Sep 16, 2007

A little follow-up on the Sisters of Bethany

The Associated Press yesterday had a follow-up story (click on this post's title) about the Archdiocese of Los Angeles's eviction-in-progress of the Sisters of Bethany from their longtime convent in Santa Barbara to help fund the $660 million molester-and-cover-up settlement.

The article says, "...the order's general superior indicated in a letter Thursday that there been a plan to sell the convent for years. Mother Luz Elena Ordonez Quezada wrote that she had intended to move the nuns after [Sister Angela] Escalera, 69, had retired two or three years ago.

"'Our plan was to expand the property we own in Oxnard so they can live there, especially since Sister Angela needs lots of care and attention due to her limited condition,' [Mother Luz] wrote from Guatemala.

"She said an alternate plan called for moving the nuns to the order's other convent in Los Angeles."

The objective observer will wonder why anyone would feel this matter so urgent as to "wr[i]te from Guatemala" about it, unless a certain Cardinal had ordered her to, so as to take the heat off him.

Did Mother Luz write "sub compulsione" -- under compulsion? It is interesting that commenter "Liam" wrote the following here last week:

"Turns out, according to a priest who knows more than the L.A. Times, that these Sisters' superior in L.A. has been trying to get them out of that house for years. Mother Superior should now come forward and publicly set the record straight instead of letting the Archdiocese of L.A. take the heat."

What a coincidence that defenders of Cardinal Mahony should make this suggestion, and the suggestion should quickly come to pass -- all the way down in Guatemala, yet!

The reality remains that for the Archdiocese to order the sisters evicted without kindly looking out for them, taking care of their needs and working things out with them first, is bizarre - and unnecessary. It is also a public relations blunder that has given a black eye to the Church.

21 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent point and well-taken!

1:50 PM  
Anonymous Liam said...

The only reason the Church got a black eye is because the Sisters went to the press and gave "their" side of the story, withholding some key details. The Mother General, in her letter, said that she had been following the story and personally came to Los Angeles to see why her Sisters were causing this headache in an already difficult situation. Mother General deserves thanks and admiration for fortitude and humility.

7:30 PM  
Anonymous Liam said...

The letter from Sister Luz Elena OrdiƱez Quezada has the heading, "Los Angeles, Ca. September 13, 2007" although it is written on the stationery of the Bethany Sisters' motherhouse which is in Guatemala.

How come, Quintero, you always take the oppotunity to attack Cardinal Mahony? Nothng in the letter suggests anything other than the Mother General is trying to make amends for a bad situation created by members of her community.

Quintero, you say you're a traditional Catholic...don't you remember some of the sins against charity we used to learn from the Baltimore Catechism...things like rash judgment?

8:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When did the Mother General come to Los Angeles? Where in the AP story does it say the Mother General? It only says that she wrote from Guatemala.

The AP storey is dated September 15. The comment above says the letter from Sister Luz is dated September 13, but the AP story doesn't describe the heading of the letter. It doesn't mention wether the stationary is from the motherhouse. It only mentions a letter from Sister Luz on Thursday written from Guatemala. Thursday was the 13th so if it was received on Thursday was the letter faxed or was it dated ahead?

The original story in the L.A. times was published September 7. According to that story the sisters got the letter for the archdiocese at the end of August, but it was dated June 28.

10:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have seen the letter...it was written in Los Angeles and in it, Mother General says she came to Los Angeles because of the public mess (my words) her Sisters in Santa Barbara had made for the local Church. She says she wanted to clear up the situation.

The archdiocese's letter to the Bethany Sisters' provincial superior in Los Angeles about selling the house was dated in June but the provincial superior did not tell the community in Santa Barbara about it until August.

10:27 AM  
Blogger Quintero said...

Dear Liam,

I'm still wondering if you saw the letter, and if so, how that came about.

Do you work for the AP, or have a friend who does? Or do you work for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles or have friends who do?

As I said in my post, it is some coincidence that what defenders of Cardinal Mahony wanted Mother Luz to do, she did right away. That suggests someone in authority gave her an order to write the letter.

To wonder if all those dots are connected is a far cry from "rash judgment." And to defend Sisters who are being evicted is a far cry from an offense against charity!

Once again, I do not "always attack" Cardinal Mahony. But you have to admit that the letter from Mother Luz, and its timing, are awfully convenient for the defenders of the Cardinal. That is obvious, so I pointed it out.

11:47 AM  
Blogger Quintero said...

Dear Anonymous 10:18 a.m.,

Thank you for pointing out the oddities associated with the letter.

11:49 AM  
Blogger Quintero said...

Dear Anonymous 10:27 a.m.,

By any chance are you "Liam," or are you someone else?

