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. John

    The Church is right. The article is intentionally misleading. There is no "adaptation" to "modern" norms contrary to the rules set down by Christ and carried forward by the writers of the New Testament. The Church is hardly in its death throes. It is coming back to life at last. Go to the Latin Mass and find God there.

    April 19, 2012 at 7:01 pm |
    • Observer

      The Bible tried to be politically correct. That's why it praised King Solomon, although he had hundreds of wives and concubines. It never condemn slavery either.

      April 19, 2012 at 7:12 pm |
    • BADGUY

      The Catholic Church has become a Fascist Organization run by FAR right wing groups (like Opus Dei). It's attempts to swing our government to the right has been present in the last two Presidential elections. It's tax free status should be removed. If it acts like a political party, it should be treated as one!

      April 19, 2012 at 8:08 pm |
    • annodmc

      Are you for real??? Closing churches, schools and seminaries...coming back to what???

      April 20, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
  2. WDinDallas

    This is a battle against Liberation Theology, created by the Jesuits and followed by a majority of the nuns.

    We need another inquisition. I'm serious!

    April 19, 2012 at 7:01 pm |
    • BADGUY

      ..with the Pope and the American ArchBishops on trial!

      April 19, 2012 at 8:10 pm |
  3. Terry

    This will be a much better world when religion is finally erased from existence. It boggles the mind that such a thing exists in the first place.

    April 19, 2012 at 7:00 pm |
  4. NauticalMan

    It will be a great day for the Catholic Church when there is a woman as Pope...

    April 19, 2012 at 6:59 pm |
  5. missmusic98

    So the Church is mad because nuns are silent on certain issues? Isn't that what the Church (and Scripture!) calls for–silent women? Please! NUNS have not caused the recent crisis in the Church, nor have they tried to subjugate their male counterparts throughout the Church's history. Yeah–blame the NUNS.

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

      Meanwhile....the church has been successful in keeping the release of names of accused Pedophile Priests and victims in an American City where it is declaring bankruptcy.

      April 19, 2012 at 8:16 pm |
  6. chief

    you go girls ... serve God not the catholic church... you dont need celibate ped priest in womens clothes telling you how to act or believe

    April 19, 2012 at 6:57 pm |
  7. Edward C. Walsh

    Outrageous.! These old reprobates, when they are not covering up crimes by their pedophile priests, are out on the golf courses with Republican polls and corporate ceos, hunting for money and power over our citizenry. They spend the rest of their time telling US Catholics how to think, vote and become docile little Republican brownnosers. They have no credibility with the american Catholic public. The Nuns do – big time! So the bishops and the clowns in the Vatican are POed because the Nuns won't lie and parrot the organizational party line. That's what really has these hypocritical old farts all bent out of shape. One of the bishops is actually doing time in a Western state Pen. Who listens to these creeps any more. Ed Walsh

    April 19, 2012 at 6:55 pm |
    • BADGUY

      Remember this "Pope" was a soldier in Hitler's Army. OF COURSE he has no use for Progressives! I doubt much of the "programming" he got there has changed.

      April 19, 2012 at 8:19 pm |
    • BADGUY

      What can the "Rat" (Joe Ratzinger) and that right wing, Republican loving, Archbishop of New York (Dolan) DO to change those left wing ideas of the Nuns? Are they gonna sit in every class room, in every Catholic School Room and "monitor" what the nuns are teaching? The "Rat" will pass, Dolan will pass..then, maybe, the Catholic Church can get back to business!

      April 19, 2012 at 8:31 pm |
  8. Ryon

    The pope is out of control....

    April 19, 2012 at 6:54 pm |
  9. MashaSobaka

    The Catholic Church is in its death throes. Adapt or die. That's the way the world works. Western culture has been secularized. The dogma of Christian fundamentalism is falling out of fashion. Get over it.

    April 19, 2012 at 6:53 pm |
  10. Doc Ock

    Good to see the Dark Ages continue trying to make a comeback.

