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. Victor

    Jesus teachings are the same from 2,000 years ago.. People with their "modern" ideas keep distorting the true teachings of Christianity. Our Catholic church has somewhat fallen pray to this cathequesis from the devil as well. We are Christians, We follow the teachings of Jesus. Thank God for the Catholics that do not listen to these ideas that only come from the devil. Say no to contraception! Women need to be more like Mary.. Obedient to God, bring children to the world as God created them to be. Remember – Each child that is born is a reminder from God that he is still there!! You take life away from this world, God dissappears! Just look around you people!! God has been kicked out of everywhwer and look how our world is today. Look what's happening to your families, your kids, all these divorces and family destruction!! You think that comes from listening to God?????????

    April 20, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
    • Observer

      Nothing new. Same complaints were heard in Biblical days. End of the world, etc.

      April 20, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
    • Observer

      "bring children to the world as God created them to be"

      Good. At least we won't hear any criticism of gays.

      April 20, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
    • Victor

      When a mother raises their kids with love and under the Christian faith, she teaches their kids that they don't have to act out every single desire that comes to their head. We are all sinners yet with Prayer and the help of God, we all can defeat those ideas that go against our God and the teachings of Jesus. God is the same that created us. He has not changed. His favor is still the same. He acts in our lives the same way he acted in Abrahams, Jabobs, Isaac's lives. Jesus lives and acts the same way, the same miracles, etc.. I HAVE SEEN IT. Why else be a Christian if I do not believe that?? He has changed my life, he has changed the lives of many brothers and sisters in MY Catholic church. If I had not seen it, I would not be here!!

      April 20, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
    • Observer

      "He has not changed."

      Not even close to being correct. The Bible says Jesus convinced God that we no longer needed to kill people for the long list of reasons God wanted (adulterers, unruly children, etc.).

      April 20, 2012 at 4:55 pm |



    April 20, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
  3. tony

    I like, respect and appreciate women. And share my life with one as a partner on pretty much equal terms. But then, I'm an atheist.

    April 20, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
    • Victor

      Equal terms eh?? So she works and brings lots of $$ to your household?? and your children? Are they happy that their mom spends more time with her boss and co-workers than with them? So she travels and goes to happy hour with strangers rather than spending her time with her family raising a good family? All so that you can have lots of money, right?? and then what happens to your children who are raised by the babysitter? what happens when they become monsters and despise their parents and everybody else?? You think your kids will know about how to trully love you, their mother, and their partners?? But then again, your god is your money, so there you go! Good Luck!

      April 20, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
    • Pat

      Victor, you are a MSP. My Mom worked as a nurse all her life, 5 kids who adored her until her death at 90; never did any of the things you think working women do. I've worked all my life too and like my Mom am a Wife (42 years) and Mother and now Grandmother. Keep your horrible ideas of working women to yourself, you dinosaur.

      April 20, 2012 at 5:26 pm |
    • Faithful

      Pat your mpom was . literally. one in a million, God Bless her. But as a woman who worked with Social Services you mom was unusual – she was NOT the norm. You were so lucky.

      Victor is right.

      April 22, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
  4. tony

    Time for another "cleansing" Tsunami again. Too many smart, innocent people who might deviate from the rules, around. . . .

    April 20, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
  5. ana

    George W. Foote

    April 20, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
    • Topanga053

      I never heard this! Love it!!!

      April 20, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
    • Pat

      Is that true? Then it really is profound. Wonder if its because women weren't always allowed to be educated or if the males took all their writings out.

      April 20, 2012 at 5:28 pm |
    • Faithful

      Mary the Mother of Jesus
      Ruth and Naomi
      Mary Magdalen
      Martha and Mary

      You DON'T have to write to contribute. Obama speaks but he doesn't write his speeches! Wow and he's a MAN!

      April 22, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
  6. Bob Lewis

    Hey Benny: Tell me about it after you find a straight priest.

    April 20, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
  7. r.d.culus religion

    These pedophiles that imagine they eat flesh and drink blood are ridiculous, anyone who follows them is ignorant, stupid, or just plain nuts

    April 20, 2012 at 4:29 pm |


    April 20, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
    • Steve

      Free flying lessons?

      April 20, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
    • Nonny Mouse

      Please stop insulting pagans by saying they're like us.

      April 20, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
    • Dave

      I learned all I needed about Islam on 9/11. You POS.

      April 20, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
  9. Steve

    When Christ made Peter the rock of which he would build his church, he also said that what he bound on earth would be bound in heaven and what was loosed on earth would be loosed in heaven. By virtue of the Pope being the Pope, he's right, or infallible. If you don't want to follow Catholic teachings, you are free to recuse yourself.

    April 20, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
    • tony

      Then leave our children be too.

