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. Johm

    How many yard sticks taped together until they can smack him in Italy?

    June 1, 2012 at 6:03 pm |
    • sam


      June 1, 2012 at 6:09 pm |
  2. Been forced out for having a thinking brain

    I have great faith. I was taught by Nums and priest to take care of my fellow man(and women). Catholic Social Justice teaching came out of Vatican II. It is what caused many of the democratic movements around the world. The current conservative thinking leaders have forgotten their past and are trying to get rid of anyone who does not think like they do. Yes, I was told who I should be voting for and who I should not vote for. The church steps over the 501-C-3 rules on a regular basis and should loose that status along with most churches. I still have a strong faith, but have lost my church. I'll continue to support free thinking priest and nuns wherever they are.

    June 1, 2012 at 5:59 pm |

    If Catholics would stop dropping money in the basket on Sunday, things would change...FAST!

    June 1, 2012 at 5:59 pm |
  4. LoyaltoVatican

    Simple. Excommunicate them!

    June 1, 2012 at 5:59 pm |
    • BADGUY

      Who? The Pope? The Archbishops? I agree..as soon as possible!

      June 1, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
    • LoyaltoVatican

      Oh no...excommunicate the nuns! They and their feminist racial diversity agenda are destroying the Church.

      June 1, 2012 at 6:02 pm |
    • sam

      The NUNS are destroying the church?

      brb dying of laughter.

      June 1, 2012 at 6:10 pm |
    • LoyaltoVatican

      I never said they were ALL destroying the Church. There are still orders that are loyal to the Holy Father and still ACT and DRESS like nuns. There are some orders that aren't afraid to still be recognized as a nun!

      June 1, 2012 at 6:55 pm |
  5. thinquer

    No nuns or popes in the Bible. When you add something that shouldn't be there, you get a mess.

    June 1, 2012 at 5:55 pm |
    • beelzabarber

      THAT is brilliant. I nominate you for Pope...or whatever the bible would have recommended

      June 1, 2012 at 5:59 pm |
  6. Busted

    The leadership of the Catholic church reminds me more of the "Animal Farm" story then anything you will read about in Mathew, Mark or Luke. I wish these guys had a better understanding of the church's history, and its early struggles against prejudice and persecution.

    June 1, 2012 at 5:55 pm |
  7. The Film Professor

    So obedience to the Pope is more important than social justice? Wow. Making "control" more important than love or social justice speaks volumes about the leaders of this religion.

    June 1, 2012 at 5:54 pm |
    • Mr Duckworth

      Mr Film Professor and what is your religion Hollywood? And Film-makers obedience is to what? – Money. Producing crap that has been proven to be unhealthy even harmful to kids.

      June 1, 2012 at 6:04 pm |
    • LoyaltoVatican

      If they, the nuns, didn't want to be obedient, they should have never taken their vows. They knew what they were getting into when they started!

      June 1, 2012 at 6:05 pm |
  8. Vince

    OK, so the head of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith is an American, so he better defuse the situation and let the nuns do whatever they want with reason. This is really a non issue compare with the pedophile problems.
    If the Vatican refuses to compromise or let the nuns do what they think is the right thing to do, then the nuns should resign en masse and simply join the Episcopal Church. The American Anglicans (Episcopalians) still have religious orders, so I would rather see the nuns jump ships then submit to men whose sole concern is to put the women "in their place". It is not unusual for the conservative Episcopalian priests jump ship to the Vatican, including the married ones; and it is not unusual for the other way around either (a lot of them do so because they want to get married). Finally the current head of the Episcopal church is a woman, so at least the nuns are not dealing with a male patriarch type like Benedict XVI. Without the women of the church (nuns), the Catholic church simply will collapse since the nuns are the ones who do the thankless tasks.

