Main content | Sidebar | Links

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Catholic lay empowerment in hospital shakeup story.

Especially careful readers of this site will have noticed the run of stories this past week in my Scrapbook (featured here on the front page) about the sexual harrassment charges that forced the resignation of the head of the Boston Archdiocese's hospital system. In a series of front-page stories starting last Sunday, the Boston Globe chronicled Cardinal Sean O'Malley's initial decision to disregard the recommendation of the hospital system's top human resources executive, who determined that Dr Robert M. Haddad's behavior constituted a fireable offense. (According to several corroborated complaints, Haddad was kissing women on the lips, leering at them, and calling them about personal matters at home.) The vice president for human resources, Helen G. Drinan, directly challenged both Cardinal O'Malley's decision to reprimand Haddad privately and the Caritas Christi Health Care System's board of trustees, which had endorsed O'Malley's decision. In the end, O'Malley and the board were forced to change course when more women stepped forward with allegations against Haddad, and he resigned on Wednesday. It's a big story up here in Boston.

Today's Globe profiles Drinan. She sounds like an extraordinary woman. I'll call attention to two small aspects of the story that highlight the continuing ripples of Vatican II, especially here in Boston where the conflict between clerical privilege and the empowerment of the laity has become a perennial theme in Catholic news:

The mother of three children and grandmother of four, she shuttles between a house in Cohasset and a condomimium in South Boston. A lifelong Chatholic [hey, copyeditor!], she attends the Jesuit Urban Center in Boston regularly, and says that her faith has always informed her work. "My faith is central to who I am as a person," she said, "so, I take it everywhere."

The Jesuit Urban Center, like the Paulist Center on Beacon Hill where Sen. John Kerry worships, is a congregation sponsored by one of the Roman Catholic orders — which is to say, a congregation that is largely independent of the Archdiocese. The Jesuits and Paulists in Boston have a reputation for their relative liberalism and for their support of lay people's empowerment in the church. So that's one thing. Here's another rather more removed echo of liberal Catholicism:

Drinan graduated from Mount Holyoke College and received a master's degree and an MBA from Simmons College. She married her high school sweetheart, David Drinan, a real estate developer whose late father was a distant cousin of the Rev. Robert Drinan, the former congressman.

Robert Drinan was a Jesuit priest and Boston College law school dean who was elected to Congress in 1970 and quickly became controversial. (He took a strong human rights stand on Latin American politics and supported abortion rights.) A papal decree in 1980 that priests leave electoral politics brought Drinan's political career to an end.

The point here is that Helen Drinan's professionalism and many years as a corporate executive certainly helped her step up to a very difficult confrontation with her boss and his boss. But her religious commitments — and the particular form they've taken within the Catholic Church — also seem to have emboldened her to take on an overly cautious cardinal archbishop who, for reasons I find hard to fathom, put a predatory man's interests ahead of his victims once again.

("The woman who forced the Caritas shake-up," Sally Jacobs, Boston Globe 5.27.06, reg req'd; more links at my scrapbook)

Update: My Catholic theologian buddy Baptized Pagan is hoping the cardinal's penitential tour initiative doesn't get entirely overshadowed by the Haddad scandal. I also realize, rereading my post, that I'm not really pointing to ways that Helen Drinan has been influenced by the lay empowerment initiatives that followed Vatican II; I'm pointing instead to ways that she's connected to liberal Catholic communities and that she's a clearly empowered and bold Catholic woman. She represents the good work that an empowered lay person can do — and that the church needs them to do.

Copyright © 2006 by Philocrites | Posted 27 May 2006 at 12:55 PM

Previous: Unitarian Universalist roll call for Yearly Kos?
Next: This week at Immigration.




May 27, 2006 01:17 PM | Permalink for this comment

I particularly noticed your use of the words emboldened and faith together, that harken back to the words in "Standing on the Side of Love" -- emboldened by faith, we dare to proclaim, we are standing on the side of love.
I would really like to see that song become a pop hit -- like the hymn that Cat Stevens made into a hit. (Morning has Broken)

Comments for this entry are currently closed.