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. Pope Football Jersey

    She Hate Me

    June 2, 2012 at 8:49 pm |
  2. ןןɐq ʎʞɔnq

    A priest's view :
    This investigation is not about wayward US nuns. It is the last gasp for control by a dying breed, wrapped in its own self-importance. It is a struggle for the very nature of the church; who we are, how we pray, where we live, who belongs, why we believe. The early church endured a similar struggle. The old order died. The Holy Spirit won. Happy Pentecost Sunday!!

    Fr. Doug Koesel, Cleveland

    June 2, 2012 at 7:37 pm |
  3. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    June 2, 2012 at 7:29 pm |
    • ןןɐq ʎʞɔnq

      God has a plan. Quit screwing it up with your prayers.

      June 2, 2012 at 7:36 pm |
  4. kamarasune

    The catholic Church is wanting to get in bed with Islam. Its called chrislam, and Kicking Nuns to the curb that enjoy freedoms and rights should be expected...sadly.

    June 2, 2012 at 4:56 pm |
  5. Crazyhorse

    They took VOWS of obedience.. time to own up.

    June 2, 2012 at 4:16 pm |
  6. MickyC

    You "holy" women who call themselves nuns... Just leave. Leave and form the American Catholic Church. Then you can partner with Planned Parenthood, have all the witchcraft, prayer yoga sessions, and lesbian love ins to your hearts content.
    Don't go away mad... just go away.

    June 2, 2012 at 4:12 pm |

      Only a arrogant man would say such things..GOD would not speak from a males pride...and GOD would suport these women...The entire "Obediance" comment is written from A HUMAN MALE..NOT GOD...Man wrote the bible..and it has flaws....GOD IS MERCY AND GOD IS FREEDOM...AND GOD IS LOVE...GOD WOULD NEVER SHUN THESE WOMEN..SHAME ON THE MALE BRACH OF THE CHURCH..

      June 2, 2012 at 5:06 pm |
    • BronxLady

      These sisters are true and faithful followers of Jesus. While our Bishops have created scandal after scandal in recent decades, these holy women have provided a core of integrity for our wounded Church. My famiy and I will support them whatever way we can, on whatever road the Holy Spirit guides them.t.

      June 2, 2012 at 7:07 pm |
    • BronxLady

      These sisters are true and faithful followers of Jesus. While our Bishops have created scandal after scandal in recent decades, these holy women have provided a core of integrity for our wounded Church. My family and I will support them whatever way we can, on whatever road the Holy Spirit guides them.

      June 2, 2012 at 7:08 pm |
  7. PATTI


    June 2, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
  8. hammer

    I do not agree with the catholic teachings so I don't go to their church.I went to a church for many years and when they went a different way than what I believe I stopped going to it.I didn't try to change them.Government and a church will never agree on everything and its not the church job to change government and the government should not change a church beliefs.If you are a member of a church and do not agree with them anymore you should leave that church.

    June 2, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
  9. Ignatius

    Hopefully the catholic church follow its usually backward path, especially when it comes to women and protecting children. Its demise will be only a gain for humans, the sheep will find some other fairy tale to believe in. The so called religious talk about their god's existence with certainty, then harp on about faith is all that's needed. Baaaa baaaa.

    June 2, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
    • MickyC

      That's right baa baa... Ewes in the pews.

      Tell ya what. You go ahead and hold your breath and see when the RCC goes into it's demise... somehow I think you'll be long dust before/if that ever happens.
      Best of luck to you though.

      June 2, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
  10. Phil in Oregon

    They are accused of being radical, so they start a protest march... Remember the guys at the Vatican have The Book to refer to. The teachings are archaic – understandable being they haven't changed in 1400 years or something like that. But they are what they are.

    June 2, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
    • Dwain Wilder

      Correct me if I'm wrong, but my understanding is that the doctrines under which the Vatican is laying into gays, women's health, social justice, and now the Women Religious is quite novel. The Vatican began only a few hundred years ago to do this, beginning with the doctrine of papal infallibility. I'm not a scholar on this, of course, but I remember reading that this all started just a few hundred years ago, and more or less aligned with the church's rejection of alchemy under pressure from the growing influence of the Enlightenment (during which they tried to suppress Galileo, formed the horrors of the Inqusition, and more...).