    June 1, 2012 at 5:50 pm |
  9. anotherboomerblog

    I am so proud of the nuns of America. You go, gals! I used to be Catholic, but I gave up on the church. However, I am still in close contact with the nuns who taught me and i support them 100%

    June 1, 2012 at 5:45 pm |
  10. Lol

    It really is hard to imagine how the bishops, cardinals, and popes of the Catholic Church could be any more offensive to morality.
    And it's been like that from day one, folks.

    June 1, 2012 at 5:44 pm |
  11. Why_Bother

    “caused scandal and pain throughout the church community, and created greater polarization,”- The Nuns!!!! Seriously!!! This is really showing the incompetency of the Catholic church to deal with the real problems. You have to be blind not to realize the problem is the priests. It all over the news for the past 15 years, scandel after scandel. Come out against the few that people that have your back, the nuns. No control, ideotic influence, I can't see the church ever growing again.

    June 1, 2012 at 5:41 pm |
  12. k

    The Vatican's position is much more nuanced than this story leads you to believe. It appears that the aim of this piece is simply to paint the Vatican as the "bad guy" ... again. Big surprise, given that it's source.

    June 1, 2012 at 5:33 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      It seems to me the Vatican is merely exercising its moral right and duty to oversee the direction of the sisters work. I suspect after some discussion a working approach will be announced

      June 1, 2012 at 5:37 pm |
    • Mr Duckworth

      Excellent point K. CNN has tarnished it's image by revealing how very biased it is against conservative religion. Only those with their heads in the sand are fooled into believing this is balanced coverage of the Church.

      June 1, 2012 at 5:41 pm |
    • BobS

      Bill Deacon: Moral responsibility lies with the person, not with the church. Who do you think was more moral when the Nazi's were gassing the Jews; the church that remained silent or the people that cried out?

      June 1, 2012 at 5:42 pm |
    • Busted

      Conspiracy theories first, understanding the facts second. I love the liberal media conspiracy theories, I even love the fact the conspiracy theory has become so main stream since Roger Ailes was Nixon's press secretary and he blamed the liberal media for Watergate. You seriously have to have your head far up your own ars to keep believing the lies told to you by liars.

      June 1, 2012 at 5:44 pm |
    • wolfpackbob

      Hey BobS, any idea how many Catholic priests and nuns were exterminated by the Nazis? You have no clue.

      June 1, 2012 at 5:48 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Well Bob I would say that the responsibility at that time lay with the Church. The members of the Church who spoke out were acting on that responsibility just as those is the Office of Doctrine are acting on theirs.

      June 1, 2012 at 5:50 pm |
  13. Fluffy the Gerbil of Doom

    History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a
    free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance, of which their
    political as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their
    own purpose. ~ Thomas Jefferson

    June 1, 2012 at 5:24 pm |
  14. BobS

    The arogance of the hierarchy of the Catholic church will be its demise. They tell the parishoners which churches and schools to close, without regard the the parish's willingness to pay. They tell parishoners how much to donate without regard to the financial pressures they face. Worst of all, the tell the faithful what political agenda they should support, even if it against their own consciences.

    June 1, 2012 at 5:24 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Sorry to hear that. Being a long time Catholic convert, I have yet to experience even one of the situations you describe. But then you probably heard about it from some one who knew some one didn't you

      June 1, 2012 at 5:33 pm |
    • BobS

      First hand experience.

      June 1, 2012 at 5:35 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Someone in Catholic authority told you who to vote for? I doubt it. I do believe that you have been encouraged to support candidates who mirror the doctrine of the Church on matters of faith. But why would you not support people in civil life who reflect the values you espouse?

      June 1, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
    • Busted

      @Bill – I encourage you to learn more about this faith you converted too. I was raised in it, every school I've graduated from, including graduate school was catholic, I can tell you first hand, dudes who bang little boys do not reflect any sense of values, covering up such abuses does not reflect any sense of values. Furthermore, from your post about sacraments, they are not divine. You have to learn about Jesus, who said religion was created by man for God and not by God for man. You have received poor instruction, please learn how to shut your mouth when you don't know what you're talking about.

