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. Michele Madigan Somerville

    Read "Gunning for Nuns" on Indie Theology.


    April 22, 2012 at 9:34 am |
  2. HEHE

    sisters in the temple turning over tables

    April 22, 2012 at 2:27 am |
  3. prophet

    The timing of publication could not be better. It was considered by some as radical and unconventional when Mel Gibson decided to make his movie The Passion of the Christ in the "foreign" languages of Latin, Aramaic, and Hebrew with
    English writing. I could not believe how many "Bible-believing Christians" were caught off guard when they realized that "Jesus" didn't speak English.

    They were even in shock when they found out his name wasn't Jesus in the First Century. It showed me how far removed the church is from the language
    and culture of Yeshua of Nazareth.

    April 21, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
    • Faithful

      Hey, "Know-it-all' I'm a Catholic and I knew Jesus spoke Aramaic when I was a child! All my schoolmates from Grade 5 knew it too.
      Mind you I was educated in England – not in the failed American system. No wonder YOU don't know it!

      April 22, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
  4. prophet

    They were even in shock when they found out his name wasn't Jesus in the First Century. It showed me how far removed the church is from the language
    and culture of Yeshua of Nazareth.

    April 21, 2012 at 11:49 am |
  5. Faithful

    America sounds like the Nazis before WW2.
    The Germans , through bad government , ran their country into the ground BUT since THEY wouldn't take responsibility themselves , they needed a scapegoat BINGO – the jews!

    Now the USA has the worst Leadership ever; your greed as people has caused the downfall of your economy; you have a culture of death [abortion and infanticide second only to China!] and your Military is crap [ you haven't won ANY war since WW2 ] – And your moral values make Sodom and Gommorah look like a bunch of sissies ,so BINGO – time to scapegoat Catholics and ANY religion because otherwise YOU'D have to take responsibility for YOUR wrecking your own country.

    Thank God it's only the Americans with zero intelligence and morals of alleycats who post here. 70% of Americans ARE Christian; ARE decent and DO have moral principles.

    April 21, 2012 at 11:31 am |
    • Are You Kidding Me

      "Your morals", "your country", "your economy"......your statements lead me to believe you are not an American and if
      not American, who? Hopefully not German. The only thing you have to say about them involves the darkest part of
      their history....a group of men forcing their ideals onto, everyone else. Also, you claim only Americans of no intelligence post here so what country or you from.......just curious.

      April 21, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
    • Faithful

      I'm ENGLISH and I hate what is happening in YOUR country because the many American friends I have don't subscribe to the latest venomous attacks on the Catholic Church.

      For Heavens' sake – Look at the wall to wall topics and the responses to ANYTHING Catholic first, then Christians in general.
      These ARE dark days if you're a Catholic. Open your eyes.

      April 22, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
  6. Prayer changes things

    Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things .

    April 21, 2012 at 7:37 am |
    • Prayer does change things!

      Try praying instead of taking medication and relying on evidence, for one thing, and I'm bloody well sure everything will change... to a rather lifeless state, that is.

      April 21, 2012 at 10:05 pm |
  7. Frank Bund

    I've never seen an attractive nun. This explains a lot.

    April 21, 2012 at 4:40 am |
    • Mirosal

      I've seen one ... my 7th grade homeroom teacher ... Sister Evelyn. not bad at all, and last I heard, she left her order, turned in her habit, and traded it in for a real wedding ring... not the kind that nuns usually wear. I guess she had a little problem with the celibacy issue as well lol

      April 21, 2012 at 4:45 am |
  8. Reality

    From a PowerPoint Slide:



    April 21, 2012 at 12:03 am |
    • b4bigbang

      TV news reports "swarm" of earthquakes in Pacific Northwest (4/19).
      All predicted by Jesus in the Gospels as a sign of the end!

      April 21, 2012 at 12:45 am |
    • Flamespeak

      Not to sound rude, sir, but could give me the passage of the bible that directly states this would happen?

      Also, not to offend, but gospel literally means 'good news' and it seems rather odd that a prophecy of great destruction would be considered good news to me. Is there some kind of positive message to this series of earthquakes predicted in the texts?

