Letters: Double-Crossed Nuns, Autism
SHEILAH KAST, host:
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Time now for your letters. And we received a few about the interview last week with Kenneth Briggs, author of Double Crossed: Uncovering the Catholic Church's Betrayal of American Nuns. Joy Mullett(ph) of Houston, Texas wrote, You know that wavy mouth that Peanuts characters wear when they're in a situation that is as much bitter as it is sweet? Although it was over 50 years ago, I clearly remember that mouth on my first grade nun as she said that little boys were closer to Jesus than girls because they could become priests. Of course, nuns went too far in the eyes of the male hierarchy. Any action at all would be too far.
David McFadden(ph) of New Orleans had a different view. The book deals in a confused way with the following set of circumstances. Orders of nuns abrogated their traditions and as a result suffered the inevitable consequence of a collapse of interest in those orders. As vocations plummeted, clergy in Rome and elsewhere tried to contain the damage, but the collapse could not be undone. And whom does Mr. Briggs blame for the collapse? He blames the clergy, of course. Leveling yet another inane conspiracy theory against the Catholic church.
John Hamilton's piece on autism and language and the work of Dr. Temple Grandin also drew a number of letters. Rita Winston(ph) wrote, I have never understood why Dr. Grandin is used as an example of autistic people lacking empathy and the mental ability to put themselves in someone else's place. It seems to me that her great work in the humane methods for handling and slaughtering livestock was caused by her empathy for the animals and her mental ability to be aware of what they perceived and how they reacted to it.
The question of empathy was also something that struck Ann Bakeman(ph) of South Burlington, Vermont. As the mother of an adult with the label of autism, I am tired of witnessing the portrayal of people with autism as somehow less than the complex humans they are, she writes. The people with autism I know who almost invariably experience difficulties in sensory perception and movement that make it tough for them to negotiate the world, nevertheless are often more empathetic than some of the neuro-typical individuals around them. They demonstrate it in many, not necessarily conventional, ways, in my daughter's case for example, by worrying about another's injury or unhappiness, apologizing when she perceives herself as the cause of a misfortune, and forgiving those who have wronged her. Besides empathy, she and her associates have many gifts like grace and courage that too often remain un-scrutinized under the clinical microscope.
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