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. oldguy

    You go girls!!

    June 1, 2012 at 11:57 am |
    • J2Voor

      Wow!!! The Vatican says that "American Nuns" have gone rogue and will negitivly affect the church. All I can say is when was the LAST TIME YOU HEARD OF A "NUN" MOLESTING a CHILD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" The church and its hipocrcy

      June 1, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
  2. Chris - Bufffalo

    The Church berates the Nuns for helping the poor & the sick, but has no problem hiding pedophiles and money launders!

    June 1, 2012 at 11:57 am |
  3. Blessings

    The Pope has always wanted to "prune" the Church? Leaner and meaner? Sounds like what the Republicans are doing in this country by pruning the voter rolls, making it harder to register to vote, and making it harder for people to find the right voting place. But, wait, are we dealing with a Republican hierarchy? I think so. Bless the Bishops.

    June 1, 2012 at 11:56 am |
  4. DavidInVancouverWA

    I wholly support the Nuns. Good for them for doing what they think is right, even in the face of the evil Pope (a.k.a. Darth Sidious).

    June 1, 2012 at 11:56 am |
  5. rick

    The sisters are misusing statistics,the majority of nuns they claim to represent are either retired or close to it. Perhaps those communities who chose not join to join these "religious" had valid reasons, they are not all on Medicare or in retirement homes. Many great women religious are in communities that belong to the leadership conference and had no choice a few at the top called the shots. The bishops should relax most of these communities will be extinct soon and new genuine communities will spring forth. I say if you are so unhappy the door swings two ways use it.

    June 1, 2012 at 11:56 am |
  6. tipsana

    Say sister, soul sister, go Sisters, go Sisters! Seriously, fight the good fight ladies. I admire your works, and am sorry to see it denigrated by the church. I could not in good conscience baptize my daughter in the RC Church (after doing so for my sons), knowing that she would be raised as a second class citizen in that church.

    June 1, 2012 at 11:56 am |
  7. Diane

    I hope they resign and form their own group. I've heard none of this type of admonishment from the church pointed at the pedophile priests and those that covered for them...once again let's pick on women and blame them for the ills of the world and the banks-I mean churches...

    June 1, 2012 at 11:55 am |
    • Huebert

      The catholic church has two plays, "blame the women', and "blame the Jews" but they cant get away with the latter any more.

      June 1, 2012 at 11:58 am |
  8. Truthsayer

    For the simple fact that the "Church" has for years condoned and concealed the abuse of children by priests; The Catholic Church should lose their tax exempt status and be required to disband in the United States until they can prove that their ranks have been purged of pedophiles and each and every priest, bishop, archbishop, cardinal and yes, pope, found to have any level of involvement are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and persecuted publicly and privately. History shows the Catholic Church being a lawless body that has been allowed to inflict their beliefs and twisted ways on people in the name of "religion" and force weaker minds into adhering to their closed minded belief system. In closing I'd like to note that the Catholic Church is responsible for more crimes against humanity than the human mind can comprehend. . . .

    June 1, 2012 at 11:55 am |
    • Jack

      Or atleast track and investigate them the same way the gov't does Mormon compounds.

      June 1, 2012 at 11:57 am |
    • earlbowden

      "..prove that their ranks have been purged of pedophiles..."

      They are doing that – handing them a $20,000 check and pushing them out the door, no longer associated with the Catholic Church.

      June 1, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
  9. Amen

    About time I say for the nuns to speak up. I would be one of them speaking out on the steps of the Vatican. Times have changed and so the Vatican needs to change. I know the nuns do more for the church than a priest, bishop or pope can do. I grew up in the Catholic enviroment, I know. I am no longer in the church but I seen enough growing up to know the nuns do more than their fair share of keeping a church or community together.

    June 1, 2012 at 11:54 am |
  10. Peggy Haymes

    God forbid the Vatican should spend their time and energy reforming a system that allowed widespread abuse of children. Instead, let's keep those pesky nuns from following Jesus' mandate to reach out to the poor and disenfranchised.

    June 1, 2012 at 11:54 am |
  11. Colin

    10 Commandments that every young child should be taught, Catholic or otherwise.

    1. DO NOT automatically believe something just because a priest, rabbi or minister tells you that you must.

    2. DO NOT think that claims about magic, miracles and the supernatural are more likely true because they are written in old books. That makes them less likely true.

    3. DO analyze claims about religion with the same critical eye that you would claims about money, political positions or social issues.

    4. DO NOT accept it when religious leaders tell you it is wrong to question, doubt or think for yourself. It never is. Only those selling junk cars want to prohibit you from looking under the hood.

    5. DO decouple morality from a belief in the supernatural, in any of its formulations (Christianity, Judaism, Islam etc.). One can be moral without believing in gods, ghosts and ghouls and believing in any of them does not make one moral.

    6. DO a bit of independent research into whatever book you were brought up to believe in. Who are its authors and why should you believe them in what they say? How many translations has it gone through? Do we have originals, or only edited copies of copies of copies– the latter is certainly true for every single book in the Bible.

