American nuns come out swinging against Vatican in face of ‘radical feminist’ accusations
Protesters in New York show support for American nuns in the face of Vatican criticism.
June 1st, 2012
09:42 AM ET

American nuns come out swinging against Vatican in face of ‘radical feminist’ accusations

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

(CNN) – The leadership representing most of America’s nuns came out swinging Friday against the leaders of the Roman Catholic Church, in the face of charges from the Vatican that the nuns are espousing “radical feminism” and straying from church teaching.

The Vatican’s criticism of the American nuns has “caused scandal and pain throughout the church community, and created greater polarization,” the Leadership Conference of Women Religious - which represents about 80% of American nuns - said in a statement Friday.

The board of the group had convened in Washington this week for three days of special meetings, provoked by an April assessment from the Vatican that said America’s nuns had largely gone rogue and warned that they could be a negative global influence on the church.

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 said the nuns were too focused on social justice and not enough on opposing abortion, euthanasia and same-sex marriage.

The Leadership Conference of Women Religious said Friday that the assessment “was based on unsubstantiated accusations and (was) the result of a flawed process that lacked transparency.”

“Moreover, the sanctions imposed were disproportionate to the concerns raised and could compromise (the nuns’) ability to fulfill their mission,” the statement continued.

The Leadership Conference’s 22-member board said that its leaders would travel to Rome this month to meet with the head of the Vatican’s Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, the office that launched an investigation of the American nuns several years ago.

Hours later, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement from Archbishop Peter Sartain in which he vowed there was a wholehearted commitment "to dealing with the important issues raised by (the Vatican's) doctrinal assessment and the LCWR board in an atmosphere of openness, honesty, integrity and fidelity."

"I look forward to our next meeting in Rome in June as we continue to collaborate in promoting the important work of the LCWR for consecrated life in the United States," said Sartain, who heads the Archdiocese of Seattle. "The Holy See and the Bishops of the United States are deeply proud of the historic and continuing contribution of women religious - a pride that has been echoed by many in recent weeks."

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.

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.

–CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor Eric Marrapodi contributed to this report.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Catholic Church • Vatican

soundoff (1,467 Responses)
  1. emintey

    Nuns serve the poor and heal the sick, priests molest children and the nuns are disciplined, what am I missing here?

    June 1, 2012 at 11:07 am |
    • Beadles

      Perfectly stated.

      June 1, 2012 at 11:18 am |
    • Howard

      You're not missing anything. It's an Old Boys Network, and of course, nuns are never boys.

      June 1, 2012 at 11:58 am |
    • John

      Sweeping generalization as I can remember some of the best people I've ever known were priests and a nun or two were witches. These kinds of statements do more to protect the church as they can scream that they're being crucified – part of the martyr thing they do. I'd sure like to see the church liquidated and sold off for back taxes and reparations, though.

      June 1, 2012 at 1:32 pm |
    • bam

      Sweeping generalization as I can remember some of the best people I've ever known were ones that did not oppress people because of their gender, like all these cult religions do.
      priests feast on boi juice and get paid $20,000 for doing it, moved to another area to taste different towns boi juice. nuns do exactly what jesus would do and still are oppressed for doing it.

      June 1, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
    • Crazyyyy

      Top Ten Signs You're a Christian in Name Only
      10 – You vigorously deny the existence of thousands of gods claimed by other religions, but feel outraged when someone denies the existence of yours.
      9 – You feel insulted and "dehumanized" when scientists say that people evolved from other life forms, but you have no problem with the Biblical claim that we were created from dirt.
      8 – You laugh at polytheists, but you have no problem believing in a Triune God.
      7 – Your face turns purple when you hear of the "atrocities" attributed to Al lah, 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!
      6 – You laugh at Hindu beliefs that deify humans, and Greek claims about gods sleeping with women, but you have no problem believing that the Holy Spirit impregnated Mary, who then gave birth to a man-god who got killed, came back to life and then ascended into the sky.
      5 – You are willing to spend your life looking for little loopholes in the scientifically established age of Earth (few billion years), but you find nothing wrong with believing dates recorded by Bronze Age tribesmen sitting in their tents and guessing that Earth is a few generations old.
      4 – You believe that the entire population of this planet with the exception of those who share your beliefs – though excluding those in all rival sects – will spend Eternity in an infinite Hell of Suffering. And yet consider your religion the most "tolerant" and "loving."
      3 – While modern science, history, geology, biology, and physics have failed to convince you otherwise, some id iot rolling around on the floor speaking in "tongues" may be all the evidence you need to "prove" Christianity.
      2 – You define 0.01% as a "high success rate" when it comes to answered prayers. You consider that to be evidence that prayer works. And you think that the remaining 99.99% FAILURE was simply the will of God.
      1 – You actually know a lot less than many atheists and agnostics do about the Bible, Christianity, and church history – but still call yourself a Christian....

