Nuns' fight with Vatican highlights Catholicism's global struggle
The nation’s largest group of nuns, LCWR, are under fire from the Vatican.
May 30th, 2012
04:23 PM ET

Nuns' fight with Vatican highlights Catholicism's global struggle

By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Washington (CNN) - The charges ranged from promoting “radical feminism” to espousing religious teachings out of step with the Catholic Church. Now, six weeks after many American nuns said they were blindsided by a bruising Vatican assessment, a key nuns' leadership group is meeting to decide how to respond.

The board of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, which represents the leadership of the vast majority of the nation’s nuns, began a four-day meeting in Washington on Tuesday, with church watchers dissecting the 22-member board's every move.

It's a fight that pits church men and against church women, and it could have broader implications for the global church.

One side is pushing the nuns to fight back against a church that they think has lost its way. The other is championing the Vatican against a group of aging nuns whom they say are on the verge of extinction unless they reform.

The powerful Vatican office, the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, launched an investigation for several years. It issued a report in April charging that America's nuns had largely gone rogue, warning that the American nuns could be a negative global influence on the church.

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The Vatican report said that at an annual gathering of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, guest speakers who preached "radical feminism" went unchallenged. The report also alleged sins of omission, saying the nuns were too focused heavily on social justice and not enough on opposing abortion, euthanasia and same-sex marriage.

Many nuns have publicly chafed at the report.

"For myself, the shock made me numb at first, and then I was profoundly sad that my life as a woman religious and my commitment to serving the poor would be so denigrated by the leadership of our church," says Sister Simone Campbell, who heads NETWORK, a liberal advocacy group in Washington. "All we do is work for love."

For the report to say "you don't do everything," Campbell says, is "ridiculous."

Some in the pews seemed to agree with that sentiment, even staging small protests across the country to support the nuns. During a recent stop at Campbell’s office, she showed CNN cards and letters of support.

The Vatican office that issued the assessment said it was a first step in reforming American nuns. “The renewal of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious," the report says, "… is the goal of this doctrinal Assessment."

Pope Benedict XVI, a theologian by training, was the head of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith for decades before he was elevated to papacy. In interviews conducted while he held that earlier post, he spoke often about growing the church by pruning - becoming smaller but more devout before expanding.

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“Maybe we are facing a new and different kind of epoch in the church’s history where Christianity will be characterized more by the mustard seed, where it will exist in small, seemingly insignificant groups that nonetheless live an intensive struggle against evil and bring the good into the world-that let God in,” he told Peter Seewald in an interview for the book, "Salt of the Earth: Christianity and the Catholic Church at the End of the Millenium."

That vision has support from ardent Catholics.

"Far from a crackdown, the Vatican is asking the LCWR to prayerfully return to their roots and to the reasons their religious institutes were founded,” says Raymond Arroyo, a host on the Catholic Cable Channel EWTN.

“These monasteries were not founded 100 or 200 years ago to picket and contradict church teaching or the bishops," he says. "They were founded to faithfully serve brothers and sisters throughout society in the spirit of Christ."

The Leadership Conference of Women Religious is a group of 1,500 nuns who lead over 300 religious orders. Together, its members represent 80% of the 57,000 nuns across the United States.

Church experts say that the nuns have a few options in responding to one of the most powerful offices in the church. They could accept the assessment, negotiate or resign en masse and form a new group outside the watchful eye of the Vatican.

In a statement, the group said it would conduct this week’s special meeting “in an atmosphere of prayer, contemplation and dialogue and will develop a plan to involve LCWR membership in similar processes.”

“The conference plans to move slowly, not rushing to judgment," the statement said. "We will engage in dialogue where possible and be open to the movement of the Holy Spirit."

Even before the controversy broke, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious was already thinking seriously about its future with the church.

Nuns in the conference had long ago removed their habits and shifted away from the traditional roles within church structures, like working in parochial schools and hospitals. Today you are more likely to find a nun in contemporary dress at a soup kitchen than in a full habit cracking a ruler over a grade-schooler's knuckles.

But the leadership conference is shrinking as it ages.

“They’re certainly not getting new vocations, new members, at the rate they had been before the Second Vatican Council,” says Kathleen Cummings, associate director of the Cushwa Center for the Study of American Catholicism at the University of Notre Dame. “Since the late 1960s, their numbers have declined dramatically.”

The median age of American nuns is 70, she says, noting that career opportunities once available only to nuns inside the structure of the church are now open to women outside the church.

“Changes for women in America have far outpaced changes for women inside the church,” Cummings says.

