Defending the Little Sisters of the Poor: Deacon Greg is Beautiful When He’s Angry

Have I told you that Deacon Greg Kandra is my hero?

Seems I have.

But let me repeat myself. Deacon Greg Kandra, journalist, Deacon and Catholic Patheosi extraordinaire, is my hero. I wish I could write headlines like the Deacon writes them. I wish I had a nose for news like the Deacon’s got. I wish … well you get the idea.

When Deacon Greg Kandra gets enough, you know that anybody else would be froth. The Deacon got enough when he read an over-the-top Catholic/Christian bashing opinion piece in US News and World Report.

The topic of the opinion piece? Why, it’s the Little Sisters of Charity and their “outrageous” appeal to the courts that they be allowed to follow the teachings of their Catholic faith. You know, that First Amendment stuff about the government not interfering with the free exercise of faith.

In case you don’t know about that part of the First Amendment, here is the whole thing for your consideration, emphasis mine:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Isn’t that beautiful? I mean, aren’t those words in that magnificent document beautiful?

Think for a moment about the self-proclaimed Constitution worshippers who want to shear the first clause from the second and use it as a club to beat religious people into silence. Can you imagine any of the Constitutional-rights-for-me-but-not-for-thee crowd actually writing a law like the First Amendment?

US News and World Report, by publishing a Catholic-bashing hate piece posing as an opinion piece, has jumped on the bandwagon of hating on Christians and publicly hazing them. The subject of this particular piece was those pesky nuns with their bigoted religiosity and Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. It was all about Catholics and Catholicism and how we are out of line for not letting the government tell us to stop practicing our faith.

Despite the fact that the faith in this particular frying pan was Catholic, the same treatment extends to every traditional Christian. Make no mistake about it my brothers and sisters in Christ, it was about all of us.

Deacon Greg took it on in his typically measured, fair and well-founded manner. Frank Weathers followed with a hilarious segue into Chuck Norris (an Oklahoma boy, I might remind you,) while The Anchoress gives a brilliant survey of the power politics and faux feminism involved, while Tod Worner compared the Little Sisters with St Thomas More and Joanne McPortland took a turn at bat, providing us with absolutely delicious Joanne irony. The Catholic Patheosi have got this handled.

I don’t have much to add that I haven’t already said a hundred times. We are not the aggressors here. The government is trying to force religious people, in this case, a group of nuns to violate the teachings of their faith. The fact that this commenter thinks that allowing nuns to forego violating their faith undermines the rights of all women doesn’t even begin to make it so.

When someone stoops to this kind of bigoted name-calling to defend their position, it is usually either because they are too stupid to defend their position intelligently or because the position itself is indefensible. I would guess that in the case of this commenter, the reasons she is resorting to this tactic are that her position is indefensible by reasoned argument, and also that bigotry against Christians, particularly Catholics, is so widespread in certain circles that she thinks an appeal to it will win unmerited support for her ideas.

The bottom line for those of us out here in the audience is this: If you are a Christian, you need to stand up for Jesus.

Don’t be a jerk about it. By that I mean keep your language clean, don’t name-call or attack any person. Do not try to use satan’s weapons to fight satan.

Just stand up strong for Jesus Christ and the right of Christians to be Christian without being attacked, reviled, slandered or bullied in our society. Make your case as the son or daughter of the living God.

Bigotry is bigotry, even when it’s aimed at the followers of Christ.

From US News and World Report:

Et tu, Justice Sonia Sotomayor? Really, we can’t trust you on women’s health and human rights? The lady from the Bronx just dropped the ball on American women and girls as surely as she did the sparkling ball at midnight on New Year’s Eve in Times Square. Or maybe she’s just a good Catholic girl.

The Supreme Court is now best understood as the Extreme Court. One big reason why is that six out of nine Justices are Catholic. Let’s be forthright about that. (The other three are Jewish.) Sotomayor, appointed by President Obama, is a Catholic who put her religion ahead of her jurisprudence. What a surprise, but that is no small thing.

