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. IdaJean

    They need to do more about stopping child abuse.

    April 20, 2012 at 4:10 pm |
    • pozin

      I agree but as they have proven they are more worried about keeping the number of priests up. I really wonder what percentage are pedophiles. I think most priests are good people but the church has done a horrendous job of cleaning house. Those that covered up for these priests are just as guilty in my mind.

      April 20, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
    • Frank

      That is an uninformed and nonsensical comment

      April 20, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
    • Dale M

      They have been making reforms over the past two decades and in most reported cases the priest was sent to therapy and counseling, as was the victim. There were few repeat offenders, but at the time it was thought that such actions were purely psychological and could be corrected in the medical community. There are some cases where the bishop, and the staff that handle the day to day affairs of the diocese, were in definite need of recommendation for not keeping track of repeat offenders – they failed the local church communities that were effected. But there will be no 100% method of total prevention of keeping a sick pervert from committing a crime, regardless if it is in a home setting, church, school, sports activity – without 24 hour monitoring.

      April 20, 2012 at 4:42 pm |
  2. pozin

    The Vatican is self destructive. I was brought up Catholic but have not gone to church for 40 years now. I used to respect the church until the scandals. If I were pope when the scandals on the pedophile priests came up I would have ex-communicated them and turned them over to the law. The Vatican however chose to rotate these priests. Did they think relocation would stop their predation? Now they condemn their own nuns, people that have given themselves to make life better. Perhaps we are seeing the church starting to implode. Maybe it needs to.

    April 20, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
    • Frank

      Man is inherently sinful. The Church already has accepted full responsibility for its transgressions, which are undeniably heinous

      April 20, 2012 at 4:20 pm |
  3. lct1119

    I think that the Vatican will implode under the pedophilia it has condoned and if nuns can stand up and raise the ethical standards so be it and good for them. although their history is fraught with things we do not want to hear. THe pervasive catholic church heirarchy is corrupt. And could they quit wearing their cone heads and red outfits? TThis is after all teh 21st century. That is so perpy.Every time I see a photo of a bunch of priests and bishops and the pope it chills my bones. Nothing good can come of them. This is a male dominated society that is antiquated and bears NO relevance to today. Catch up with the times. Birth control is not a sin. Many of the countries pop out babies they cannot care for and where is the Catholic church then? How many priests have had "housekeepers?" Spoken from personal family history. Come on....................

    April 20, 2012 at 4:08 pm |


    April 20, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
  5. Audrey

    No one seems to get the point of all this, and CNN, you're not doing a good job of showing an even balance of comments regarding this issue. These nuns took a solumn vow to uphold the doctrines of the Catholic Church. When you don't follow this vow, then someone will notice. If they don't believe in what the Church teaches, then they are free to leave and continue their good work as they see fit.

    April 20, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
    • Spock

      I await the response of the sistas ..meantime I'm sstill realing from the scandals among other thing I have an issue with the Catholic Church...Number one is I don't like the Church attempting to fornicate with our Government../. 🙂 🙂

      April 20, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
    • Nellie

      Aubrey, it's not as simple as that. If they just up and leave, yet still try to do good works, they probably won't have financial support and intrastructure support that the church, for all its many faults, actually provides, so they'll face a big uphill battle.

      However, given the sheer evil that the beotch known as Mother Theresa did in Africa, the odds of Catholics (nuns or otherwise) doing good works without major tradeoffs is pretty slim. Par for the course for religions generally, I suppose.

      April 20, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
    • Primewonk

      Audrey – if the Catholic hierarchy still said that heliocentricity was blasphemy, should the people who knew this was wrong sit there and shut up, or leave? Or should they speak up and tell the "unfailable" ones that they are wrong?

      April 20, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
    • Dale M

      Audrey what a pathetic comment to make....."beotch known as Mother Theresa". You couldn't have a hope of even being as loving and spiritual as Mother Theresa. And her remarkable works in India (not Africa) so touched the population of the city of Calcutta, in fact all of India, that she was honored with a national memorial. And the church isn't necessarily going to stop supporting good works with the various nun organizations, but they will step in and correct the leadership problems within the Leadership Conference of Women Religious.

      April 20, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
  6. Pan3

    More power to the Sisters! Start your own church!

    April 20, 2012 at 4:01 pm |



    April 20, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
    • Doobie Doobie Doo

      Islam is filthy. The only reason to learn it is to know your enemy.

      April 20, 2012 at 4:06 pm |


      April 20, 2012 at 4:10 pm |
  8. Woody Stemms

    Who gives a ratsass about the Pope and his Bishops?

    Really, who cares about that self-serving collection of self rightous hypocrites?