    7. DO realize that you are only a Christian (or Hindu or Jew) because of where you were born. Were you lucky enough to be born in the one part of the World that “got it right”?

    8. DO NOT be an apologist or accept the explanation “your mind is too small to understand the greatness of God,” “God is outside the Universe” or “God moves in mysterious ways” when you come upon logical inconsistencies in your belief. A retreat to mysticism is the first refuge of the cornered wrong.

    9. DO understand where your religion came from and how it evolved from earlier beliefs to the point you were taught it. Are you lucky enough to be living at that one point in history where we “got it right”?

    10. DO educate yourself on the natural Universe, human history and the history of life on Earth, so as to be able to properly evaluate claims that a benevolent, mind-reading god is behind the whole thing.

    June 1, 2012 at 11:54 am |
    • mlorraine

      well said.. thank you

      June 1, 2012 at 12:04 pm |
    • Paul

      I like very much your list and I am a Christian. Always question, it makes one's faith real and strong and not a mere blind belief in "fairy tales". I do not quite get #5 however. I do believe in a higher moral authority and generally believe that humankind woud be better off considering moral issues from a "higher" perspective.

      June 1, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
    • Colin

      Paul, I have never understood that. Morality is a purely human and purely subjective affair. It is a personal value judgment on a set of fact. I am an atheist and have morality virtually indistinguishable to that of my liberal Christian friends.

      June 1, 2012 at 12:08 pm |
    • Allan

      This can be rendered down to:

      – Think
      – Do no harm
      – Add Value.

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

      Colin: REALLY appreciate your insights , enthusiasm, and your ENERGY. i left RC a LONG time ago, and finally stopped even "taking them on." I'm THRILLED to know there are articulate passionate responders out there who'll take on–and continue to take on–these . . . uh. . .misguided "believers." (That's the kindest label I can give them.) Go, girls!!! GO, COLIN!!!

      June 1, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
    • fred

      Exactly how would you know if your idea of moral value is good or bad without a higher authority? Consider two people will have different views on what is good. In order to reach agreement both must look to a higher authority that they agree upon otherwise they will not change their view.

      June 1, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
  12. Robyn

    Imagine, nuns working for social justice, helping people Bah! What is wrong with them?
    Why aren't they out there attacking people as Kommandant Ratzinger demands?

    June 1, 2012 at 11:53 am |
  13. InFormed

    It is truly ironic that a CHURCH would ban its NUNS for doing something in the world that actually helps people.

    June 1, 2012 at 11:53 am |
  14. JanetMermaid

    I'm so proud of them! Great job ladies!!

    June 1, 2012 at 11:52 am |
  15. Ian Kluge

    These nuns want to suck and blow at the same time, i.e. they are hopelessly confused about what they want. They can either obey God's vicar on earth, or they can leave the Church but not both. They obviously believe in the gospel according to feminism more than in the gospel of Christ. Benedikt 16 is right: growth by pruning is called for. Let them be happy somewhere else.

    June 1, 2012 at 11:52 am |
    • Bob

      "growth by pruning" is hilarious, since the tree is dead and rotting from the inside out. Catholicism is just one more god fraud, but one with particularly silly rituals and costumes. It deserves to die out.

      June 1, 2012 at 11:59 am |
  16. Znod

    Go nuns!!! Nuns 10; Pope nun.

    June 1, 2012 at 11:52 am |
  17. prophet

    you have remember that it was a women that led us to sin and most of them have this same flawed character and the nuns know this as this is in Torah.

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

      Remember it was the female followers of Christ who stayed with him when he was crucified. The male apostles were now where to be found. So who the more faithful.

      June 1, 2012 at 11:55 am |
    • terry

      "Led us to sin" ? Did you have to follow ?

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

      Thank you for demonstrating yet another reason that Christianity will be seen as outdated and bizarre the further society progresses.

      June 1, 2012 at 11:58 am |
    • Aaron

      HAHAHAHAHAHAHA... oh that is a good one. Also remember that it was a woman that brought you into this world you dolt.

      Quit using fairly tales to justify your stupidity.

      June 1, 2012 at 11:58 am |
    • Jan

      Yeah, right. What an uneducated comment.

      June 1, 2012 at 11:59 am |
    • bg123

      The Torah was written by men, right? Isn't history always written by those who dominate? Remember, you wouldn't be here to type your garbage w/o women.

      June 1, 2012 at 11:59 am |
    • Fran

      The first thing Adam did was throw Eve under the bus. Adam was responsible for his own actions.

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

      Funny, i dont recall Adam refusing the apple.

      June 1, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
  18. gerald

    Stay the course Benedict. In time this will pass and the Church will be made stronger by weeding out the weak.

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

      Yes, stay the course Benedict as that course is leading to an eventual implosion of the Catholic church!

      June 1, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
    • Mop

      Stay the course Benedict. In time this will pass and the Church will be made stronger by weeding out the victims of abuse.

      June 1, 2012 at 12:28 pm |
  19. lolita

    nuns gone wild!!

    June 1, 2012 at 11:50 am |
  20. JM

    Team Nuns.

    June 1, 2012 at 11:50 am |
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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.