The Leadership Conference of Women Religious once represented nearly 100% of the nation’s nuns. In the 1990s, though, a number of orders broke away and formed the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious, returning to many of the older traditions of religious life, including wearing the habit.

The Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious is growing at a faster rate than the leadership conference, but Cummings said the numbers of new vocations there are “miniscule” as well.

Vatican scandals lift lid on secret power struggle

While leadership conference nuns viewed the evolving role of women to give them more of a social justice focus, Cummings says that "Vatican officials, and many Catholics, too, see those changes as startling and disturbing.

“What’s happening here with the doctrinal assessment is just the latest, and will have the most lasting effects, of a Vatican attempt to reassert the power they traditionally held over women’s religious life," Cummings says. "Power that they lost a lot of over the last 50 years.”

But conservative Catholics say the groups that are most beholden to that power are the ones that are growing.

“Some communities are clearly doing something right, others are moving to extinction,” says Arroyo. “Bottom line: a faithful witness is attractive and undeniably draws young people.

"The Vatican is throwing a life line to the leadership of female communities that are not thriving and attempting to facilitate a reform that will allow them to rediscover their initial calling and draw young vocations into the future," he says. "That's not a crackdown, it's a seek-and-rescue mission."

As the sisters debate and pray on how to respond, they realize they are in the center of a broader global power struggle.

“What’s really at stake here, in the larger significance, is the future of the church,” says Sister Maureen Fiedler of the order of Sisters of Loretto,  which is represented by the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. “Whether we’re going to go back to the old church before the Second Vatican Council.”

The leadership conference plans to announce its next steps in responding to the Vatican on Friday.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Belief • Catholic Church • Vatican

soundoff (848 Responses)
  1. MartyGRMI

    The world's last monarchy needs to dissolve.

    May 31, 2012 at 11:45 am |
    • MarkinFL

      Well, its not the last one at all really.

      May 31, 2012 at 11:47 am |
  2. MyTake

    It is funy how non-catholic people are so interested in catholic business. Go back to talk about Jersey Shore and Gossip Girls that's where your expertise lies.

    May 31, 2012 at 11:42 am |
    • MarkinFL

      Sorry, the Catholic Church has made itself of interest to others by trying to influence our politics, thus trying to influence me. I rather enjoy watching all this infighting. 🙂
      Also everyone is quite within their rights to try to influence the church and its members, especially since they are meddling outside their own church affairs.

      May 31, 2012 at 11:47 am |
    • ironman59

      The church through the manipulation of politicians has stuck it's nose in American politics. It has proven to be an outdated & uncontrolled organization with numerous ethical problems. The continued parade of priests that abused children is enough to justify shutting down the church as you would any other business.

      Also, much of this is coming from catholics themselves. I grew up and the church and have an aunt that was a nun her entire adult life. I still maintain contact with a number of them from her generation. She and many of them today are ashamed of the policies of the church. The church has gone back in time instead of forward with many of the reforms of the 60's being taken away.

      The church will continue to die if it stays on this pace. The only reason birth control is a sin is to keep catholic families large and populate the species.

      So, when the church stays out of my secular government then I will quit commenting on the church.

      May 31, 2012 at 11:56 am |
    • abc

      I suppose you want to shut down the public school system too, then?

      May 31, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      I did not know the public schools were part of one monolithic organization with a single person in charge that continually covered up its crimes for decades.... Did I miss something?

      May 31, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
  3. KasichFatCat

    I hope the nuns stand up to the Vatican. I seems to me that the American Catholic church has been watching Fox News way to much.

    May 31, 2012 at 11:42 am |
    • Hamlet

      You mean you are surprised that most Catholics are conservative?

      May 31, 2012 at 11:46 am |
    • MarkinFL

      Actually, one of the reasons the CC is losing ground here is that so many members are not conservatives, Or at least not conservative enough for the CC.

      May 31, 2012 at 11:49 am |
    • KasichFatCat

      I find extremely disappointing that church has changed from loving your neighbor to conform to rules or leave.

      May 31, 2012 at 11:50 am |
    • abc

      You can be liberal or conservative all you want. The question here is heterodoxy vs orthodoxy. You can be orthodox and liberal unless your definition of liberal requires support of abortion, etc.

      What there is not room for in the Church is heterodoxy. There is lots of room for (and lots of practice of) Christian charity by faithful, orthodox Catholics. This is not about the LWCR (not all Nuns, just the LWCR!) being too charitable but about them being heterodox.

      May 31, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      All the BC using Catholics should be kicked out today.... I'd like to see the CC kick out THAT much income.

      May 31, 2012 at 12:50 pm |
  4. paul

    The idea that one man is the voice of God on earth and has omniscient wisdom and must be obeyed in all things is at odds with free will and free thought and cannot last in an educated society. Those ladies should serve God in what ever way their conscience leads them to.

