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.

CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories

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. Mr Chihuahua

    When Pat Summitt's dementia gets bad enough, they can make her the next Pope lol!

    April 19, 2012 at 6:16 pm |
  2. Chef

    Yeah, reform is definitely needed. The last thing the Catholic church wants is for women to be treated like humans. They need to be concentrating their efforts on protecting pedophile priests, not trying to prevent women from acting naturally. How dare those Nuns be so insensitive...

    April 19, 2012 at 6:16 pm |
  3. thinquer


    Can CNN follow up on why the VAtican accounts were frozen in March for money laundering? Big story?

    April 19, 2012 at 6:14 pm |
  4. paintpaintpaint

    The Church is chock full of idiots in the Administration. These Sisters should just take off. Life most of the Catholics I grew up with. I stuck with the Church longer than most. I know Sister Theresa of the Holy Union Order is headed to Rome – she has a good head on her shoulders, and hopefully will be able to take on these jerks.

    April 19, 2012 at 6:13 pm |
  5. Microwave

    The idea that women can think for themselves is abhorrent to these men who are stuck in the 11th century!! The mend have made the mess of the world and cannot seem to take the blame. So many atrocities in the name of the Catholic Church. I am not Catholic, and I believe in everyone having the right to their own religion. However, I cannot understand any woman willinglingly belonging to this group. It has always been anti-women. It needs to bring itself into the 21st century or die.

    April 19, 2012 at 6:10 pm |
    • Jim Hahn

      I agree. I used to be Catholic, but I gave it up for Lent.

      April 19, 2012 at 6:13 pm |
    • lolz

      I *am* Roman Catholic. I went to Roman Catholic schools as a kid, then went to public ones. In no way shape or form were any of my girl friends subjigated for those 7 years, and neither were any that went on to highschool. There's no doctrine of any kind. Maybe you're thinking of mormanism. They treat their women like property and baby makers. I'd suggest maybe islamic stuff but that's just rediculously dumb.

      April 19, 2012 at 6:28 pm |
    • cj

      The catholic church is not anti-woman, but because Catholics pretty much follow what Jesus taught and abide by what the apostles were taught to teach by Jesus modern society with its twisted ways will call it a crime to be catholic. Most want like what the Catholic Church says because of the moral responsibility that come with it. The Church has not drastically changed because gods laws don't change. Unlike other churches or religions that change with society just to be accepted. The catholic church doesn't force the world to follow it because God doesn't force man or woman to follow the path he lays before us. Humanity was given free will, and even if the woman were feminist they know very well the churches teaching and they don't have to be apart of the church, but what it looks like is a conflict of culture and religion. The Catholic church is different in America and you can ask mostly anyone who went to a catholic church in another country and say the same thing and that is because American culture tends to believe it is superior to any other and has the right to make change and that happened in the Catholic church around the 70s. Because of the change even if it wasn't drastic it caused the current Pope to have to fix it to bring it up to the rest of the churches standards. Catholics of the US were doing what the rest of the church did, but with minor changes because Americans had their say and thought their clearer interpretation of the mass was better, but in truth it seems it drove Catholics away. Luckily the old ways are coming back gradually. That shows how making something follow the times doesn't work.

      April 19, 2012 at 6:33 pm |
  6. steve77

    The Vatican is upset because they remain silent on reproductive issues. I have lost interest of the church in America over the last 10 years because its dissolving progressive changes and perverse focus on bedroom issues instead of faith.

    April 19, 2012 at 6:07 pm |
    • cj

      Protestant seem to be to relaxed and to afraid to confront wrong doings of society so it takes a step back to society and is why society shapes it. To much of the bible is left out or not understood by protestant because they believe it is possible to understand everything by themselves. To remember text in the bible is different from truly knowing the meaning. Has anyone understood shakespear without help or get the meaning of a word to a whole or even see what is symbolic from literal. Most protastant believe the book of revaluations is all literal or got some things confused. Let me just say this most of revalations is about he roman times 666 is ceasar which at the time was pretty much killing christians horribly. About 90% of the bible has been fulfilled. Also to many Books in the bible are missing to get the complete knowledge. God said not to change a single worried, but yet every new church since the split has.

