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. Kevin Carroll

    Wow! Finally . . . even the sisters are beginning to see that
    Catholics are pawns of the Pope. I would have figured that this would have happened sometime soon after Copernicus.

    June 1, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
  2. Joe

    These nuns took a vow of humility and obedience to God and the Church. They should all be excommunicated since they obviously don't understand what that vow meant.

    June 1, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
    • dennis

      There is no vow greater than the one you make to Jesus. Forget the pope.

      June 1, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
    • Thomas NotAquinas

      They should indeed be excommunicated for not obeying the totalitarian dictates of der fuehrer, Dope Benedict

      June 1, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
    • What IF


      Sure... toss 'em out. The fewer sycophants, slaves and toadies of that sham, magical, hocus-pocus inst'itution the better.

      June 1, 2012 at 1:32 pm |
  3. James Andrew

    Pope job is nothing less or more than a dictatorship to control the money going into churches from idiots like us. Stop worshiping an evil looking person like him instead of God. Look at his face and you see evil written between his eyes.

    June 1, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
  4. Franky

    Lady Nancy Astor: "Winston, if you were my husband, I'd poison your tea."

    Churchill: "Nancy, if I were your husband, I'd drink it.”

    Clever chap, that church hill.

    June 1, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
  5. diadkinson

    The last good Pope was John – that was many years ago. He attempted to bring the church into the real world. The Catholic Church today is completely out of touch with reality.

    Sisters, "You Go Girls!"

    June 1, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
  6. JudeThom

    These nuns without habits are really social workers, almost
    all of them older hippy dippy Vatican II Novus Ordo types,
    creators of their own theology and so forth.

    June 1, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
  7. johnny

    Nuns are radical feminists?? I'm not sure I've ever seen that and I went to catholic school.

    June 1, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
  8. PDX James

    Just what we need; another Christian splinter group. And people say there are too many Muslim sects. When religious leaders can't even agree on their religion, how can they be surprised when people lose faith? Maybe it's time for the gentiles to give the religion back to the rightful owners they stole it from; the Jews.

    June 1, 2012 at 1:10 pm |
    • Failure to communicate

      HA! and the jews have no sects right? I mean, they all pretty much agree on everything and are terrible debaters because all they do is agree on everything all the time.

      June 1, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
    • dennis

      Know your information. The gentiles did not steal anything. We were grafted in. The Jews are still the chosen of God, but because some have abused their blessing does not mean we give back what God invited into through Jesus.

      June 1, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
  9. K from AZ

    Should have never let them vote!

    June 1, 2012 at 1:10 pm |
  10. SSampson

    Yet another organization espousing a repressive ideologial doctine...

    Most religious organizations consistantly violate basic human rights and equality... Funny how we specifically allow a 'freedom' that imposes restrictions on human rights...

    All because of an imaginary being (or beings) conjured up in the minds of people thousands of years ago....

    Of course people answering questions with unreasonable solutions has been going on for milenia – the plague was caused by bad smells after all – of course MOST of this stuff we don't believe anymore....

    Of course the best lies are driven by fear – fear of death, the afterlife, skin color, WMD – yada yada...

    People are sheep...

    June 1, 2012 at 1:09 pm |
  11. EXCath

    Amen sisters. The Catholic church is the biggest bunch of hooey I have ever experienced in my life. The local church works only to support illegal aliens because most are catholics who will do as they tell them without questioning it. The priests all think they are little gods and the ONLY thing the church cares about is MONEY, POLITICS (by that I mean forcing their beliefs on us all), and hiding and protecting the pervs.

    June 1, 2012 at 1:09 pm |
  12. Josh

    "They could accept the assessment, negotiate or resign en masse and form a new group outside the watchful eye of the Vatican."

    Why can't they simply ignore the orders, and continue to go about their daily lives as if it never happened? I mean, it is not like the Pope has a police force or something that physically can enforce his orders.

    June 1, 2012 at 1:08 pm |
    • JaneM

      But, the church might be able to take away financial support. I hope the nuns stick to their guns. They can always find jobs with non-profits and do more good in more places. I was raised catholic but have seen the errors of a lot of their ways. Way to go girls of the 21st century. Let the women lead the new reformation!! Hopefully they wont be burned at the stake.

      June 1, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
  13. Chris K

    It is time for the women of the Catholic church to stand up to Rome and the Vatican. Time to separate from that outdated male dominated group and do good in the world because it is right to do good. The Roman Catholic Church and so many of it's priests have forgotten to serve those less fortunate and have ignored their vows of poverty-hypocrites of the worst kind.

    June 1, 2012 at 1:08 pm |
  14. txjew

    The nuns can come convert to Judaism, we'd welcome them, and I hear they are already married to a Jew.

    June 1, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
  15. Zeus

    Where do all of you religious nuts come from? The South?

    June 1, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
  16. Francois_Deluxe


    June 1, 2012 at 1:06 pm |
  17. Tim

    The Vatican is not the entirety of the church. The Second Vatican Council defined the church as "The People of God". The politicians of the Vatican... excuse me, bishops and cardinals of the Vatican do not define Catholicism. Catholics as a whole define Catholicism. Frankly, I'll take my side with the Catholic nuns, who actually seem to remember what the core values of Christianity are all about, giving of oneself to help others as Jesus did. The politicians can stay in their gold laden basilica if they want to be archaic.

    June 1, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
  18. QS

    Ahh religion – the world's ultimate dividing force!

    June 1, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
  19. OregonTom

    Religeous cults should be taxed like any other business.

    June 1, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
    • Zeus


      June 1, 2012 at 1:08 pm |
    • EXCath

      I agree 100%! They had pamphlets printed in English and Spanish when we had my dad's funeral 4 years ago telling their parishioners how to vote on issues and who to vote for offices. SHAMEFUL

      June 1, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
    • JBB

      EXCath – you're filled with hate. I've never had a pamphlet given to me in my local Catholic church instructing me how to vote. Probably a good thing you left the church....

      June 1, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
  20. clarke

    These men of God, need to leave the Nun's alone. I don't think God would take kindly to this. I am starting to think there is something in our drinking water. People are nutz.

    June 1, 2012 at 1:04 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.