In a stay order applying to an appeal by a Colorado nunnery, the Little Sisters of the Poor, Justice Sotomayor undermined the new Affordable Care Act’s sensible policy on contraception. She blocked the most simple of rules – lenient rules – that required the Little Sisters to affirm their religious beliefs against making contraception available to its members. They objected to filling out a one-page form. What could be easier than nuns claiming they don’t believe in contraception?

[See a collection of political cartoons on the Catholic contraception controversy.]

Sotomayor’s blow brings us to confront an uncomfortable reality. More than WASPS, Methodists, Jews, Quakers or Baptists, Catholics often try to impose their beliefs on you, me, public discourse and institutions. Especially if “you” are female. This is not true of all Catholics – just look at House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi. But right now, the climate is so cold when it comes to defending our settled legal ground that Sotomayor’s stay is tantamount to selling out the sisterhood. And sisterhood is not as powerful as it used to be, ladies.

Catholics in high places of power have the most trouble, I’ve noticed, practicing the separation of church and state. The pugnacious Catholic Justice, Antonin Scalia, is the most aggressive offender on the Court, but not the only one. Of course, we can’t know for sure what Sotomayor was thinking, but it seems she has joined the ranks of the five Republican Catholic men on the John Roberts Court in showing a clear religious bias when it comes to women’s rights and liberties. We can no longer be silent about this. Thomas Jefferson, the principal champion of the separation between state and church, was thinking particularly of pernicious Rome in his writings. He deeply distrusted the narrowness of Vatican hegemony.

The seemingly innocent Little Sisters likely were likely not acting alone in their trouble-making. Their big brothers, the meddlesome American Roman Catholic Archbishops are bound to be involved. They seek and wield tremendous power and influence in the political sphere. Big city mayors know their penchant for control all too well. Their principal target for years on end has been squelching women and girls – even when they should have focused on their own men and boys.

  • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

    I’m actually shocked at the bald faced attack on Catholics in that piece by US News. “More than WASPS, Methodists, Jews, Quakers or Baptists, Catholics often try to impose their beliefs on you, me, public discourse and institutions.” What??? Who is imposing on whom? Give Catholics a way out of this and you are free to do contracept and abort yourselves to death. We aren’t imposing on them. They are imposing on us!!! What bleeping bleeping nerve. I would not have had the control to argue sanely and civilly like Deacon. I am spitting mad right now!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Bill S

    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;”

    Asking the nuns to certify that they cannot comply for religious reasons is hardly prohibiting the free exercise of religion. Not even close. The purpose of the accommodation is to guarantee free exercise of religion, not prohibit it.

    • Deacon Tom Lang

      Really “Bill S”? You can’t follow this simple line of reasoning? Do you understand that the facts are different than how you portrayed them? The government is demanding much more than the nuns simply “certifying that they cannot comply for religious reasons.” The government is trying to force the nuns to direct another entity to engage in what the nuns believe is sinful conduct as clearly taught by our faith. You don’t have to agree with our Church’s teachings, just don’t prevent us from freely exercising our beliefs.

      • Bill S

        “just don’t prevent us from freely exercising our beliefs.”

        Forcing your beliefs on others is more than just exercising your beliefs. Exercising your beliefs is obeying your rules yourself, not imposing them on your employees. Be as holy as you want to be but don’t push it on your employees.

        • Mike

          No one is forcing beliefs on another. The nuns nor any other organization that is opposed to the mandate is saying you can’t practice birth control. They are saying that the government cannot force us to pay for it or sign a document saying an insurance company will pay for it.

          • Bill S

            So. You can’t use contraceptives because it is against your religion.

            No problem. Don’t use them.

            And you can’t pay for insurance that covers contraception for your employees because contraception is against your religion.

            Ok. We can fix that.

            Now you can’t sign a statement that you cannot pay for insurance that covers contraception for your employees because contraception is against your religion.

            Wonderful.

            • Deacon Tom Lang

              Bill S – why can’t you see, understand and admit that the form requires the nuns to direct another to commit sin in the nun’s name? Is this a case of “don’t confuse me with the facts?” If so, just let us know that you have blinders on and plugs in your ears and we’ll all stop trying to help you to understand the truth.