Has the letter been made available to the public, or how did you see it? Do you work for the AP -- or the Archdiocese of Los Angeles?

How do you happen to know the letter was written in Los Angeles?

To whom did Mother Luz address her letter? To Cardinal Mahony? To the faithful of the Archdiocese? Was it written "Urbi et orbi," "To the city (of L.A.) and the world?"

You have to admit that the circumstances of the letter are unusual, and so is its evident selective distribution to defenders of Cardinal Mahony.

11:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The ADLA's letter of June 28 was addressed to the Regional Superior in Los Angeles, as the Archdiocese's statement in The Tidings notes. Why the Regional Superior apparently sat on it for more than two months before sending it to Santa Barbara without a call or comment, probably offers a big hint as to why the Mother General felt she had to come up to L.A., doncha think?
Also, the Mother General's letter was sent to all parishes via the vicar for women religious for the ADLA. Probably because it was such a big story. The real untold story here appears to be of a Bethany community in near chaos.
Quintero, for a supposed church wonk, you should know something about how religious orders are supposed to care for their own. Why didn't the Regional Superior take care of her nuns personally? Why did she wait and do nothing to help them? They've got two big houses. Yet she sat around letting the nuns say that they were one step away from homelessness.
I agree with Liam; you couldn't wait to pounce on the cardinal, so instead of focusing on the seeming dysfunction in the Bethany community, you simply reached for the media kool-aid and drank a gallon of it. But that's what makes you you. Don't go changing, or we might have to take you more seriously!

12:48 PM  
Blogger Quintero said...

Dear Anonymous 12:48 p.m.,

Everyone, even ole Q, already knows religious orders are supposed to take care of their own. Too bad somebody didn't tell that to the liberal IHM sisters in the late 60s -- and to the orders in recent decades who have been so unloving to their conservatives.

We still don't know how you saw the letter.

It is more than obvious that, "if charity and love prevail," the Archdiocese of L.A. could have mediated to work things out with all the Sisters of Bethany instead of dropping the eviction on some.

We faithful are entitled to expect higher standards of behavior from our hierarchy and clergy, don't you think? To write as if that were the case is NOT "to pounce."

And no one needs to "drink media Kool-Aid" to recognize harsh, heavy-handed treatment of sisters.

By the way, it was Flav-R-Aid, not Kool-Aid, at Jonestown.

I notice that you take me seriously enough to write here.

1:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Bethany Sisters are a bit disorganized and disfunctional from what I know of them. They are a good Order with good Sisters, but they are not sophisticated enough to communicate effectively with their own convents, let alone the media. I'm not surprised at these new revelations, and I don't begin with the assumption that Mahony has strong-armed anyone. People were quick to take the Sisters' side because the Sisters were willing to be portrayed as poor, put-upon, powerless women being punished for others' crimes and punished for wearing a habit. It's easy to spout off at the inception of sensational news, but as the story develops perspectives change. Lesson: don't be so quick to opine about stuff you know little about, especially when ALL you know is from the LA Times!

10:57 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

If this has been in the works for years now, it is all the more worth noting that it just so happens that the diocese is getting around to selling it NOW, soon after finding itself in a particular debt of $660 million. It's difficult to honestly distinguish the carrying out of regular business from the diocese's looking more closely at how can come up with some extra dough and, say, sell a convent. Given the timing of the event, one would be hard pressed to give the benefit of the doubt that the money the archdiocese is making from this has nothing to do with paying off child molestation settlements, themselves being largely a result of absurdly poor management and leadership.

11:58 PM  
Anonymous Padre Compassio said...

Dear Richard,
I don't think you understand some basics. The house belongs to the Archdiocese of Los Angeles who allowed the Sisters of Bethany to occupy it. Mother General of the Sisters avers that it has been the Sisters' intention to move the community in that house to another Bethany house for two or three years. The house would remain in the possession of the Archdiocese.

When assessing which 50 or so properties it would sell to help fund its legal settlement, the Archdiocese decided that this house (which the Sisters would be vacating any way) could be one of them along with the Archdiocesan Catholic Center on Wilshire Boulevard.

It is worth noting that Mother General, in her letter, states that only she can speak for the Sisters of Bethany, thus rebuking the Sisters who caused this mess by airing a lop-sided and ultimately inaccurate version of the situation in the Los Angeles Times and on the infamously anti-Catholic "John and Ken Show" on KFI.

All of this, of course, has served to make Cardinal Mahony look bad in the media, a fact not lost on Quintero who never passes up the opportunity to malign His Eminence.

6:01 AM  
Blogger Quintero said...

Dear Padre Compassio,

Hope you have a little compassion for the Sisters of Bethany.

Just to reiterate: To report the things the Cardinal does is not to "malign" him but...to report the things he does.