      History fact: Later, shortly before his death, Luther would write a preface to the 95 theses describing himself as an "insane papist" at the time, and he added, "I would have readily murdered any person who denied obedience to the Pope."

      Martin Luther caused more damage by making division then truly having the patience to change within the catholic church.

      April 19, 2012 at 7:13 pm |
  7. HayChiChi

    If you don't like the Catholic Church than leave!!! Stop blowing hot air and go do something useful with your life instead complaining like little kids. That's why there is the Anglican, Presbyterian, etc... I'm sure they would take you open arms.

    April 19, 2012 at 6:06 pm |
    • steve77

      I liked the old pope better, i didn't vote for this new guy, we have always been Catholic we haven't changed the church is regressing. A lot of gen x and y Catholics feel this way.

      April 19, 2012 at 6:10 pm |
    • We Left

      That's EXACTLY what we've done - We Left!! And the Protestant churches have been So Wonderful and Welcoming that they have literally welcomed us with Open Arms! May God bless them, especially the Baptist Church!

      April 19, 2012 at 6:54 pm |
    • cj

      so true to what you say, but really the Church will always be persecuted because it holds true to what God wants us to do.
      Division within Christianity just makes us weaker. Jesus said love thy neighbor so i do, God also said thou shall not kill, and this is why Catholics are against abortion if any one wanted to know because a fetus is alive and the beginning of its life as a human.

      April 19, 2012 at 6:58 pm |
    • annodmc

      People like you who condone all the hideous acts of this Catholic Church are the reasons these things continue to happen. The Vatican is in Italy...not the US, in case you forgot, and the so-called leaders have never been influenced by the US Church. They do as they please, get away with ignoring horrible acts by their own kind, treat women with NO respect, and you make excuses for them. SHAME ON YOU!! Let them continue to make a fool of you!

      April 20, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
  8. One one

    This is easy. Just quit the club.

    April 19, 2012 at 6:05 pm |
  9. Eli

    And then they wonder why young women are leaving Catholicism at an unprecedented rate. Funny.

    April 19, 2012 at 6:05 pm |
    • Emily

      Or perhaps you should take a look at the religious orders that are attracting young women in droves – the Dominican Sisters in both Nashville and Michigan, the Sisters of Life in NYC, the Franciscan Sisters of the Martyr St. George, the Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal, the Missionaries of Charity. All wear a habit. All are faithful to the Magisterium of the Church. Young women are not leaving in droves. They are not attracted to orders that are dissident.

      April 19, 2012 at 6:15 pm |
    • lolz

      Spoken like a truely mentally ill islamic person, Eli. Congrats to you.

      April 19, 2012 at 6:31 pm |
    • Think On This

      Actually, Eli is quite Correct! Emily and others should make good note of the following stories. http://www.jesus-is-lord.com/nun3.htm This next one is quite impressive also, Emily! Read it. http://www.spokesmanreview.com/tools/story_pf.asp?ID=195911 And these are only a few cases but there is no doubt Catholics are leaving the RCC church as quick as their little feet can carry them! About time too!

      April 19, 2012 at 7:06 pm |
  10. abcdxyz

    I've quit the Catholic Church because of the nonsense they have been promulgating this year. First, it was the refusal to comply with laws requiring employers to offer coverage for contraception, then it was the crusade to take back their "religious freedom," and now they are cracking down on nuns. The bishops have lost their minds, and every Catholic who goes along with them on these ridiculous things is just enabling them. Leave the church, and regain YOUR religious and civil freedoms!

    April 19, 2012 at 6:03 pm |
    • Youre Right

      You're So RIGHT!! I too have left this cult! I could see right through the restrictive measures they have been implementing throughout the years until I and many many others could take No More and just left! We're so glad we did!!