    May 31, 2012 at 11:41 am |
    • Daniel

      Whose idea is that, Paul? You clearly don't understand the subject matter to make such a statement.

      May 31, 2012 at 11:55 am |
    • Rbnlegnd101

      I thought your phrasing was ironic, at first. When we talk about catholicism, "Paul" is sort of a name that draws other associations....

      May 31, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
  5. Daniel

    Sad to read the comments here and see how few are written by people who know what they are talking about. Mention of female priests is always a give-away that the writer is clueless about the Catholic faith. It is not possible to understand this story deeply if you are uninformed about The Leadership Conference of Women Religious and who their leaders are. The Catholic Church is neither a democracy nor a dictatorship. It is a church, and it has a set of beliefs. Everyone on earth is free to embrace these beliefs or not. But to call yourself Catholic, you must embrace its doctrine as truth. If you don't, you're not really a Catholic, no matter what you call yourself. It's really quite simple. And many of the leaders of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious do not embrace the doctrine of the Catholic Church as truth. Prove me wrong.

    May 31, 2012 at 11:39 am |
    • OOO

      ...and the 98% of catholic woman that use birth control.... they can't call themselves catholic either.

      Can't have your cake and eat it too.

      May 31, 2012 at 11:42 am |
    • KMW

      Agree Daniel. These crazy nuns are out to TRY to destory our Church but they will NEVER succeed. I hope they are excommunicated!

      May 31, 2012 at 11:46 am |
    • Jen

      No one will respond to that OOO because they have no valid argument, except to agree that using Daniel's logic 98 percent of people that attend Catholic church are not really Catholic (so they will just ignore your post instead).

      May 31, 2012 at 11:50 am |
    • OOO

      What are you going to do with this church after you ex-communicate 98% of it's women who use contraceptives?

      May 31, 2012 at 11:51 am |
    • Choice for everyone


      May 31, 2012 at 11:52 am |
    • Jen

      And I agree with you Daniel. You are not a true Catholic if you believe a woman is anything more than a piece of property.

      May 31, 2012 at 11:53 am |
    • Choice for everyone

      000 – Many practice "natural family planning" however, if a Catholic chooses to use birth control it does go against church teachings. Using birth control would be a sin, as would lying, stealing, gossiping etc. Does that mean if you gossip your not Catholic? No, it would make you a Catholic commiting a "sin". If you don't belive that using birth control is wrong and don't agree with Catholic Church teachings that would mean your not a Catholic.

      May 31, 2012 at 11:59 am |
    • Rbnlegnd101

      It takes a certain willingness to twist logic in order to believe that NFP is not birth control. I mean, obviously, people are willing to accept that logic, but, fundamentally, NFP is birth control. It isn't hormonal, it doesn't use a barrier, but, it is a set of actions taken with the goal being not having a baby right now, while still maintaining intimate relations.

      May 31, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
    • OOO

      I would have to believe that almost all of the 98% of catholic women, who use birth control quite regularily, believe that it is OK, and thus should not be considered catholic.
      My point remains. What do you do with this church after you ex-communicate almost all of its women?

      May 31, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
    • ernestly

      Obviously cathoic doctrine has evolved and changed over time – when was it the word of god and when wasn't it?

      May 31, 2012 at 12:08 pm |
    • MadGOPer

      To Daniel and KMW, The Church lives in hypocrisy... It claims to follow the teachings of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who taught love, acceptance, grace, mercy, etc. Yet the Church preaches fear, hate, and discrimination. Little love is show to other Christians, especially to ex-Catholics like myself. Poisonous dogma splits families for no good reason. Rarely are Jesus's words used, most come the Apostle Paul, (who had some issues to say the least) or those of the Old Testament not the New Testament as they should be. Denying priests to marry, yet it was OK for 1500 years. Sins "forgiven" for the exchange of money. Corruption, murder, pedophilia, you name it, even in today's current events. Ask why the government suspected poisoning of Cardinal Bevilacqua. The Church needs to get it's own house in order before it accuses godly women of not doing theirs...

      May 31, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
    • Choice for everyone

      The logic is Cathlic church teaches life begins at conception, since conception/fertilization can still occur while using the birth control (implantation can not) that would be an ethical issue. NFP requires abstinence during furtile periods, but still being open to the possibility of life if it were to occur. I am Catholic and have used birth control (condom) in the past.....I did feel guilt because "I" don't believe it's right. I now use NFP.

