Defending Nuns, Popes, Freedom, Life…

Some interesting pieces and subjects that I have been too busy to post on this week, but really wanted to share with you:

Fr. James Martin – author of one of the best Catholic autobiographical books in the last 50 years and a longtime friend of this blog – is in many ways the perfect go-to voice of “reasonable, palatable Catholicism” for many in the media (and he is a very genial, bright and exceedingly reasonable, fair-minded fellow). At big Catholic events like Papal Visits and Archbishop seatings, you can find Jim doing “expert commentary” on television, and he’s frequently gracing the pages of major media outlets.

But The New Yorker got his dander up this week, and he was so uncharacteristically miffed, he actually sent me his link to the America Magazine blogsite twice, to make sure I saw it.

What got Fr. Martin upset was the routine abuse of nuns and sisters, thoughtlessly tossed off just once too often by people whose work he (and I) often enjoy:

“The New Yorker, as a rule, is not anti-Catholic. I say this as a longtime reader and avid fan…

But the article by Paul Rudnick in the latest issue, called “Fun with Nuns,” I found, to borrow Mr. Woods’ phrase, “slightly repellent.”

Mr. Rudnick’s article trades in the worst kind of stereotypes, even ugly ones, about nuns to get a laugh. You wonder whether any other religious group or, frankly, any other group at all, would be subject to such treatment in a national magazine.

Pondering a possible screenplay using nuns, Rudnick muses that they can be ‘dictatorial, sexually repressed and scary.’ A grumpy elderly nun at a convent gift store looks like a ‘bat’ or a ‘long fossilized chimp.’ … Rudnick admits that the prioress of Regina Laudis, which he visits to do a full two days’ research, is ‘kind and helpful,’ but most of the article depicts the nuns—scratch that, all nuns–as at best cartoonish, at worst absurd. ‘”Nuns,” I declared,’ writes Rudnick about his efforts to cajole studio execs into considering them attractive, ‘I’d do ‘em!’ (Later the same execs wonder which nuns in the upcoming movie are ‘f—able.’)

It’s a humor piece, but come on. Does anyone think that any other religious group would be subjected to the same treatment?”

Citing a review of the film “Bruno” in the same issue, wherein the reviewer worries about negative gay stereotypes, Fr. Martin asks, “Gays and lesbians rightly deserve to be protected against prejudice. Don’t Catholic sisters deserve the same?”

He finishes with one of the most eloquent and loving straight-up tributes to these often-derided daughters of the church, who have spent their lives (and sometimes lost their lives) in service to the downtrodden, the poor, the imprisoned, and to the world-at-large, that I have ever read, but Fr. Martin manages to do it with diplomatic skill and even – dare I say it – pastoral and priestly affection. This is a little gem, a masterful exposition, and I hope you’ll go read the whole thing.

Speaking of America Magazine, our pal Deacon Greg has a nice feature in their special issue focusing on the Permanent Diaconate. Because I know that whenever the issue of the Diaconate comes up, angry women pop up too, I offer my own thoughts on that question, at least as they are formed so far.

The Pope’s Encyclical, “Caritas in Veritate”: Soundly stomped on by the left for being too much in the right and by the right for being too much in the left, it’s a good thing Popes don’t worry about popularity. My piece from the other day had the very first links (and I have added a few) but as folks are digesting the thing (I am taking a slow second read through it, myself, and am not yet ready to opine further), some interesting pieces are popping up. I like this by Ross Douthat:

When a pope criticizes legalized abortion, liberal Catholics nod and say that yes, they agree, it’s a terrible tragedy … but of course they can’t impose their religious values on a secular society. When a pope endorses the redistribution of wealth, conservative Catholics stroke their chins and say that yes, they agree, society needs a safety net … but of course they’re duty-bound to oppose the tyranny of big government. And when the debate isn’t going their way, left and right both fall back on flaccid rhetoric about how the papal message “transcends politics,” and shouldn’t be turned to any partisan purpose.

