Sunday, May 20, 2012

Another voice supporting the Sisters

May 20, 2012
 

The Bishops’ Disregard of American Nuns

To the Editor:
Re “Nuns on the Frontier,” by Anne M. Butler (Op-Ed, May 16):
Ms. Butler gives us a chilling history of nuns bullied and abused by a dictatorial Catholic Church leadership in the settling of the American West. Sadly, religious communities of women all across the country and the world can trump those tales with worse narratives of negligent, insensitive, unjust and inappropriate use of authority by the church leadership.
The greatest strength of the church in this country has been the witness and achievements of nuns. Ironically, it is the rare priest who does not trace his vocation to the inspired ministry of the sisters.
Rightly or wrongly, the bishops are perceived by the American Catholic faithful as complacent in the disrespect and disregard of American nuns shown in the disproportionate response of Rome to complaints against the leadership of the congregations of these great women.
What is at stake here is the moral voice of the church, which is squandered by the expanding list of failures of the bishops to be effective teachers. Those failures include the horrendous disregard for the safety of our children in too many instances without any accountability; carelessness in public statements on highly complex pastoral issues; poor process and failures of common courtesy in disagreements with people of good will inside or outside the church; and now silence as the sisters are dragged under a cloud.
I know so many bishops to be men of great faith, compassion and good will. That is why I grieve at the ineffectiveness of the body of bishops as teachers and at the loss of their moral voice.
Teaching is never effective through force or bullying. It never works if those being taught feel disrespected or devalued, and it is no longer teaching if it descends into a mere exercise of control.
The sisters have been the church’s great teachers, using the witness of their lives and works to teach. American Catholics and the broader country will hear the moral voice of the bishops when they are experienced as teachers standing among their people as ones who serve.
STEPHEN J. SWEENY
New Rochelle, N.Y., May 16, 2012
The writer is president emeritus of the College of New Rochelle, a Catholic college.

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