Nuns attend the inauguration Mass of Pope Francis at St. Peter's Square on Tuesday (March 19) at the Vatican. RNS photo by Andrea Sabbadini

Pope Francis downplays threat of Vatican scrutiny of religious orders

VATICAN CITY (RNS) Weeks after authorizing a continued investigation of American nuns, Pope Francis told a group of nuns and priests from Latin America not to worry if they found themselves under similar scrutiny.

The pope's purported remarks came during a meeting with top officials of the Latin American Conference of Religious (CLAR) on June 6.

During the meeting, Francis seemed to refer to the Vatican investigation of an American nuns' group, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, while telling the Latin American delegates not to worry should they find themselves the target of a similar investigation.

“They will make mistakes, they will make a blunder, this will pass! Perhaps even a letter of the Congregation for the Doctrine (of the Faith) will arrive for you, telling you that you said such or such thing. ... But do not worry. Explain whatever you have to explain, but move forward.”

In what was seen as one of the defining acts of Pope Benedict XVI's papacy, the Vatican's doctrinal office issued a "doctrinal assessment" that criticized the LCWR for not speaking out strongly enough against gay marriage, abortion and women's ordination.
The Vatican also chided the U.S. nuns for "serious doctrinal problems" among many LCWR members, and said LCWR conferences suffered from "a prevalence of certain radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith."

A partial account of the meeting was published Sunday (June 9) by the Chilean magazine “Reflexion y Liberacion,” and later translated into English by the Rorate Coeli website.

Francis also reportedly admitted the existence of a “gay lobby” within the Vatican, and confessed that he is “disorganized” when it comes to administrative matters such as reforming the Vatican Curia.

The Vatican's chief spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, on Tuesday said the meeting was "of a private nature” and “therefore, I have no statement to make on the content of the conversation."

According to the “Reflexion y Liberacion” account, which seems to consist of notes from the meeting rather than an actual word-for-word transcript, Francis admitted that his task as head of the church's central administration, the Roman Curia, is “difficult.”

In the Curia there are “holy people,” he said, but “there also is a stream of corruption.” “The 'gay lobby' is mentioned, and it is true, it is there. ... We need to see what we can do.”

Reports of a “gay lobby” appeared in the Italian press last year in the context of the so-called Vatileaks affair that led to the arrest of Pope Benedict XVI's personal butler for leaking confidential documents to the press.

Benedict tasked three retired cardinals to investigate the allegations of infighting and personal rivalries in the Curia revealed in the documents. Their report was passed on to Francis after his election in March.

According to the Rorate Coeli report, Francis also said that “almost all Cardinals” asked for a reform of the Curia during the cardinals' close-door meetings that preceded the conclave.

“I also asked for it. I cannot promote the reform myself, these matters of administration. ... I am very disorganized, I have never been good at this. But the cardinals of the Commission will move it forward,” he reportedly said.



  1. Comforting words–from the throne of St. Peter–but what about the the harassment the good nuns have been suffering for some years under Benedict, William Levada, and his successor at CDF? It’s easy for the pope who’s in charge of of the CDF to be so blithe about these gestapo tactics, but they have been devastating to the lives, work, and faith of the nuns. Such invasions should be stopped promptly. And while he’s at it, Francis ought to shut down the CDF. That left-over of the “Holy Inquisition” has no place in the church. It never did. It was instituted when the church was managed by evil leaders. Let us prove that we have changed, that we truly follow Jesus, “The Model of the Holy.”

  2. Many of these “religious” are nothing more that sororities or fraternities of old maids and bachelors living under their discrete roofs. They have lost their way and are not even really Roman Catholic.

    Nuns who don’t staff schools and hospitals but rather are into massage therapy and every other gimmicky stuff are leftovers from the ’60s. These order are dying, and they should. They are being replaced by fewer but more “regular” ones. This pope or no pope will be able to put humpty back together again because it’s been destroyed by Vatican II’s implementation and the bishops uncaringness for children.

  3. Like the main speaker at this years LCWR who wrote that on Dec. 22 2012 the end of the Mayan calendar a vast cosic awakening would take place. this is who nuns are listening to instead of the Saints and Magiserium of the Church. This scrutiny is not about the sisers who work everyday bringing Jesus to school chridren and the aged, but the Leadership is follow worldly feminist teachings and .moving beyond Jesus’ as one of their esteemed leaders pontificated. These women have lost their way.

  4. “For many American Catholics, especially for the women in religious orders, the new pope has been a jolting, rejuvenating presence. Just 18 months ago, a Vatican report on the largest organization of women’s religious orders in the United States declared that there were “serious doctrinal problems which affect many in Consecrated Life.” Among their faults, the report found, was that they had been insufficiently energetic in promoting Catholic teaching on abortion, sexuality and family life. The organization was put under the supervision of an archbishop selected by Rome.

    Now there is a pope who has said that when it comes to abortion and same-sex marriage, “it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.” The church’s highest calling is to be with the poor, the oppressed and the marginalized in society, he said.

    Which has been ground zero for the work of American Catholic religious women in the United States for decades…”

  5. The CDF defends the Catholic Church! If anyone preaches heresey outside the Dogmas of the Church they are excommunicated that can mean a Pope. The Pope can not change the dogma of the Church. A liberal Pope can not sabotage the Holy Catholic Church. Jesus Christ for saw Judas, Jesus Christ can for see a bad Pope! God Help Us!

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