Pope to nuns: ‘Yes, sis­ter?’

The Times-Tribune - - EDITORIAL -

Thou­sands of older North­east Penn­syl­va­ni­ans who at­tended Catholic el­e­men­tary schools know that there is only on cor­rect re­sponse when the nun in charge “sug­gests” some­thing: “Yes, sis­ter.”

Now Pope Fran­cis him­self has an op­por­tu­nity to re­ceive wis­dom from the sis­ters who are the foot sol­diers of the church’s mis­sion to clothe the naked and feed the hun­gry, tend to the sick and ed­u­cate the chil­dren.

The pope re­cently ac­knowl­edge a sex­ual abuse scan­dal within the church that had been ob­scured by rag­ing con­tro­versy of sex­ual pre­da­tion against chil­dren by some priests, and coverups by some bish­ops around the world — sex­ual vi­o­lence against nuns by priests.

Fol­low­ing the pope’s ac­knowl­edge­ment the Lead­er­ship Con­fer­ence of Women Re­li­gious, which rep­re­sents about 80 per­cent of Catholic sis­ters in the United States, thanked Pope Fran­cis for ac­knowl­edg­ing the prob­lem and rec­om­mended how he should ad­dress it.

The con­fer­ence rec­om­mended that the pope es­tab­lish for­mal re­port­ing chan­nels to en­sure that church lead­ers re­ceive re­ports of abuse. And, more im­por­tant, the sis­ters called for “re­fash­ion­ing” the church lead­er­ship struc­ture to more heav­ily in­volved laity and di­min­ish the level of power wielded by clergy.

“The rev­e­la­tions of the ex­tent of the abuse in­di­cate that the cur­rent struc­tures must change if the church is to re­gain its moral cred­i­bil­ity and have a vi­able fu­ture,” the group said.

By now, given the dis­as­trous child sex­ual abuse scan­dal, church lead­ers should rec­og­nize that re­spond­ing from the bunker doesn’t work. Whether they are ca­pa­ble of the sort of changes rec­om­mended by the sis­ters likely will de­ter­mine the long-term in­flu­ence of the in­sti­tu­tion.

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