Catholic FAQ


Help support Catholic Answers!

Latest Threads
newest posts



Go Back   Catholic Answers Forums > Forums > Catholic Living > Family Life
 

Welcome to Catholic Answers Forums, the largest Catholic Community on the Web.

Here you can join over 400,000 members from around the world discussing all things Catholic. Membership is open to all, Catholic and non-Catholic alike, who seek the Truth with Charity.

To gain full access, you must register for a FREE account. Registered members are able to:
  • Submit questions about the faith to experts from Catholic Answers
  • Participate in all forum discussions
  • Communicate privately with Catholics from around the world
  • Plus join a prayer group, read with the Book Club, and much more.
Registration is fast, simple and absolutely free. So join our community today!

Have a question about registration or your account log-in? Just contact our Support Hotline.

Closed Thread
 
Thread Tools Search Thread Display
  #1  
Old Dec 7, '09, 10:44 am
Alex1 Alex1 is offline
New Member
 
Join Date: September 7, 2006
Posts: 18
Default Were the Nuns really that bad?

I often hear stories about how harsh Catholic school nuns were in the past. Writer Truman Capote referred to them as 'Black Widows,' many others have said recounted instances of harsh treatment.

My limited experience with nuns, three in grammar school, was positive. However, this was in the late 70's.

What's the truth of this?
  #2  
Old Dec 7, '09, 11:01 am
puzzleannie puzzleannie is offline
Forum Elder
 
Join Date: September 7, 2004
Posts: 37,470
Religion: Catholic no adjectives
Default Re: Were the Nuns really that bad?

My dad and uncles, my in-laws and all their siblings, everyone I know in their generation who went to Catholic schools (1920s-40s), and in my own generation who attended Catholic schools (1950s-60s) have nothing but good memories to relate of the good sisters and of our school experience in general. Even where there was a story of a nun with a personality who probably should not have been working with children, it was a one-time anecdote, and told simply because it was so rare. Like the mythical stories of forbidden bible-reading, "mean nuns" is something I know of only as urban legend, not from actual experience of anyone I know.

Conversely, almost everyone I know who went to public school also had generally good teachers, but may have one memory of one teacher who stands out simply because they were harsh or their behavior was out of the norm. Since those make the best stories, those are the stories that get re-told.
__________________
Whatever the Lord pleases He does, on heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps. Ps. 135
  #3  
Old Dec 7, '09, 11:10 am
Tantum ergo Tantum ergo is offline
Forum Master
Prayer Warrior
 
Join Date: May 19, 2004
Posts: 12,551
Religion: Catholic
Default Re: Were the Nuns really that bad?

Same here. My mother and her sisters were taught by 'nuns' in the 1920s and 1930s; my sister, brother and I in the 1960s to 1970, my daughter in the late 1990s. . .all of us had nothing but positive experiences for ourselves and we never saw anything (or heard of anything) 'awful' happening to others. While I'm sure that 'mean nuns' existed I do think that like so many perceived "Catholic evils" it has been blown out of proportion and demonized.

Of course, we're in the U.S. I can't speak for other countries and apparently from anecdotal evidence there were indeed greater instances of such things. Of course one still has to look at the whole picture. If, for example, every other authority figure in that country radiated sweetness and light and ONLY the nuns were 'mean' it would be a very different picture than, say, if most or all of the authorities acted in a 'mean way' in which case the nuns would simply be part of a greater 'cultural' or societal way of behavior.

If you're told that your behavior is acceptable, you look around and see your peers etc. acting the same way, it's been 'done that way' for generations, you're probably not going to question it if it seems culturally appropriate. How many generations did men think that it was perfectly right and just to beat their wives so long as the stick was no thicker than a finger? And did the women think that it was (while painful) perfectly acceptable for them as well? How long did it take for people to hear 'this is wrong' and to accept it?
__________________
HLS Club

I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful" (Ordinatio Sacerdotalis 4). Pope John Paul II.
  #4  
Old Dec 7, '09, 11:13 am
LilyM's Avatar
LilyM LilyM is offline
Forum Elder
Forum Supporter
 
Join Date: February 1, 2006
Posts: 33,102
Religion: Catholic
Default Re: Were the Nuns really that bad?