      April 19, 2012 at 6:21 pm |
  11. Michael

    The Catholic church must be the most mysogenistic organization in the history of mankind. Their doctrine implicitly marginalizes and suppresses half of the worlds population, ie women. Thank god its a dying cult.

    April 19, 2012 at 6:01 pm |
  12. SuZieCoyote

    Satan, as the Great Deceiver, is a man, in a dress (but who doesn't truck with women), wearing an ostentatious hat and wielding a golden scepter, hiding out in a church, fleecing the sheep and keeping them in darkness and misery. Cloven-hooved Demons, everyone of them.

    April 19, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
    • Michael

      Dont forget those Prada slippers!

      April 19, 2012 at 6:02 pm |
  13. As A Consequence

    It is patently obvious that after this scathing report and the punitive action that's coming, the sisters should certainly be reassessing this serious situation and whether they wish to even remain with such a constrictive, control-oriented organization as the RCC. I predict many nuns will be leaving their convents because of this very thing, and not a moment too soon! Kudos to them! They should no longer be forced to live in the Fourteenth Century while others are more "with it" in this the Twenty-First Century!

    April 19, 2012 at 5:59 pm |
  14. martog

    1. You believe that the pope has personal conversations with God (that nobody else ever hears) and is infallible when speaking on matters of Church doctrine. You then wistfully ignore the fact that Church doctrine changes and that former popes therefore could not possibly have been “infallible”. Limbo, for example, was touted by pope after pope as a place where un-baptized babies who die go, until Pope Benedict XVI just eradicated it (or, more accurately, so watered it down as effectively eradicate it in a face saving way). Seems all those earlier “infallible” Popes were wrong – as they were on Adam and Eve v. evolution, heliocentricity v. egocentricity, and a host of other issues that required an amendment of official Church doctrine. You also ignore the innumerable murders, rampant corruption and other crimes committed over the centuries by your “infallible”, god-conversing popes.
    2. You reject the existence of thousands of gods claimed by other religions, but feel outraged when someone denies the existence of yours. You are blissfully (or intentionally) blind to the fact, that had you been born in another part of the World, you would be defending the local god(s) and disdaining the incorrectness of Catholic beliefs.
    3. You begrudgingly accept evolution (about a century after Darwin proved it and after accepting Genesis as literally true for about 2,000 years) and that Adam and Eve was totally made up, but then conveniently ignore that fact that your justification for Jesus dying on the cross (to save us from Original Sin) has therefore been eviscerated. Official Church literature still dictates a belief in this nonsense.
    4. You disdain native beliefs as “polytheist” and somehow “inferior” but cannot explain (i) why being polytheistic is any sillier than being monotheistic. Once you make the quantum leap into Wonderland by believing in sky-fairies, what difference does if make if you believe in one or many?; nor (ii) why Christians believe they are monotheistic, given that they believe in god, the devil, guardian angels, the holy spirit, Jesus, many demons in hell, the Virgin Mary, the angel Gabriel, thousands of saints, all of whom apparently make Earthly appearances periodically, and all of whom inhabit their life-after-death lands with magic-sacred powers of some kind.
    5. You bemoan the "atrocities" attributed to Allah, but you don`t even flinch when hearing about how God/Jehovah slaughtered all the babies of Egypt in "Exodus" and ordered the elimination of entire ethnic groups in "Joshua" including women, children, and trees or the 3,000 Israelites killed by Moses for worshipping the golden calf (or the dozen or so other slaughters condoned by the bible). You also like to look to god to for guidance in raising your children, ignoring the fact that he drowned his own – according to your Bible.
    6. You laugh at Hindu beliefs that deify humans, and Greek claims about gods sleeping with women, but you have no problem believing that God impregnated Mary with himself, to give birth to himself, so he could sacrifice himself to himself to “forgive” an ”Original Sin” that we now all know never happened.
    7. You disdain gays as sinners, but have no problem when Lot got drunk and committed father-daughter in.cest (twice) or offered his daughters to a mob to be gang ra.ped, or when Moses, time and again, offered his wife up for the “pleasures” of the Egyptians to save his own skin.
    8. You believe that your god will cause anyone who does not accept your Bronze Age stories to suffer a penalty an infinite times worse than the death penalty (burning forever in excruciating torture) simply because of their healthy skepticism, yet maintain that god “loves them”.
    9. You will totally reject any scientific breakthrough that is inconsistent with your established doctrine, unless and until it is so generally accepted as to back you into a corner. While modern science, history, geology, biology, and physics have failed to convince you of the deep inanity of your silly faith, some priest doing magic hand signals over bread and wine is enough to convince you it is thereby transformed into the flesh and blood of Jesus because of the priest’s magic powers (or “sacred powers” to the extent you see a difference).
    10. You define 0.01% as a "high success rate" when it comes to Lourdes, Fátima and other magic places and prayers in general. You consider that to be evidence that prayer works. The remaining 99.99% failure was simply “god moving in mysterious ways”. The fact that, if you ask for something repeatedly, over and over, year after year, sooner or later that thing is bound to happen anyway, has not even occurred to you. A stopped clock is right twice a day.
    11. You accept the stories in the Bible without question, despite not having the slightest idea of who actually wrote them, how credible these people were or how long the stories were written after the alleged events they record occurred. For example, it is impossible for Moses to have written the first five books of the Old Testament, as Catholics believe. For one, they record his death and events after his death. In fact, the chance of the Bible being historically accurate in any but the broadest terms is vanishingly small.
    Heavens, I could not fit them into ten. Maybe, if they pray hard enough to their sky-fairy, the Catholics can turn them into 10

