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. ClearAndPresentThinking

    I'll continue attending a Protestant church that ordains women and disdains totalitarian male dominated "leadership." The head of the Church, both on earth and in heaven, is Jesus Christ. His vicarship rest in the hearts of all believers, not in a Vatican palace. His respect for women is established in scripture as is His disrespect for the man-made rules of the Pharisees and their successors in the Roman curia.

    June 1, 2012 at 11:48 am |
  2. midogs2

    You go, girls!

    June 1, 2012 at 11:48 am |
  3. gerald

    The best thing to do is excommunicate these nuns and give the ones who want to remain with the Church a new order.

    June 1, 2012 at 11:47 am |
  4. prophet

    the nuns have to know their place and have agreed to do so. However, i think that they made a big mistake becoming catholics.

    June 1, 2012 at 11:46 am |
    • Huebert

      Everyone who became catholic made a big mistake.

      June 1, 2012 at 11:50 am |
    • Limbo

      My gosh, Prophet, you're arrogant and willfully ignorant.

      June 1, 2012 at 11:55 am |
  5. fidelis

    Why is the Vatican picking on the branch of their Church that is actually doing GOOD in the world? Smh. This just reaffirms the many reasons why I left Catholicism years ago.

    June 1, 2012 at 11:46 am |
  6. Yoda

    How much US dollars the church would lose if We pulled out???? Time for the US Catholic Church instead of Roman Catholic Church...Stop sending our money to Rome!!!!

    June 1, 2012 at 11:45 am |
    • MarylandBill

      You know very little of the money given in the collection baskets ever leaves the United States, and most that does doesn't go to Rome but to charities.

      June 1, 2012 at 11:54 am |
    • Twisty Turny

      Actually, that is a bit deceptive. It gives the money to itself, which it calls a charity. That enormous house your bishop lives in gets called "charity" because religions have charitable status under tax laws.

      June 1, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
    • derp

      "collection baskets"

      The name for that has actually been changed.

      It is now called the "Pay priests to f uc k little boys basket"

      June 1, 2012 at 12:22 pm |
    • Hoo Myself

      The vatican is one of the largest holders of expensive realestate on earth.
      The also play on the stock market.
      They wont be going broke any time soon.

      Jesus says, the way to god is through your heart.
      Why do we need a church ?

      June 1, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
  7. solowd

    last I checked, nuns weren't the one raping little boys

    they should put the nuns in charge of the church

    June 1, 2012 at 11:44 am |
    • Yes!!!

      Now there's a novel idea! I like it.

      June 1, 2012 at 11:52 am |
  8. Segeny

    Sure wish they would leave. "Cafeteria Catholics" are as vain and narcissistic as is Dear Leader – – the "rock" upon which Jesus founded his church must, according to these folks, become sand and shift with the times. No thanks, nuns – – we'll have 'none of you nuns' -- we far prefer the unchanging rock. So now go away, like to a unitarian bunch where anything goes.

    June 1, 2012 at 11:44 am |
    • derp

      "we far prefer the unchanging rock"

      Yeah who needs a round earth when you can have a flat one. Heck, lets dispense with medicine and treat everything with leeches. While were at it, let's burn some witches. Yay for the good old catholic church. Change is bad.

      June 1, 2012 at 11:47 am |
    • Huebert

      Yes make sure the RCC never changes the course...of it's headlong sprint into irrelevance.

      June 1, 2012 at 11:48 am |
    • SLArbiter

      Thankfully this unchanging "rock" continues to gather moss and will eventually sink into irrelevance because of it's stagnant views on these types of issues.

      June 1, 2012 at 11:50 am |
    • Hoo Myself

      *** "Cafeteria Catholics"

      You mean, like the ones who are against gays,
      but eating shellfish is ok ?

      June 1, 2012 at 1:26 pm |
  9. Franklin

    Ah yes, ladies, and, re Almira Gultch, (and we know who she really was, don't we?) :

    Don't let the the swinging gate hit you on the way out.

