During the Great Healthcare Debate of 2010, some brave and influential Catholic nuns stepped forward and stood up for Americans' right to have access to health care. Again, in 2012, that same group filed an amicus curiae brief with the Supreme Court in support of the Affordable Care Act.
As we all wait for that verdict, the nuns have received one of their own. The Vatican has judged the nuns to "have serious doctrinal problems", among other things, and therefore have assigned them their own man to smack them back in line.
Via the New York Times:
The Vatican has appointed an American bishop to rein in the largest and most influential group of Catholic nuns in the United States, saying that an investigation found that the group has “serious doctrinal problems.”
The Vatican’s assessment, issued on Wednesday, said that members of the group, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, have challenged church teaching on homosexuality and the male-only priesthood, and promoted “radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith.”
The sisters were also reprimanded for making public statements that “disagree with or challenge the Bishops, who are the Church’s authentic teachers of faith and morals.” During the debate over the health care overhaul in 2010, the American bishops came out in opposition to the health plan, but dozens of sisters, many who belong to the Conference, signed a statement supporting it — support that provided crucial cover for the Obama administration in the battle over health care.
“I’m stunned,” said Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of Network, a Catholic social justice lobby founded by sisters. Her group was also cited in the Vatican document, along with the Leadership Conference, for focusing its work too much on poverty and economic injustice, while keeping “silent” on abortion and same-sex marriage.
Oh my, perish the thought. Focusing on helping the poor and needy. [cue sarcasm] How could church leaders possibly justify helping the poor and needy when there are abortions to be stopped and gays to hate? [end sarcasm]
Fear not, nuns. The Bishops will save you. They have a plan. It looks like this:
The verdict on the nuns group was issued by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which is now led by an American, Cardinal William Levada, formerly the archbishop of San Francisco. He appointed Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle to lead the process of reforming the sisters’ Conference, with assistance from Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki and Bishop Leonard Blair, who was in charge of the investigation of the Leadership Conference.
They have been given up to five years to revise the group’s statutes, approve of every speaker at the group’s public programs and replace a handbook the group used to facilitate dialogue on matters that the Vatican said should be settled doctrine. They are also supposed to review the Leadership Conference’s links with Network and another organization, the Resource Center for Religious Life.
Sartain may have some difficulty whipping the nuns into shape, since he can't even seem to get the churches in his diocese to bow to his edicts.
Here's what feels so deeply hypocritical to me about the Vatican's smackdown, and make no mistake, it was a hard smackdown. Just yesterday, those very same bishops criticized the Ryan budget (and the House of Representatives for passing it), saying:
“Major reductions at this time of economic turmoil and rising poverty will hurt hungry, poor and vulnerable people in our nation and around the world,” the Rev. Stephen Blaire, bishop of Stockton, Calif., and the Rev. Richard E. Pates, bishop of Des Moines, wrote for the conference. “A just spending bill cannot rely on disproportionate cuts in essential services to the poor and vulnerable persons; it requires shared sacrifice by all.”
Dang it. There they go caring about the poor and stuff. I don't see a word in there about same sex marriage or abortion or birth control. Just poor folks. I guess that means it's totally all right for bishops to care about poverty and the downtrodden, but God forbid that women should do it? Well, Pope forbid, anyway.
This was John Boehner's rather condescending response to the bishops' reproof:
House Speaker John Boehner wants the Conference of Catholic Bishops to rethink its stinging critique of the Republican budget, which it said “fails to meet … moral criteria,” of protecting human dignity, prioritizing the needs of the hungry and homeless and promoting the common good.
At his weekly Capitol press availability, Boehner cast the GOP’s budget as a plan to preserve key federal support programs, which he said are growing unsustainable and will cease to exist without far-reaching reforms.
“What’s more of a concern to me is the fact that if we don’t begin to make some decisions about getting our fiscal house in order, there won’t be a safety net, there won’t be these programs,” Boehner said. “When you look at the fact that we have to make hard decisions, it’s about trying to make sure that we’re able to preserve these programs that are critically important to the poorest in our society.”
Because raising taxes a teeny smidge in order to sustain these programs is simply out of the question! Pope-in-waiting Grover Norquist has said it, and therefore it's so.
I'm waiting for the Vatican smackdown of Boehner...oh, wait. Men get Preferred Hypocrite Status in the Church of the Concerned and Authoritarian Men. In the name of Christian love, of course.
Update: Oh, those bishops were busy boys Wednesday. Right after I finished this post, I heard they actually compared President Obama to Hitler! Is that a case of "I'm rubber, you're glue" or what?
"The Church will survive the entrenched corruption and sheer incompetence of our Illinois state government, and even the calculated disdain of the President of the United States, his appointed bureaucrats in HHS, and of the current majority of the federal Senate. . . .
Hitler and Stalin, at their better moments, would just barely tolerate some churches remaining open, but would not tolerate any competition with the state in education, social services, and health care.
In clear violation of our First Amendment rights, Barack Obama – with his radical, pro abortion and extreme secularist agenda, now seems intent on following a similar path."
What did they put in the bishops' Communion wine, anyway?