      April 21, 2012 at 4:33 am |
    • Reality

      What we do know: (from the fields of astrophysics, nuclear physics, geology and the history of religion)

      1. The Sun will burn out in 3-5 billion years so we have a time frame.

      2. Asteroids continue to circle us in the nearby asteroid belt.

      3. One wayward rock and it is all over in a blast of permanent winter.

      4. There are enough nuclear weapons to do the same job.

      5. Many contemporary NT exegetes do not believe in the Second Coming so apparently there is no concern about JC coming back on an asteroid or cloud of raptors/rapture.

      6. All stars will eventually extinguish as there is a limit to the amount of hydrogen in the universe. When this happens (100 trillion years?), the universe will go dark. If it does not collapse and recycle, the universe will end.

      7. Super, dormant volcanoes off the coast of Africa and under Yellowstone Park could explode catalytically at any time ending life on Earth.

      Bottom line: our apocalypse will start between now and 3-5 billion CE. The universe apocalypse, 100 trillion years?

      April 21, 2012 at 8:06 am |
    • holycow

      why is the opinion of others your concern?

      April 21, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
    • Reality

      How much money would the following save the US taxpayers ?:

      Saving 1.5 billion lost Muslims:
      There never were and never will be any angels i.e. no Gabriel, no Islam and therefore no more koranic-driven acts of horror and terror

      – One trillion dollars over the next several years as the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan will end.

      – Eighteen billion dollars/yr to Pakistan will stop.

      – Four billion dollars/yr to Egypt will end.

      Saving 2 billion lost Christians including the Mormons:
      There were never any bodily resurrections and there will never be any bodily resurrections i.e. No Easter, no Christianity!!!

      – The Mormon empire will now become taxable as will all Christian "religions" and evangelical non-profits since there is no longer any claim to being a tax-exempt religion.

      – Saving 15.5 million Orthodox followers of Judaism:
      Abraham and Moses never existed.

      – Four billion dollars/yr to Israel saved.

      – All Jewish sects and non-profits will no longer be tax exempt.

      Now all we need to do is convince these 3.5+ billion global and local citizens that they have been conned all these centuries Time for a YouTube,Twitter and FaceBook campaign!!!!


      April 21, 2012 at 4:50 pm |
    • chief

      re bigbang... and flamesthatspeak.............. bigbang.... that was a wild assumption, people have said that for years.... re flames... most likely matthew 24 is the reference.....

      April 22, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
  9. yakatasha

    The Vatican is an independent corporate state. When it interferes with the free expression of allowed sociopolitical convictions in the United States or elsewhere, it is leaving the sphere of religion and meddling in politics. An American nun is an American citizen and is allowed not only to hold her views but to express them, insofar as they deal directly with American politics.

    April 20, 2012 at 11:19 pm |
    • LutherenNotCatholic, but close enough

      The Vatican should in this case be looked at like a large business. The nuns are the employees and so the Vatican can make policy changes and/or punishments at will over its "workers"

      April 21, 2012 at 1:32 am |
    • b4bigbang

      yakatasha, yes, true, but the RCC also has the right to "fire", aka "excommunicate" said American nuns from their jobs, and indeed, kick them out of the church completely.
      (Btw, that would be the best thing that could happen to any Catholic, IMHO).

      April 21, 2012 at 1:35 am |
    • Faithful

      Americans are individuals but they take the Oath of Allegiance to their country – you expect them to honour it. Nuns take an oath of obedience to God, WE expect them to honour it it. Simple really.

      April 21, 2012 at 3:04 am |
    • I wonder


      I'll bet you wouldn't diss the folks who drop their "vows" and "oaths" to the FLDS and Warren Jeffs, would you?

      April 21, 2012 at 3:17 am |
    • Faithful

      Big bang – You obviously don't know anything about the Catholic Church. The Church NEVER excommunicates. You excmmunicate YOURSELF.

      Streuth, it's like wading through mo;asses talking to you anti-bodies!

      April 23, 2012 at 9:18 pm |
  10. Etalan

    How much power do the Vatican have with it religion. I mean religion figure head like the pope or priest don't really have any law that control other christian or secret christian police that enforce their law. Why not the nun just stick the middle finger at them and tell them to fu ck off. I mean they can still go to heaven even if you don't follow the Vatican rule.