      May 31, 2012 at 12:23 pm |
    • OOO

      You stated "The logic is Cathlic church teaches life begins at conception". Yes, we understand that.
      But you are ignoring that the catholic church is also against contraception. And Rbnlegnd101's post was explaining that RFP is just another form of contraception.

      May 31, 2012 at 12:30 pm |
    • abc


      You might want to read John Henry Newman on what the development of doctrine means. In summation, an oak sapling that develops into a 200-year-old oak tree didn't "change" but only "developed". Doctrine develops but doctrine doesn't change.

      However, unlike doctrine a discipline (a rule) can change. An example of this would be the celibate-only rule for the priesthood. The Church could choose to ordain married men but doesn't. (Whether that's a good idea or not is a different question.). But that's not doctrine – that's discipline.

      May 31, 2012 at 12:31 pm |
    • Choice for everyone

      Many of us act in ways we aren't proud of weather it's flipping off someone in a car, over spending or just being lazy. We do it because it makes life easier, because we want to or just because we really havn't given it much thought.
      Excommunication is a little more complex................no woman is going to be excommunicated for using birth control. If she told her priest she was using birth control and had no intention of stoping he would advise her not to receive communion. However, if the church were to excommunicate 98% of its congregation for whatever reason then the Church would die off which I don't think you personally would loose any sleep over : )

      May 31, 2012 at 12:35 pm |
    • OOO

      On that lighter note, I wouldn't lose an sleep – you are correct 🙂
      But back on the contraceptive point. Are you saying that you can still call yourself catholic if you have different beliefs than what is mandated by the catholic church?
      If so, at what point can you no longer call yourself catholic?

      May 31, 2012 at 12:38 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      No you are still Catholic if you feel guilt over it. Guilt is the tie that binds Catholics together.

      Also, as someone else mentioned "Natural" birth control is EXACTLY the same ethically/logically/morally as using a condom. Both are a means to have se.x without the consequence of conception. QED
      Only a religion could somehow make one more moral than the other. Total insanity.

      May 31, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
    • Choice for everyone

      NFP is not a form of contraception it is abstaining when conception is possilble.

      May 31, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
    • Choice for everyone

      No you are correct you can not (or should not) call yourself a Catholic if you beliefs differ from Church teachings. It's the belief or lack there of that determins if you are Catholic not necassarily your actions because I'm sure we are all guilty of "actions" we would not want to define us.

      May 31, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
    • OOO

      I really don't care what you call NFP since most catholic women are using "actual" contraception.

      So, you then must agree that the majority of catholic women are not really catholic. The church is basically a men's club now.

      May 31, 2012 at 1:06 pm |
    • Jen

      Then definitely most people are not true Catholics because the majority of Catholics think their stance on contraception is archaic and extreme (including my Catholic husband). These people (men included if they agree to their wives being on birth control), would not be able to repent sincerely and so will go to hell. Hell must be extremely full!

      And allowing NFP is a change to the Catholic stance. In earlier times their stance was that s-x is for procreation only, not for pleasure. Funny how they do bend their views once in awhile, while holding strong on many other archaic views.

      May 31, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
    • Elida

      Absolutely agree with Daniel.
      A real Catholic does not feel oppressed by the Church's teaching. He has embraced the whole doctrine. True freedom is being able to adhere to love, truth and beauty without being a slave to whims, political correctness and compulsive behavior. We Catholics are tired of seeing some nuns, clergy and politicians call themselves Catholic and promote what is not agreeble to our faith.

      May 31, 2012 at 6:55 pm |
  6. Just-a-guy

    What the criminal organization known as the Catholic Church wants more than anything in this situation is for the American nuns to resign. Who wants a bunch of pesky women poke their noses in to "guys" work? Certainly not the cabal of pedophiles that run the Church. Why anyone, and I mean anyone, is still a member of that vile, degenerate and morally corrupt organization is beyond me. If you truly believe in God, you would turn your back on the Church faster than a priest could say, “Want some candy little boy?”

    May 31, 2012 at 11:36 am |
    • abc

      Actually, no. It would be tremendous if they would be faithful to the Gospel, live in full communion with the Church, and fully commit themselves to teaching and sharing ALL of the teaching of Christ instead of using a portion of His teaching to justify other activities.

      May 31, 2012 at 12:33 pm |
    • Les


      Want some candy, little girl? Surely, you have felt lust for someone, young or old? Clue bot: that is a sin, the same as if you had committed adultery. What a stupid uneducated point of view. No one sin is worse or better than another sin. The conservative right protestant religious are wallowing in their own pool of stench which are far worse atrocities than the RCC. Leaving the other churches out is disingenuous at best.

      May 31, 2012 at 1:36 pm |
  7. Steve O

    I think the Vatican self-identifying its loyal members as "salt-of-the-earth" is extremely accurate – in the sense that sowing salt in the earth poisons it for centuries.