Taught by nuns here as well (an Australian Benedictine order, the Sisters of the Good Samaritan). Great memories.
__________________

Christ The Lord Is Risen Today! Alleluia!!


God bless and keep our new Pope Francis - Viva il Papa!
  #5  
Old Dec 7, '09, 11:18 am
whatevergirl whatevergirl is offline
Forum Elder
Greeter
Prayer Warrior
 
Join Date: April 7, 2006
Posts: 23,255
Religion: Roman Catholic
Default Re: Were the Nuns really that bad?

My husband has terrible memories, his mother has wonderful memories, my sister has mixed memories. I didn't go to Catholic school. I think that everyone will have different experiences. No two nuns are going to be the same, just because they have chosen the same vocation.

I agree with annie about public school teachers, also. I never suffered corporal punishment, but there are some bad memories I have of very scary teachers! There can be good and and not-so-good teachers everywhere, really.
__________________


It is no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching. ~St. Francis of Assisi
  #6  
Old Dec 7, '09, 11:22 am
Hiskid1973 Hiskid1973 is offline
Regular Member
 
Join Date: March 6, 2009
Posts: 2,216
Religion: Brethern In Christ
Default Re: Were the Nuns really that bad?

Probably it depends on how good the person was...I've heard some nun horror stories over the years from people....
  #7  
Old Dec 7, '09, 11:22 am
ignatzz ignatzz is offline
Trial Membership
 
Join Date: December 7, 2009
Posts: 1
Religion: Catholic
Default Re: Were the Nuns really that bad?

Most of the nuns were kind, pragmatic, dedicated women. But the ones who weren't stand out in people's memories, and did some damage. In my limited experience, the nuns that I remember less than fondly happened to be in charge. I'm not sure if that's a coincidence.

I also think that in the past, some Catholic families took problem daughters and PLACED them in a nunnery. When that happened, it isn't surprising that you would wind up with a rather bitter, and not-very-good nun.
  #8  
Old Dec 7, '09, 11:33 am
Hiskid1973 Hiskid1973 is offline
Regular Member
 
Join Date: March 6, 2009
Posts: 2,216
Religion: Brethern In Christ
Default Re: Were the Nuns really that bad?

Quote:
Originally Posted by ignatzz View Post
Most of the nuns were kind, pragmatic, dedicated women. But the ones who weren't stand out in people's memories, and did some damage. In my limited experience, the nuns that I remember less than fondly happened to be in charge. I'm not sure if that's a coincidence.

I also think that in the past, some Catholic families took problem daughters and PLACED them in a nunnery. When that happened, it isn't surprising that you would wind up with a rather bitter, and not-very-good nun.
Welcome 1 poster...May the Lord bless you and draw you closer to Him..
  #9  
Old Dec 7, '09, 12:13 pm
baltobetsy's Avatar
baltobetsy baltobetsy is offline
Senior Member
 
Join Date: May 19, 2004
Posts: 6,196
Religion: Catholic
Default Re: Were the Nuns really that bad?

I had nuns up through fourth grade, when we moved into an area where Catholics were thought to have two heads and horns, and there were no Catholic schools. This was in the early 1960's. Three of four of them were just lovely, but the third grade teacher was one of the nastiest women I've ever known. Her particular pet peeve (other than children in general) was people using handrails on the stairs. If we were in a line going somewhere that involved the staircase, she would stand at the bottom saying, "Hands off, hands off!" With her (I think) New York accent, it came out, "Heee-yuns oooo-wuff, heee-yuns oooo-wuff!"

When I was in high school in the above-mentioned rural area, it was permitted to spank students with a paddle, but not the hand. Most of the male teachers had personalized paddles displayed prominently in their classrooms. One even had holes drilled in his to make it move faster and hurt more. However, I never saw a nun with a ruler or any other weapon.

Betsy
__________________
Time is short; eternity is long. Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman

Baltimore Catholics join me here!
  #10  
Old Dec 7, '09, 2:20 pm
Prodigal_40s Prodigal_40s is offline
Junior Member
 
Join Date: November 27, 2009
Posts: 193
Religion: Catholic
Default Re: Were the Nuns really that bad?