      June 1, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
    • See: JW.org

      If you want something refreshing...See: http://www.JW.org.

      June 1, 2012 at 6:10 pm |
    • See: www.JW.org

      "Was Life Created?" http://download.jw.org/files/media_books/lc_E.pdf

      June 1, 2012 at 6:18 pm |
    • Catholic Clarity

      First of all, you have never met a nun. They're cloistered. Many religious sisters serve the poor and heal the sick (heal?! tend to would probably be more accurate), but not all of them. Each community has its own charism and each sister within the community has her own gifts and specific calling. Each sister is human and imperfect.

      Now, onto priests. MANY priests tend to the spiritual needs of the sick and suffering. Many of them serve parishes where the needs of the parishioners consume more time than they have to give. Priests in general are loving and giving of their time even as they are attacked in the media for nothing they have done wrong. Some priests are sick men who have found an avenue to access children for their own reprehensible desires. They are wrong and they should be punished.

      To say all priests molest children is outlandish and inaccurate. To ignore that sweeping changes the CC has made to try to prevent these acts in the future is just a sign that ignorance is preferable to understanding and caring, honest dialog. To say all nuns are perfect is just serving the purpose of those engaged in direct battle against the priesthood.

      None of this foolishness is acceptable in my country, where we are called to accept and respect those of all faiths. Priests should be respected just as doctors or businessmen or accountants. Those priests (and teachers and ministers and coaches) who have committed unspeakable sins should be admonished and punished. Plain and simple.

      June 3, 2012 at 12:24 am |
  2. The Contentious Otter

    The nuns should tell the Bishops to go **it in their funny pointed hats. I haven't been to a Catholic Church in years, and the behavior of the Bishops and Cardinals is revolting to me. I have absolutely no intention of ever going back to a traditioonal Catholic Church but if there was a new Catholic Church where Catholic Nuns said the mass and offered communion, and where the focus was on Social Justice, Equality for Women and Compassion for the Poor I would be very eager to begin attending mass again.

    June 1, 2012 at 11:06 am |
    • GFreas

      The Church doesn't need members who believe only what they want to believe. Stay at your other church; leave the Catholic Church alone.

      June 1, 2012 at 11:08 am |
    • derp

      Yes, leave the catholic church alone, they are very busy. There are so many young boys and only so little time.

      June 1, 2012 at 11:11 am |
    • ME II

      True. Apparently the RCC needs people who only think what they are told to think. Otherwise, all their dirty laundry gets aired. Such as what is currently happening.
      The RCC has no one to blame but itself, no one. Including we heathens.

      June 1, 2012 at 11:13 am |
    • emintey

      Joan of Arc was burned at the stake by the Holy Inquisition (better known as the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith), yes we know where this pope is coming from.

      June 1, 2012 at 11:20 am |
    • Howard

      @ GFreas ... how ironic that at the very time the RCC is making a great effort to woo the Episcopalians back into the RCC, they're doing their best to create a new schism in the American church. Whatta bunch of maroons.

      June 1, 2012 at 12:18 pm |
    • T-Max73

      @GFeas- Of course, what you are suggesting is that you need to be told what to think and what to believe. The women in this story are using their own morals and ethics and following those precepts instead of the dogmatic and stale doctrine of hatred and intolerance. I applaud their autonomous thinking and collective actions against a regime that supports misogyny, pedophilia, and opulence in the face of poverty and suffering. Peace.