      June 1, 2012 at 5:51 pm |
  15. ja

    allens you are so on target, as with many so-dcalled religious heads of churches, often hide behind the cross

    June 1, 2012 at 5:22 pm |
  16. Just one more Voice

    If you want to know what the LCWR really said, go to thier website: http://www.lcwr.org Unfortunately, even the way CNN presented today's press release is exaggerated. Go to the source! I think it isn't about "coming out swinging." It is about being in a dialogue - which implies both speaking and listening to one another in the spirit of openness and integrity.

    June 1, 2012 at 5:19 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Excellent point. I have faith that the religious on both ends (I won't even call them sides) will co-operated in respectful dialogue that bears witness to the world of the good intentions of the faithful.

      June 1, 2012 at 5:35 pm |
  17. DJ

    I am Catholic and live in a very Catholic city. I have been personally and deeply hurt by a couple of sisters, but I also see sisters doing absolutely wonderful things for my community. I see them helping where no one else does, and I see them motivating the community to pitch in as well. I do not see the priests, deacons or brothers out ministering to the community in the same manner (other than in a sacrimental or ceremonial way). Now I realize that I am not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but to me the nuns seem to be setting a more "Christ-like" example for my children. IMO, the Church as a whole should strive to be more like the nuns and not more like the hierarchy. And I'll vote the only ways I know how: with my wallet, with my time and with my feet.

    June 1, 2012 at 5:18 pm |
    • Conic Ellipse

      "he sharpest knife in the drawer, but to me the nuns seem to be setting a more "Christ-like" example for my children. IMO, the Church as a whole should strive to be more like the nuns and not more like the hierarchy."

      I believe the Church and any professed Christian should be and act how the bible tells us to, regardless of what any Church or religion teaches. If you pray on it and the church does not feel "right" to you, then follow your heart and go in the direction God leads you.

      June 1, 2012 at 5:46 pm |
  18. allens

    i think the vatican has the nuns over a barrel. who will support them if they quit the order? the pope vicious and unchristian. like i have said several times, if was a true man of god, he would not have covered up the child molesters dressed as priests. the catholic religion is great, the church is evil. the nuns are heaven bound, the pope is heading elsewhere

    June 1, 2012 at 5:14 pm |
    • Susan

      So, so true!

      June 1, 2012 at 5:15 pm |
    • Just one more Voice

      The sisters are not supported by the Pope, the Vatican or even their dioceses. They are supported by those who support their ministries.

      June 1, 2012 at 5:22 pm |
    • BobS

      He may win the battle but lose the war. Why do you think that the Catholic church is hemoraging parishoners. I hope the last Pope remembers to lock the door and turn out the lights when he leaves the Vatican.

      June 1, 2012 at 5:27 pm |
  19. Dadster

    Yes, by all means Nuns are now bad. Well, at least you never hear about any of them molesting little boys or moving pedophile priests to other places once the Catholic heirarchy finds out about them. I guess that they are supposed to focus on the War on Religion that the Catholic Bishops want them to so that nobody will remember their past and maybe present sins.

    June 1, 2012 at 5:13 pm |
  20. Vidyashanti

    Without Nuns, Catholic church would have been nowhere. It is their love for Christ, service to children & the down trodden has given Catholics some respect.
    Their view on women,of other religion and encouragement of violence against LGBT classifies it as a cult.

    June 1, 2012 at 5:08 pm |
    • BobS

      I went to some of the classes for my son's confirmation. One of those classes was on the sacraments. While a priest taking his vows is a sacrament, it is not a sacrament when the nun takes her vows. As Sarah Palin would point out, if the Pope had any cajones or for that matter any gray matter he would have made nuns taking their vows a sacrament.

      June 1, 2012 at 5:34 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Sorry Bob. The pope cannot create sacraments. Those are divined by God. If you are Catholic as you say you are you have received poor instruction my friend

      June 1, 2012 at 5:43 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.