Yesterday, I was killing a little time waiting for an oil change at the dealership where a year old copy of Rosie (R.I.P.) sat among the stale magazines. (I’m learning that inspiration for an NRO column is always, literally, within reach.) The November 2002 issue ran a screed against the Catholic Church by an author whose book-length smear, which is about to be published, has all the makings of a mega-seller. Be forewarned. Based on her magazine hit piece, Sister Karol Jackowski’s case for a new “priesthood,” including thee and me and the girl behind the tree, is based on ancient history and her own hostile anecdotes.
Sister Karol, a nun since 1964, is a member of the Sisters for Christian Community in New York City. She is the author of previous bestsellers, one on “blessings and spells” and, next month, The Silence We Keep, A Nun’s View of the Catholic Priest Scandal. The “we” apparently refers to the entire cowed Catholic community who kept a guilty silence about widespread sexual activity by our priests that “we” all knew about. Sister shares some of her sample stories with Rosie’s readers.
Fifty years ago, for example, in her grade school, “no one questioned the priest when boys were called out of class for funerals, altar-boy practice or whatever reason. Why would we have?” Because we had no reason to, Sister. In my parish school, the boys were serving at funeral Masses and attending altar-boy drills. Boys being routinely taken out of class in order to be abused by the priests wasn’t the only scandal taking place under Sister Karol’s young nose.
She was aware, but never questioned (what frightened Catholic would have?), that the rectory housekeeper traveled and vacationed with the pastor. Now, maybe her parish’s housekeeper wasn’t the 65 year-old widow typically found in every parish I’ve been familiar with. But, Sister Karol goes on to assert, “nearly every Catholic I talk to now can tell me at least one similar story.” How do you respond to such an indictment by anecdote? By asserting that in my 20 years of Catholic schooling, kindergarten through law school, I’ve never met a Catholic with a similar scandalous story about sex in the rectory?
You won’t be surprised that Sister’s particular sympathy is with all the women who rightly “feel violated by the Church’s teachings on birth control and abortion.” This “faithful”(according to her press blurbs) nun’s agenda is plain. “Women are special victims of this priesthood” because they “have been tormented by the Church’s teachings against them.”
The current scandal, in which a minority of irresponsible American bishops despicably covered up for a small minority of predatory priests, calls out for justice and reform. But, the particular torment for this Catholic woman is Sister Karol’s indefensible indictment of the entire Catholic community as co-conspirators in order to press a liberal nun’s perennial case against the male priesthood.