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. Mark

    and time to give up some of that cookie ladies, and throw a cocaine party every once in a while....jeez.

    April 20, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
  2. MaryM

    RCC, evolve or die. your choice Catholic church

    April 20, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
    • Dan

      Jesus said, "the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." People don't tend to realize that the implication there is that hell is certainly going to try... The Church teaches what Jesus taught. By saying what you are, you are saying that Jesus' teachings should evolve. Keep knocking... you may dent the gate, but you shall not prevail.

      April 20, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
    • JT

      That's something I don't understand. If a religion is true why would it ever change to catch up with secular society? Shouldn't it lead and be ahead of the secular world and more "moral"?

      April 20, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
    • MaryM

      Dan, do you really think that the Catholic church speaks for Jesus? NO they do not and you know it

      April 20, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
    • Mark

      seriously dan...the catholics couldn't be further from jesus' teachings...they WILL be the ones that jesus spoke of in Matthew 7:21-23.

      April 20, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
    • Faithful

      Dan – Well said and God Bless you, my friend.

      When my time comes [and yours too I hope] I would far rather be told by Jesus "Well done, my good and faithful servant, welcome to the home of My Father"
      "Depart from Me ye cursed into the everlasting fire"

      Buit for you mockers – Jesus DOESN't put you ther. You have the choice you go where YOU choose to go.

      April 21, 2012 at 11:37 am |
  3. Lilith

    I see the "church" hasn't changed one bit since I left Adam & he got remarried to that fruit eater Eve.

    April 20, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
    • Mark

      been watching a bit too much history channel?

      April 20, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
    • Futon Torpedo

      And we have unresolved mother issues because of it...

      Why did you leave us Lilith? I have a livberal arts degree and no self esteem because of you leaving us!

      "You want fries with that?" 🙂

      April 20, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
    • Lilith

      Don't have the history channel, but I'm glad someone's telling my story to the masses!

      April 20, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
    • Mark

      oh yeah Lili... if you weren't such a snub to adam things could've been very different... apparently you were angry that you weren't the one with the shtick.

      April 20, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
    • Faithful

      You're just a dumb female who doesn't have a clue about the meaning of the Bible. Making juvenile jokes doesn't hide that fact Lilith!
      I'll give you a clue: -..........they ate from the tree of knowledge, right? After they did, they covered and hid their bodies for shame.............. and YOU think they ate a cotton-pickin' APPLE? Get over yourself. It was an analogy.

      Clue number 2: When someone has an intimate relationship, you aften here peopl eask ......"You mean he KNEW her in the Biblical sense of the word....." [KNEW as in KNOWLEDGE of her.]

      NOW do you get it?

      April 20, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
    • *facepalm*

      @Faithful – the reference to the biblical left-out Lilith clearly went WAY over your head.

      April 20, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
    • Mark

      oh and Lili, I believe you r@ped me when I was about 14, you were on top... I busted all over myself in sleep, woke up, saw you for about a second, you were a black ghost figure and disappeared. thank you, you were my first and it was awesome.

      April 20, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
    • Lilith

      Take it easy there "Faithful", don't hurt yourself now. 😉

      Sorry about the Mommy issues, I have a bit of Shtick Envy you know.

      April 20, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
  4. prophet

    women should be humble as too those that Truly Believe on Our Saviour. So why do the women want to be the same as men when they criticise the men. This seems hypocritical and bizarre.

    April 20, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
  5. Timei Kaitaua

    There are only two churches in this mortal life–namely, The one Jesus organized once when he was on earth and the other was Satan work job Church

    April 20, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
  6. prophet

    women should be equal with men but not clergy as even they are misled.

    April 20, 2012 at 3:23 pm |
  7. ZoeyJ

    The Pope his looks, doctrine, values, etc is like a BAD DRAG SHOW...........

    April 20, 2012 at 3:23 pm |
    • Faithful

      You're the kind of Pratt that votes in a failure of a President because of his looks and personality – and look where THAT got you – America is leaving a vapor trail you're in such a hurry to attain 3rd world status!
      ZoeyJ –

      The Romans wore skirts and they were as tough as old boots. Disgustiing Gays wear girly clothes [but Lesbians wear blokey stuff] but you think they're hunky Dory, the Greek army wear skirts and the Scots wear kilts – and I assure you, you'd wet your pants if you crossed a Scot. Mayors wear cloaks and necklaces, Armed forces, police, emergency services and Medics ALL wear a uniform so they can be recognized for what they are.

      If you're too young or stupid to read what I said get an adult to help you!

      April 20, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
    • *facepalm*

      You obviously don't know many people who are gay. You prejudice simply highlights who you really are – a bigot.

      April 20, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
    • Faithful

      "facepalm" – I have gay friends and I love them but I hate their way of life. It's not bigotry – it's "Love the sinner, hate the sin"
      But you, being a true bigot wouldn't understand that!

