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. Anti-indoctrination

    I hope they leave en-masse. I hope it destroys the Catholic church when they do.

    June 1, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
  2. Whome

    The Vatican should leave the nuns alone and go back to covering the collective a_ ses over their playing around with little boys.

    June 1, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
  3. The Pope's Secret Army of Exploding Bunny Rabbits!

    I do hope these marauding rogue nuns decide to resign en masse and start their own Wiccan supercoven. They could do whatever good they wanted based on their personal judgement, with no vampire-looking Popedope playing Hitler over them. And the fashions would be a whole lot more interesting!

    Dump the dark empire of Catholicism! You don't need Pope Vader or his evil Storm Bishops! Doing good is doing good – you don't need any organization for that, and definitely not one more obsessed with covering-up its own crimes and bullying political processes!

    June 1, 2012 at 1:26 pm |
  4. irene

    The nuns are the only good thing the Catholic Church have to offer. These women work with the poor and the sick and don't play the pedophilia, political, money, ritual games that the Catholic men do. The pope is wrong on this one – he should be condemning the catholic priests who molested little boys and their bishops who moved them from parish to parish to cover up the scandal.

    June 1, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
  5. joe

    You would think a GOD would have known a religion set up like this would attract weird people

    June 1, 2012 at 1:23 pm |
    • The Pope's Secret Army of Exploding Bunny Rabbits!

      Is there a religion that does NOT attract weird people?

      June 1, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
  6. mary

    The nuns that taught me in grade school were miserable mean and frustrated. They would get off beating us up. In a way I can't blame them the male "holymen" of the church made sure they lived in poverty, seperated from families, gave up birthright including thier names. Why anyone would enter the convent is beyond me they must have been social out casts in their own right. Finally the older sisters are dying off and the younger women are not going to put up with bullying of the vatican. The catholic church surpresses freedom the rules of the ages kept the women in line...I see things changing keep it up ladies. If you need to seperate yourself from the vatican go for it.

    June 1, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
    • dennis

      Why would you ever be a member of The Church of the Pedophiles?

      June 1, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
    • ME II

      "...the male "holymen" of the church made sure they lived in poverty, seperated from families, gave up birthright including thier names."
      While I support what the nuns are doing, i.e. change from within the system, this is a completely voluntary system. No one forced them into this life.

      June 1, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
  7. Aerin

    Good for the Nuns! Down with the stupid patriarchal over-controlling clueless bishops.

    June 1, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
  8. Pan3

    You go girls! Power to the Goddess!

    June 1, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
  9. bob

    Religion is a symptom of a bigger problem not a cure and that problem is denial of what we are and ignorance.
    Why do you think religion hates science and smart people ? ( because it can prove how foolish it is ).
    Why do most religions subjugate woman ? ( because they where made up my insecure men )
    Why do you sings songs and repeat phrases ( because they are brainwashing you )
    Why does religion always forgive ( because they dont want to lose a paying customer )

    June 1, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
    • dennis

      Bob, you are another one expressing what you know not of. It would be best of you would keep silent.

      June 1, 2012 at 1:26 pm |
    • desillusioned_catholic

      Bob, you could not have said it better.

      June 1, 2012 at 1:36 pm |
    • Skunco

      Oh dennis you are so wrong. Everybody knows the cave man made up God to half-answer questions they are too stupid to even comprehend. It stuck because we as humans like to fit in and follow the herd, for the support.

      Thats why there are so many. And when someone powerful doesnt like whats out there they just make up a new one.
      It's stupid obvious that there is no god or santa claus or dragons.

      June 1, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
    • bob

      @dennis Yeah be silent like a good little sheep right ? FORGET IT

      June 1, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
  10. Lewis Keseberg

    Brilliant idea! Have a decades-long, world-wide child sex abuse scandal on your hands? Deflect, deflect, deflect.

    Pass the jesus-meat!

    June 1, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
  11. Franky

    Dominique Strauss-Kahn, says "Silly, pope, a women needs to just know her place, and if she doesn't I just put her there"

    - Add foo foo french accent.

    June 1, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
  12. travelinpants

    since they have no other vocation, the nuns, they are going to have to stay and fight. The people in charge know this and are exploiting this as well. Absolute power currupts.

    June 1, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
    • richunix


      June 1, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
  13. Robert

    I believe that Martin Luther had an incredibly good reason to disobey the Pope. However, these nuns simply do nnot. Their rebellion is not just against the Pope, but against the scripture and against God. Therefore, they should be excommunicated and delivered back into obscurity where they came from.

    June 1, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
    • derp

      "delivered back into obscurity where they came from"

      Hey Einstein, the obscurity they came from IS being a nun in the catholic church.

      June 1, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
    • Jen

      I hope they're excommunicated too. They will leave and the rest of the Catholic women will follow.