If he does not want the things he does reported, maybe he should consider not doing them, or at least doing them differently.

All Catholics have compassion for the heads of all dioceses, who bear such great responsibility for so many souls. We pray for them at every Mass, and we owe them more prayers of ours besides.

Why couldn't the Archdiocese have worked something out with the Sisters of Bethany ahead of time? Then the Archd. would have been able to announce a happy move, not an eviction.

It isn't just ole Q who thinks the Sisters deserved more than an eviction notice, you know. It's many of our fellow Catolicos.

The Archdiocese's eviction notice, not the sisters' hurt reaction to it, is the true cause of the public relations disaster.

11:45 AM  
Blogger Quintero said...

Dear Richard,

I think you understand the situation just fine.

11:50 AM  
Anonymous Padre Compassio said...

Dear Quintero,
The Archdiocese followed all the proer procedures...it notified the Provincial Superior of the Bethany Sisters of the need to sell the house as one of about 50 properties the Archdiocese needs to sell in order to settle the (unjust) lawsuits against it. All of the mistakes were committed by members of the Sisters of Bethany...the Provincial Superior did not notify her congregation's local community in Santa Barbara for weeks...she did not tell her Sisters in Santa Barbara to stop bad-mouthing the Archdiocese in the media.

Finally, the Mother Generl had to come to Los Angeles to get her community back into some semblance of good order, making a point of saying that she, and only she, was authorized to speak on behalf of the Sisters of Bethany.

And, yes, Quintero, you do like to malign the cardinal..You jumped to the conclusion that all of this was his fault and even went so far as to imply the cardinal "went after" these poor feeble nuns because they wear habits.

Quintero--go to confession!

2:41 PM  
Blogger Gibbons J. Cooney said...

Sounds to me like we got a bunch of Archdiocesan flaks here trying to bury the main issue in a sea of detail. Well-known lawyers trick.

The house where the sisters live(d) is being sold to cover costs of the abuse settlement of the Archdiocese of LA.

Padre Compassio writes: "All of the mistakes were made by the Sisters of Bethany."

Really? Who'd they molest? What molestors did they protect?

4:14 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

Dear padre compassiano,

In your response to me you say the convent will remain in the possession of the diocese then in your response to Quintero you concede it is to be sold. Either way, there's money to be saved or to be made. Whether or not the archdiocese is following all the "proper" procedures at the time (which is an interesting point to make given that the archdiocese itself would have much to do with shaping such procedures to begin with), my original point had to do with the timing of the whole thing. All the new information you provide really doesn't address the fact that it's still rather curious that the archdiocese just happens to be handling this business NOW.

BTW, padre, despite your name, you don't seem to be too compassionate to those who disagree with you. Being compassionate also means giving others the benefit of the doubt, and you are doing exactly what you are accusing Quintero of doing by portraying the nuns in the worst possible light. You seem intellectually dishonest in your arguments as you avoid addressing the points at hand that others make and instead throw a bunch of somewhat related facts at them as if you can win an argument by showing you know more about a situation without really responding to their positions. Taking part in such arguments as these should involve engaging the intellectual merits of the arguments themselves and evaluating and then informing them with what you know based on where others' stand as represented by their arguments, which positions you discern through your own intellectual evaluation of them; it should not involve sidetracking the argument with somewhat related information seeming to fall in your position's favor, making a bunch of ad hominem accusations, and telling others they need to go to confession.

Of course, that's just my own humble opinion.

5:13 PM  
Blogger Quintero said...

Dear Padre Compassio,

It was not me but a commenter on Sept. 7 who suggested it might be more than coincidence that the Cardinal targeted the sisters because they wear habits.

All I said was that the sisters have little power -- and I stand by that statement.

It does not take jumping to a conclusion to say that the mess is the fault of Cardinal Mahony.

Who set up the bunch of people who are deciding what to sell, and who is okaying their decisions? If Cardinal Mahony is not the one, then is he absent from leadership?

If I was going to sell a convent that some sisters had lived in and conducted their apostolate to poor people from for many years, I would extend their order the kindness and courtesy of phoning and setting up a procedure to work something out with them.

Sending a mere letter might be "correct" bureaucratically -- but only bureaucratically.

And I certainly would not post the name of an elderly sister on the main page of my Archdiocesan web site, for people to conclude that this fracas is all her fault and she is an offending culprit!!!

For shame.

5:05 PM  
Blogger Quintero said...

Dear Richard,

Thank you very much for your excellent and powerful defense of the Sisters of Bethany...and of ole Q here, too!

5:08 PM  
Blogger Quintero said...

Dear Gibbons,

Thank you very much for defending the Sisters and for zeroing in on the FACTS. You are so right to ask who did the molesting -- and, may I add, who put admitted molesters back in circulation.

5:12 PM  

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