    May 31, 2012 at 11:35 am |
  8. SAC

    Sisters- if you're listening: hang out a shingle and open up a church for people who've HAD IT with the Vatican and the church male hierarchy. My husband and I will be there on opening day!

    May 31, 2012 at 11:24 am |
    • sound bite

      Make sure it is a secular shingle. Then I will show up too!

      May 31, 2012 at 11:27 am |
    • JMD

      I'm in too, I would be thrilled to see that happen!

      May 31, 2012 at 11:28 am |
    • jc

      Count me in!

      May 31, 2012 at 11:41 am |
    • jc

      Ok, that just leaves 8 more spots to get this thing going, right? Well... 7, Thomas Garrity can be our judas!

      May 31, 2012 at 11:47 am |
  9. mac101

    The question isn't whether or not the nuns will leave the Catholic church – the question is why did they stay so long? And in terms of being obsolete, it is the priesthood, with its profound excesses of pedophilia and gross misuse of power, that needs reform, not the sisters.

    It isn't the ladies that have made a mess of things, fellas.

    May 31, 2012 at 11:20 am |
  10. Thomas Garrity

    The Catholic Church does not believe that you have to be Catholic to reach salvation. This is a common misconception. What it does believe is that it has the fullness of faith left by Christ. Unfortunately, Catholics who have been practicing their faith, have seen this coming for some time. People always call for the Catholic Church to change it's teachings to accommodate people, if it were to do that then it would be moved from it's foundation. You can not just change a belief and still call it true. There is one truth out there, that is a fact. The Church believes it has the truth and if it were to change any teachings just to accommodate people then it would lose that truth. The Church is basing it's decisions dealing with American Nuns on that truth. They are not just making some power play. Many American Nuns have been going directly against many truths the Catholic faith is based on. So how can you expect the Church not to answer in this way?

    May 31, 2012 at 11:20 am |
    • OOO

      What do you mean that the church believes "it has the fullness of faith left by Christ". This statement makes no sense to me, at least in modern english.

      And you follow up with why the church can't change it's beliefs because it would then be admitting it never had the truth to start with.

      I couldn't have laid out their problem any better! That's why they are out of touch and dying out.

      May 31, 2012 at 11:26 am |
    • madonfan

      Thomas. There is only one way to the Father. We don't have a million choices. Look at some of the idolatrous acts of the Catholic Church. Would God approve of that? There is more to it then what you have said. There are rules imposed that aren't biblical.

      May 31, 2012 at 11:29 am |
    • jc

      The only truth that the catholic church has left to hang on to is social justice. They have corrupted everything else and now they want to get rid of the one Godly service they still perform in society.

      Now remember to burn or drown the heretics so you don't spill their blood – because that would be a sin. Yes, that is the logic of the catholic church.

      May 31, 2012 at 11:34 am |
    • Daniel

      Well said, Thomas. People are mixing up the human errors of the humans in the Church with The Church.

      May 31, 2012 at 11:44 am |
    • jc

      But Daniel, according to the "church" the pope is infallible? Apparently, you don't believe in the "church" either and simply think the pope is just human like the rest of us.

      You know, the pope sounds very human when he is essentially saying: "Less social justice and more hate ladies. What are you trying to do, spend all of the pope’s money to help the poor? Don't you know that social justice is an expenditure where hatred of the "sinful" is an income generator? Get to it ladies."

      May 31, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
    • Choice for everyone

      Exactly Thomas!
      There are countless other Christian denominations the nuns can have their pick of. If the Catholic church changed it's teaching based on popular public opinion it would be the Governement. You don't have to be Catholic it's a choice based on personal belief/faith.

      May 31, 2012 at 12:09 pm |
    • Rbnlegnd101

      The pope only speaks with infallibility when certain conditions are met. I do not know if this statement meets those requirements.

      May 31, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
  11. Mike

    If I were them I'd tell the pope to sit on it.

    May 31, 2012 at 11:19 am |
  12. help

    Isn’t it fascinating how quickly the catholic church picks up on the fact that the American people can again be influenced by fear and hate and now they are angry at the nuns for not using these tactics to "grow" the church.

    You can maintain the catholic church with good deeds but you can only grow it (control people) with fear. Unfortunately, the nuns have gotten used to being guided by the holy spirit to do Gods work and not the catholic church.

