Concern for Renewal

Mary Ann Hinsdale, I.H.M., James F. Keenan, S.J., and I are the editors of Church Ethics and Its Organizational Context: Learning From the Sex Abuse Scandal in the Catholic Church (Rowman & Littlefield, 2006), the book that Bishop Thomas J. Curry misrepresented and derided in his recent letter to the editor of America (2/12). His letter is irresponsible and harmful.

The purpose of our book is to foster the development of an ecclesial professional ethics. To that end we invited well-respected scholars from multiple disciplinary backgrounds (theologians, management professors, sociologists, law professors, historians and canon lawyers) to begin a discourse aimed at leading to more mature and accountable models of governance in the church. Contrary to what Bishop Curry stated, for example, Professor Kimberly Elsbach, an esteemed management scholar, did a very responsible job of comparing multiple ways leaders respond to crises in their organizations.

Bishop Curry states that it is deplorable that none of our 19 authors referred to the John Jay Report. However, several of the book’s authors specifically invoke the reporting that the U.S.C.C.B. commissioned to respond to the scandal. Moreover, the John Jay report does not explicitly address the broader organizational and governance issues that were our explicit focus. Bishop Curry further argues that focusing on the scandal alone will not energize the kind of broad involvement needed for church renewal. But our book both recognizes the serious governance crises surfaced by the scandal and envisions means of governance that are likely to enable the church to avoid such scandals in the future.

We find it ironic that in our attempt to work positively for the future of the church we are maligned by someone who professes to share a concern for church renewal.

Jean M. Bartunek, R.S.C.J.
Chestnut Hill, Mass.

Moral Perspective

I would have preferred it if both the Congressional House resolution and Representative Daniel Lipinski (Democrat of Illinois) had focused more on how the moral education provided in Catholic schools enhanced U.S. life than on the schools’ ordinary academic benefits (Current Comment, 2/12). I am the product of 14 years of parochial schools. I am amazed at all the rhetoric now used to laud and preserve them. Praise and protect them, we are told, because they provide disciplined and safe educational environments, because we need school choice, because they provide a solid traditional curriculum and because public schools will be overwhelmed if forced to absorb students from closed parochial schools.

But these are Catholic schools. No one ever addresses the fact that they exist, as I understood it from my days in them, to inculcate, propagate and develop thoughtful moral adherents of the Catholic faith.

Over the past 50 years, far too many men and women educated in Catholic schools have abandoned the practice and support of their faith. They could have and should have attended public schools for the same results that their Catholic education produced.

In the same issue, the commentary by Drew Christiansen, S.J., in Of Many Things made me wonder if any of those Catholic school graduates in the White House added any moral perspective prior to our entry into war in Iraq. Or how many of our Catholic school graduates contribute substantially to charities that provide for the poor, deserving and undeserving alike, like that of the recently deceased Abbé Pierre?

Yes, cheers for Catholic schools. I know well what they did for me. But let’s keep the focus on Catholic when we need praise them. Otherwise, why have them?

Vincent Gaglione
Yonkers, N.Y.

Comments

Sister Maureen Paul Turlish, SNDdeN | 2/18/2007 - 10:00pm
Transparency and Accountability

It is hard to believe that a bishop would actually put forward the idea that the church was ahead of the curve with regard to the sex abuse problems plaguing it as Robert Nunz notes in his letter, "Best Possible Light" (2/19) and Jean M. Bartunek, R.S.C.J. makes reference to in her letter, "Concern for Renewal" (2/26), both speaking of Bishop Thomas J. Curry's letter, "Church Renewal" (2/12).

While Bishop Curry's rationalizing statements and anti-catholic conspiracy theories are not all that out of character for many bishops, his comments do appear to be an early attempt at a revisionist timeline for the church's continuing sex abuse scandal and now, its burgeoning financial scandal.

Transparent? Yes. Accountable? Not yet.

If the bishops had followed, even minimally, the requirements of the laws in place at the time these crimes against children were perpetrated, they would not have had to take later the extraordinary precautions to ensure that sexual misconduct does not recur.

Let us remember that these extraordinary precautions were something the bishops did only when their backs were forced to the wall more by public opinion than by any binding authority of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The remedy should not have been to cover up prosecutable crimes of child abuse, thus permitting almost all statutes of limitation to expire, for the the sake of avoiding scandal. The remedy should have been to rid the Body of Christ, the church, of this cancer. To the shame of all catholics this was not done.

What is so distressing is the way church leadership conspired to hide and protect priests from legal prosecution. Such behavior has been unprecedented in recent religious history and overshadows, by sheer numbers, any similarly culpable action by any other public or private institutions.

There is no doubt that the Roman Catholic Church in the United States will take decades to recover from this incomprehensible debacle of collusion, conspiracy and cover up, which was layered on top of thousands of rogue priests' behavior, if it ever does.

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