              • Bill S

                “…the form requires the nuns to direct another to commit sin in the nun’s name”

                So the nuns would, by signing the form, be directing an insurer to provide free contraceptive coverage that the employees could choose to use if they were so inclined or could choose not to use based on their own religious beliefs, their desire to have children, their celibate or same sex lifestyle, or any other reason. It’s sort of like allowing the employees to decide for themselves. Much like giving someone free will.

                • FW Ken

                  Bill, you know full well the moral implications of the form, since it’s been explained several times. You also know that no one is stopping anyone from obtaining birth control (even abortion-inducing drugs). But free will doesn’t mean I have to pay for your choices.

                  • Pofarmer

                    Honest question. Weren’t most of the health care plans of these organizations covering contraception before?

                  • Bill S

                    Yes. And you do not pay for your employee’s contraceptives when you certify that you can’t for religious reasons. The Becket Fund is going to lose this case. There is nothing on the form that anyone should have a problem with. When the courts examine the form and listen to the arguments against signing it, they are going to dismiss the cases against it.

                    • FW Ken

                      Please point me to the form and/or the regulation governing this.

                    • FW Ken

                      With a little help from Mr. Google, I found a copy of the exemption form. Since I don’t know how to link .pdf forms, and also to include an alternate view, here is the article where I found it. Looking at the form, the first page is clearly nothing more than a statement of religious objection. The second page, however, is clearly an authorization. The Little Sisters even have to deliver the form to their carrier.

                      http://rhrealitycheck.org/article/2014/01/07/beyond-little-sisters-the-argument-against-signing-the-contraception-mandate-e

        • JoeCool1138

          How dare my employer force his anti-pizza beliefs on me by not buying me pizza every night.

          Mmm… now I want pizza.

          • Bill S

            Contraception is not pizza. It is an intregal part of women’s health care.

            • FW Ken

              Contraception is not health care; it’s contraception.

              Birth control, abortion, and sterilization have always been pushed in terms of women controlling their lives. It’s s bit precious at this late date to carry on about “health care”.

            • Ron Turner

              Do tell, O Wise One – what health problem do contraceptives solve? (Also note that you are lying – as the Anchoress has already noted – the mandate is not just “birth control”.)

              • hamiltonr

                Ron, you’re new here, so I’m going to allow this. But please, in the future, no name-calling or ugliness toward other commenters. Be kind in how you say things.

              • Bill S

                I am not offended at being called wise. They prevent unwanted pregnancies thereby preserving a woman’s mental health maybe or at least they allow her to control what goes on in her body. I would much prefer pneumonia to being pregnant for nine months.

                • irena mangone

                  So says a male who really has no idea I have had four children it may not always felt like a Sunday picnic but the wonder of it all the baby bent formed and holding my child were all worth it.

                  • Bill S

                    So you don’t agree that contraception should be part of women’s health care?

        • vox borealis

          Wait a minute…what if following my own rules for myself dictates that I don’t supply money for what I deem immoral acts? And moreover, how are the nuns dictating anything to their employees by not paying for their rubbers and pills? Lastly, isn’t it the employees who are in fact dictating to the employers, by forcing them to pay for this stuff? Yet that kind of dictating is OK?

          But I will say one thing, Bill: you are nothing if not predictable.

      • Pofarmer

        The nuns could always just shut down if they don’t wish to comply with U.S. law. This argument is getting old. Someones right to practice their beliefs, doesn’t mean that they get to dictate someone else’s beliefs,and it doesn’t mean they get to flaunt a constitutionally passed law, whether they like it or not.

        • PalaceGuard

          Actually, it does.

          • Pofarmer

            How do you figure? And this is somewhat personal for me, as the Hospital my wife works at was just acquired by a Catholic Chain. Does this mean the no longer will cover things like tubal ligation, vasectomies, etc? Do they have to cover treatment for STD’s, since it was a sin to acquire those? This is not going to a good place, and it’s just one more place the Catholic church has it’s head solidly up it’s nether regions. There are studies solidly showing that access to contraception lowers both teen pregnancy rates and overall abortion rates, yet, in it’s “love” the Catholic church keeps fighting against the very thing that could drastically lower the abortion rate. The whole thing is madness.

