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. Robert

    Pope to nuns:
    You need to back off on the whole helping others thing and get back to our goal of bigotry and hate mongering.

    June 5, 2012 at 12:38 pm |
  2. Faithful

    Misogyny is not a Doctrine of Faith.

    June 4, 2012 at 6:23 pm |
  3. dd

    These ladies of god have a real good head on their shoulders. They have my support. Faith in god doesn't equal slavish devotion to the ignoble rules of old catholic MEN. I'm not a fan of catholicism to begin with but these nuns are giving me faith that maybe ALL catholics aren't brainwashed.

    June 3, 2012 at 11:59 pm |
    • Gilgameshp

      This attack on American nuns did not begin recently. In the Sixties, a personable Provincial of the Erie Mercy order
      tried to modernize the dress of her order. She asked the Bishop for help. He replied furiously, "I am not going to pay
      one cent for panty-hose!" Her name was Sister Anne Francis Cavanaugh, and if you want to read more about
      THE PANTY-HOSE BISHOP you can read it in a new book on Amazon, "LEAVING:

      June 4, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
  4. Defensor

    No one can serve two masters, so the nuns cannot be both servants of Christ and partisans of radical feminism. The LCWR (which does not represent the views of 80% of American Nuns, it is an association of religious orders that include 80% of women religious in the U.S., but that does not mean that all of those nuns/sisters agree with the shenanigans of the LCWR, in fact most probably don't) brought this on itself and it needs to be reformed.

    June 3, 2012 at 11:30 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Just a guess, but I'll bet you're a possessor of a hot dog.

      June 3, 2012 at 11:31 pm |
    • dd

      And almost ALL catholic women of child-bearing age use birth control. So obviously it is possible to be "catholic" and yet not follow all the (stupid) "rules".

      June 4, 2012 at 12:00 am |
    • Faithful

      Jesus was a radical feminist.

      June 4, 2012 at 6:25 pm |
  5. 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 3, 2012 at 5:13 pm |
    • chief

      re mickym.... spoken like a true bigoted catholic.... because they take a stand for something, your only retort is bt smearing them with catholic propaganda playbook lies

      June 3, 2012 at 11:23 pm |
    • Ann

      Actually, that's a really good idea. Why any self-respecting, caring, loving woman would be involved in this is beyond me.

      June 5, 2012 at 6:25 pm |
  6. Rebecca


    June 3, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
  7. PeterM

    Is it possible the political right wing pushing the "birther" issue in the US and other fringe agendas, might be pushing the Vatican through various shady channels in order to scare US nuns who support the poor in America, thereby hoping to squeeze a few anti-Obama votes come November?

    June 3, 2012 at 4:50 pm |
  8. Michael 09

    Some of their liturgies are way out there. One nun said in stead of "the father, son and holy spirit, she said in the name of the mother daughter and the womb. Many are men haters. When they write the word "women" the will spell it womyn.

    June 3, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
  9. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things,

    June 3, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
    • Jesus

      Prayer doesn’t not; you are such a LIAR. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs!

      June 4, 2012 at 10:45 am |
  10. Mercyme

    Pick on a nun? How about call the police when a priest has molested? What would the Vatican do? Uphold existing law which states that all citizens have a duty to report "possible" child aburse!

    June 3, 2012 at 1:58 am |
    • Marie Rosenthal

      I did not donate to my church today. Instead, I am sending my donation to the Leadership Conference of Women Religious.
      I understand that the pope is suppose to be infallibel in matters of faith, but I do believe the modern Catholic Church is run by venal men who are trying to keep a grip on their power and money, instead of practicing their faith. I am afraid these men are the finest minds of the 13th Century. Unfortunately, we do not live in the 13th Century. Modern American nuns deal with modern problems in an adult and practical way. They help people, educate people, take care of the sick and the poor and the mentally ill. Why would anyone try to sanction that good work? The Catholic church could not exist without its nuns.
      Remember, Jesus was a revolutionary. I pray that parish priests will stand up, be heard and support American nuns.

      June 3, 2012 at 9:08 am |
    • Catholic Clarity

      Uh, no they don't. Nuns are cloistered. Perhaps you speak of religious sisters? As for papal infallibility, this is not the same as saying he is perfect or every word he speaks is correct. When he makes a solemn declaration of a papal definition, he is preserved from the possibility of error. This only refers to doctrine of faith and morals and can never contract Scripture or Tradition (capital T meaning Tradition specifically related to the Church). Pope BEnedict XVI has even said, "The Pope is not an oracle; he is infallible in very rare situations, as we know." Pope John XXIII was quoted as saying, "I am only infallible if I speak infallibly but I shall never do that, so I am not infallible." There have only been two instances in which infallibility definitely applies with the remaining likely cases numbering less than ten. The pope is not infallible in matters of faith. Hopefully that releases some of your worry that his position is about power. His position is about service, leadership, love, and protection of the treasures of the Church (most importantly its teachings and Tradition). Sit down with a variety of religious sisters (sorry – you typyically can't do this with nuns) and talk to them about this. Try some conversations with postulants, novices, young, old...wearing the habit, not wearing the habit...try talking to sisters with a variety of charisms. Ask them about the Holy Father. Visit the Vatican and see their pure LOVE for this man. Try to understand from your heart and with prayer.