      April 20, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
    • buckcameron

      Yep, did that. They would not have tolerated the kind of social consciousness that many nuns practice in the Hitler Youth.

      April 20, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
    • Steve

      You are free to leave the church. I'm not going to. Nor am I a priest, or any other type of clergy.

      April 20, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
    • Tim

      The Apostles, including Peter himself, followed a collegial model of leadership and decided as Episcopoi (Bishops) all matters of doctrine together. Note the first Apostolic Council of Jerusalem as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles. Peter did not stamp his feet and make the claim that he alone held to power...

      Papal infallibility is a relatively modern (19th century) invention.

      April 20, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
    • Pat

      Steve, the Catholic Church left me a long time ago.

      April 20, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
    • Observer

      So both Jesus and the Pope were perfect. Get serious. Tell us how "perfectly" the pope has dealt with child molesters.

      April 20, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
    • Al

      Steve, this is why the Catholic Church is corrupt to the core. People like you blind to their brain wash

      April 20, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
    • Topanga053

      Incorrect. The Pope is only infallible when he, speaking ex cathedra (by virtue of his supreme apostolic authority), defines a moral doctrine that must be followed by the entire Church. The concept of papal infallibility was not created until 1870 and it has generally only been accepted to have been invoked once since its creation, which is when Pope Pius XII decreed the doctrine of the Assumption of Mary in 1950.

      So no, the Pope is not right "by virtue of being the Pope." Pope John XXIII once said: "I am only infallible if I speak infallibly but I shall never do that, so I am not infallible."

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

      Steve, You need to study what infallible means in the context of the Pope. it is "not" EVERYTHING THE POPE SAYS and has rarely been invoked. There is no way a human being can act infallibly.

      April 20, 2012 at 4:40 pm |
    • TR6

      @Steve:” what he bound on earth would be bound in heaven and what was loosed on earth would be loosed in heaven.”

      So why do the pope’s prayers for peace in the middle east always fail?

      April 20, 2012 at 7:41 pm |
  10. Lilmama

    Priests talk the talk, nuns walk the walk.
    Sounds to me Benedict can't handle the fact that nuns are the real deal while his priests have historically run amok.

    April 20, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
    • Steve

      That's why all those nuns still teach in schools where they would get arrested for child abuse.

      April 20, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
  11. Stacey

    I think the Catholic Church needs to re-look at their current state of affairs. You are blasting a bunch of nuns for "operating outside of the Roman Catholic Church's doctrines" but what are you doing with your priests that continue to molest little boys? REALLY!!!!

    April 20, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
    • tony

      Doesn't matter how they start, all religions become like this once men get between you and what you believe. That's why thinking for yourself and thus Atheism works out best in the end.

      April 20, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
    • Canada Girl

      I agree with you Stacey. It doesn't matter if you believe in a higher being or if you don't, child molestation is real. The vatican needs to be shut down, everyone kicked out and start from scratch. Cleansing is right. Why would anyone have to be a priest or a nun anyway in order to speak to the people about a higher power. Our poor children!

      April 20, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
  12. DeeNYC

    Speak out against abortion, gays, thinking women, but never does the Church ever speak out against raping little boys.

    April 20, 2012 at 4:20 pm |
    • Dave

      Priests should be Eunichs. Can I get an AMEN on this?

      April 20, 2012 at 4:42 pm |
  13. yessica

    The Catholic Church has to follow the teachings Jesus left us . If anyone doesn't agree with the teachings they don't have to belong to the Caholic Church. You are free to open up a new religious group or join other religious groups. So you if believe in abortion, contraception, not confesing to the priest, or that you are not a sinner, etc please don't call yourself a Catholic (you are a baptized pagan).

    April 20, 2012 at 4:16 pm |
    • Topanga053

      @Yessica- Please cite to where in the Bible Jesus (1) prohibits abortion, (2) prohibits contraception, and (3) requires you to confess to a priest.

      Hint: Don't bother. Jesus never did anything of those things in the Bible.

      April 20, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
    • Tim

      You mean teachings like the command to love others as Christ loved us like the nuns are doing? How about the parable of the Good Samaritan who comes to the aid of the jewish mugging victim after the priests walked by because they were more concerned about their piety than compassion... Seems there's a lesson in that somewhere...

      And by the way, confession to a priest is a medieval Irish monastic invention...

      April 20, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
    • DeeNYC

      When did jesus say build enormous church's and don robes and phallic hats in my name.

      April 20, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
    • Observer


      Jesus and the Bible NEVER mentioned abortion. You might try reading it first. Wishful thinking doesn't make it true.

      April 20, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
    • yessica

      There is no point in trying to explain because you as well as many others don't want to listen or understand. If you are Catholic maybe try praying for the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit. I hope you find your way to happiness.

