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Nuns' Wrongs Admitted But Good Done Also Important, Says Cardinal

The Irish Times - Monday, April 29, 1996 MICHAEL O'REGAN

NUNS have been praised for their work by Cardinal Cahal Daly. In a homily, Dr Daly also said that the "wrongs" committed in orphanages and industrial schools in the past should be admitted.

"Sisters have openly and humbly acknowledged faults and excesses in the ways in which at times discipline was imposed and misconduct punished in such institutions.

"The humbling lesson to be drawn from all this is that we Church people are all too prone to be influenced by the culture of our time, rather than by the standards of the gospel of Christ", said Dr Daly.

"When we should be transforming the culture by gospel standards, we can often instead be allowing the culture, rather than the gospel to shape our behaviour."

Speaking at a Mass with religious sisters in Armagh, Dr Daly warned that it would be "a prejudice and an injustice to ignore the immense service" which sisters had given to society in accepting those whom society rejected.

They had provided a home, security, care and a chance in life and, in most cases, an atmosphere of love, which society, and even parents and families, often denied them.

"It would be an injustice to forget that we are speaking of a time when the State paid a miserable pittance for these children.

"It was a time when the State itself sanctioned a system of punishments, including physical punishments, for misbehaving children in these institutions.

"The sisters often achieved great results in the formation and education of these children, in face of much neglect by State and society.

"The wrongs committed in the past must be openly and honestly admitted indeed they have so been admitted. But the great good accomplished must be equally and ungrudgingly acknowledged.

Confidence for the future of religious life, said Dr Daly, was severely tested by the decline in religious vocations, which entailed an older average age in, communities and an increased number of aged and infirm sisters.

But Pope John Paul had no pessimism about the future, affirming that the consecrated life would "always be present and active in the Church", he added.

"I wish to pay tribute to the resilience and courage and readiness for creative change which I find among religious women.

"They have embraced renewal with ardour they have undertaken new apostolates with a remarkable innovativeness.

"The enthusiasm of sisters for ongoing formation has always impressed me and, indeed, it has often put us male clergy to shame. Sisters may grow older in years but they remain young in heart and cheerful in spirit and serene about the future."

He said that religious women could help in developing a feminism which was both true to the rights and dignity of women and true to the gospel of Jesus Christ.