    May 31, 2012 at 11:16 am |
    • madonfan

      When I think of God's true ministry I think of how Jesus just found people. He would walk from place to place seeking to save the lost. There wasn't any "code" or rules to go with that. He lovingly spoke to them, listened to them. He found the most wretched people and used them for His glory. Look at Paul. He used to kill Christians yet wrote 2/3 of the new testament. God's ministry is truly amazing. Taking simple people, transforming them by the power of the Holy Spirit, and doing amazing things for His kingdom. The most effective ministry of God is to be like Paul was. He became whatever he had to, to spread the word of truth. He would eat with other sinners to get to know them, to love them, and find out their stories and who they were. You can't get this comfortable with people if you are in organized religion. You become so holier than thou that you can't do this. Jesus didn't need body guards, butlers, or a billion people around Him. He made Himself of no reputation and was meek and humble. That is not what I think of when I think of the Catholic faith.

      May 31, 2012 at 11:25 am |
  13. IndyNC

    the Vatican is in trouble... between the scandals and it's internal strife, there will be changes.

    The current pope needs to learn from his predecessor – or perhaps it's a sign of when and where he was born... Religion is no longer an obligation. Most of the western world will not mandate a religion and worshipers are free to attend (or not attend) the church of their choice.

    These women dedicated their life to Christ, with a religious dedication seen less and less today. In return the Vatican chastises them because they want to see the church more instep with society.

    Nothing requires those women be nuns, and humanity has learned that the neither the pope, nor the Catholic church possess the keys to the kingdom of heaven.

    If Ratzinger does not learn to appreciate this nuance, he will find his flock reduced to less than just "mustard seeds"

    May 31, 2012 at 11:15 am |
  14. madonfan

    This is truth. God never asked for any denominations. Catholicism is not mentioned anywhere in the bible. The sad truth is that many people do not come to saving faith in Christ because they think they have to become a Catholic. Some may not think this is a big deal, but when you have people who want to seek God, and they see this faith that has so many scandals and rules imposed upon it, it can mean the difference between someone who finds God, and someone who exhausts themselves trying with disappointment. The only name as believers that we have ever been called is "Christians". Not Mormons, Jehovah's, or Catholics. There may be very good people serving in the Catholic faith doing great things in the name of God, but that doesn't mean that God blesses the Catholic faith. It actually moves dangerously into idolatry. Mary is not to be worshipped or prayed to. God's word also says "to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord". The thief on the cross was with God the moment he died. Thus there is no purgatory. We need to make clear what is Catholicism, and what is cleary what GOD teaches in His word. This is not a joking matter. I can't count how many "former" Catholics I go to church with. The Catholic Church teaches that you can go sit with a priest every week to get "penance" or punishment for your sins, but they don't preach "repentance". Repentance, or "turning away" from the sin and stopping it all together isn't preached. That is why so many of my Catholic friends are still in bondage. And this "confirmation" deal? The idea that you can't receive the Holy Spirit unless you have done this isn't biblical. The moment you accept Christ you receive the Holy Spirit and He begins to change your life. The veil was torn between God and man when Jesus died on the cross. The need for priesthood was null and void then. So, if nuns and priests are having a problem sticking to their vows it's because it is something they have instilled in the Catholic faith but nothing God asked them to do. I think of how Catholics talk about different levels of sin. That isn't biblical either. Sin is sin. WAKE UP PEOPLE FOR YOUR OWN GOOD. THE TRUTH CAN"T SET YOU FREE UNTIL YOU KNOW IT.

    May 31, 2012 at 11:11 am |
    • Flatsguide

      Perhaps you should learn how to write a coherent sentenance before you tell others how to live. You'll appear smarter to the rest of the world.

      May 31, 2012 at 11:23 am |
    • Rick

      Sorry, but Sola Scripture is non biblical. Therefore, all your claims to biblical truths are wrong. Why don't you start reading the early church fathers and see what they had to say. 1 Timothy 3:15

      May 31, 2012 at 11:43 am |
    • abc

      >This is truth. God never asked for any denominations.
      True. He founded a Church. The ever-splitting denominations came after the 1500s.

      > Catholicism is not mentioned anywhere in the bible.
      One might think that the Church is actually mentioned very often in the Bible from Acts onward.

      >Mary is not to be worshipped or prayed to.
      All generations shall call her blessed (check out Luke's Gospel). The communion of saints struggling here can ask other saints for their prayers - whether those saints are your neighbors or those who have fallen asleep in the Lord. Including the Mother of Jesus.

      > God's word also says "to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord". The thief on the cross was with God the moment he died. Thus there is no purgatory.
      Purgatory might be better thought of as a cleansing ("as with fire" – check your Epistles if you don't know the reference) than as a place of waiting.

      > The Catholic Church teaches that you can go sit with a priest every week to get "penance" or punishment for your sins
      Penance is not punishment for sins.