      April 21, 2012 at 11:42 am |
  8. Religious Sects

    This is the classic, "Do as I say not as I do" doctrine.

    April 20, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
  9. prophet

    women are not allowed to begin a religion as they should not be allowed power of any kind.

    the vatican is correct on this.

    April 20, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
    • Religious Sects

      "Religion" shouldn't be allowed power of any kind.

      April 20, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
    • Russ

      @ prophet: and yet who were the first witnesses to Jesus' resurrection? all the Gospels agree: women.

      April 20, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
  10. ZoeyJ

    This Pope............that old Queen has stirred up more this time than when everyone tried to ignore the RED PRADA shoes which didn't match his dress or the bad hat.

    April 20, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
    • Faithful

      You wouldn't understand this, but if those shoes had been yellow and green with a touch of silver glitter, he'd STILL have worn them out of respect for the person who gave them to him.

      Your insult and ignorant comments about Christ's representative on earth hasn't gone unnoticed. I don't mean by me, or other posters, but by God. If you have no self-respect, at least leave others out of it.
      I blame your upbringing.
      You mistake childish sneering for adult conversation. Please stop embarrassing yourself. I can just hear you bragging to your friends ...."Then I said......" Pathetic. Just grow up.

      April 20, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
  11. Jack Frost

    The Catholic Church, just like any other dictatorial government, only cares about holding onto and strengthening its power. It uses fear, oppression, ignorance, and brainwashing to keep its people in line. One day all the people are going to leave and the only ones left will be a bunch of old men sitting in Vatican City, choking on dry communion wafers, and trying to lure little boys across from Rome.

    April 20, 2012 at 3:20 pm |
  12. prophet

    St Paul says in the bible that he would not allow anyone to belong to a religion that does not allow its clergy to marry and this is why the vatican tries to reject his writings as he spoke on behalf of God and His teachings.

    April 20, 2012 at 3:20 pm |
    • Dan

      Reject his writings? hahahahahahahaha.... clearly you have no idea what you are talking about.

      April 20, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
  13. lillie

    The priests are trying to distract the public from all the pedifile priests. They are doing it at the nuns' expense. (The nuns who do all the work for the CC). The nuns should start their own church! The Vatican is acting like a male chauvinest bully.

    April 20, 2012 at 3:18 pm |
  14. Religious Sects

    Everyone should be "operating outside of the Roman Catholic Church's doctrines".

    April 20, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
    • Dan

      Everyone IS operating outside. So we have what we have...greed on Wall Street, corruption in Washington, self centered, self serving individuals abound. Things like protecting life, helping the poor, providing aid to the sick which define how we show we are Catholic... or Christian in general... those are what operating outside gets us.

      April 20, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
    • Religious Sects

      Dan, When you were describing corruption, greed, self centered self serving individuals you were describing the Catholic church ... or haven't you been paying attention over the last 1500 years?!

      April 20, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
  15. prophet

    did you know that the word catholic isn't even in the bible and yet they base a religion on it.

    April 20, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
    • Dan

      Actually, the word comes from the Greek word, catholicos, which means universal. The Church itself and the teachings are founded by Jesus. That's why it is interesting that people have a hard time with the teachings of the Church. That means they have a problem with the teachings of Jesus, himself. Of course, many did when he was on earth as well. Why should today be any different.

      April 20, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
    • J.W

      Dan what did Jesus teach that other denominations other that Catholics do not follow? How are Catholics more Christ-like than other denominations?

      April 20, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
  16. Colin

    Actually Mike, you’ll find that most (ex-Christian) atheists don’t believe for one or more of the following reasons:

    The concept of an immortal being makes no sense to us.

    The concept of an all-powerful being makes no sense to us.

    The concept of an all-knowing being makes no sense to us.

    The answers usually proffered for what we see as basic logical flaws in Christianity – “you have been blinded by your lack of faith” “God moves in mysterious ways” or “God is outside the Universe” or “God moves in mysterious ways” or “our minds are too small to understand the greatness of God” are never satisfying to us. We see a retreat to mysticism as the first refuge of the cornered fool.

    We tend to have a good working knowledge of the age, size and history of the Universe and the idea that a being would create the entire thing – with 400,000,000,000 galaxies, EACH with 100, 000,000,000 starts and even more planets, then sit back and wait 13,720,000,000 years for human beings to evolve on one planet so he could “love them” and send his son to talk about sheep and goats in Iron Age Palestine makes no sense to us.

    We do not see miracles in things like tornadoes missing a certain trailer in a trailer park, cancer going into remission or Tim Tebow winning a football game.

    We understand that Christianity is one of many, many religions in the World, and we don’t think that we were lucky enough to have been born in the one part of the World that “got it right”.

    We tend to have a basic knowledge of history and know that there is nothing magical or special about the supposed history of the Jews, gospels, letters, apocalyptic story (Revelations) and other material that found their way into the Bible, in that they are largely indistinguishable from the other mythology and religious writings of the time and region.