    April 20, 2012 at 11:08 pm |
    • tipsana

      Etalan: In the Roman Catholic Church, the Pope is not a mere figurehead, but the voice of Christ on the planet. And the Vatican holds tremendous power within the church. They can excommunicate the women, take their property, and remove them from their community positions. All because the nuns have paid too much attn to homelessness and poverty, and failed to focus on abortion and gay marriage. Oh, and they had the audacity to note that women and men could hold equal powers within the church.

      April 21, 2012 at 4:23 am |
    • Faithful

      "Christian secret police....? How old are you? The Vatican is headed by the Holy Father. HE is Jesus Christ's representative on earth whether YOU accept it or not! And who are you to say "even if you obey the Vatican you still get to Heaven...."? Jesus said – "No-one can come to the Father except through ME".

      The fact that people with no Faith are obsessing about the Catholic Church to the point of unhealthy preoccupation – says WE have something special in our lives. If YOU had what we have , you would'nt be so jealous, right?

      Get on with your life! I don't keep droning on about Muslims, Jews or any other religion. It's THEIR choice, not mine.

      April 21, 2012 at 11:17 am |
  11. Kebos

    Hey, Pope Benedict! Go to H-E-double L!!!!!

    April 20, 2012 at 10:52 pm |
  12. jaysonrex

    The Catholic Church is indeed in serious trouble since many faithfull are deserting it, especially in South America. The Pope is not an inspiring figure and this adds to the problems. Finally, its position with regards to Israel has been subject to serious criticism from Catholics all over the world: they regard Vatican's posture as a "surrender" to Arab Muslim genocidal position vs the Jews and ultimately the Christians that live in Arab lands.

    April 20, 2012 at 10:08 pm |
    • Faithful

      You'll find that most of the people who leave the Church do so for selfish reasons – because they want contraception 24/7; they want to ignore their marriage vows; or they have no self-control.

      The Church maybe getting smaller but that's because the dead wood is leaving. The ones who remain are loyal to God. That makes it smaller but their Faith stronger.Not rocket science, eh?

      April 21, 2012 at 3:09 am |
    • danielwalldammit

      The Catholic Church has made itself a force for evil and suffering in the world today. Those leaving the church have a chance to move on to better things.

      April 22, 2012 at 12:07 am |
    • Faithful

      danielwalldammit – All over the world there are Catholic and Christian groups working 24/7 to help people suffering under brutal regimes and suffering, drought and epidemics. They work and disregard dangers of death and infection for their fellow men.

      WHAT DO YOU DO? What's your problem, son, can't you bear to look into the light?

      April 22, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
  13. I thought jesus was white

    why is the catholic church alloed in this country?

    April 20, 2012 at 10:06 pm |
    • Faithful

      Why not? Nobody's forcing YOU to join!

      April 21, 2012 at 3:10 am |
    • danielwalldammit

      The First Amendment.

      (Assuming of course, you are in the U.S.)

      April 22, 2012 at 12:09 am |
  14. MaryM

    The Christians/Catholics are leaving the church in droves. Silly ole' pedo men Cant scare the educated people anymore.

    April 20, 2012 at 10:01 pm |
    • Faithful

      And thousands more are replacing the useless dead wood!

      April 22, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
    • Alley Loo Ya


      Yeah, ignorant, gullible people from 3rd world countries... whoop-de-doo!

      April 22, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
  15. pnfctg

    What else can one expect from a nazi pope ... man of disharmony and discord !

    April 20, 2012 at 9:22 pm |
    • Faithful

      Obviously you are a victim of the failed American Education system. The Pope was only 15 when the war ended! Duh!

      April 21, 2012 at 3:11 am |
  16. george

    this nun is clearly a liberal nun, since she is not even remembering her bow of
    obedience. she should not even be speakign to the media! I do not see any other way for the vatican but, to remind them of their vows, and if they fail to remember them' then these women do not belong in the Church! I am sorry, but there is no room for such behavior from this women....

    April 20, 2012 at 9:12 pm |
    • Lola

      George, Are you kidding me? No one owns another person. We all have free will. You and the pope are morally and spiritually wrong in this issue. Jesus, the real leader here, says to help, feed, care for the less of us. So in reality you are getting in the way of the good nuns doing the real work of Jesus. Jesus threw out the pharasees. So there............