      > but they don't preach "repentance". Repentance, or "turning away" from the sin and stopping it all together isn't preached.
      Repentance is a pre-requisite of confessing your sins.

      > And this "confirmation" deal? The idea that you can't receive the Holy Spirit unless you have done this isn't biblical.
      If the laying on of hands for the reception of the Holy Spirit (see Acts) not biblical?

      > The need for priesthood was null and void then.
      The presbyters of the Church are not offering new sacrifices. Their is one Sacrifice in which Jesus was both the Priest and the Victim (see the letter to the Hebrews). The Christian presbyter (priest) is sharing that one Sacrifice with the faithful; read what the Bible says (in 1st Corinthians) who do not discern the Body and the Blood. What does Jesus say over & over AND THEN people actually leave because it's hard to accept – and Jesus lets them go - about eating his flesh and drinking his blood? What do all the witnesses of the early Church from the Apostles to before Constantine say about the Eucharist presented by the presbyter (eg, St. Justin Martyr)?

      > I think of how Catholics talk about different levels of sin. That isn't biblical either. Sin is sin.
      Right, like in John's first letter when he discusses sin that is mortal and sin that is not? All wrongdoing is sin – yes. But please re-read chapter 5 and then you will have a better understanding.

      And apparently your post was a demonstration of that.

      May 31, 2012 at 11:51 am |
    • Love4all

      Clearly you are a baptist. There is nothing wrong with praying to Mary. It's not worshiping. And the Catholic faith teaches to repent for your sins because as humans we know we aren't perfect and we are going to make mistakes. I think as Christians we forget a big point in the Bible, God forgives. The Catholic faith teaching that is not a bad thing. And we don't need priest or nuns? Then I guess there is no need for pastors or any other church officials? I don't understand why everyone has to place judgement on everyone else. Does the Bible not also state that only God can judge and he alone knows what is in your heart.

      May 31, 2012 at 11:54 am |
    • madonfan

      First. I am not a baptist. I got to a non-denominational bible believing and preaching church. I already mentioned in a previous post that Mary called God "her Savior" in Luke 1:47. Perfect people don't need a Savior. Jesus had siblings which pretty much nulls the idea that Mary was a perpetual virgin. Peter was married therefore nullifying this "rock" and keys to the kingdom theory. The "rock" was Peter's confession. Nothing more, nothing less. Also, "penance" is defined as punishment by dictionary standards. As far as "confirmation", once again, the bible does not call for organized steps on how to receive the Holy Spirit, only the Catholic Church does. Also, @ LOVE4 All-The bible calls for pastors, elders, and deacons so it is appropriate to have them. Theology is useful to point out errors which can set some people free. It is however not the premise of my passion. I am a sinner saved by grace that has truly been changed by the love of Christ. My main point to drive home is that I don't ever want anyone to make the mistake that the Catholic Church is "God's church" and it isn't being run properly. Man started this religion. The only thing God has His fingerprints on is His body of believers. If the Catholic Church isn't functioning properly then we have to ask why if it is so blessed of God. We must search deeper. My passion is definitely not to judge the Catholic Church, but to bring to light that it isn't the true and only way to God as many Catholics profess. Many people are in the Catholic faith and can't find a personal relationship with God because they are too consumed with being "confirmed" or keeping sacraments that were never set by God, but by man. If you love the Catholic faith, by all means stay. But it is not the foundation of God's body of believers. Christians are. That is the only name we have ever been called in God's book. A church should just be taking God's word, and interpreting for the reader verse by verse. There is no need for anything else because GOD DOESN'T require you do anything else. Catholics also consider communion as literally making the juice and bread become the actual body of Christ. That isn't biblical either! There are so many things that just don't jive in the Catholic faith. @ FLATSGUIDE-I don't have to have all my sentences gramatically correct. God uses the foolish things of this world for His glory my friend. Also, not telling others how to live. But if you are to "live in Christ" I have something to say about that because God has called us to profess truth as believers.

      May 31, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
    • abc

      Right, it was Peter's confession and not Peter's unique position in the Church about which Jesus spoke. That's why Peter is always listed first among the Apostles. Why he was told by Jesus to "strengthen his brethren" after Jesus rose (Luke), was told by Jesus to "feed My sheep" (John) after Jesus rose, and was told by Jesus "You are a Rock (Peter) and upon this Rock I will build My Church".

      It's not juice that becomes the Blood. It's wine. Read First Corinthians where he speaks of those who drink the Blood and eat the Body without discerning the Body and Blood at the Christian Mass. (The name "Mass" is not used; you can call it "Divine Liturgy" or "Eucharistic Feast" if you'd prefer.) Read the early Christian witnesses who write of the Eucharist (or the Mass if you prefer). Read the early opponents of Christianity and how they referred to the Christians as cannibals... hmmm... I wonder why?