    April 19, 2012 at 6:52 pm |
  11. Jesus H. Christ


    April 19, 2012 at 6:50 pm |
  12. OrangeW3dge

    Whe we "go to Heaven", it won't matter which gender we were in this live. Gender is only about regeneration, not spirituality.
    The Pope is confused (maybe a little repressed, too).
    I guess his trip to Rio didn't go too well.

    April 19, 2012 at 6:50 pm |
  13. Jennifer

    I know many Catholics who say they can still be Catholic and ignore this sort of behavior by the Vatican, but there comes a point where that sort of stance becomes almost hypocritical. If you disagree with so much of the Church, how can you justify staying. I spent 13 years of my life in Catholic schools and the process of leaving was slow and sad, but it was the right choice. I got the point where I disagreed more than I agreed. Being a Catholic isn't just about a faith in God, it's about being part of a church with a certain way of running things and a very specific belief system. You can still have a relationship with God outside of the Catholic Church. I know I do.

    April 19, 2012 at 6:49 pm |
    • annodmc

      You are so right...my faith is in my God!

      April 20, 2012 at 4:20 pm |
  14. Bob

    Does anyone actually listen to the churg anymore? They blast Us nuns... I just passed gas so I'm blasting them too!

    April 19, 2012 at 6:47 pm |
  15. SATCH

    Peiple. leave this joke and sad face of religion. aka The worlds largest organized, and all-knowing Pedop*hile ring, a FACT.

    Religions if for those who live in fear. Be spiritual, be a good person, etc, but religion will soon be as irrelevant as the God's of rain, fire, voodoo, witches, etc.

    Besides, with these guys in charge, the earth would still be considered flat LOL

    April 19, 2012 at 6:46 pm |
  16. Benjamin

    Oh look, the old white religious guys are freaking out at the women again because they aren't kissing their feet and spreading their legs in bed enough for their tastes.

    And people ask me why I say that I believe in God and not the Pope.

    April 19, 2012 at 6:45 pm |
  17. Magic Jew

    No one gives a fark what the Vatican says. They believe in virgin births. Seriously, they're delusional, people. Stop listening to them.

    April 19, 2012 at 6:43 pm |
  18. Lena Laine

    Its incredible to see how much ignorance people have or shall I say ignorance is truly bliss.Everyone seems to attack the church, but that just shows how much we do not know...I consider myself a faithful Catholic woman not because of the vatican or priest, etc but because I have faith in the God above who not only takes care of all but who loves unconditionally.....People speak about mistakes occurred in the present or past times but I truly believe we are all human (now i am not saying these mistakes are not wrong because they are), but there are many other religions or cults I shall say that probably exploit people, that is unheard of so I would not be speaking.I honestly think that people should stop judging and take a deeper look at your surrounding because no one knows what truly is surrounding them.....May God Bless you all !!!!!!!

    April 19, 2012 at 6:42 pm |
    • M.E.

      Where was your God to take care of the kids who were being abused by Catholic priests? Believe in god all you want, but he is a bit of a jerk if you think about it properly.

      April 19, 2012 at 6:52 pm |
    • dahlimama

      Lena your comment makes absolutely NO SENSE! What in the world are you mumbling in circles about???? I think you are a faithful catholic because You don't understand the conversation that is taking place or what is going on. Please ask someone what is being said here.

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

      The Catholic Church is NO LONGER a "church". It's a right wing political organization intent on protecting its economic interests around the world, especially in the United States. FAR right wing groups like Opus Dei, and the Knights of Malta are now firmly in control of the Church and influence and actually control the Pope. Their intent is to "purge" all left leaning and progressive elements from the Church (Like this nun's group). The Catholic Church can NO LONGER be trusted as a protector of Christian charity and faith. It is an abomination against God!

      April 19, 2012 at 8:04 pm |
    • BADGUY

      The right wing organizations that control the Church, control people like "cults"! Read up on "Opus Dei"! A cult by any other name...and its founder admired Adolf Hitler!