      April 21, 2012 at 8:34 am |
    • Faithful

      Lola – you are a free person but you took the oath of allegiance to your country and kids recite it at the start of each school day. I'm assuming that NOTHING would make you break that oath?
      Nuns willingly take a vow/oath of obedience to their Faith. So to be openly disloyal and hostile to the Church is anathema.

      A soldier last week criticized Obama and all hell broke loose???????? Hypocrites here or what?

      April 21, 2012 at 11:03 am |
    • Are You Kidding Me

      George, clearly you know nothing about nuns or their work. Faithful, you are a nut who hides behind his computer and spews inflamative nonsense. The Catholic church will be losing members because of views coming from a group of men whose views are from the 1800's. This would be a good time for Jesus to take a look a the people who are interpreting his word and clean house.

      April 21, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
    • Faithful

      Are you serious – I think the numbers leaving, as you say, is the beginning of the "housecleaning" As for "sitting behind a computer spewing ......" YOU'RE not doing so bad yourself!

      I'm simply defending the Faith that I love and the God that I worship! You obviously have a problem with that? I'll pray for you.

      April 23, 2012 at 9:25 pm |
  17. Murphy

    Christianity (Catholic) is going to a different direction compared to what is happening, the reforms outline by the Pope Benedict XVI in the united state should also be channeled to some Asia countries especially south East Asia countries. Where nuns operate in a very strange manner and they say they are catholic it’s dangerous and a treat to believers and non believer and for those who want a change of mind through Christianity for a better future and a peace of mind that is what I believe Christianity is a part of non violent preaching.

    April 20, 2012 at 9:05 pm |
  18. SherryF

    Yeah, don't want the women to get too uppity and forget their place! Gawd forbid they hold different opinions than a bunch of old men!

    April 20, 2012 at 9:04 pm |
    • Faithful

      Just like America, then. Except it's the American people who have no freedom due to socialist Leadership – note NDAA. Read it and you'll find that America has become the biggest open prison on the planet! You're the laighing stock of the world. Cope!

      April 21, 2012 at 3:15 am |
  19. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things*

    April 20, 2012 at 8:56 pm |
    • Tom

      Yes. In your mind. I'll take hands that help over hands that pray any day.

      April 20, 2012 at 10:14 pm |
    • Faithful

      Tom – It's the hands that PRAY that are the same hands, all over the world, helping the oppressed by brutal regimes; the sick; the starving and the uneducated. And they do it in the face of personal danger.

      Tell me exactly what YOU do apart from criticize those doing God's work on earth? I'll hazard a gues – ZERO.

      April 22, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
  20. Ron

    Religion is a mental disorder.

    April 20, 2012 at 8:30 pm |
    • Nii

      Religion is a mental disorder and atheism is the worst form.

      April 20, 2012 at 8:36 pm |
    • Ron

      Nice try Nii, but atheism is not a religion. I

      April 20, 2012 at 8:38 pm |
    • I thought jesus was white

      if atheism is a religion, then not having a disease is a disease.

      April 20, 2012 at 10:04 pm |
    • Tom

      @I thought Jesus was White and Nii. Atheism is a world view that's true but not a belief in a supernatural being/god which is at the core of each Religion. This is why people say that Atheism is not a Religion.

      April 20, 2012 at 10:18 pm |
    • Mirosal

      Atheism is a religion like bald is a hair color. But, I like the way Bill Maher put it ... Atheism is a reigion like abstinence is a se'x postion.

      April 21, 2012 at 3:28 am |
    • Nii

      Atheism is the opposite of theism not religion. The opposite of religion is secularism. Atheism is a non-theistic religion like Confucianism. Not all religions need a spirit world or God. All they need is to promote an ethical world-view. Atheism is not unbelief but a non-belief. Different things

      April 21, 2012 at 9:51 am |
    • Nii

      Abstinence and celibacy r complex issues. They can be religious in nature. I don't see why a stupid analogy cud be driven into ur hearts. If you are not a religion just compare your posts with that of a Moslem or Mormon or Christian. See anything familiar. Why do you think MAHER is trying so hard?

      April 21, 2012 at 9:57 am |
    • I thought jesus was white

      I guess it has been proven, atheism is not a religion. Makes perfect sense. Though instead of atheism, we should name it 'Realist'. Makes far better sense.

      April 21, 2012 at 10:19 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.