    June 1, 2012 at 11:43 am |
  10. dionysius

    There is nothing new here.... "come out swinging"??? What was said? This is another sensationalist, nothing article brought to you by the CNN editors only interested in dragging one to an advertising site...

    June 1, 2012 at 11:42 am |
    • R.P.M.

      Boring. You are doing the dreary old ad hominem thing to divert attention away from a legitimate issue. If you had a leg to stand on, you would not do that. But you are angry that the press does not hush it up like you want.

      This is America, not Pope-istan.

      June 1, 2012 at 11:47 am |
    • Hoo Myself

      You could wait to whine about it, could you ?

      June 1, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
  11. Descarado

    A story made for anti-Catholic CNN and its evangelical atheist zombies.

    June 1, 2012 at 11:42 am |
  12. prophet

    having said this i still am very fond of women but they should see that since women have had equality and power the world has never been in such a condition.

    June 1, 2012 at 11:41 am |
    • Huebert

      misogynistic pr!ck

      June 1, 2012 at 11:43 am |
    • MM

      You are nuts to think that women are in power and that there would be any correlation. I bet you like women,women who are subserviant to you.

      June 1, 2012 at 11:47 am |
    • ca3b

      Right. Those darn wives of the Taliban should try to stop running the show and learn their place. Then the world would
      be much better off.

      June 1, 2012 at 11:49 am |
    • Limbo

      My gosh, Prophet, you are a truly arrogant man.

      June 1, 2012 at 11:52 am |
    • Wait --- huh?

      Pre-Equal Rights:

      The Crusades were pretty bad.
      The Revolution, The Civil War, WWI and WWI were pretty bad.
      The Black Plague was pretty bad.
      The Roman conquerors were pretty bad.
      Slavery was pretty bad.
      The Nazis were atrocious.

      So what is your point, genuis?

      June 1, 2012 at 11:54 am |
    • Hoo Myself

      We wouldnt be in this mess if we had more woman in charge.

      June 1, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
  13. hilreal

    If all the nuns leave, wo be the little boys left behind....

    June 1, 2012 at 11:40 am |
  14. palintwit

    If birthers and teabaggers had their own amusement park, their favorite ride would be the 1964 pick-up truck up on cement blocks.

    June 1, 2012 at 11:40 am |
    • FlyGuyInSJ

      The only thing I can think of right offhand that's even worse than a birther is someone who still supports Obama after his 3.5 years of messing it up just as badly as we told you he would.

      And you do know what the only good leftist is, right?

      June 1, 2012 at 11:49 am |
  15. mac3333

    Catholicism – The Vatican is doing it wrong ...

    June 1, 2012 at 11:40 am |
    • R.P.M.

      The problem is systemic. Catholicism is a fatally flawed and severely unjust system. One cannot expect the Vatican to behave other than it does when it is structured as a totalitarian authority over a flawed system. And history proves that it has always been like this.

      Fundamentally flawed system. It will always behave unjustly.

      June 1, 2012 at 11:43 am |
  16. MaryM

    Toni, Kinda like saying if you dont like an injustice in America, leave. Rather then trying to help change the injustice.
    The catholic church will have to evolve or die out.

    June 1, 2012 at 11:38 am |
  17. prophet

    i have to agree with the vatican over this, allowing women power gives them meglomania and they have chosen to be humble to the vatican and should remain so. i am sorry that they are hypocrites as the pharisees and clergy are, they are no different.

    June 1, 2012 at 11:38 am |
    • Huebert

      You misogynistic pr!ck. Power corrupts men as well. And is obedience a virtue if your a slave to an unjust master?

      June 1, 2012 at 11:41 am |
    • crowing

      so-called prophet: why don't the men of the Church lay down their chauvinism and become more humble like Christ, accepting all people into the Church. It's about time the men stop discriminating against women, stop abusing little boys, and whittle down Canon Law so it makes sense.