    April 19, 2012 at 5:58 pm |
    • axolotl

      Couldn't have said it better!

      April 19, 2012 at 6:09 pm |
    • Filipe

      I don't believe in any particular religion, but... most people who believe in Christianity just believe in it because they need a religion. They know there's other gods and religions and beliefs out there. If you look at it in a more open perspective you will see that all religions have a fundamental belief in a higher power.

      Also... stop trying to look for complicated ways of saying something simple so you can sound like you're making a big point. At least know that Limbo is pre-new-testatment... it's not for unbaptized babies. Makes me wonder how much else you don't know

      April 19, 2012 at 6:15 pm |
    • Jim Hahn


      April 19, 2012 at 6:22 pm |
    • martog

      Felipe, that made no sense. Please uncomplicate it so all us sthoopud people can understand it. Really now, if what I said is too complicated for ya maybe you should stop posting your ignorance.

      April 19, 2012 at 6:22 pm |
    • bud in NC

      Martog- You summed it up perfectly.

      April 19, 2012 at 6:24 pm |
    • RC


      April 19, 2012 at 7:02 pm |
    • cj

      The facts are off and if Catholics truly believed Popes only can talk to god they wouldn't pray to god.
      At the end are death shall reveal the truth and personally i want to please God not put more sins on my soil to weigh against me.

      April 19, 2012 at 7:17 pm |
    • martog

      CJ, Please 'enlighten' us as to your knowledge of how my 'facts' are off? And how do you put sins on your soil?

      April 20, 2012 at 6:04 am |
    • gerald

      Colin, nice to see you over here. How many times have you posted this tripe. It's been refuted but in your pride you just can't let it go. Sad.

      April 20, 2012 at 11:39 am |
    • ed galbraith

      First rate, Martog.

      April 20, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
  15. Theend

    Jesus Christ was a feminist. His treatment of Mary Magdalene, his mother, etc. - all indicate a strong commitment to equality and defending the political, econ, and social rights for women. The Vatican's criticism of American Roman Catholic nuns is short-sighted and destructive. It is fratricide and indicative of the Vatican's malaise/self-loathing/discontent/ frustration - stewing over internal "doctrinal problems" - instead of embracing its true mission; to go forth and preach Jesus Christ's message of love to the people of the world.

    April 19, 2012 at 5:58 pm |
    • Michael

      Whats your point? When did JESUS have anything to do with the Catholic Church?

      April 19, 2012 at 6:01 pm |
    • Theend

      I guess my point is this - there is a larger reason why the Vatican is criticizing American Roman Catholic nuns...