      June 2, 2012 at 1:06 pm |
  11. Marcomanno

    Awesome! I love the American nuns.

    June 2, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
  12. barbara

    It's ashame that "equality" in the Catholic church is deemed "radical feminism." In the early days of the Christian church, women were allowed equal role, i.e. they were allowed to be priests. Maybe the nuns should just all leave. The church can't survive without them. The only time the church expands the roles they are allowed is when it is economically necessary and because there is a shortage of priests.... not because of any progressive thinking.

    June 2, 2012 at 11:49 am |
    • MickyC

      It's not a democracy.
      It's not Marxism.
      It is a theocracy with a King.

      Don't like it? Then don't be part of it. Nobody is forcing anybody to join or stay.

      June 2, 2012 at 4:19 pm |
    • Crazyhorse

      Barbara, your knowledge of the history of the Catholic Church is way off.

      June 2, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
  13. myklds

    We, TRUE believers have lesser tendencies to commit murders and other unpardonable sins than atheists because, we believe that aside from it is logically, morally and lawfully wrong to harm our fellow beings, we also believe that they are abominable in the sight of God. In other words, we believe that in everything we do, we are answerable NOT ONLY by ourselves but ALSO to God. If our rationale fails, we still have faith in God that will enlighten, streghten and lead us back to our senses. Hence, we will never do things that would harm others even if we are in the brink to do so and being motivated by any circu.stances and even if we are in the position and capacity to do it likewise the cability to get away with it.

    On the other hand, atheists rely ONLY on their own understanding and think that they are answerable ONLY by themselves. Then, what if it (understanding) would fail? What if they are getting push by an unfortunate circu.mstance and are in the position to do so and have the capability to get away with it?

    And to be honest, we TRUELY religious people are cherry-pickers of bible because we only follow whatever good things and examples written on it that would strenghten us and improve our lives both in spiritual and temporal aspects. We ultimately disregard the opposites.

    Apparently, atheists also cherry-pick bible verses, the difference is, they follow the other way around. And that made them (atheists) what they are now.

    To conclude. Nobody commits atrocities in the name of religion but there's a lot of people that HIDE behind religion and USE the name of religion to justify their atrocities...and they are...the TRUE-BLUE & COOL BLOODDED...ATHEISTS.

    June 2, 2012 at 9:36 am |
    • pirate

      You are delusional if you think atheists commit more sins. Your invisible man in the sky is at fault for killing all the first born in Egypt because your god was responsible for hardening the pharaoh's heart so he wouldn't allow Moses to take his people out. Nice. Your bible says a rapist must pay his victim's father 50 pieces of silver then must marry the victim and can never divorce her. Nice. Your god tells his people to make war and pillage towns and leave nothing living, not even women, children, or CATTLE? Nice. All the famous atheists out there give speeches at podiums and write books. Religion causes extremism and you end up with wars, suicide bombers, 4 year olds being taught to hate... list is endless. Religion makes me sick to my stomach. WHY NOT BE GOOD TO EACH OTHER SIMPLY FOR GOODNESS SAKE? Not because some invisible, all forgiving, loving father will sentence his own creations to burn in hell for eternity! This is purely impossible that a loving and just god would do this. Even Hitler, think about it. Maybe he deserves to live a hundred deaths in hell for every person killed under his reign. But at that point, can't he be forgiven? Cmon, instead – no – not 1000 years of burning for each person killed. Not 1,000,000,000 years for each person, but FOREVER! Nice dad!

      June 2, 2012 at 11:54 am |
  14. Reality of Atheism

    Apparently it was just an amazing coincidence that every Communist of historical note publicly declared his atheism.

    There have been twenty-eight countries in world history that can be confirmed to have been ruled by regimes with avowed atheists at the helm (NOT Including Stalin, Mao), These twenty-eight historical regimes have been ruled by eighty-nine atheists, of whom more than half have engaged in democidal acts of the sort committed by Stalin and Mao…

    The total body count for the ninety years between 1917 and 2007 is approximately 148 million dead at the bloody hands of fifty-two atheists, three times more than all the human beings killed by war, civil war, and individual crime in the entire twentieth century combined.

    The historical record of collective atheism is thus 182,716 times worse on an annual basis than Christianity’s worst and most infamous misdeed, the Spanish Inquisition. It is not only Stalin and Mao who were so murderously inclined, they were merely the worst of the whole Hell-bound lot.