      June 3, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
    • dd

      Who cares about child abuse and molestation when we have to tackle the behemoth issue of independent women!
      /end sarcasm/

      June 4, 2012 at 12:04 am |
  11. sup

    Idk if that fat idiot up in the Vatican is realizing this yet, but.... he is THE bad influence on this church. Oh well, can't speak logic to a religious zealot.

    June 3, 2012 at 1:12 am |
    • Catholic Clarity

      Logic? There is no logic in your statement! There is only disrespect and uninformed jibberish. You are giving much more of a bad influence, showing poor manners (and ability to write out words) than anything the Pope has ever said or done!

      June 3, 2012 at 1:09 pm |
    • Defensor

      What are you talking about. Pope Benedict XVI is fairly thin.

      June 3, 2012 at 11:25 pm |
  12. the ultimate truth

    I love US Media, attacking the corrupted Catholic church for the gain of the other corrupted religion christian evangelical movement,

    June 3, 2012 at 1:01 am |
  13. Reality


    The nun problem is minor compared to the following synopsis of Catholic history and doctrine:

    Jesus was an illiterate Jewish peasant/carpenter/simple preacher man who suffered from hallucinations (or “mythicizing” from P, M, M, L and J) and who has been characterized anywhere from the Messiah from Nazareth to a mythical character from mythical Nazareth to a ma-mzer from Nazareth (Professor Bruce Chilton, in his book Rabbi Jesus). An-alyses of Jesus’ life by many contemporary NT scholars (e.g. Professors Ludemann, Crossan, Borg and Fredriksen, ) via the NT and related doc-uments have concluded that only about 30% of Jesus' sayings and ways noted in the NT were authentic. The rest being embellishments (e.g. miracles)/hallucinations made/had by the NT authors to impress various Christian, Jewish and Pagan sects.

    The 30% of the NT that is "authentic Jesus" like everything in life was borrowed/plagiarized and/or improved from those who came before. In Jesus' case, it was the ways and sayings of the Babylonians, Greeks, Persians, Egyptians, Hitt-ites, Canaanites, OT, John the Baptizer and possibly the ways and sayings of traveling Greek Cynics.


    For added "pizzazz", Catholic theologians divided god the singularity into three persons and invented atonement as an added guilt trip for the "pew people" to go along with this trinity of overseers. By doing so, they made god the padre into god the "filicider".

    Current RCC problems:

    Pedophiliac priests, an all-male, mostly white hierarchy, atonement theology and original sin!!!!

    June 3, 2012 at 12:42 am |
    • Catholic Clarity

      Mostly white? What is white? Do you really mean mostly not dark enough that we might consider them black? Just under ten percent of the Magisterium (Catholic Cardinals) are black. Then there are cardinals from countries who are clearly not white...oh wait. You're just talking to yourself, spouting off weirdness and senselessness.

      June 3, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
    • Reality

      Catholic C,

      Please give references supporting your claims:

      "The College of Cardinals includes 5 continents and 70 countries,
      50 of which have Cardinals electors.
      Overview by Continent

      80 year and older Cardinals
      electors Total

      52 67 119
      6 15 21
      11 21 32
      6 11 17
      10 9 19
      3 1 4

      TOTAL 88 124 212 "

      June 3, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
  14. ajz

    time for the pope to step down, too much fiat and criminal activity going on

    June 2, 2012 at 11:32 pm |
  15. max3333444555

    Im glad that we have a group that is willing to fight for what they think is right regardless of politics (pope = politics, not religion IMO)

    June 2, 2012 at 10:08 pm |
    • Catholic Clarity

      Opinion, okay. Have you tried to get experience? Go to the Vatican? See the pope? Read his writings? Pray for his intentions? Talk to others who have seen him or met him? On what do you base your opinion?! I prefer to follow the classic American approach of getting in there and learning by experience.

      June 3, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
  16. 5b4bf27

    join the GNAA today! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GNAA

    June 2, 2012 at 9:58 pm |
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    join the GNAA today! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GNAA

    June 2, 2012 at 9:56 pm |
  18. jvs7civwfqvqykmwhz2

    join the GNAA today! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GNAA

    June 2, 2012 at 9:56 pm |
  19. iw36k

    join the GNAA today! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GNAA

    June 2, 2012 at 9:56 pm |
  20. cxmph5xvut

    join the GNAA today! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GNAA

    June 2, 2012 at 9:56 pm |
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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.