      June 1, 2012 at 11:43 am |
    • Sister Mary Francis

      If i was your mother, first i would be ashamed.
      Second i would beech slap you.

      June 1, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
    • Allison206

      @prophet. Your comments clearly show that you are no Christian. This is the same type of pathetic commentary women on my college campus had to endure whenever the "SWAT Team for Christ" arrived to remind all the women that we were going to Hell for 1) daring to get an education and 2) because we weren't actively trying to find husband and bear children.

      June 1, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
  18. Colin

    A few questions should help shed light on the relationship between Catholicism and rational thought.

    The completely absurd theory that all 7,000,000,000 human beings are simultaneously being supervised 24 hours a day, every day of their lives by an immortal, invisible being for the purposes of reward or punishment in the “afterlife” comes from the field of:

    (a) Astronomy;

    (b) Medicine;

    (c) Economics; or

    (d) Christianity

    You are about 70% likely to believe the entire Universe began less than 10,000 years ago with only one man, one woman and a talking snake if you are a:

    (a) historian;

    (b) geologist;

    (c) NASA astronomer; or

    (d) Christian

    I have convinced myself that gay $ex is a choice and not genetic, but then have no explanation as to why only gay people have ho.mo$exual urges. I am

    (a) A gifted psychologist

    (b) A well respected geneticist

    (c) A highly educated sociologist

    (d) A Christian with the remarkable ability to ignore inconvenient facts.

    I honestly believe that, when I think silent thoughts like, “please god, help me pass my exam tomorrow,” some invisible being is reading my mind and will intervene and alter what would otherwise be the course of history in small ways to help me. I am

    (a) a delusional schizophrenic;

    (b) a naïve child, too young to know that that is silly

    (c) an ignorant farmer from Sudan who never had the benefit of even a fifth grade education; or

    (d) your average Christian

    Millions and millions of Catholics believe that bread and wine turns into the actual flesh and blood of a dead Jew from 2,000 years ago because:

    (a) there are obvious visible changes in the condiments after the Catholic priest does his hocus pocus;

    (b) tests have confirmed a divine presence in the bread and wine;

    (c) now and then their god shows up and confirms this story; or

    (d) their religious convictions tell them to blindly accept this completely fvcking absurd nonsense.

    I believe that an all powerful being, capable of creating the entire cosmos watches me have $ex to make sure I don't do anything "naughty". I am

    (a) A victim of child molestation

    (b) A r.ape victim trying to recover

    (c) A mental patient with paranoid delusions

    (d) A Christian

    The only discipline known to often cause people to kill others they have never met and/or to commit suicide in its furtherance is:

    (a) Architecture;

    (b) Philosophy;

    (c) Archeology; or

    (d) Religion

    What is it that most differentiates science and all other intellectual disciplines from religion:

    (a) Religion tells people not only what they should believe, but what they are morally obliged to believe on pain of divine retribution, whereas science, economics, medicine etc. has no “sacred cows” in terms of doctrine and go where the evidence leads them;

    (b) Religion can make a statement, such as “there is a composite god comprised of God the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit”, and be totally immune from experimentation and challenge, whereas science can only make factual assertions when supported by considerable evidence;

    (c) Science and the scientific method is universal and consistent all over the World whereas religion is regional and a person’s religious conviction, no matter how deeply held, is clearly nothing more than an accident of birth; or

    (d) All of the above.

    If I am found wandering the streets flagellating myself, wading into a filth river, mutilating my child’s genitals or kneeling down in a church believing that a being is somehow reading my inner thoughts and prayers, I am likely driven by:

    (a) a deep psychiatric issue;

    (b) an irrational fear or phobia;

    (c) a severe mental degeneration caused by years of drug abuse; or

    (d) my religious belief.

    Who am I? I don’t pay any taxes. I never have. Any money my organization earns is tax free and my own salary is also tax free, at the federal, state and local level. Despite contributing nothing to society, but still enjoying all its benefits, I feel I have the right to tell others what to do. I am

    (a) A sleazy Wall Street banker

    (b) A mafia boss

    (c) A drug pusher; or

    (d) A Catholic Priest, Protestant Minister or Jewish Rabbi.