    For every Pol Pot whose infamous name is still spoken with horror today, there was a Mengistu, a Bierut, and a Choibalsan, godless men whose names are now forgotten everywhere but in the lands they once ruled with a red hand.
    There is a 58 percent chance that an atheist leader will murder a noticeable percentage of the population over which he rules sufficient evidence that atheism does, in fact, provide a systematic influence to do bad things?

    If that is not deemed to be conclusive, how about the fact that the average atheist crime against humanity is 18.3 million percent worse than the very worst depredation committed by Christians, even though atheists have had less than one-twentieth the number of opportunities with which to commit them.

    If one considers the statistically significant size of the historical atheist set and contrasts it with the fact that not one in a thousand religious leaders have committed similarly large-scale atrocities, it is impossible to conclude otherwise, even if we do not yet understand exactly why this should be the case.

    Once might be an accident, even twice could be coincidence, but fifty-two incidents in ninety years reeks of causation!

    June 2, 2012 at 8:12 am |
  15. Reality


    Saving Christians (nuns included) from the Infamous Resurrection Con--

    From that famous passage: In 1 Corinthians 15 St. Paul reasoned, "If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith."

    Even now Catholic/Christian professors of theology are questioning the bodily resurrection of the simple, preacher man aka Jesus.

    To wit;

    From a major Catholic university's theology professor’s grad school white-board notes:

    "Heaven is a Spirit state or spiritual reality of union with God in love, without earthly – earth bound distractions.
    Jesus and Mary's bodies are therefore not in Heaven.

    Most believe that it to mean that the personal spiritual self that survives death is in continuity with the self we were while living on earth as an embodied person.

    Again, the physical Resurrection (meaning a resuscitated corpse returning to life), Ascension (of Jesus' crucified corpse), and Assumption (Mary's corpse) into heaven did not take place.

    The Ascension symbolizes the end of Jesus' earthly ministry and the beginning of the Church.

    Only Luke records it. (Luke mentions it in his gospel and Acts, i.e. a single attestation and therefore historically untenable). The Ascension ties Jesus' mission to Pentecost and missionary activity of Jesus' followers.

    The Assumption has multiple layers of symbolism, some are related to Mary's special role as "Christ bearer" (theotokos). It does not seem fitting that Mary, the body of Jesus' Virgin-Mother (another biblically based symbol found in Luke 1) would be derived by worms upon her death. Mary's assumption also shows God's positive regard, not only for Christ's male body, but also for female bodies." "

    "In three controversial Wednesday Audiences, Pope John Paul II pointed out that the essential characteristic of heaven, hell or purgatory is that they are states of being of a spirit (angel/demon) or human soul, rather than places, as commonly perceived and represented in human language. This language of place is, according to the Pope, inadequate to describe the realities involved, since it is tied to the temporal order in which this world and we exist. In this he is applying the philosophical categories used by the Church in her theology and saying what St. Thomas Aquinas said long before him."

    The Vatican quickly embellished this story with a lot CYAP.

    With respect to rising from the dead, we also have this account:

    An added note: As per R.B. Stewart in his introduction to the recent book, The Resurrection of Jesus, Crossan and Wright in Dialogue,


    "Reimarus (1774-1778) posits that Jesus became sidetracked by embracing a political position, sought to force God's hand and that he died alone deserted by his disciples. What began as a call for repentance ended up as a misguided attempt to usher in the earthly political kingdom of God. After Jesus' failure and death, his disciples stole his body and declared his resurrection in order to maintain their financial security and ensure themselves some standing."

    p.168. by Ted Peters:

    Even so, asking historical questions is our responsibility. Did Jesus really rise from the tomb? Is it necessary to have been raised from the tomb and to appear to his disciples in order to explain the rise of early church and the transcription of the bible? Crossan answers no, Wright answers, yes. "

    So where are the bones"? As per Professor Crossan's analyses in his many books, the body of Jesus would have ended up in the mass graves of the crucified, eaten by wild dogs, covered with lime in a shallow grave, or under a pile of stones.

