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.
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?