    Human beings are terrified of their own deaths and we see the various religious beliefs that try to “wish it away” such as reincarnation, living happily ever after in Heaven with Jesus, having your own Mormon planet etc. as nothing more than childish stories for the more naive, timid minds among us.

    The common argument, “well, what caused the Big Bang?” with the implication that, because we have only theories and no iron clad explanation for the Big Bang yet, [the Christian] god must have caused it – does not make sense to us. “I don’t know” does not equal “God” to us.

    We do not see morality as predicated upon a belief in the supernatural. We accept that one can be moral without believing in the supernatural and that doing so is no guaranty that one will conform to the norms of society that people call “morality”.

    “You can’t prove God doesn’t exist” is not a convincing argument to us, as in inability to disprove something is a far cry from it being true. We cannot prove that the Hindu gods Shiva or Vishnu exist either, nor Santa Claus for that matter, but that is hardly a reason to believe in them. It is almost always impossible to prove a negative in this sense.

    When one looks at the various Christian beliefs that were once firmly believed – Adam and Eve, Noah’s flood, people living to be 700 or 900 years old, the Red Sea splitting, talking snakes, a man living in a whale’s belly, people rising from the dead, Jesus driving demons out of people and into pigs – but which are now acknowledged by most thinking people as mythology, it is pretty hard to give a lot of credibility to what’s left.

    It is hard not to consider Christianity as based on circular reasoning. Most Christians believe in God because the Bible says so, then turn around and say they believe the Bible because it is the word of God. To draw an analogy, “I believe Obama is a great man because his biography says so, and the reason I believe his biography is that it is about Obama, who is a great man.”

    In short, the more one comes to understand mother nature, the less reason there is to believe in a god and the more one understands human nature, the more one sees why so many of us nevertheless do.

    April 20, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
    • Futon Torpedo

      HEY HEY HEEEY!! YOu had me until your crack about Tebow!!!

      In Tebow We Trust. 🙂

      April 20, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
    • MaryM

      Thank you Colin, great comment

      April 20, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
    • Timei Kaitaua

      There is God and God is the one who created you into this mortal life. Not you parents. Your parents are were just part of God's plan to help you be formed as you are mow. Think of how your father and mother caused you to become mortal just by making love to each other compare to how some body made a plane. Just imagine how much time and effort these two creators or makers have put into creating something? It is because your brain can not accept the fact that there is God who is all powerful, very intelligent and all that why you become negative about God. The bottom line is, you will see his Glory when you die. Of course you will die, no question about that, but my question is please be a man and don' lie to him because he knows you very well. And when that time comes, he will receive you and call you his Child. For of course,you are a Child of the most High.

      April 20, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
  17. Corpus Christi, TX (Body of Christ, TX) resident

    I love having Rick Perry as governor of Texas. He constantly mention Jesus Christ on TV, in public meetings etc. etc. 🙂
    I love living under theocracy!

    April 20, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
    • ZazuWho

      @ resident – The job of our governing officials is NOT to use their position to push any particular faith. I don't know if every government job has a job description, but each and every one should, from the lowest grade right on up to the President. And the job descriptions should not include proselytizing. You want to live under a theocracy, go live in Iran. What I think we have here is a case of laziness. You don't want to think for yourself. You want someone else to do your thinking for you. I would bet you cannot make a decision on your own without someone's approval. That is a sad state of mind.

      April 20, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
  18. MiketheElectrician

    And the church wonders why people are leaving in droves. It is like this...the church scolding nuns for spending too much time on poverty and not enough time on abortion and gay marriage. It sure is funny that religion wants politics to keep their hands off, but the church sure doesn't mind trying to change politics to its view. Go NUNS!!!, keep on assisting the poor, the indigent, and lowly among us, and you will certainly be rewarded by God.

    April 20, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
  19. ZazuWho

    No one has it absolutely, totally, completely correct regarding what it takes to get to Heaven. But religious issues do produce some interesting and thought provoking debates. I believe this idea of a Pope was hatched up by mankind. No human being is infallible. No human being is divine in life or death. I believe the writers of the Bible shortchanged women since day one. The activists nuns in the Catholic church are helping to make the Catholic Church a better church by urging the male fortress to correct injustices and help the world become a better world. There is a strong possibility the nuns' pro-activeness can help other faiths and denominations. I hope we never stop questioning the rules and never stop interacting with one another and listening to different view points. To the nuns I say, "You go girls!"

    April 20, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
  20. Former Catholic

    This is one of the main reasons why I had to walk away from the Catholic Church. It saddens me that the church continues to display that which Jesus would deplore, lack of compassion,, lack of tolerance. Jesus was a forward thinker, too back the Catholic church cannot be the same

    April 20, 2012 at 3:12 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.