e-mail us

Inside NCR

The Vatican’s acknowledgement of abuse of nuns by priests is a welcome development, an essential first step along the path of dealing with the problem and healing deep wounds.

Our hope is that the solution goes beyond a few paragraphs of acknowledgement. Those involved in addressing the problem through such steps as outlined in the story on page 3 should insist on a system of accountability.

Women religious in the areas involved should be assured of both a safe place to describe their circumstances and support in dealing with the aftermath of abuse.

The wider church, too, needs an opportunity to talk about these latest revelations of abuses of power. The story raises questions that are vitally important to the church and that have been largely shoved out of sight. They are questions about sexuality in general; about the church’s view of women; about priestly formation; about mandatory celibacy; and about adaptation of the church to cultures that do not share a Western European past.

Our pages will be open to accommodate discussion of these issues and others as the details of the story unfold.

We will begin in next week’s issue with a range of reaction to and expert insights into the problem.

Admitting the problem exists is a first step. Doing justice to the women involved, protecting the credibility of the church in its mission to the world and honoring the integrity of most priests and leaders who serve faithfully demands that the institutional church, having made the admission, moves on to the difficult work needed for long-term solutions.

Cheers for the creative folks in the United Farm Workers union and the California lawmakers who worked together to come up with a day honoring the late César Chávez, founder of the union and one of the foremost Hispanic civil rights leaders.

The first steps toward creating a voice for farm workers required enormous courage, organizing skill and determination in the mid 1960s. No one in the booming economy of that time rally wanted to be bothered with the disturbing details of horrible living conditions and slave wages endured by those whose backbreaking work provided abundance for our tables.

Woven deeply into that story are brilliant strands of faith and Catholic social teaching and action at its best. Often at Chávez’s side was Msgr. George Higgins, the legendary labor priest. Higgins believes deeply that people need to organize, that human dignity demands it.

What is especially heartening about the Chávez observance is the provision for educating children about his life and work and the chance to do community service. It is a worthy way to continue Chávez’s life of nonviolent resistance and organizing and a way to educate a new generation to how much remains to be done.

-- Tom Roberts

My e-mail address is troberts@natcath.org

National Catholic Reporter, March 30, 2001