Vatican: U.S. Catholic sisters, nuns making serious theological errors

View Photo Gallery: In light of the Vatican’s action on Wednesday, here is a list of nuns who have become known in the … Continued


View Photo Gallery: In light of the Vatican’s action on Wednesday, here is a list of nuns who have become known in the broader world. Two of the Americans listed have been canonized. 

A Vatican investigation of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), an umbrella group representing 80 percent of Catholic sisters and nuns in the United States, found serious theological errors in statements by members, widespread dissent on the church’s teaching on sexuality and “radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith” a church report released Wednesday stated.

The church appointed Archbishop Peter Sartain of Seattle to oversee “reform” of the women’s organization.

NETWORK, a Washington, DC lobbying group founded by Catholic sisters in 1971 was singled out as “silent on the right to life”; the organization’s head said the group was not consulted during the inquiry. She said that its focus on poverty, immigration and health care stems from its founding mission.

“I think we scare them,” Sr. Simone Campbell, a lawyer who serves as the executive director of the lobby said of the church’s male hierarchy.

The leadership conference represents the vast majority of the country’s 57,113 Catholic nuns and sisters, who work in education, health care, social services, parish ministries, religious education and chanceries. The spokeswoman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Sr. Mary Ann Walsh, is a member of an LCWR order, the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas.

Although the assessment focused on the leadership of the LCWR, the findings cited “serious doctrinal problems which affect many in consecrated life.”


View Photo Gallery: With nearly one in four Americans in its fold, a powerful lobby and extensive charity work, the Catholic Church is one of the most influential institutions in America.

Conflicts between Catholic sisters and nuns and the male episcopate have become a familiar theme in Catholic life as of late. In October, the U.S. Bishops’ doctrinal conference offered a formal critique of theologian Sister Elizabeth A. Johnson, who they said inappropriately over-emphasized feminine descriptions of God in a new book. After the head of the Catholic Health Association, Sr. Carol Keehan, voiced approval for the Obama administration’s attempt at a compromise on the HHS birth control regulations, Cardinal Timothy Dolan said he was “disappointed that she had acted unilaterally, not in concert with the bishops.

Campbell sees the current tension between male and female Catholic clergy as a part of a post-Vatican II democratic evolution within the church, but worries that the male leaders fail to recognize the “witness of women religious.”

“I made my vows over 40 years ago to serve the people of God and that service is unseen in this document,” she said in an interview.

“It’s painfully obvious that the leadership of the church is not used to having educated women form thoughtful opinions and engage in dialogue,” Campbell said.

About

Elizabeth Tenety Elizabeth Tenety is the former editor of On Faith, where she produced "Divine Impulses," On Faith’s video interview series. She studied Theology and Government at Georgetown University and received her master’s degree from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. A New York native, Elizabeth grew up in the home of Catholic news junkies where, somewhere in between watching the nightly news and participating in parish life, she learned to ponder both the superficial and the sacred.
  • sthomas1957

    The nuns are making serious errors. They’re actually showing compassion toward the very poor. How dare they!

  • tbarksdl

    Oh, my goodness gracious. The nuns woke up one morning and were shocked, shocked to discover that the Catholic Church discriminated against women. I have never been able to understand how any self-respecting female could join a church that officially declares females are unfit to hold decision-making positions in the church. Much less, be content with that church doctrine and then complain loudly if they are subjected to discrimination in other areas of their lives. That is hypocrisy of monumental proportions.

    By accepting this doctrine, Catholic women exhibit an extreme form of the bifurcated brain that comes with being religious. Like: I worship the God who said “treat your neighbor as yourself”–but I have a right to own slaves. I’m a God-fearing, Jesus-loving Christian–but I support segregation. In fact, said some Christians, I have a right to put six million innocent people in the gas chambers–praising Jesus all the while.

    This bifurcated Catholic brain is the source of the mentality that nurtured, supported, and covered up for ages a culture of atrocious sexual depravity visited against innocent children. Now, the bifurcated Catholic brain eats its own.

    Surprise.

  • Lyrazel

    Do they believe catholics will remain silent and stay in a church that keeps pedophile priests but defrocks nuns because of views on birth control?

  • Christopher_Hunt

    Everyone on every side is talking as if the CDF is coming down on the whole of women religious leadership. This is a false representation. The LCWR are simply one “leadership group” that has been wayward for decades. There is also The Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious (CMSWR), which are very much in line with those teachings taught in the Ecumenical Councils and other infallible documents which Catholics cannot dissent against and remain truly in the Fold. The CMSWR represents religious women all over the United States. They represent over 100 communities and the CMSWR goals are stated as:
    1-to establish collaboration among major superiors who desire it,
    2-to serve as a channel of communication among major superiors,
    3-to provide a forum for participation, dialogue, and education on the patrimony of the Church’s teaching on religious life,
    4-to promote unity among major superiors, thus testifying to their union with the Magisterium and their love for Christ’s Vicar on earth, and,
    5-to coordinate active cooperation with the USCCB.

