The commentary by Maloney was an analysis of the U.S. Catholic bishops’ recent first draft of their pastoral letter on women’s concerns. Using the metaphor of a teeter-totter, she proceeded to point out the “ups” and “downs” of the document. She concluded with a mild suggestion that those bishops who support the ordination of women state their position publicly. In light of the various positions of Catholic women, Maloney’s article is a model of patient and reasonable exposition.
Three of the four letters in response to the column were incredibly acrimonious. The letter writers do not address the serious issues raised by Maloney but rather engage in a blatant and bitter-sounding denigration of her as a person. The verbal bullets explode with rhetorical overkill and are textbook examples of a logician’s “ argumentum ad hominem. “
Why does this kind of escape into anger prevail in religious discussions of the ordination of women? Is there something terrifying about women being priests? Something unholy about a surrender of gender preeminence in the Roman Catholic Church? When the message is prophetic, reasoned, articulate, sincere and true, mean-spirited hearers not only reject the message, but must silence the messenger. But this is not a new practice in Christian history. Certainly Sister Maloney knows this fact well.
ANITA CASPARY, I.H.M.