    • AnneG

      Bill, the requirement is very much like the pinch of incense sacrificed to Caesar, or loyalty oath to Henry VIII. Just one little accommodation. The mandates force the Sisters and others to acquiesce to immoral acts. Fr Longenecker explains it well. Here.
      http://www.patheos.com/blogs/standingonmyhead/2014/01/henry-viii-and-the-little-sisters-of-the-poor.html

      • Bill S

        Practicing birth control is not an immoral act. Freedom of Religion does not include dictating morality to others.

        • singermomma

          Bill, I do hope that you see the irony in your statement.

        • Fabio Paolo Barbieri

          Practicing birth control is immoral. The opposite has only been held in Western civilization since the 1920s, under the pressure of the eugenistic movement – the movement that gave the world Adolf Hitler (and Marie Stopes – probably the most odious female human in recorded history) and abortion. You are the victim of a fad and of utter ignorance of history; just because the media keep repeating something, it does not mean that it has either antiquity or value. In fact, it probably means the exact opposite.

        • Fabio Paolo Barbieri

          “Those who oppose the use of machine-guns, high explosive, buzz-saws, cyanide and pliers in the settlement of private disputes have a right not to use them. They don’t have the right to prevent others who don’t have that problem from using them.”

          • Bill S

            If you replace the machine guns, etc. with contraceptives I absolutely agree with you.

    • FW Ken

      Bill, the certification is an authorization for their insurance carrier to provide the offensive services. There are alternate funding mechanisms, but it’s still in their name.

    • Minicapt

      If an accommodation is required, then the free exercise isn’t. And the rule for which the nun’s are ‘expected’ to request an accommodation is completely unnecessary, and was probably written into the law so as to cause these difficulties. And the people in favour of such provisions make the mental midgets who wrote such into intellectual giants equal to Aleister Crowley and company.

      Cheers

  • RufusChoate

    Honestly, the Deacon’s response was weak tea and was easily surpassed by the brilliant comments on the US News and World Report site by just about every one. I am always amazed with these posturing reactions by Clergy and professional Catholics to Anti-Catholicism which has always been rampant on the Left and in American Protestant culture. I am curious in what Country the indignant writers were raised. It seems to be a very insular Catholic ghetto.

    It is one of the burden of being the truth being communicated by imperfect Humans. .

  • SisterCynthia

    Wow, that’s quite the vicious op-ed. And addressed at cutting down a fellow woman (and a fellow liberal!) for not legislating according her personal beliefs. How dare she, right? Sheesh. :-/ I suppose Justice Sotomayor knew this was going to happen, so good for her doing the right thing anyway.

  • AnneG

    Rebecca, you mean you haven’t seen those Catholic police patrols on the streets? Me neither. Stiehm reminds me of somebody who says what “everyone” in her world believes. I think she thinks this is obvious. US News just wanted the buzz and notice.

    • hamiltonr

      I think you’re right Anne. There seems to be a lot of echo chamber thinking going on in certain circles.

  • Steve31

    not a fan of Deacon Greg. He’s weak. Patheos is generally terrible.

    • hamiltonr

      I think Deacon Greg is strong as strong. As for Patheos, everyone here is free to say what they think. That makes it a mix of sincere ideas, which is never terrible; it’s human.

    • FW Ken

      I’m a big fan of Deacon Greg. I have no idea what you mean by “weak”. He’s a journalist and faithful Catholic. Moreover, for someone like me, he opens a window to viewpoints I sometimes ignore.

  • crazylikeknoxes

    Personally, I am not offended by Stiehm. Simply disliking someone because you disagree with their beliefs is not bigotry. I only wish Catholic judges and politicians took a stand on issues like abortion and gay marriage consistent with their faith as much as Stiehm seems to fantasize that they do. When people oppose us for taking moral stands – it is a good thing, not bigotry.

  • ahermit

    The Little Sisters aren’t being prevented from free exercise of their faith. In fact all they have to do is affirm their faith by filling out a form and they are exempt form the ACA provision.

    • FW Ken

      As has been noted, the little pinch of incense, excuse me, form, transfers payment, not moral complicity.

      They are still being compelled by the government to violate their Faith.

      • ahermit

        How are they being compelled to do anything? They declare their religious objection to the program and they are exempted. That’s really all there is to it.

