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. Stuart

    Truly, all humans have flaws. No reason to act like if somehow religion were stricken from the World, it would be rosy. There was plenty of abuse and bashing of heads before Christ came along. Obviously, the scandal in the Church should have been handled, but atheists, who are of course, all knowing, should also know that humans have a poor track record whether there acts are religiously motivated, or simply for the "good of the people" (Stalin, North Korean rulers, etc. no religion there).

    June 1, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
    • Nuns With Guns

      If religion does not make people behave better, and study after study proves that it does not, they why have it at all?

      By the way, please stop with the lame Stalin/North Korea crap. That one got discredited long ago (hint – you are blaming the sins of communist totalitarianism on atheism. If you want to believe that, then you must also accept that Hitler and every tyrrant South American dictator were the result of Christianity).

      June 1, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
  2. Albert

    Hypocrites! The Catholic cult is going down and it has nothing to do with Nuns.

    June 1, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
  3. DPGW

    It's fantastic to see that more and more people are realizing that even if (big IF) there is a god, he/she has absolutely nothing to do with any of this. Awesome.

    June 1, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
  4. GOD


    June 1, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
    • Nuns With Guns

      They should nail 95 bras to the door of the Vatican and go start a wiccan coven. They need a Pope like a fish needs a bicycle.

      June 1, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
  5. Kill The Wabbit

    The whole sale evacuation of the church would be wonderful.

    June 1, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
  6. ZCarter

    "Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith" is the new name for "The Inquisition." Enough said.

    June 1, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
  7. WASP

    as children we feared the "boogieman" and loved santa clause; as we grew and learned there wasn't anything in the dark to fear and that our parents placed the gifts under the tree, we left behind those fairy tails. eventually humans as a whole will figure out there isn't anything to fear in the dark and throw off the safety blanket of religion to enjoy basking in the light of reason and understanding............hopefully we as a whole survive the night to see this bright day.

    June 1, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
    • DPGW

      What do you mean? What's the deal with Santa?

      June 1, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
  8. SillyBean

    They sanction nuns but not preists who molest little boys? Is the upper most pinnacle of hypocracy going to be touched before this religious instiution implodes itself ... GAWD I really hope so.

    June 1, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
    • david david

      what about teachers or cops or firemen.......... ......less then 1% of 1% of Preist did that.
      10% of teachers
      7% of cops
      5% percent of firemen

      June 1, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
    • Jen

      Uh huh David david, where did you get those stats? From your priest while you were playing 'altar boy'?

      June 1, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
    • david david

      Jen I got those stats from the left wing libtard station msnbc
      I watch them for laughs

      June 1, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
    • Jen

      Can I get a link to that? You'll have to excuse me for not taking your word for it.....

      June 1, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      The number doesn't matter.
      The fact that the official policy is one of "cover it up, ship them to another parish and threaten the accusers with excommunication" is the problem.

      June 1, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
    • Lindalou

      The fact of the matter is David David, a priest should be someone you can trust above every other human being. They are supposed to be doing God's work..no playing with little boys.

      June 1, 2012 at 6:55 pm |
  9. WWRRD

    Catholics need a new pope.

    June 1, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
    • Fearless Freep

      If St Malachy is right,
      there will only be one more pope before the destruction of the Church.
      They are already fighting over who that pope will be.
      This is as good as watching a movie.
      Pass the popcorn.

      June 1, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
  10. Pete

    It's all NUN-SENSE!

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

      @pete: ROFLMFAO!!!!!!! XD

      June 1, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
    • Fearless Freep

      Ever see the movie "Bad habbits" ?
      Very funny movie.

      June 1, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
    • Which God?

      Too funny!!

      June 1, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
  11. PaulBel

    While I am sure most nuns have the best intentions, are sincere, and do an abundance of good work, they are misguided if they believe that the papacy or its inner circle have anything on their minds but domination by control of thought and subjugation of women by men. The Catholic church is broken, mired in scandal, plagued by ambition and ruined by lust for power and money. No organization or religion (and I believe almost all religions) will be able to last as long as it treats half its members as second class citizens. I hope these women come to realize that they can perform their vital services and be good human beings without the yoke of an organization that, quite frankly, does not merit their good deeds.

    June 1, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
    • ME II

      "No organization or religion ...will be able to last "

      I agree that the RCC needs to change, but you *are* talking about one of the oldest organizations known.

      June 1, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
    • david david

      The Catholic Church is broken, so you call God a liar when he said "I will be with my Church NOW and FOREVER!"
      People are broken and don’t realize it. WE ALL NEED GOD!