      April 20, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
    • Nonny Mouse

      As a pagan I beg to differ. There are many pagan traditions, but their world views are entirely different. I think maybe you mean 'other type of Christian'.

      April 20, 2012 at 4:42 pm |
    • Moiphy

      DeeNYC. In a bar on Lexington Ave. last Thursday night.

      April 20, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
    • Canada Girl

      So Yessica, then you believe in these Priests? molesting little children?

      April 20, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
    • Faithful

      Topanga – Jesus said to the Apostles [first priests] "Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven. Whose sins you shall retain,they are retained"
      You'd have to TELL your sins to have them forgiven = Confession. Not rocket science!

      And He God DID forbid abortions He said "Thou shall not KILL"

      April 22, 2012 at 4:55 pm |
  14. answerman28

    It staggers the imagination to think that the vatican is still there in this day and age. What is wrong with these people? Anyone with an I.Q over 30 can see Its all nothingl but lies.. Teaching religion to a kid should be considered child abuse.

    April 20, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
    • Faithful

      My IQ is 125 and I have a certificate from MENSA. I am a practising Catholic and wouldn't change it for a mega lottery win.

      I also don't judge people I've never seen or met; or am not likely to meet.

      You judge a group of Billions wildly and childishly – that, my friend would seem to take a pretty challenged IQ. Don't you think?

      April 22, 2012 at 5:02 pm |
  15. Tim

    The Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith needs to return to its fomer moniker: The Inquisition. Enough with the pretenses.

    April 20, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
    • Spock

      🙂 🙂 🙂

      April 20, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
    • Nonny Mouse

      No one expects The Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith!

      April 20, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
  16. sftommy

    In 2008:
    5,065 Catholic Bishops – all men
    753,400 Number of women In Nunneries

    From BBC's David Willey:
    "The number of Catholic nuns worldwide declined by about a quarter during the reign of Pope John Paul, and this further drop shows that new recruits are failing to replace those nuns who die, or decide to abandon their vows"

    April 20, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
  17. DawnOfDawns

    @Spock, go back to the Enterprise..

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

      sorry Dawn teh federation of the Lord Jesus , Lord of all Planets and galaxis semt me to protect the ideas of Christianity from fornication with the government of he United States of America the first amendment forbids it ...Christians in the first century had no government protection from their enemies and they have done better than any generation of Christians after them.... their interest was simple in the manifestation of the Spirit of the Lord Jesus in each and every believer ... any generation which leaves that mandate is in jeapordy ... simple !! Lewt Jesus be lord in you rown life and then you can see well enough for your neighbors...
      try it you'll like it ... 🙂 🙂 🙂

      April 20, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
    • DawnOfDawns

      They did have protection from the gov, this country was "founded on christian believes", with the colored people excluded.. how do you preach on Sunday and lynch on Monday? Roll you troll..

      April 21, 2012 at 12:16 am |
  18. annodmc

    The leaders of the Catholic Church have all lost their minds! Keep it up and you will have no one to lead and it will all be your own fault! Women respect each other and demand reform!!

    April 20, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
  19. Bob

    Hear that you nuns? "Zieg heil", or else.

    April 20, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
  20. Rochelle

    And things like this, after a full Catholic school education, made me stop going to Church. If the Vatican cannot see that women are not inferior in any categories (except maybe sheer physical strength) I do not need to be a part of their World.

    Guess I still get to go to the "Chuch of Sitting on the Sand by the Ocean, listening to the Surf & Reading" Sunday mornings 🙂

    April 20, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      "Sin began with a woman and thanks to her we all must die" Ecclesiasticus, 25:19
      A good Christian woman should be silent, submissive, subservient and filled with shame for the curse her gender forced on humanity.
      If you bear yourself as haughtily as you're doing in this post, The Lord will treat you like he did the daughters of Zion in Isaiah 3:18 and take away all your jewelery,fine clothes, makeup, and mirrors. He'll make you bald and rotten smelling before killing all of the men you care about.
      As I Timothy 2:11-14 reminds us, "Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor."

      April 20, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
    • Spock

      @ doc... each and every person in Chriat is a new creation....for in Christ only a new Creation avails ... male or female...all are the same before the Lord....

      April 20, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
    • Saxo Grammaticus

      Apparently Doc believes that history, as well as the revealed word of God, stopped in the desert some thousands of years ago.

      April 20, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
    • Topanga053

      @Doc- wait, so if I talk, your believe that God will kill my husband? Jesus, no wonder ya'll are so intent on shutting women up!

      April 20, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
    • Nonny Mouse

      Doc: boy, he is sure taking his time about coming after my stuff. I've been running amok for years thinking I'm a human being worth the the same as other beings. OMG my red lipstick's missing! Wait... found it... false alarm...

      April 20, 2012 at 4:45 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.