        • FW Ken

          No, that’s not all there is to it. Try reading.

          • ahermit

            Well I have been reading, and yes what it all comes down to is just that; a formal declaration of faith to gain exemption from the program.

            • FW Ken

              I don’t know what to say. Are you bring obtuse deliberately? Having a little go at the Christians?

              • James Stevenson

                See this take intruiges me but in a society with the ideal of accommodating multiple viewpoints it seems a bit far. The sisters argument is that by filing the form they are morally culpable for the insurance companies action to take it onboard right?

                How does that apply in instances such as war? Are we morally complicit in opting out of fighting on a moral stance, when it sends someone else to fight in our place? Ultimately I think we can’t take responsibility for every action undertaken when we don’t do something, because other people are actors just as we are. So long as they themselves choose, and are not compelled, to do that thing then that’s the best compromise as I see it.

                EDIT: Just to build upon the war example for clarity’s sake if not for brevity. If you object to opting out of a war because it makes you morally culpable for your replacement being sent to fight. The only way out of that is either to cut down the number of soldiers sent to fight, or to end the war altogether. I’m pretty anti-war in general myself, but if this war was ‘necessary’ for arguments sake, how does that individuals moral objection weigh up against the need to fight or the rights of people who felt they need to fight? Particularly, if the person who would have fought in your stead themselves wanted to fight, but was precluded because of the moral objection.

                • FW Ken

                  Some wars can be considered.”just”, without moral opprobrium accruing to the participants. In any case, this country makes everyone for conscientious objection. Apparently there are conscientious objector status available for some groups, just not Catholics.

                  • James Stevenson

                    Mmm my understanding was that the form was simply to say ‘we have an objection, so under the exemption allowed to us we will be declining to pay’. Even if it is phrased in the form of authorisation though (in the case of ‘we hereby sign to this to allow another party to provide), is that not simply splitting hairs?

                    In either case, the assumption is the sisters would be the first port of call for it. If it is simply a fear of legal ‘authorisation’, and I grant that we can legitimately complain about how things can be phrased in legal contracts, a wording change is sufficient.

                    But if the sisters decline to provide it, if it is sought elsewhere, the mere implication that the sisters in theory could have been supplying it in the first place precludes anyone else from providing that service because of the sisters initial objection.

                    Maybe this is just one of those things where we have some different intrinsic views so, to a certain subliminal extent, we’re talking past each other. I just try and imagine these things as if they could be applied to everyone. Religious exemptions applied when they affect the individual with the religious objection can be workable in a vast majority of cases. But as soon as that religious person, even in a very intangible sense, can be seen to be impinging on someone else’s choices. I just can’t help but see this as one of the murkier cases, because I don’t see how someone could take up that plan as the way the sisters phrase it in their objection. There doesn’t seem to be a way around it for the person involved to get that outside plan that wouldn’t then be a threat to their moral objection.

                    • FW Ken

                      Do you know of a link to the actual terms of the authorization. I haven’t found one. But no, if I authorize you to act in my stead, that is not simply splitting hairs, as Rebecca notes on another post.

                      And the notion that refusing to pay for another person’s contraception impinges on their “rights”, or their freedom of action is nonsense to me. The HHS mandates are clearly ideological, not a matter of medical necessity.

                      Again: no one is restraining another person from obtaining contraception, including abortion-inducing drugs, nor sterilization. As I’ve noted before on this site, no sane person wants the government anywhere near sterilisation. My first work out of college included work with victims of the eugenics movement: 3 generations of imbeciles is enough.

                      Indeed!

                    • James Stevenson

                      I guess there we’re on opposing ends in terms of our personal bias. I see addressing medical concerns and making basic healthcare easily available to be a very heavy priority. It’s one of the few things I’m in favour of being universal. Because we all experience various health issue, not always even in most of the time of our own making, and because economies and societies function significantly better when they’re healthier. A sick country is far more expensive to run.

                      Which is why I don’t really buy HHS mandate as ideological, the healthcare benefits to women are pretty plain. Especially as they don’t just deal with preventing unwanted pregnancies. I guess we oppose on who we put our trust in, honestly I read blogs and stuff and, while I find a lot to like in some religious perspectives, a lot of the rest of it strikes me as special pleading which has been hyped up for partisan advantage. But as I said that’s more a question of, in our views, who we are more sceptical of.