I was educated at a Loreto Convent and I was probably about the third year of boys since the school's inception back in the 60's so it was a culture shock for them. To be honest there was a mixture of good and bad; it's the same with all people. Some were really good teachers especially the Biology teacher but the Religious Ed teacher ironically wasn't that great. Behaviourally they were ok, some were austere and hostile towards guys but some of the other teachers who weren't nuns were the same. Anyone who writes books with venomous vilification have an agenda to sell books and I'd treat them with suspicion.
I met some of my nun teachers at a retreat a year ago and some of them disappointed me because they were talking about the faith requiring an upgrade or words to that effect. The beauty of the Catholic church lies in its eternal ceremony. I think it was because they no longer lived in the Convent; that's a really thorny issue for me. Nuns wearing ordinary clothes and living in the community. I believe that's loss of tradition. Simply put the nuns were ok but the protective and traditional aspects of their culture should be retained. At the moment the Church Militant needs unity.
  #11  
Old Dec 7, '09, 2:38 pm
purplesunshine's Avatar
purplesunshine purplesunshine is offline
Banned
 
Join Date: April 22, 2009
Posts: 2,808
Religion: Catholic Jellybean...yum yum
Default Re: Were the Nuns really that bad?

I'm only 25 but growing up I knew a nasty nun. She threw out a hawaiian gifts I had from my grandparents beucase she said they were awful pagans. She badgered me and told me...when I was seven...that I could not sing and sholdn't try and that even God would be offened by it. She constantly belitled me.

In my teenage years I met a wonderful nun, the second I met, who was the most incredible, loving wonderful person I'd ever met. I love her still probably more than anyone else.

Since then I've met many more nuns who range from old and senile to loving. It depends on the person...like with all humans
  #12  
Old Dec 7, '09, 7:17 pm
SMHW's Avatar
SMHW SMHW is offline
Regular Member
 
Join Date: June 30, 2004
Posts: 5,964
Religion: Roman Rite Catholic
Send a message via MSN to SMHW
Default Re: Were the Nuns really that bad?

I went to Catholic school from first through twelfth grade. (This was in the 60s and 70s.) The majority of the teachers were sisters. For the most part they were kind, thoughtful women. But I liked some of them more than others. I didn't particularly like my seventh grade teacher but I think that was more a reflection on what I was going through hormonally than it was on that particular sister.

It was my observation at the time that classmates who found following the rules (no talking, no gum, proper uniform) to be too limiting also found the sisters to be overly strict and too harsh.
__________________
"To all of us who hold the Christian belief that God is truth, anything that is true is a fact about God, and mathematics is a branch of theology." ~Hilda Phoebe Hudson
  #13  
Old Dec 7, '09, 8:03 pm
dixieagle dixieagle is offline
Regular Member
 
Join Date: July 26, 2007
Posts: 3,785
Religion: Catholic
Send a message via AIM to dixieagle
Default Re: Were the Nuns really that bad?

I started Catholic school south of Boston, with the Sisters of St. Joseph, in the late 50s. We had 65 kids in my first grade class.

I remember that in first grade Sr. Mary Christel told us all that it was also her first year (likely not true, but it put us all at ease.) She was a good-hearted soul, but didn't take any nonsense. Our fourth grade teacher was a dour woman, and passed away just after the end of the school year; it turns out that she had been ill. The other sisters were generally kind, often funny, but rarely mean.

In high school, we had Sisters of Charity of Nazareth. My freshman homeroom/religion/Latin teacher was fierce, and, I suspect, a most unhappy person; the other sisters didn't even like her. Sophomore year I had a homeroom/French teacher who was knows as "Bloody Mary"; we all dreaded every single day of school that year. The rest of the sisters were wonderful teachers.

All in all, there were, indeed, a few of the stereotypical "mean nuns", but the majority were great teachers and caring people.
__________________
"A Boston College Eagle in the DEEP south"

My blog: http://www.chattycatholic.com
  #14  
Old Dec 7, '09, 8:55 pm
Sarabande's Avatar
Sarabande Sarabande is offline
Regular Member
 
Join Date: March 9, 2007
Posts: 5,599
Religion: Catholic
Default Re: Were the Nuns really that bad?