      April 19, 2012 at 6:14 pm |
    • lolz

      No, the Vatican is saying that man-hating extremist lesbians don't belong in the Church, that's all.

      April 19, 2012 at 6:33 pm |
  16. Pope Hitler-Youth


    Yes, how COULD we EVER want EVERYONE to be able to obtain health insurance! THAT WOULD BE EVIL!!!!!

    Only the godly should be able to get affordable healthcare, and by godly we mean "Catholic."

    Ok, ok, "Christian" then, are you happy now?

    April 19, 2012 at 5:56 pm |
    • Theend

      The Roman Catholic Church has become a major player in the health care industry in the United States with their huge hospital systems - the Daughters of Charity, the Franciscans, etc. Healthcare has become a major source of revenue for the Roman Catholic Church - hence their interest in healthcare reform... There is a much bigger story here...

      April 19, 2012 at 6:07 pm |
    • cj

      Most people never read the health care act and truly now what it says, and for all that looked it are against catholics and none catholics. Also the catholic church helps pay for people medical bills. The revenue from the hospitals goes to the sick and aids those who ask for it. Its funny how ignorant people are to what the church does with the money. No Catholic is a millionaire because that money is circulated around to pay for the churches finances, cost of food to support priest and other church officials, medical expenses for their sick, poor, aid to devastated countries. Most don't realize the Catholic church is the biggest charity.

      April 19, 2012 at 6:43 pm |
    • cj

      Catholics have their faults because we are all human, so i just think it's ironic others try to jump on Catholics for what ever excuses they can find which ever religion you're in probably did some bad things, but wait it's not a Catholic so it doesn't make headlines(big news).

      My biggest gripe is Catholics and other Christians needed to stop being divided because it is the disease of christianity. The more christians fight each other the more likely christianty going to be trounced on by others. All christians are brothers.

      April 19, 2012 at 6:50 pm |
    • gerald

      Very ignorant post. The Catholic Church provides more free hospital beds, meals, homes, etc. for the poor than any other organization. The CC is not completely against the AHCA. It is against the parts that are objectionable to Catholic moral teaching. So if Hitler had an AHCA and had all that Obama put in his with one line that said "and gas for Jews will be mandated" you would be in favor of it?

      April 20, 2012 at 11:43 am |
  17. Catherine

    Not a surprise. Rome has been dictating for centuries – even seeing that women were burned at the stake as witches and heretics – what women are to think, feel, do and be. They have no true control of American Catholic Women – notice small families in the pews – so now they've gone after nuns. Although there have been some nuns I've encountered in my lifetime who were difficult to please – when crushed under the thumb of men who hold all the power, money and theological exposes – how does anyone expect a woman to behave? Nuns are human beings, too. I fully support their efforts on behalf of the very people Rome has no interest in releasing from their controlling hand and freeing them to be the gifts of God's grace they have been born to be.

    April 19, 2012 at 5:55 pm |
    • Michael R.

      Well said!!

      April 19, 2012 at 6:04 pm |
    • cj

      Protestant killed people for being witches as well, also don't get me stated about what muslims do to woman.

      April 19, 2012 at 6:34 pm |
  18. Nonimus

    Sorry, but this is just hilarious.

    April 19, 2012 at 5:54 pm |
  19. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    April 19, 2012 at 5:53 pm |
    • martog

      please try a dose of reality as you are obviously delusional

      April 19, 2012 at 5:59 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      like rain dances change the weather

      April 19, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
    • Mark

      Atheism, you keep blabbling the same line over and over; this is not about prayer (just in case you missed the article), it is is about doctrinal differences. Do you not have an actual opinion to offer?

      April 19, 2012 at 6:12 pm |
    • Jesus

      Prayer doesn’t not; you are such a LIAR. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs!.!~!.

      April 19, 2012 at 6:22 pm |
  20. Paul R Day

    The newest wing of the Republican Party takes over their War on Women,,,

    April 19, 2012 at 5:53 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.