                      I sympathise with your fear of eugenics. I myself find a lot to distrust looking at the past, particularly with autistic people. The WWII era of lobotomies sends a chill up my spine, though the whole chelation and anti-poison crap that parents subject their autistic children nowadays disgusts me also.

                      I can’t say I can find a link specifically on the details of authorisation in the sisters incident. Didn’t try very hard in all honesty, as I said I was pretty much using it as an example to try and think about how these things can apply more widely and where the buck starts and stops in terms of what’s reasonable. I can’t say that my opinion has really changed as a result of this conversation and others over the past couple of day (there’ll be plenty more I’m sure), cheers for putting up with my long posts though.

                    • FW Ken

                      I’m in favor of universal health care (and beyond the “basic” for that matter), although I think Obamacare is uniquely bad at achieving that goal. In the first place, it’s not universal health care, but universal health insurance. They are not the same. We would be better off with a Canadian-style single-payer system (which doesn’t provide free contraceptives, I’m told), although that is still insurance, not health care. Neither Obamacare not the Canadian system make care universally accessible.

                      In any case, contraception is not health care: it’s contraception. Abortion is definitely not health care. Nor sterilization. In rare cases, they can be, but in general, pregnancy is not a disease (check out recent statistics on maternal mortality). As I note somewhere in all of this: contraception and abortion have been pushed in terms of women having control of their lives, so it’s rather precious to switch now and make it about health care. Talk about “special pleading”.

                      As to special pleading, if the government can force me into acts I find morally abhorrent, they can force you. Some people who don’t object to contraception recognize that. Not to mention the exceptions to the HHS mandates that are beginning to be bandied about. Let’s see how that plays out. Finally, as to special pleading, remember that all of these lifestyle services are free, when real life-saving services have a co-pay. When my appendix ruptures, it cost me over $2000, with my insurance.

                      And that’s why I regard the HHS mandates as ideological.

                    • SisterCynthia

                      I’m one of those (Protestant) sorts who isn’t personally convinced birthcontrol is inherantly evil, yet I choose to stand with my Catholic friends because you’re right, loss of freedom of conscience SHOULD worry all of us. I am a nurse–do I want to be forced to someday be part of an assisted suicide because it’s become a “patient’s right” and health professionals who have moral qualms with it are not given an out, even when others who don’t object to doing it are there (as has happend to pharmacists over dispensing abortion pills)? No, I do not! Freedom of conscience isn’t merely a Christian or even a religious thing, either, as atheists and agnostics have their own moral codes, too. This ongoing destruction of an American’s right to a moral conscience in their public life, free from legal reprisals, cannot be allowed to stand.

                    • FW Ken

                      By the way, I’ve worked for the state government most of my life, and my dad worked for the feds. Religion aside, I know too much to not be cautious.

                • James Stevenson

                  EDIT: A reply to FW Ken below post beginning with ‘Some wars can be considered “Just”…’ Mostly because I wrote this big thing and wouldn’t let me post it in reply until his is moderated and I don’t want to have to retype it later :D

                  Might have misunderstood me there. As I see it the objector status is still there. Just in this case, the sisters seem to be objecting because, if they don’t provide it, someone else will. It is that distinction I wonder about.

                  Because it seems like it can just grant a moral ‘veto’ to anyone over anyone who works for the initial party or who otherwise has, at some stage, some kind of duty or requirement to provide something which they’ll refuse. In such a case where there’s space legally to allow this, the person with the objection then goes on to say that the person can’t then take that duty/requirement/product from a different source because of the original providers objections.

                  In my war example, the initial person claiming the objection is operating under the assumption that the war wasn’t just. But how, in that case, can their moral objection be circumvented if the same principle in the sisters case is applied there? To avoid being seens as impinging on that person’s liberty, you’d have to literally not recruit a solider, regardless of whether the replacement for the person with the objection to fighting, has a differing view of the situation.

                  • FW Ken

                    As I understand it, the sisters have to authorize the alternate payment, hence it is done in their name. That makes the analogy of the soldier inapplicable.


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