I think it may depend on individual experiences and perhaps even on the school the kids attended. My grandmother attended Catholic school from grade school all the way through high school in the 30s and 40s and she had wonderful memories of her teachers, who were mostly all sisters.

My father and his brothers who are closer to his age (gradeschool in the 50s/early 60s), on the other hand, don't have many good memories of most of the sisters in their gradeschool. Most of the sisters at that school were apparently very miserable, would hit them and belittle them. My father also remembers an incident in 2nd grade when one of his classmates needed to use the bathroom and the sister wouldn't let her. She ended up peeing in her desk, the sister began screaming and yelling at her, then had my father and another boy clean up her pee while she was sent to the principal's office to be taken home. He remembers feeling so badly for her because she was a nice, shy little girl and that teacher belittled her and shamed her in front of the entire class. That said, he has a good memory of one, young sister who was strict, but kind to all of the children in his 6th grade class. I also have a few older friends who attended school in the same area as my father and his brothers around the same time and they also related bad memories with the sisters during that time period.

I attended Catholic grade school in the 80s and 90s and had decent experiences with the sisters, except for one who was not the nicest person. But I don't equate that with her being a sister. She just wasn't a nice person.
  #15  
Old Dec 7, '09, 9:20 pm
Jan Bolbot Jan Bolbot is offline
Junior Member
 
Join Date: September 29, 2008
Posts: 139
Religion: Roman Catholic
Default Re: Were the Nuns really that bad?

Yes, this idea is perpetrated by certain ex-Catholics, born-again secularists. It contains more than a hint of misogyny.

Clergy are human beings, there are good ones and bad ones and everyone in between. My dad was class president of his Catholic school (HS) and he used to tell me about this certain nun that put the fear of God in him and the other boys and boy was she strict, etc., etc. Now you should my father is about six feet, big strong guy. So years later we are visiting some of aunts of ours who were in the same order as that infamous sister of his youth in the conventual retirement home. So while we're there, this little nun, oh about 4 foot 10, with a sweet wrinkly face and big smile comes up and says "oh -----" (using a dimunitive of my dad's name), "is this your boy?" You guessed it, it was the same nun. Maybe she looked bigger when my father was a boy.

I do think the old-time sisters and the priests were tough and strict. (I know of quite a few priests from that era who were golden gloves boxers.) But I think this was needed. We forget the "good old days" were pretty hard, especially back in the 1920s, 30s and 40s. They served working class neighbors were there were gangs, violence, family problems, drunkeness, etc. Those aren't new problems and despite what folks think the Irish, Italians, Poles and others had just as many social problems as inner city minorities today. These sisters and priests were fighting a real battle and they kept a lot of kids on the straight and narrow that would have gotten into major trouble. Sadly, the underclass today has no such group of advocates. It was tough love and it worked.

That's a story you'll never hear in most history books.

jb
Closed Thread

Go Back   Catholic Answers Forums > Forums > Catholic Living > Family Life

Bookmarks

Thread Tools Search Thread
Search Thread:

Advanced Search
Display

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Forum Jump



Prayer Intentions

Most Active Groups
8031Meet and talk,talk talk
Last by: bizcuit87
4819CAF Prayer Warriors Support Group
Last by: James_OPL
4286Devotion to the Sorrowful Mother
Last by: lsbar
4027OCD/Scrupulosity Group
Last by: fencersmother
3810SOLITUDE
Last by: Prairie Rose
3363Let's empty Purgatory
Last by: James_OPL
3184Catholic Vegetarians & Vegans
Last by: libralion
3145Poems and Reflections
Last by: PathWalker
2959For seniors and shut- ins
Last by: Kellyreneeomara
2682Petitions Before the Blessed Sacrament
Last by: James_OPL



All times are GMT -7. The time now is 8:57 pm.

Home RSS Feeds - Home - Archive - Top

Copyright © 2004-2013, Catholic Answers.