    The only reason that it is “shocking” that the CDF has come down on LCWR is due to so very many years of open dissent not being dealt with. The first people to drop the ball were the local bishops, who refused to reign in dissent from those Catholic teachings which are a part of the Deposit of Faith. If the local bishops were doing their respective jobs, it would have never turned into an issue. After much more time passing without these issues being dealt with, they became deep seated. The CDF should have stepped in quite a bit earlier. So, I would say that the CDF also dropped the ball.

    Now, the dissent is rooted deeply in the US Catholic Church. There is plenty of blame to go around, but finger pointing will do no good. It is time for correction. Unfortunately, it was let go for so long that those dissenters FEEL they have a “right” to do and say what they are doing and saying. They do not have a right to do what they are doing, or

  • nardhelain

    What you fail to mention is that the LCWR represents 80% of US sisters. By attacking it, the CDF is in fact coming down on the vast majority of women religious in the US. Additionally, what this article fails to mention is that, in addition to “doctrinal errors,” the sisters were reprimanded for “spending too much time on poverty and social justice concerns” (this from Reuters) and not enough time on divisive political issues. I can’t believe that the Church I’ve faithfully supported all my life would take these women to task for caring too much for the poor. I can’t comment on the alleged doctrinal dissent, but the notion that it is more important for these holy women to foment political division than care for the poor strikes me as the worst kind of perversion of the Christian faith we are all supposed to espouse.

  • FLOURISH

    I wholeheartedly agree with Sr. Simone Cambell! I think the “pontificators” of the Catholic Church should recognize the “witness of women religious.” These women are in the trenches with the people, and they more than deserve a voice!!!! Get your heads out of your magisterial rumps, and learn how to talk to and about these “educated women” with “thoughtful opinions”.

  • canmann

    For those of you who care for the truth, though it seems few on this board are interested, listen up. THe Vatican is NOT criticizing these sisters for their great humanitarian efforts; the Vatican is NOT upset because they are doing the “corporal works of mercy”; The Vatican is disappopinted because they are women! The Vatican approves all their great charitable works. What HAS gotten the attention of the Vatican, which this article conveniently leaves out, is their support for non-Catholic organizations. Their alliance with the abortion rights groups, the co-called same-sex marriage groups, their belief that there is no sin. THESE are the things that are contrary to CAtholic teaching. So what the Vatican will do is ask, I repeat ask them to get in line, or join a church whose belief system is similar to theirs. Stop making this a fight about feeding the hungry!

  • mikestech

    I think what “scares them” is your gross negligence of our Lord’s call to defend ALL those who need it, not just those you view as politically expedient. God bless our bishops.

  • jimmykraktov

    Talk about the pot calling the kettle “black”! How does the Catholic Church get away with calling anyone “radical” !?

  • famunasmd

    These guys are nuts!

  • jerobam

    “It’s painfully obvious that the leadership of the church is not used to having educated women form thoughtful opinions and engage in dialogue,” Campbell said.

    Now if that isn’t a femnazi comment, I sure don’t know what is….gotta go…gotta tighten up that barbed wire on my groin….

  • bobwinners

    Der pooper is tooting into the wind. The HRCC has been loosing adherants steadly at the same rate that education of the masses and particularly women, rises.
    Sooner or later, his organization is going to splinter… again, as it has over the ages. I think it is way past time.

  • FLOURISH

    NUNS RULE!!!!!!!!! “*Women’s rights: The devil hates women. But God has a destiny like no other for them. Jesus was born from a woman. Also, some say that women should not preach. But when Jesus was resurrected from the grave, Mary Magdalene was the first witness. And Jesus told her to go and tell the world what you have witnessed. That is preaching is it not?!” ~Andre Bland

  • vindicator

    I’m a third generation American and Catholic. I was taught at Catholic schools, and I know the difference between good and evil, right and wrong. I check this fact with Catholic priests and they grudgingly agree:

    ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION IS A SIN!
    Why is the Catholic Church helping Latinos commit this SIN??

  • ccnl1

    Why all those who have conned us over the years are scared?

    Recognizing the flaws, follies and frauds in the foundations of Islam, Judaism and Christianity, the “bowers”, kneelers” and “pew peasants” are converging these religions into some simple rules of life. No koran, bible, clerics, nuns, monks, imams, evangelicals, ayatollahs, rabbis, professors of religion or priests needed or desired. Hopefully, the pink-slips are coming soon.

    Ditto for houses of “worthless worship” aka mosques, churches, basilicas, cathedrals, temples and synagogues

  • Chaytahn

    tbarksdl, you forget that the Catholic church banned slavery while most of the world was still shipping brown skinned people to the New World. Yes it was in the 1500′s… Likewise the Catholic church started universities and the university concept… to educate people. Your left wing bias against the church is showing you to be in denial about key facts of history.

  • Chaytahn

    Brilliant… and yes women should go forth and teach the word of God. But Catholics also follow traditions and that has been for men only as priests. I doubt the church will change any time soon in this regard. That said, the nuns also need to follow their oath of obedience to the Bishop. They took the oath… so follow it or quit. Don’t lie about it and deny having ever taken the oath.

  • rainy234

    yes follow blindly the same leadership that allowed for the abuse of children. brillliant.

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