Nuns to candidates: Be nicer to one another

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at Briar Woods High School, Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2016, in Ashburn, Va. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci).

More than 5,000 Catholic nuns have a message for White House hopefuls: Stop being so nasty to one another.

Members of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious will deliver a letter to presidential candidates later this week, calling for “civility in our discourse and decency in our political interaction that promotes the common good, reaches out to others, engages in constructive dialogue and seeks together the way forward.”

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The letter, which will be sent to Democrat Hillary Clinton, Republican Donald Trump, third party candidates, their running mates and party chairs, says political discourse today is “too often marked by self-interest and demeaning rhetoric.”

“We seem to be caught in a political system paralyzed by ideological extremism and hyper-partisanship,” it continues. “Those on all sides of the growing political divide too often appeal to our basest instincts and stoke the fires of fear that tear at the fabric of our nation.

“We cannot let the voices of hatred and fear carry the day,” it says.

The election season so far has been marked by an especially pointed level of name-calling, especially from Trump, who has coined nicknames for both his Republican and Democratic rivals.

(Some have stuck better than others: “Lyin’ Ted” and “Crooked Hillary” seem to have staying power with Trump’s supporters, while “Corrupt Kaine” has not quite caught on.)

The sisters want the candidates to knock it off.

“We simply ask that all who seek to lead refrain from language that disrespects, dehumanizes or demonizes another,” the letter says. “We pray that all who seek to influence public opinion will be mindful of the common good and respectful of the dignity of each and every person.”

The L.C.W.R. represents about 80 percent of U.S. sisters, and it is generally viewed as part of the church’s social justice flank. Critics argue that the group does not spend enough time addressing abortion and marriage issues, which led to a Vatican-led investigation begun under Pope Benedict XVI. The inquiry concluded last year, with both sides saying they were happy with the results.

In its letter to the candidates, the L.C.W.R. asked candidates to pledge “to engage in careful listening and honest dialogue that honors the dignity of those with whom we disagree and treats all with the respect that is their God-given right.”

“Please join us in promising to seek the common good, to desire only good for all others, and to offer our own truth with equal measures of conviction and humility,” the letter says.

"We know that you offer yourself in service of the people of the United States at great cost to yourself and your family. We promise you our prayers in the weeks and months ahead,” it concludes.