      June 1, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
    • Cubes

      I state the same thing again. Nobody is asking anyone to stay in the only and true church founded by our Lord Jesus Christ. All of you who hold onto to the teachings of holy scriptures ask yourselves this question. How did we get the bible. For the first 300 years there was no bible, but only the traditions that CATHOLICS handed down to their congregations. BTW the firs 10 or so popes are mentioned in the bible. Linus, Anacletus and others to name a few. The church is not a democracy, but a theocracy. You don't like the way it is run, Leave! We're not holding you back. I advice to read christian history and find out how you got your bible and who codified it for you. Best of luck!

      June 1, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
    • sir_ken_g

      You and those like you Cubes are exactly those who are well on the way to killing the church.

      June 1, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
    • Catholic Clarity

      It's so sad that a hunk of a generation wasn't educated well so they could truly understand the teachings and workings of the Catholic Church.

      June 1, 2012 at 7:52 pm |
  3. Leucadia Bob


    June 1, 2012 at 11:05 am |
  4. Dan

    We have not heard about NUNS being knocked up by PRIESTS.How about it,does any NUNS have babies by PRIESTS.Would like to know if you can tell if there were Priests that liked Women.

    June 1, 2012 at 11:05 am |
    • Montello

      Back in the late 50's or early 60's, they tore down an old convent in Denver and found (presumably aborted) fetuses in the basement. It was big deal on the evening news for a couple of days, then disappeared. I never heard any more about it.

      June 1, 2012 at 11:14 am |
  5. Montello

    It's the Vatican that has gone rogue...

    June 1, 2012 at 11:03 am |
    • GFreas

      The nuns brought this up; the Vatican is doing what it has always done. The media is spinning it as if the Vatican has done something different.

      June 1, 2012 at 11:04 am |
    • OnlyOne

      Rubbish. How did the nuns bring this up? By being faithful to the Gospel instead of those hypocrites that pass themselves off as Bishops? Further, doing what one has always done is no virtue, except for hardline conservatives that long for the good old days when men were men and sheep were scared.

      June 1, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
  6. ME II

    What "sanctions"? I hadn't heard about those.

    June 1, 2012 at 11:02 am |
  7. Catholic

    It's time the Vatcian got over their double standards – last I checked pedophilia was also scorned upon.

    June 1, 2012 at 11:01 am |
  8. derp

    Wow, now the pointy hat guys have managed to anger their own sl aves. At this point is there anyone that Pope Adolf hasn't pis sed off.

    June 1, 2012 at 11:01 am |
    • Catholic Clarity

      Hm. Derp backwards spells pred.

      June 1, 2012 at 7:52 pm |
  9. Antoinette Sellitto

    Good for the nuns. The Church needs more feminine influence in wake of the scandals involving priests. Mary Magdeline was more involved with Jesus than the Church would allow followers to believe and may have been an apostle. This is another example of an all boys network cracking down on women.

    June 1, 2012 at 10:59 am |
    • GFreas

      Religion is not a democracy. If you had a religion, you'd understand.

      June 1, 2012 at 11:03 am |
    • Jen

      Well you must hate the US then. Why don't you move to Iran where you belong?

      June 1, 2012 at 11:07 am |
    • Arvn Huac

      Thank you GFreas for proving conclusively why we need to keep religion out of American democracy!

      June 1, 2012 at 11:14 am |
    • bam

      gop goal Theocratic States of America.

      June 1, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
    • Cubes

      @Antoinette. If you don't like the way the church is run. LEAVE! Go find yourself a church where you can drink wine and eat bread and express y ourself and your views. NOT the real presence. Good luck finding it.

      June 1, 2012 at 4:42 pm |
  10. You Can Hide in the Sun Till You See the Light

    I'm sure Jesus is very sad right now. The hirerarchy has strayed from love. You don't have to be Catholic (or a member of any religion) to talk to God. Contrary to their beliefs, no one has a monopoly on the truth.

    June 1, 2012 at 10:59 am |
    • Wakey Wakey!