    Who cares about a "man" who wears a white dress while pretending he doesn't have a penis?

    April 20, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
    • BRUCE


      April 20, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
    • LAWgistics

      Ah, there goes Pope BENEDICT ARNOLD, THE ENFORCER ! Such a fatherly figure ! Pope John Paul, he ain't !

      April 20, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
    • scranton

      Who cares, that you don't know what the hell you are talking about?

      April 20, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
    • pozin

      @Bruce – they started calling them nuns because one of the first ladies that became one stated "What do you mean we do not get nun?"

      April 20, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
  9. Holy Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church

    To those of you good Catholics who have defended His Church today, do not dispair. You have acted heroically . Your priests are asking all Catholics to begin speaking out. You have , and He knows you for it.

    April 20, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
    • Religious Sects

      Yeah, keep taking one for the team ... like so many altar boys before you.

      April 20, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
    • Lilith

      Keep telling yourself you're a martyr, feels better than defending the wrong side because you don't want to admit you've made a mistake following the Catholic church all these years. Whatever helps you sleep at night.

      April 20, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
    • LAWgistics

      good Catholic does not equate to abysmally retarded in your belief. Fairness, justice, logic, not blind belief. Even Jesus would not want or command that.

      April 20, 2012 at 4:02 pm |
    • Jim Hahn

      Like so many sheep and lemmings. When you give up thinking for yourself, you're doomed.

      April 20, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
  10. Victor

    God Bless the Pope!! This is what the church needs. They have allowed this wave of "modern ideas" to influence us. NO MORE!! What has worked for centuries -Followed exactly as Jesus intended – is slowly being corrupted by these stupid " modern" ideas. No contraception! No feminnism! We have the same God as thousands of years ago, Jesus told us how we should be living. You want to be a Christian, then YOU MUST follow Christian teachings. You don't like it. You don't have to be Christian!!

    April 20, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
    • Victor

      **** The same God that created us, I meant **** He has not changed, He has not moved.

      April 20, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
    • Doobie Doobie Doo

      Well.......You don't have to be "Catholic" . The pope doesn't speak for all of Christianity you know.

      April 20, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
    • J.W

      Where did Jesus say "No contraception!" and "No feminism!"? I missed those verses.

      April 20, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
    • Fuyuko

      I don't recall Jesus saying anything about birth control.

      April 20, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Let's get back to how the Church was in the past.
      Down with heliocentrism and old earth theories!
      Let's bring back Limbo for those unbaptized babies!
      Super Blue Light Special on indulgences every sunday!
      No meat on friday so the Crusading armies can eat properly!
      Obey Saint Augustine's doctrine of 'Cognite Intrare' and go convert a heathen at gunpoint today!

      April 20, 2012 at 4:08 pm |
    • miller

      Hehe, there must have been a major shift occur in the past few years, because now when I read something like your original post my default mode is to assume that you are joking. A few decades back I would have assumed that you were serious. Better this way, hopefully the Church is in tune with this shift. People just don't look at things they way they used to.

      April 20, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
    • Pat

      that's the problem,Victor. Christian teachings and Church teachings are not the same thing. Jesus was a revolutionary who NEVER envisioned a Church entrenched in DOGMA and unwilling to defend young children. Jesus had special words for them. you sound very unhappy and certainly not Christian when you try to defend men who are fallible, The all male hierarchy is afraid of women taking their places and more than likely showing more compassion.

      April 20, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
    • Jim Hahn

      We should go back to a time when women belonged to their families or to their husband and had no live (or value) on their own. Harem is just a nice word for herd. Those who refuse to evolve, die. Been proven time and time again. In a few hundred years from now (or less), the Catholic Church will be known as dumb and dumber.

      April 20, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
  11. Prairie

    I don't want to live on this planet anymore.

    April 20, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
  12. Vicki

    Does anyone REALLY LISTEN to the church, much less the bishops anymore?

    April 20, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
    • Spock

      only for jokes 🙂 🙂 🙂

      April 20, 2012 at 4:16 pm |
  13. Feast of Beast

    Naughty nuns! (slobber)

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

      Oh, yes. Let's hear what the child molesters and their protectors have to say. I'm sure it will be interesting and relevazzzzzzzzz...

      April 20, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
  14. ZoeyJ

    There are many issues that have been discussed here today.
    The truth is the Nuns should ignore the Pope, this is America..........no one really cares what the Pope says, he continues to empty out the churches, judge people, spread hate, etc.
    When it is all said and done...........The Pope is NOTHING...........really...........who cares what he says.....

    The Pope should give his attention to more pressing issues that need his attention like which Bishop will tuck him in bed tonight.

    April 20, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
  15. Nyarlathotep

    Religious zealots against socialists? A most welcome development - with any luck, they'll destroy each other.

