In the day, younger sisters, some of us would have been expelled from our Catholic schools for the cups alone.
This incident is not innocuous, and the day of “reflection” imposed on those involved strikes us as absurdly light duty for having mistaken a symbol of hate for a decorative way to act out.
Reports of suspensions from the private Catholic school for such lesser crimes as calling a fellow student a “snake” and going off-campus for lunch have understandably made some St. Teresa students suspect that this incident has not been punished as severely as it should have been because, according to fundraising reports, at least two of the students involved come from families who are generous donors.
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The school’s president, Nan Bone, and principal of student affairs, Liz Baker, denied any such link in an email to The Star editorial board.
They also denied multiple student reports that a teacher who tried to talk to students about the incident has been disciplined.
They insisted that a student suspected of showing photographic evidence of the incident to school officials has not been harassed or repeatedly told “Snitches get stitches” both online and in person.
And they also disputed a student’s report that Baker told a group of juniors upset by the incident to “stop trying to get your pound of flesh.”
(“The four statements you provided are unequivocally not true,” Bone said in an email, without any further elaboration. Baker’s email was even shorter: “I concur with Ms. Bone,’’ she wrote.)
Well, we hope that’s right.
For one thing, if Baker had cited a “pound of flesh,” it would not only have been wrong-headed, but a really unfortunate choice of words, referring as it does to one of the most anti-Semitic characters in all of literature. The abused and abusive Jewish money-lender Shylock in Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice” demands to be paid a literal “pound of flesh” by a debtor who can’t pay. He’s tricked out of it, though, and the play’s happy ending includes Shylock’s forced conversion to Christianity.
Back to the girls so ill-served by the leniency of their administrators: The fact that they shaped the hateful symbol backwards argues that they don’t know much about Nazis.
But that’s part of the problem, and they have shamed themselves and their school by showing a complete lack of understanding for the history of the Holocaust, and of the history between Jews and Catholics.
A corrective reading assignment might begin with Pope John Paul II’s “We Remember: A Reflection on the Shoah,” the 1998 document in which John Paul apologized to Jews on behalf of the church, expressing “deep sorrow for the failures of her sons and daughters in every age.”
We’d also love to see those involved spend some time with Sonia Warshawski, the 91-year-old Kansas City Holocaust survivor who was dragged out of her hiding place under some floorboards in her attic in the Międzyrzec ghetto at age 13, forced to shovel the remains of her people for use as fertilizer at Bergen-Belsen and shot in the chest as the camp was being liberated.
Maybe the students could explain to her what they thought was so funny about their beer cup art project, and she could tell them why it wasn’t.
A number of alumnae, some of whom have threatened never to write the school another check, remain furious over the way the incident was handled.
And in response, on Friday afternoon, the school released a new statement that said, in part, “This incident was irregular; it was something we have never faced before and it has shaken us to our core ... Many of you have questioned the consequences and called for expulsion of the students involved. While we respect your opinion, expulsion is the wrong solution in this situation. We live the mission of the Sisters of St. Joseph ... In the weeks ahead, we will be announcing several new initiatives addressing issues this incident has brought to light.”
St. Teresa’s alum Annalisa Zapien-Pina Young scoffed at that response: “I think they’re closing ranks, but that’s not going to work. It’s OK to be a bigot and not look at what happens when you don’t confront something like this? I love St. Teresa’s, but I went there when it was run by nuns, and they taught us values — core values — that if this is representative have been lost, and that’s why the alumnae are so incensed.”
We, too, would love to see the school’s current administrators live up to the mission of the sisters they only seem to be hiding behind.