      June 1, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
    • Lindalou

      The Catholic church is a 'good old boys' club that needs to come to terms that women have evolved beyond being breeding machines that cannot exist without men telling us to come in from the rain. They're being criticized for having a social conscience?? They need to quit drinking the kool-aid at the vatican.

      June 1, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
    • notatall

      Through history, the Vatican has been dominated by the desire for greed and power. They have continually destroyed anyone and anything that would deny them the riches and power: including destroying other Biblical writings of the words and deeds of Jesus. The American Nuns carry the true spirit of Christ's words and deeds which were always a threat to greed, wealth and evil.

      June 1, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
  12. tstorm92

    I commend these nuns for taking a stand against the Catholic churchs very hateful views. I proudly am an "ex-Catholic".

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

      Me too!

      June 1, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
  13. david david

    They have ex-communicated themselves. What happened to HUMBLE YOUR SELF! Stupid radical nuns will not get any $ from the ONE TRUE CHURCH started by Jesus through the Apostles.

    June 1, 2012 at 1:37 pm |
    • Fearless Freep

      If Jesus saw the church as it is today,
      i dont think he would be very happy.

      June 1, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
  14. John Steel

    American nuns should be grateful the Vatican has not set them up to be murdered, as it has nuns who were too out spoken about poverty and human rights in Brazil and Africa. The Catholic Church has a long proud history in the Third World of siding with the wealthy over peasants. How can anyone belong to or believe in a Church which has a former Nazi as it's leader?

    June 1, 2012 at 1:37 pm |
  15. erik

    nuns should start own church and elect the first woman pope.

    June 1, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
    • Luke

      Good idea.

      June 1, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
  16. hammer


    June 1, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
    • Which God?

      Priest can't e.at nuns?

      June 1, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
  17. The Pope's Secret Army of Exploding Bunny Rabbits!

    I am going to found an organization of nuns to reform the evils and excesses of the Catholic Church. We will call the grooup "Premenstrual Nuns With Guns", we will be very heavily armed, and when faced with an army of PMS-raged Kalashnikov-toting nuns, the old men in dresses are going to finally going to put a stop to the pedophilia disaster and do something positive . . . OR ELSE!!!

    Premenstrual Nuns With Guns – coming soon to a church near you!

    June 1, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
    • Sargeant Major

      Don't you have a video game to get back to?

      June 1, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
    • The Pope's Secret Army of Exploding Bunny Rabbits!

      It's spelled "sergeant".

      June 1, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
  18. Because

    Just be careful of a land grab by the Vatican. They will say they own the convents and kick out the Sisters.

    June 1, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
    • Tzedekh

      The Vatican could do that, but it could take years if not decades in the courts and would amount to a PR nightmare. It would undoubtedly be waged through local dioceses, which are already financially burdened by defending lawsuits arising from the international pedophilia scandal. The Vatican already looks bad - this would only make it look worse.

      That said, the nuns have a fourth alternative. They could reject the Vatican's orders but not resign, effectively challenging Vatican authority. The ball would then be in the Vatican's court.

      June 1, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
    • pat

      That is actually what is behind this baseless attack by the Vatican. The abuse claims are draining the treasury and appropriating the convents, bank accounts, mother houses, and other properties of defenseless, voiceless women who dare to care is their response to the crisis after they found out that congregations were not all that hip with paying for those kind of costs.

      Denoucing stuff like euthanasia, abortion et al is cheap. All it takes is a few sermons. Actually helping to poor and disenfranchised is expensive – you actually have to provide food, housing and medical care. No surprise where the church wants to focus its attention.

      June 1, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
    • Fearless Freep

      The good people of Waltham Massachussetts back in 1954,
      Donated money, held raffles, bake-offs and car washes, until there was enough money to build
      The sacred heart church.

      2 Years ago, because of the abuse scandal, the church sold
      The sacred heart right out from underneath its people.

      We paid for it and built it.
      They sold it for cash.

      June 1, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
  19. Furious Styles

    That's what I'm talkin bout, time to throw some haymakers and uppercuts! Finally, nuns are sick of someone stepping on their necks

    June 1, 2012 at 1:30 pm |
  20. Allison

    Good for them for standing up for what they believe (the nuns and the Catholic church)! I would have to disagree that all religions (and definitely not all members of a religion) hate science. I think that the search for knowledge/truth has some parallels between the two and don't have to be mutually exclusive. All these generalizations are not productive (subjugate women etc....). Simply not true for the majority of religions that I have experienced. I think that many religions are hard to understand from the outside and everyone has a different experience based on what their interaction has been with individuals. Religions have done a ton of good.

    June 1, 2012 at 1:28 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.