    June 2, 2012 at 7:46 am |
  16. Lukas

    Members of the Catholic Church must take into consideration the church's place of origin (region) and original beliefs. Those in America, obviously, have a different social view of the church's practices, values, rituals which often times are reluctantly ignored.

    If one does not agree with and would not abide by the supreme church's authority, then is not a member of the church.

    June 2, 2012 at 5:02 am |
    • Reality

      What "supreme authority"?

      What some contemporaryhistorians/theologians conclude about the historic authority of said church:

      John 14: 26 not historic

      John 16:13- from Professor Gerd Ludemann, in his book, Jesus After 2000 Years, p. 416,

      "Anyone looking for the historical Jesus will not find him in the Gospel of John. "

      Matt 16: 18-19 not historic

      1 Timothy- not written by St. Paul (See Crossan’s “In Search of Paul”, Harper, San
      Francisco, 2004, p.105)

      2 Peter 1:20

      Since the Catholic theologian Schillebeeckx basically ruled out prophecies by concluding God does not know
      the future, one can rule out the infallible nature of this verse.

      Also from Raymond Brown’s, An Introduction to the New Testament, 2 Peter was
      the last canonical work written i.e. ~ 130 AD, author unknown. Tis a bit dated for use in claiming infallibility plus the verse is not from Jesus or Peter but some possible remembrance of a scribe.

      From another source:

      Also think about the logic (or lack thereof).

      “I believe the Bible is inspired.” “Why?” “Because it says so.” Would anyone let that logic pass if it came from the followers of any other book or person? “I believe x is inspired because x says so.” Fill in the blanks:

      x=Pat Robertson
      x=the ayatollah Sistani
      x=David Koresh
      x=the Koran”
      x= the pope

      More “logic”?

      “I believe there is One God Jehovah because He is revealed in the infallible
      Bible. I believe the Bible is infallible because it is the Word of the One God Jehovah.”

      June 2, 2012 at 7:58 am |
  17. I Know Better

    Looks like the male leadership in the catholic church can't throw their women counterparts under the bus fast enough. Looks like a smoke screen to try and divert attention away from decades of cover-up from the male employees of the catholic church committing "wrong doings." It appears the views that men have of women, through the eyes of the Vatican, compares to the same views as the arab nations. I'm sure the pope and his peers would eradicate pedophilia in the catholic church if they found fault in it. They either don't find fault in it or they don't find fault in it.

    June 2, 2012 at 3:16 am |
    • gerald

      "I'm sure the pope and his peers would eradicate pedophilia in the catholic church if they found fault in it. "

      If it were that easy then why haven't goverments eradicated it? Pedophilia is far worse in the general public than in the pristhood. There are over 38 million cases in the US alone while less than 5000 of them are associated with priests. Your statement shows that you speak in ignorance and prejudice. Prejudice loves ignorance.

      June 2, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
  18. Augustino


    @ Reality If you don't know anything about catholic, you'd better not make a pathetic statement. Trinity is not god in 3 persons but rather than one god with 3 main powers. God is some1 who able to do something beyond human imagination, not only his work but also his words. What if I tell you god is a heaven himself? Can heaven split into 2? Of course not but heaven can be also inside of your heart. Do you need a proof? It is simple because sometimes human has turned earth into Hell of a place sometimes, so all Jesus teaching is about loving each others and turned yourself into a kingdom of heaven. You have to understand deeply. Just because you are not a deep thinking person that's why you are so easy to be attacked by simple words, and you turned out to be a naive person as ever. You really don't know what it meant to become a true christian, it's really hard to achieve, just to become the truth itself. Mother Teresa and John Paul 2 are 2 perfect figures of a true christian for 21rst century.

    June 2, 2012 at 2:48 am |
  19. Sophos

    Also the "Social Darwinism" behind the entire idea of "equality" and "freedom." If you don't hold this ideology, you are not "in the 21 first century," meaning you are still a cave man that hasn't the capacity to understand precisely what is being said. You are more "evolved" or "developed" or "mature" some how for believing this fantastic idea that everyone is equal.

    June 2, 2012 at 2:37 am |
  20. Marichuy

    Mon Dieu! What a humility among those nuns. They are almost as humble as American ambasador on Malta after American government warn him to focus more on the job he is payed for and almost as humble as Saudian government after housemaid from Indonesia complain on mistreatment.

    June 2, 2012 at 2:33 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.