James Martin, SJ | Dec 10 2007 - 2:35pm | 8 comments
I’m not sure what’s worse about this story. "Nun Reads List of Curse Words to Kids" That it was listed on MSN.com’s home page as one of the top stories of the day. That so far 86 news organizations have picked it up. Or that it caters to the same hoary anti-Catholic stereotypes about women religious that have existed since before I was born. (That’s 1960 if you’re keeping count). Sister Kathy Avery, principle of St. Clare of Montefalco School, in Grosse Pointe Park, Michigan, told her fifth-graders and sixth-graders that she wouldn’t tolerate any cursing in school. She then proceeded to list those curse words after Mass one day. Why is this an interesting article for the media? For the following reasons, all of which are closely related to some lazy stereotypes about sisters and nuns. (Choose one). 1.) Sisters don’t know about the real world, and so when they curse, it’s funny. (Stereotype: Sisters are clueless.) 2.) Sisters are pure and sinless. So their using curse words is shocking. (Stereotype: Sisters are superhuman.) 3.) Sisters do the same things that they tell others not to do. (Stereotype: Sisters are hypocrites.) 4.) Sisters don’t even realize when they’re doing something that will seem odd to others. (Stereotype: Sisters are dumb.) 5.) Sisters, especially in school settings, are overly strict. (Sisters are tyrants.) 6.) Sisters are not even supposed to be around any longer. (Sisters are extinct.) Most of the sisters I know are talented, capable, dedicated women. None are clueless, superhuman, hypocritical, dumb or tyrannical. And they are not extinct. If you think I’m overstating things, imagine the same story told about a lay teacher, or a teacher in a school in another religious tradition. Would it, do you think, garner as much attention? James Martin, S.J.