"

      – Catholics don´t fly airplanes into towers.... Catholics don´t kill those who convert to another religion/non-religion... Catholics don´t have sharia laws.

      April 20, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
    • Perplexed1


      April 20, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
    • MK

      @Marsha So Catholics have never killed in the name of their god? Hmmmm.... I wonder what the inquisition and the crusades were all about?

      April 20, 2012 at 2:34 pm |
    • ThatOneDude

      You should study your history a little more. The Catholic church has been guilty of atrocities which make 9-11 pale in comparison.

      April 20, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
    • Craig

      @Marsha: You've apparently never been to Ireland. Religion is responsible for more non-natural deaths than any of the other blights on humanity.

      April 20, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
    • longtooth

      You are so right. I'm not religious, but I know that Jesus was one of the greatest men of all time. He was a Prophet who gave the world ideas that had never been spoken in the middle east, ideas like forgiveness and the dignity of the poor, and the holiness of each human being. The nuns remember this. The tacticians and politicians at the top of the pecking order of the Church have completely forgotten the man they're supposed to model themselves after. I was lucky enough to visit St Peter's Basilica in Rome, and could not stop thinking, "What would Jesus think of all this?"

      April 20, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
    • Ren

      I don't see how one's devotion to God has anything to do with a liberal or conservative belief. That's almost like that guy who wrote 'In search of an army' claiming that technology and life extension are against God.

      April 20, 2012 at 3:27 pm |
    • Faithful

      If you are truly a Catholic woman, you'll know that the Pope is ONLY infallible when he proclaims a Dogma of Faith. He has to sit on St Peter's Chair in Rome and no-one is in any doubt that he is speaking ex-Cathedra. The last time he did it was 70 odd years ago when he proclaimed the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception.

      You'd have to be pretty thick to believe that the Pope could tell you the winning lottery numbers for NEXT month!!!!!!! He's definitely not infallible on a day to day basis – but he is wise and blessed in his vocation.

      Of COURSE there's power struggles going on in the Vatican as in every other walk of life – THAT'S because they're human.
      If the Church depended on some of the people in it , it wouldn't be as strong as it is today. But make no mistake, the FAITH is permanent and wonderful and "the gates of Hell shall NOT prevail against it"

      April 20, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
    • Faithful

      MK – The Inquisition was about King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain willingly being led astray by a mad monk Tomas de Tourquemada who decided that Jews were bad and must be annihilated. They used their own free will to do it and by doing so abused their religion.

      The truth is whether Christian, Muslim, Jew, Atheist or any other group that tortures, imprisons or butchers others because of their religion – it is ABuse of free will given by God .

      April 20, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
  17. TonI

    Where is the Vatican outrage towards a Bishop in Illinois equating President Obama with Hitler and Stalin. If the Vatican was truely enforcing "christina" ideals then they would remove this Bishop from his post and have him do the work that the LCWR does!
    This is why I refer to my fatih as a Christian rather than a catholic and my church as the "Christian" church rather than the catholic church when I say the creed.

    April 20, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
    • BADGUY

      How would a guy that's SERVED in Hitler's Army downgrade one of his own guy's for using that as a slur?

      April 20, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
  18. Marsha

    God Bless Orthodox churches..... they are the best!!

    April 20, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
  19. IndyNC

    The current pope is irrelavant to society, he is a product of a bygone age an era older several generations of grandfathers today. (My grandfathers served in the Allied Army... he was in the hitler youth...)

    Ultimately the Roman Catholic Church (As opposed to the "Holy Catholic Church") has two problems

    1) Religion is not manditory in today's world, furthermore in most nations the right to freely choose one's religion is widely accepted. As such, the Church cannot keep people in line with fear nor can it openly attack others who choose not to believe as they do.

    2) People have rights and freedoms afforded to them by the government, and the governments are not aligned with the church. Gone are the theocracies, so no longer is sinning breaking the law. Especially since most states recognize reglious organizations who do not consider the same acts as sins.

    So what's the pope to do when people start thinking to themselves?
    Well you either adapt to it, or you attempt to scare them into submission.
    But scaring is going to be hard when you have no REAL control.

    Humanity has relized that the Pope is not God incarnate... and that God would not exclude from salvation anyone just for not pleasing the Pope.

    April 20, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
    • Alyssa

      Very intelligent post Indy! I agree 100%!

      April 20, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
    • NJMom

      Very intellectually enlightening explanation for someone from the East. TO you, to 'Concerned Catholic Woman', and to those with similar intellects, this is exactly the reason I do not believe in 'organized religion'. Religion should be between an individual and God, and there is only one.

      April 20, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
    • Craig

      Governments do not bestow rights upon us; we are born with them. We find these truths to be self-evident...

      April 20, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
  20. prophet

    by the way can i help chrsitians, Our Saviours Name was not isous kristous etc, this is the deception. millions are praying to this name and this isw hy we see little effect.

    Look at what Our Saviours Real Name is, all the info is on the internet and pray to Him and all you chrsitians will see the difference. Try the Truth and It shall set you free.

    April 20, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
    • Veritas

      Do you just make this stuff up or is there some reason to your ramblings? And please don't tell me to "Look on the Internet." I can find sites on the "Internet" that say the earth is flat. You can find ANYTHING online. Give us some CREDIBLE sources, not just the "Internet."

      April 20, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
    • MK

      Ohhhhhhhhhhh! So that's why my prayers haven't been answered. I've been using the wrong name. I'll try this!

      April 20, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
    • Larry L

      His real name is "Howard". In the Lord's Prayer is clearly states "and Howard be thy name...".

      April 20, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
    • *facepalm*

      Do you really think that the creator of the universe is so amazingly vain that he cares what a couple of advanced apes living on a pedestrian planet in a suburban part of a nondescript galaxy call him? If so, that you've got an omnipotent diety with a serious inferiority complex.

      April 20, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
    • longtooth

      If you don't stop sending all these people to me, I will sue you in Celestial Court.

      April 20, 2012 at 3:03 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.