    April 20, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
  16. tony

    Follow Christ or follow this vile Pope. The difference is astounding and shocking. And it's all in Christ's favor.

    April 20, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
  17. Feast of Beast

    Byte me, Eggs Benedict. Your entire organization is misogynistic and always has been. You might as well be islamists with crosses as far as condoning women's rights. Besides, the thought of nuns operating outside the rules excites me.

    April 20, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
    • John Q. Public

      Bravo for your comments. However, let's not insult the poor "eggs benedict" by comparing the food to that narrow minded ex-Nazi bigot of a Pope.

      April 20, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
    • Feast of Beast


      April 20, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
    • Spock

      he was just a chidl as a nazi ... please give people a chance to change it's been 60 years ago ... giveit a rest...when youy make accuastion's againt a man when he was a child you lose any credibility except with those narrow minded individuals like your self...dam i hate defending the pope....

      April 20, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
  18. annodmc

    Leaving the Catholic Church, as a women, has not been difficult! MY GOD, who has my faith, where are you??? These men who are supposedly following your word have seriously failed your faithful. Perverts, sinners, cowards...all of these men are still trying to tell us what we should believe and say!! INCREDIBLE! Can anyone believe this travesty?? How out of their minds are they? How does anyone condone this behavior? All women should be highly insulted by these demons. I STILL can not wrap my mind around any of this over the past several years. How dare they think people would stand for sham!!

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

      well there are actually worse thing in the world but your right it's sad 🙁

      April 20, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
  19. sane

    Why women subject themselves to this type of lunacy is beyond me.

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

      Please explain this...I can not believe any woman would consider herself a Catholic????

      April 20, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
    • Spock

      drilled from birth !


      April 20, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
    • DawnOfDawns

      It's like those nuns that go help the poorest of the poor face to face, battaling mosquitos, diseases etc... I don't see many comments about that, same with priests. Mother Teresa? Arnulfo Romero? LOL!

      April 20, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
  20. Corpus Christi, TX (Body of Christ, TX) resident

    America is a Christian country. Period.

    April 20, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
    • Colin

      Well, that would explain its abysmal performance in math and science on the international level.

      April 20, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
    • ZoeyJ

      You and "W" pray on it................

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

      SPELLING CORRECTION – prey on it............

      April 20, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
    • Yeah

      WOW what a fool

      April 20, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
    • Feast of Beast

      Under your rule, it would be a theocratic nazi state.

      April 20, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
    • seraphim0

      I'm sure that's a comforting thought for you.

      April 20, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
    • Enlightened

      Yeah... ah... I'd like the Body of Christ... scrambled... with a small glass of blood of christ and a side of toast.

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

      So what happened to separation of church and state where you live?

      April 20, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
    • LBNative

      Myth, Legend, Folklore, there has never been an Adam or Eve, there is no such thing as God and you have wasted your entire life believing in all that nonsense.

      April 20, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
    • DawnOfDawns

      It's beyond me that a Christian country would allow the atrocities of slavery for centuries.. Christianism is not that from Catholisism when it comes to screwing humanity in the rear :-0

      April 20, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
    • Spock

      the noble thought of the first amendment is threatened by you and your kind...think of the foundiing fathers and what they have meant to the entire World for that matter...the greatness of the United States is set on freedom ...it's voice echos to the entie world....Thse United States has imported ideas of freedom to every nation in the World stood up to the Soviet totalitasrian State almost alone... has urshed in the economic ties with China which has also enabled Christian growth in that country to th ewhopping rate of 30 thousand souls perda over to Christ
      the USA is a beacon of light ...the battel here is between the Catholic Church and the liberties we all enjoy in our nation today...the day could come back to resemble those of inqusitin Spain .... religious zeal drove airplanes into the towers in New York asnd the pentegon ...a thousand years back there was enough religious Zeal to fuel two hundred years of crusadeing.. 🙁 🙂 🙁

      April 20, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
    • dlt

      I know a whole lot of Jews, Hindus, Muslims etc. who take issue with that. Who made Christians in charge? You are not only a close-minded bigot, but you are dead wrong.

      April 20, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
    • Spock

      @ dawnsof dawns but little boys is ok huh!?

      April 20, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
    • Jim Hahn

      Not really. It is a country based on the tenant of a separation of Church and State. A Tenant which is constantly under attack by those who are compelled to make their faith, THE faith. Those Atheists among us, will fight to preserve that separation and keep America free of religious tirrany and it's so-called righteousness.

      April 20, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
    • DawnOfDawns

      One nation under God! Helloooo.. In God we trust! Helloooo..

      April 21, 2012 at 12:26 am |
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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.