      Jesus, if he even existed, is still dead. He's not a deity, he's not in any heaven or afterlife; he's dead. The real Jesus is dead. The fantasy Jesus you have in your head is nothing but your imagination.

      Sorry to break the bad news to you, but it really would be better if people realized that their belief that the most superpowerful being in the universe in their personal friend, well, it's childish fantasy. No invisible superfriend.

      June 1, 2012 at 11:12 am |
    • T-Max73

      Much more likely is that he is either dead or never existed in the first place. I know the Jesus of the Bible exists in myth and legend, but as for a man-god who died and rose from the dead-seriously? I think we know now (if we know anything) that dead people do not come back to life. We know that man is terrified of death, that man avoids death at all costs, and that man is inclined toward self deception and wishful thinking.

      June 1, 2012 at 12:23 pm |
    • bam

      I see jesus all over the news, arrested for this and that.... and a recently risen zombie jesus just ate some dudes face.

      June 1, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
  11. Ken from FL

    The Holy Father's comments were spot on target.

    June 1, 2012 at 10:58 am |
    • steven harnack

      Don't you feel just a little bit goofy calling someone who is neither holy nor a father "the holy father"? If you don't ,then I will feel that you are goofy for you. That's just brotherly love.

      June 1, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
  12. GFreas

    So much bellyaching over the Church. Poor me! Poor me! The Church is mean to me!

    Contrary to what the bellyaching women and gays want you to believe, most of the Church's efforts are on helping people in need. The Church minds its business and it gets attacked by whiners.

    June 1, 2012 at 10:57 am |
    • derp

      "most of the Church's efforts are on helping people in need"

      That, and harboring pe dophiles. You forgot the harboring pe dophiles thing.

      June 1, 2012 at 10:59 am |
    • Dan

      Are you even in the same world as the rest of us,guess not by your comments.

      June 1, 2012 at 11:00 am |
    • Dan Halen

      Yes, if they'd just get their hands out of the alter boys' pants.

      June 1, 2012 at 11:01 am |
    • GFreas

      Media hype. Do you have any clue about how few people were involved with that and how it pales in comparison to child abuse in government schools?

      Stop relying on the religion hating, gay-infiltrated media to "educate" you. You're ignorant.

      June 1, 2012 at 11:01 am |
    • Robert

      Well, then, given that logic, why doesn't the Pope sell all the priceless art, jewels and other assets in Vatican City and distibute it to the poor of the world through it's charitable organizations?

      June 1, 2012 at 11:03 am |
    • JudgeDB

      Yeah, and the Cruscades were just a publicity stunt to get the name of Jesus out there...

      For most of the good any religion does, they usually do at least an equal amount of harm or there are strings attached. Want some food and an education? You had better learn to accept Jesus first or no dice, and even then our "science" will focus on teaching you about the miracles of Jesus. You live in a country rampant with AIDS (lots of places in Africa) or you want to sleep with your wife but already have too many kids? Too bad for you, the Catholic church doesn't allow contraceptives.

      June 1, 2012 at 11:13 am |
    • Cubes

      Dead on!! A little known truth about some head of a gay group in NYC. He protested at St. Patrick's cathedral and chanined himself to the pews. Guess who took care of him when he was on his AIDs death bed? None of his pals or lovers came to his aid, but the Holy Catholic church so often maligned by the media did.
      That's what we do. But when a few priests do wrong now that's news. How pathetic!

      June 1, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
    • steven harnack

      NO, the church's main business is the collection of wealth and the creation of more dirt poor, starving Catholics in third world countries, who they then have the gall to beg ME to support.

      June 1, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
  13. DaveInPA

    Seems that the Catholic church is crumbling under its own messes.

    June 1, 2012 at 10:57 am |
  14. keeth

    The Catholic Church is a cancer on this world. They should allow women to have more say in the church. They should sell their gold and jewels and help the poor around the world. Or they should start paying taxes.

    June 1, 2012 at 10:55 am |
    • GFreas

      The Church isn't a business or an association, fool. It's a religion, its tenets based on scripture, not on the demands of its membership. Heathens are so confused.