      May 31, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
    • biggal195

      Oh, I can't let this one go. Sola Scripture, eh? Well, here are some actual citations: COMMANDMENT #3: "THOU SHALT NOT make unto thee ANY GRAVEN IMAGE, or ANY likeness of ANY thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;
      And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments." (Ex 20:4-6 KJV) Now, addressing the part about the priesthood: "For there is ONE God, and ONE mediator between God and men, THE MAN CHRIST JESUS;
      Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time." (1 Tim 2:5-6 KJV) The emphases are mine with no changes whatsoever of words.

      May 31, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
  15. Solitairedog

    The nuns aren't raping children. The nuns aren't dealing with the mob. The nuns aren't trying to run the priesthood. This is just another power move by the nazipope. If the church won't change with the times, maybe it's the church that needs to be "left behind."

    May 31, 2012 at 11:10 am |
    • Rick

      If you leave the Catholic Church behind, you leave Christ behind. Those of you who persecute the Catholic Church persecute Christ.

      May 31, 2012 at 11:48 am |
    • bob

      Rick, you believe Christ is raping children! I think that is disgusting even to atheists.

      May 31, 2012 at 12:09 pm |
  16. Cassie

    It's a little like "wagging the dog" to say that nuns have gone rogue and are out of step w/Catholic teachings when so many priests are molesting, raping and otherwise abusing children. Maybe that's the way the Vatican/Catholic church likes to protect abusive priests – just reassign the abuser to another location and claim nuns are a "negative global influence" because they are "too focused heavily on social justice." A massive cover up scheme or corrupted values in action – either way it's shameful. Absolutely shameful.

    May 31, 2012 at 11:10 am |
    • abc

      Somewhat like the two incidents at my high school in which teachers were quietly let go after "inappropriate" relationships with their students? Where is the vitriol that you direct toward USA Swimming coaches, band directors, high school teachers, etc?

      May 31, 2012 at 12:36 pm |
  17. Tom

    If the church wants women to be more integrated, they should stop excluding them from being priests and being full participants. Also, since when was serving the poor a problem? I see a lot of helping the poor in the bible and not lobbying against abortion and gays.

    May 31, 2012 at 11:10 am |
    • Hail Mary

      Just allowing women to be priests and such is not going to save the church. Women, like men, are more educated now than in the past. The number of priests, male or female, will continue to drop because we all are seeing the foolishness of these major religions.

      May 31, 2012 at 11:13 am |
  18. Jacques Strappe, World Famous French Ball Juggler

    I'm guessing the higherups never went to Catholic school or they would know never to mess with nuns.

    May 31, 2012 at 11:10 am |
    • Lady

      So true Jacques.

      May 31, 2012 at 11:25 am |
  19. Floyd from Ilinois

    Always enjoy it when a smug, arrogant hierarchy, like the RCC priesthood, does its level best to cut its own throat.

    When the (male) priests have finished destroying their organization, they'll be standing there staring at each other and wondering how God could have done this to them. Even in ruin, they will never accept that their own actions will have been what destroyed them.

    Karma comes to Catholicism.

    May 31, 2012 at 11:08 am |
    • JMD

      You are so right, and it should be obvious to anyone that what these priests care about is power...how else could they discount the good these nuns do for society? I personally don't recognize the church as Catholic anymore, it seems it's adopting Evangelical Protestant values.The Catholic Church is already dead.

      May 31, 2012 at 11:24 am |
    • CJ

      Jesus said to Peter 'You are Rock and upon this rock I will build my Church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it'
      The Catholic church is the only church founded by Jesus Christ Himself while physically present on earth.
      This is the truth so either accept it or reject it. There is no other name by which a man or a woman can be saved except the name of Jesus Christ. He is the final revelation revealed by God to the world. The path that leads to destruction is wide and there are many that go that way. Narrow is the way that lads to Life and few there are who find it. (or even accept it today). Jesus also said that when He returns will He find any faith on earth?

      May 31, 2012 at 11:34 am |
  20. Patrick

    Having been taught by sisters throughout my elementary and secondary education, I have great respect for them and the work they do. Back in the 1950s and 60s, there were fewer opportunities for religious women than there are today. Religious women no longer have to enter the convent to teach children, tend to the sick or help the disenfranchised.

    There is a reason the median age of American nuns is 70. The Vatican would be wise to reconsider the roll of religious women within the Roman Catholic church. Convent life is no longer the only game in town.

    May 31, 2012 at 11:05 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.