    June 1, 2012 at 11:37 am |
    • Jan-Cincy

      Ah, clearly disdainful of Christiantiy and Judism, and yet no mention of Islam. Coward.

      June 1, 2012 at 11:48 am |
    • Blessings

      Sorry, I didn't read beyond the first and second multiple choice. You are one dedicated dude! Wrong, but dedicated in your self righteousness. God bless you and yours. Yes, that God, with a capital "G."

      June 1, 2012 at 11:51 am |
    • Colin

      It would be good to get a substantive response to my points, but alas, all I ever seem to get from the flock is a rendition of my apparent character flaws. If you wish to respond, please take it as a given that I am stupid, shallow, evil, soulless and doomed to hell, and concentrate on a meaningful refutation.

      June 1, 2012 at 11:51 am |
    • Paul

      Look children! An uppity atheist! Careful, don't get too close, they're known to pout.

      June 1, 2012 at 11:56 am |
    • Ouch


      They are angry because you laid the smack-down. Don't expect reasonable thought from irrational (i.e. religious) people. It's like arguing with a r3tard. You will lose because they have more experience.

      P.S. I happily believe in a power higher than myself, I just despise organized religion and the ruins that come with it.

      June 1, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
    • Loin's Share

      Paul, thanks for proving his point. Nothing to argue so attack the speaker......

      June 1, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
    • MarylandBill

      Yes, priests ministers and rabbis do pay taxes as long as they earn a salary. I could answer the other questions, but that should be enough to make my point about the depth of your research.

      June 1, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
    • derp

      "Yes, priests ministers and rabbis do pay taxes as long as they earn a salary. I could answer the other questions, but that should be enough to make my point about the depth of your research"

      Says the guy who knows how stupid he would look if he bothered to answer the rest of the questions.

      June 1, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
    • MarylandBill

      Or perhaps I simply realize that many of the so called rational atheists who post on CNN are dedicated to reason only as long as it supports their positions and when it doesn't immediately switch to ad hominem attacks to try to get people to ignore the legitimate point that was made.

      June 1, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
    • Allan

      I have a quality coffee (real, verifiable), am sitting in a chair in a car dealership (both of which are real and verifiable), and reading the chatter.

      It's almost as much fun as seeing religious leaders be drawn and quartered (slowly, in spray of vinegar).

      Good fun!

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

      Colin, the "fathful" have no response so all they can do is name calling.

      June 1, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
    • Kill The Wabbit

      I love when you do that.
      The responses are amazing.
      Keep it up.

      June 1, 2012 at 1:37 pm |
    • Choice for everyone

      Do you have a full time job or is this it??

      June 3, 2012 at 8:59 pm |
  19. P.Lyons

    Rock on sisters!

    June 1, 2012 at 11:37 am |
  20. ToniAmen

    Jack is right, and nolapearl3 did the right thing. Don't like the Church? Leave! Taraaaa! Problem solved. Those of us who do believe in its teachings can stay. Taraaa! Another problem solved. All this bickering back and forth is ridiculous.

    June 1, 2012 at 11:35 am |
    • Segeny

      Wish they would leave. "Cafeteria Catholics" are as vain and narcissistic as is Dear Leader – – the "rock" upon which Jesus founded his church must, according to these folks, become sand and shift with the times. No thanks, nuns – – we'll have 'none of you nuns' -- we far prefer the unchanging rock. So now go away, like to a unitarian bunch where anything goes.

      June 1, 2012 at 11:43 am |
    • Kathmandu91

      "Taraaa!"? What is that?

      June 1, 2012 at 11:49 am |
    • InFormed

      Anything that reduces the membership eventually down to ZERO is a good thing. I say let them leave, perhaps they can take a few others with them.

      June 1, 2012 at 11:51 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.