Pope to nuns: ‘Yes, sister?’
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.