      June 1, 2012 at 10:59 am |
    • Dan Halen

      GFreas – If you do not think the Catholic Church is business, you really need to get your head out of the sand. It is not only a business, but one of the largest in the world.

      June 1, 2012 at 11:02 am |
    • derp

      "Heathens are so confused'

      Yes of course, they are far more confused than people who believe in verbally expressive faming shrubbery, snakes with the ability to speak, women who get pregnant miraculously, people who can do the aqua moon walk and zombies rising from the dead.

      June 1, 2012 at 11:05 am |
    • ME II

      "And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell." (Matthew 5:22)

      June 1, 2012 at 11:06 am |
  15. GFreas

    Jack's right. Don't want to follow the Church's teachings? Leave the Church!

    June 1, 2012 at 10:55 am |
  16. Catholicism is the Enron of religion

    Catholicism has done a really wonderful job . . . of making people hate them. Most of the world hates their reptilian response to the priest abuse scandal, and the macchiavellian politics in the Vatican revealed what maneuvering swine they are. Catholicism has stood tall in support of bigotry and repression against gays, and it has staunchly opposed the use of protection in an overcrowded world

    And now their own nuns hate them.

    Bravo, Popey! Well done.

    June 1, 2012 at 10:41 am |
    • Robert

      This could apply to all religions. It's all about power over the people.

      June 1, 2012 at 10:57 am |
  17. PrimeNumber

    A few years back, I completed thirty hours of theology. Most of the classes were tought by women. I had wanted to study scripture, church history, theology. But some of these women were nuns who hijacked these classes as an opportunity to force feminist issues down our throats. At the students' expense.

    June 1, 2012 at 10:39 am |
    • Catholicism is the Enron of religion

      Bullshit. You are lying.

      June 1, 2012 at 10:42 am |
    • Huebert

      What feminist issues? I really am curious.

      June 1, 2012 at 10:58 am |
    • PrimeNumber

      @Catholicism Enron Have it your way, you naive adolescent.

      @Huebert THese particular nuns were agitating for ordination. They were obviously incapable of taking vows of obedience which every priest must take. They weren't interested in service as much as in prestige.

      June 1, 2012 at 11:01 am |
    • Freedom From Religion

      A wannabe priest? Getting started early on the b.s.

      June 1, 2012 at 11:04 am |
    • A. Goodwin

      I agree – BS!!!!

      June 1, 2012 at 11:06 am |
    • daisy

      Priests practicing obedience???haha, that's a laugh. They are too busy with little boys and covering their sins. Jesus was for social justice!

      June 1, 2012 at 11:08 am |
    • steven harnack

      I've studied all of that and I didn't have to take a theology class to do it, where someone would insist that their opinion was the correct opinion. Scripture is scripture, the only thing that you need to know is how to read, but if you're getting church history FROM the church you are getting a very one-sided story, or less than that, you're getting an advertisement for their product.

      June 1, 2012 at 5:15 pm |
  18. Huebert

    I really want to know what "radical feminism" these nun's were preaching.

    June 1, 2012 at 10:24 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      You know – the kind where women are treated with dignity and respect.
      That a very anti-christian standpoint.
      I Corinthians 14: 34, 35 "Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law.

      According the the revered Theologan Calvin, women are "... more guilty than the man, because she was seduced by Satan, and so diverted her husband from obedience to God that she was an instrument of death leading all to perdition. It is necessary that woman recognize this, and that she learn to what she is subjected; and not only against her husband. This is reason enough why today she is placed below and that she bears within her ignominy and shame."

      June 1, 2012 at 10:32 am |
  19. Doc Vestibule

    Really Vatican? The nuns are too focused on social justice and not enough on hate?

    June 1, 2012 at 10:10 am |
  20. Jack

    Here's an idea: don't be a Catholic anymore.

    June 1, 2012 at 9:51 am |
    • nolapearl3

      I'm NOT!

      June 1, 2012 at 11:03 am |
    • nolapearl3

      And I don't want the Catholic Church running America. They should preach inside the doors of the church and stay out of the common areas of America.

      June 1, 2012 at 11:04 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.