Corporal Punishment of Adults

In Covenant Community 1975

In 1975 The Word of God Covenant Community (which was to be renamed “The Sword of the Spirit” in 1980) was experiencing much internal and external growth. A friend and supporter of the Community at that time was Fr William Sneck. Fr Sneck was a Jesuit priest who worked at the University of Michigan counseling center. Fr Sneck gave a homily on Pentecost Sunday 1975 directed at problems he was observing in the growing Covenant Community. This was greeted –as Fr Sneck later states- with much applause by “non-heads” (general members of the community in no positions of pastoral authority) and general NON-approval by nearly all those known as “heads”, or those in some position of pastoral authority in the Community. These developing problems were never resolved and echo the same findings of Bishop Ottenweller in Steubenville, Ohio some 15 years later. For this reason alone, Fr Sneck’s homily and letter of clarification to George Martin are invaluable. What makes them sensational is what he didn’t say publicly. In one brief paragraph to George Martin, he describes members being threatened with corporeal punishments: spanking and isolation in dark basements. I wrote to Fr Sneck and received his permission to reprint the homily and letter to George Martin. I found the documents in the Yoder Papers at the University of Michigan. As a member of the Sword of the Spirit –under one name or another- for 13 years, I can attest that bullying people in the pastoral care relationship was an approved and accepted form of pastoral “care” in the SOS group of communities. When I discovered this, I went immediately to my Senior Head Coordinator and reported the matter. Fr Michael Scanlan TOR would explain to me that he did not pastor anyone in this way, but that it was an accepted form of pastoral care in the Sword of the Spirit. I wrote my resignation letter soon after that. And I did hear a community secretary mention at one time that there was a cassette tape in the library of our community that contained a teaching on “Corporeal Punishment for Adults.” If anyone has such a tape, or even listened to it, I invite you to write me about your recollections: johnandtimmy@hotmail.com.

John Flaherty ~ Grand Island, NE ~ September 9, 2012

In 1975 The Word of God Covenant Community (which was to be renamed “The Sword of the Spirit” in 1980) was experiencing much internal and external growth. A friend and supporter of the Community at that time was Fr William Sneck. Fr Sneck was a Jesuit priest who worked at the University of Michigan counseling center. Fr Sneck gave a homily on Pentecost Sunday 1975 directed at problems he was observing in the growing Covenant Community. This was greeted –as Fr Sneck later states- with much applause by “non-heads” (general members of the community in no positions of pastoral authority) and general NON-approval by nearly all those known as “heads”, or those in some position of pastoral authority in the Community. These developing problems were never resolved and echo the same findings of Bishop Ottenweller in Steubenville, Ohio some 15 years later. For this reason alone, Fr Sneck’s homily and letter of clarification to George Martin are invaluable. What makes them sensational is what he didn’t say publicly. In one brief paragraph to George Martin, he describes members being threatened with corporeal punishments: spanking and isolation in dark basements. I wrote to Fr Sneck and received his permission to reprint the homily and letter to George Martin. I found the documents in the Yoder Papers at the University of Michigan. As a member of the Sword of the Spirit –under one name or another- for 13 years, I can attest that bullying people in the pastoral care relationship was an approved and accepted form of pastoral “care” in the SOS group of communities. When I discovered this, I went immediately to my Senior Head Coordinator and reported the matter. Fr Michael Scanlan TOR would explain to me that he did not pastor anyone in this way, but that it was an accepted form of pastoral care in the Sword of the Spirit. I wrote my resignation letter soon after that. And I did hear a community secretary mention at one time that there was a cassette tape in the library of our community that contained a teaching on “Corporeal Punishment for Adults.” If anyone has such a tape, or even listened to it, I invite you to write me about your recollections: johnandtimmy@hotmail.com.

John Flaherty ~ Grand Island, NE ~ September 9, 2012

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