      You'll notice that only men are speaking against these women. Women support them.

      June 1, 2012 at 1:26 pm |
    • Which God?

      Robert you are one sick person. But you don't thinks so, right? You think you are a goody two shoes, whose make believe god tells him he's OK. He is telling you that, right? You hear its voice in your head? It's called delusional.

      June 1, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
    • Allison206

      Robert, my understanding is that the nun's were also chastised for focusing too much on humanitarian gestures such as feeding the poor and assisting women etc. (this comes from an earlier article). So perhaps you would care to educate the rest of us as to how this 1) goes against the teachings of Jesus and 2) why showing compassion to your fellow humans is wrong. My feeling is that the leadership of the Catholic Church is completely out of touch with the very people that it is supposed to serve: the poor and downtrodden. Afterall, isn't that what Jesus did?

      June 1, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
    • dennis

      Robert I can tell your knowledge of what you are tlaking about is minimal. Try to find a subject you can converse on. ie marbles

      June 1, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
    • Bud in NC

      "..disobey the pope??. ..."disobey the pope??" Are you serious? Are we supposed to obey the pope? You sound, Robert, like the perfect mental robot the "Church" loves. Obedient and mindless to the core. Pathetic.

      June 1, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
  14. waikikijohn

    you go girls!

    June 1, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
    • Robert

      And what authoritative source are you basing that "you go girls" exhortation on? I'm sure you have no clue.

      June 1, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
  15. indigo

    Glad to see the Church has its priorities straight, but it forgot what should be its greatest priority STOP SHIELDING PEDOPHILE PRIESTS from prosecution by the law - Church rules only seem to apply to us common folk.

    June 1, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
    • Robert

      I believe they've been removing those who have done such things.

      June 1, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
    • Lewis Keseberg

      Yes, Robert, and they're doing such a bang-up job of it as we are continuously reminded. They remove them .... from one parish and then put them in another. Or place them in some cozy retreat outside of DC so they can be out of the public eye. And the church leadership suggest that, maybe, you know, if it isn't too much trouble, or won't take up too much time, that phoning the authorities can, in some limited instances, be of value.

      Oh, and pay no attention to the tax-free hush money behind the curtain.

      June 1, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
    • LOL Religion

      Sure they have, Robert, if you count moving priests caught or accused of molesting kids to another parish without giving the people there any kind of warning about the guy. Priests raping kids is bad enough, what makes it truly evil is that the Church actively covered it up for decades.

      June 1, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
  16. BCW - NYC

    Now, Vatican scapegoats the American Nuns. What's next? The Alter Boys who are not submissive enough for the preists?!

    June 1, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
  17. Abe

    The Catholic church is the single most evil organization in the history of Western Civilization.

    June 1, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
    • LOL Religion

      Yep, it's the largest and oldest organized crime syndicate on the planet.

      June 1, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
  18. hopia

    In my opinion, the nuns should simply resign and form their own organization. Why would they need the vatican for? Why would they need the "men" to dictate what they want to do? Why do they need the Pope to sanction what they do? If it is their belief that they serve God with what they do, so be it, after all, the Pope is just one of us human beings and will have not much say whether one person or groups of person go to heaven or hell. So, I say, to the nuns " just get out of the way" and travel you own hi-way and pursue you own destiny.

    June 1, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
    • Robert

      I never stop to be amazed and astounded at the ignorance of some people with "hopia" being a prime example. Any organization has standards givin to them by something that is considered authoritative, and they always agree to that something when the "sign up" to be part of that organization. Those rules did not change. If they have changed, they have every right to resign. No one is holding them as slaves. However, the fact that these "ladies" signed up and now are complaining that it's "unfair" shows that they were not sincere and honest in taking their initial vows. Therefore, they are the ones who have not lived up to right standards. They could rightfully be removed but the Catholic leadership is showing great restraint and patience to put up with them.

      June 1, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
  19. richunix


    To help make your point

    From 1800 – 1954 (the year I was born) there was 1.8 billion people (Source UN)
    From 1954 – Present (58 years) we now have 7.2 Billion people (source UN)

    In short time span of 58 years, we have increased the world population by 750%

    June 1, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
    • Hazel Moates

      Americans suck at math.

      June 1, 2012 at 1:23 pm |
    • richunix


      Do you always find folly with your ignorance or do you work at it? You failed to see the point….not surprising…at all coming an over populated third world junk nation.

      June 1, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      actually i think the estimate for 1955 was 2.76 billion and for 2010 was 6.97 billion.

      June 1, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
  20. Franky


    Excuse me, my mother and my sisters (sometimes) are the only good women out there, and even they sometimes push the envelope!!!

    June 1, 2012 at 1:13 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.