Michael O’Loughlin is the national correspondent for America. Follow him on Twitter at @mikeoloughlin.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Sally Hemings
1 year 9 months ago
I'm a Catholic laywoman, Jesuit-trained, have experience in public policy (worked on Capitol Hill with ecumenical colleagues--including members of the LCWR, who taught me so much), have done direct service work, pastoral care in parishes, and earned advanced degrees in theology. I'm also a queer person of color. I object to this "both sides" equivalency that the LCWR seems to imply, as if the most damaging rhetoric isn't all coming from nearly one party. There is a real threat to our republic, and to the ideal of the Common Good, that is coming from one side of the political spectrum, namely the GOP presidential candidate and his political enablers. This needs to be called out in clear language, rather than LCWR's "everybody please get along" message. Vulnerable people are depending upon those of us to speak up.
L J
1 year 9 months ago
Sally, I am unclear why you felt it necessary to give us your CV. I will refrain from doing so. I object to your objection. The Nuns are right: both sides are have their hands mired in muck. Going back to the 1990s Hillary lessened half of the nation by her paranoid personality disordered symptoms by using the now infamous "vast right wing" phrase. When Hillary and the DNC use pejoratives as "angry whites", gun owners, right wing, people of faith, right to life, they are in effect shooting themselves in their feet by doing exactly what they decry: using a strategy of exclusion. As we all know, there is room at the table for all of us. As for my feelings on Trump, it is best I write nothing on him and his followers since it will cause me to sin against charity. Christ calls all of us to inner conversion. Given the political discourse since the 1990s, it is clear we are a very smelly group of sheep who should be sheered, pressure washed and dipped in bleach. I trust you include yourself in the flock. AMDG
Sally Hemings
1 year 9 months ago
I'm a new commenter here, and I was following the comment guidelines, which urged respondents to first describe ourselves. I was trying to emphasize that I am a Catholic with work, pastoral, and intellectual commitments ("formation"), thus concerned about Catholic social teaching about the Common Good. Also, to explain that I am a queer person of color--a citizen more likely to be adversely effected by many of the vitriolic policies being proposed. Relative to our numbers in church and society, there appear to be relatively few readers or writers here at America who are of my demographics, so just trying to explain my pespective. Queer women of color often have to justify our position to speak in public forums. So again, just following the directions I was given upon signing in. I thought that this Jesuit space and comment thread would be a more welcoming place than other precincts of the internet, but I'll just return to my more usual secular spaces now and leave you alone. *deletes account*
Anne Bremser
1 year 9 months ago
Please don't take the comments of one person to be representative of everyone here. I, for one, am an ally, and I know there are more like me. Please come back - we need your voice.
Lena Dalvi
1 year 9 months ago
It is not the voice of one person, we are all adults. Again, I am also a minority but I do not use that to silence others in expressing their voices and opinions.
Lena Dalvi
1 year 9 months ago
Ms. Hemmings: having different opinion than yours is exactly what this forum is for. I too is of woman of color but I didn't feel the need to bring that into light since it is irrelevant to the topic. Why did you need to bring it up? Is it to silence us?
Chuck Kotlarz
1 year 9 months ago
“Hillary and the DNC…doing exactly what they decry: using a strategy of exclusion.” Structural exclusion, the elite’s signature demographic, created Trump. 2013’s US average income: $¼ billion for 400 elite, $67,000 for the rest of America “Law and order” not respected - Officer fatality rates: 25% higher in conservative dominant states. Pro-life: The pro-life party not faithful to the religious right. Clinton and Obama have reduced the abortion rate three times more than the pro-life party. Marriage – Exclusion backlash. Divorce rates run 25% higher in anti LBGT conservative dominant states. Minorities excluded – Minority incarceration rates run over 25% higher in conservative dominant states.
Lena Dalvi
1 year 9 months ago
Thank you for the statistics. Well recorded facts are hard to be argued with.
Lena Dalvi
1 year 9 months ago
Here we go, just as I have noted, the pro Democratic Party came out on this by Sally Hemming by pointing out Trump. How about staying out of politics? Since if you show bias with the Democratic Party it surely goes against the majority of the church's teaching with abortion leading the checklist.
MARILYN DUNPHY
1 year 9 months ago
"Nuns to Candidates: Be Nicer to One Another". I'm scratching my head over this headline. Is that all that the headline editor took away from the LCWR letter - "be nicer to one another"? Seems to me that the LCWR referenced the deleterious impact of "ideological extremism" and "hyper partisanship", and noted that political discourse has the ability to either build up the common good or destroy the bonds that unite us, among other considerations. In the spirit of the Ignatian presupposition, I'll give the headline editor the benefit of the doubt that the headline is not meant to be as condescending and dismissive as it seems.
Lenora Grimaud
1 year 9 months ago
It is too bad that the world of politics does not have any "rules of order" to follow which reflect honesty, integrity, and common decency. Both parties, rather all political parties, have enlisted the news media to popularize their "political war games" for all the people of America, and beyond. The stage has been set for many years, not just this election. They use any weapons they can in order to win: dishonesty, lies, slander, rash judgments, bribes, invasion of privacy, concessions to corrupt people, money, power, greed, name-calling, false promises, flattery, ridicule, taking things out of context, distortions, mockery, distractions, etc. etc. etc. The result is that the people can no longer trust anything that is said by any of the candidates, supporters, or media. What is worse, is that our leaders have given a bad example for the people in their governings and relationships. We see the same rhetoric acted out among the people with all their adversaries. They are leading us towards becoming a pagan nation, worshipping every god except the one true God. Their behavior is becoming an epidemic among the people.
Beth Cioffoletti
1 year 9 months ago
Perhaps "humble" would be a better goal than "nice". Be humble with each other.
Bruce Snowden
1 year 9 months ago
It's said, the speaker who hammers the podium seeks to intimidate listeners because he/she knows the message is weak .Sounds like Trump to me, a "Tin Man" in need of a heart, hollow and noisy, who doesn't know how to be nice. or chooses not to be. If only he would cry like humans do, shed some tears publicly, "warm-up" like humans do, showing he does have a heart, feeling, humanity, then maybe I could vote for Trump. Hilary? I like her, then I don't, but then I do. Hard to really believe in, yet somehow, likeable. Maybe I'll find a "Scarecrow" in this strange election year to vote for - at least then I'll know she/he has a brain!
William Rydberg
1 year 9 months ago
What disappoints is that nothing is addressed to MSM. Imagine "repeatedly" printing naked pictures of the non political wife. Aren't the Leadership conference all women? Its sad that the Leadership Conference seems to be so choosy this time of year and have seemingly been mute about many changes in American Society the last ten years too. Lots of feedback last ten years about its disagreements with Rome in my opinion. Not much else, lets hope thats about to change... Just my opinion... in Christ,

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