      April 19, 2012 at 8:35 pm |
  19. BADGUY

    The Pope and the American Archbishops have gone "over the top". Time for Catholics to start "bailing out" of this abomination!

    April 19, 2012 at 6:41 pm |
    • Brad76

      I agree, the Catholic church was always an abomination. And in no way does it represent Christianity for myself.

      April 19, 2012 at 6:50 pm |
  20. mary

    I'm so angry with the Pope and the Bishops I absolutely am ready to leave the church. The nuns i know are hard working, spiritual, reach out to the community are supportive and prayerful. They don't deserve this sanction, they don't deserve any of this "garbage". As far as I'm concerned these OLD MEN want to divert attention away from thier problems and scandals. The sisters live the way Jesus would want them to, by loving the poor and helping the human race. These men have lost their way! I would pray for them but I'm going to pray for the Sisters instead. It was the women who found Jesus and to whome Jesus revealed himself and they had to convince the disciples. Nothing has changed from what i see. And so they shall lead them again.

    April 19, 2012 at 6:35 pm |
    • MashaSobaka

      Leave the Church! Break free of that dogmatic garbage and follow what your heart is telling you. That'd be an achievement to celebrate! I'm rooting for you!

      April 19, 2012 at 6:51 pm |
    • dahlimama

      I agree completely! Only I have left the church over this treatment I just couldn't stay and pledge allegiance to a group of old men who pretend to speak for Jesus. How dare they punish the Nuns while protecting and hiding child abusers! We are apparently less to them than criminals. If I chose to stay it would mean I believed that I was less than a child abusing criminal! No way! May they go the way of the dinosaurs.

      April 19, 2012 at 6:53 pm |
    • Chuck

      Mary says, "The nuns i know are hard working, spiritual, reach out to the community are supportive and prayerful."

      I'm sure that they are. But the Roman Catholic Church is a doctrinal organization in which right and wrong are not decided based on who works hard, who is "spiritual" or "prayerful," or who reaches out to the community, but are based on inerrant and unchanging holy scripture and doctrine.

      Working hard, being spiritual and prayerful, reaching out to the community, loving the poor, helping the human race, these things are to be the result of - our response to - the scripture and doctrine, not the other way around.

      April 19, 2012 at 6:56 pm |
    • Chris

      The nuns and everyone else should leave a "church" whose hierarchy is little more than very wealthy, arrogant pedophiles. Honestly their hypocrisy is stunning. Stop giving these corrupt men money! It is time for the Catholic Conference of Bishops to be tossed into the dustbin of history. But first, make them pay taxes like everyone else.

      What would happen to them if all women left? I hope I live to see it. I left decades ago.

      April 19, 2012 at 6:57 pm |
    • john

      Mary before you do anything rash please review and study church doctrine and understand the teachings, and most of all pray about it. CNN as a sole credible source for faith based issues and doctrinal questions is a bit .... superficial or shallow. As with all important decisions you make in your life you go to the experts. Do that in this case.

      Additionally, consider CNN motives in presenting these articles. They are presented to be provocative first and factual second and somewhere down the list is "complete"

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

      Mr. dahlimama says, "... How dare they punish the Nuns while protecting and hiding child abusers! We are apparently less to them than criminals."

      WWJS (What would Jesus say)? I suspect He would say that we are all, indeed, no different than child abusers. St. Paul says in Romans 3, "There is no difference at all. All have sinned and all fall short of the glory of God.." There is no difference at all. All have sinned. To God, sin is binary not linear. Either you have sinned or not, and there are no degrees in between.

      You complain about being equated with a child abuser, but I see you as arrogant for wanting to be considered better than a child abuser. You remind me of the man who stood at the alter and prayed, "God, I thank you that I'm not like that guy over there." Which one went home justified in God's eye?

      April 19, 2012 at 7:05 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.