Thursday, December 2, 2010

Marion Ronan on Archbishop Dolan's History of American Catholic Schools

Marian Ronan takes a look today at Archbishop Timothy Dolan's rewriting of the history of Catholic schools in America.  She's focusing on an article Dolan wrote several months ago for America.

And I'm struck by her concluding statement, as I was when I read Dolan's article back in September--before his election to the presidency of the U.S. Catholic bishops.  Ronan notes that not once in the article does Dolan ever mention the role of Catholic sisters in building the Catholic school system in the U.S.  The article focuses entirely on the contribution of bishops.

But as Jay Dolan's magisterial history of American Catholicism, The American Catholic Experience (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1985) argues, it is impossible to write the history of American Catholicism without noting the significant role played by religious women in building key institutions of the Catholic church in the U.S., including its schools and hospitals.  American Catholics owe tremendously much to faithful religious women, without whose hard, unremunerated labor for generations the machinery of the church in the U.S. would never have functioned--or have been constructed in the first place.

To write the history of American Catholic schools as if religious women simply didn't exist, and as though only bishops count, is mind-boggling.  This focus on bishops as the church says much about the direction in which Archbishop Dolan wants to take the church in the U.S. under his leadership (and, for that matter, about America, which not only gave Dolan space to publish this article in September, but gushed about his election a few weeks ago).

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