“Caritas in Veritate”
has been no exception. It’s a “social” encyclical, in the church’s parlance, covering issues ranging from globalization and the environment to unions and the welfare state. Inevitably, liberal Catholics spent the past week touting its relevance to the Democratic Party’s policy positions. (A representative blast e-mail: “Pope’s Encyclical on Global Economy Supports the Principles of the Employee Free Choice Act.”) Just as inevitably, conservative Catholics hastened to explain that the encyclical “is not a political document” — to quote a statement co-authored by the House minority leader, John Boehner — and shouldn’t be read as “an endorsement of any political or economic agenda.”

Boehner is half right. The pope is not a Democrat or a Republican, and his vision doesn’t fit the normal categories of American politics.

But Benedict’s encyclical is nothing if not political. “Caritas in Veritate” promotes a vision of economic solidarity rooted in moral conservatism. It links the dignity of labor to the sanctity of marriage. It praises the redistribution of wealth while emphasizing the importance of decentralized governance. It connects the despoiling of the environment to the mass destruction of human embryos.

This is not a message you’re likely to hear in Barack Obama’s next State of the Union, or in the Republican Party’s response. It represents a kind of left-right fusionism with little traction in American politics.

But that’s precisely what makes it so relevant and challenging — for Catholics and non-Catholics alike.

Emphasis mine. So very right, so very well stated. You’ll want to read it all.

Two ugly, ugly stories of racism, one involving children, being mal-treated by so-called adults and one about adults being maltreated by so-called adults who are really children. It all makes the gorge rise. You want to cry for the kids, and cry for the nation.

After reading something that disheartening, read something to restore your faith in humanity:

The emergency-room trauma call and the medical staff’s immediate action upon his arrival is only a memory to her now; sitting quietly at the bedside of her brother-in-arms, she carefully takes his hand, thanking him for his service and promising she will not leave his side.

He is a critically injured combat casualty, and she is Army Sgt. Jennifer Watson of the Casualty Liaison Team here.

Although a somber scene, it is not an uncommon one for the Peru, Ind., native, who in addition to her primary duties throughout the last 14 months, has taken it upon herself to ensure no U.S. casualty passes away alone. Holding each of their hands, she sits with them until the end, no matter the day or the hour.

“What is truly incredible is that she is a personnelist by training but with the heart of a medic who has taken it upon herself to hold the hand and keep a bedside vigil with every mortally wounded Soldier who has spent their last hours within the AFTH,” continued the colonel. “She will not let her brave brothers or sisters pass alone. This is a heavy burden to bear and at great personal emotional cost to Sgt. Watson, but she is unwavering in her final commitment to these Soldiers. You don’t have to look any further than Sgt. Watson to find a true hero.”

“Angel” and “hero” are only two of the many titles Watson has been given since arriving at JBB; although she is appreciative of the kind words, she remains humble.

“I am far from an angel,” said the sergeant with a smile. “I just do what is in my heart. I guess for me, I think about the family and the closure of knowing the Soldier did not pass away alone. To say I’m a hero … no. The heroes are my guys who come in [through Hero's Highway].”

A hero is as a hero does. This is a moving and inspiring story worth holding on to.

Speaking of Heroes: A pro-life Catholic Democrat draws the line in the sand: To be clear: I have never voted for a Republican in my life. My mother told me my right hand would wither and fall to the ground if I did. But, if the President or my representatives in Congress support federal funding for abortion in any way, shape or form, I will never vote for them again and I might risk my right hand in the next election by voting for their opponent.

… Many of us pro-life Democrats have given the President the benefit of the doubt on the abortion issue because of his repeated commitment to trying to lower the abortion rate, a commitment he reiterated to Pope Benedict XVI last week. All the good will he has earned…could be swept away if abortion is part of a federal option in health care. Politics is the art of compromise, but on this point, there can be none.

Wow. Good on ‘ya, Sean.

Speaking of heroes, check out this movement to save a heroes cross

Gateway Pundit: On Abortion and Obama and Benedict XVI the question is asked: Did Obama lie to mislead the Pope?

O/T Question: Shouldn’t this soldier properly be court-martialed instead of fired?

Am going to be busy with family stuff for most of the day but check back; I’ve scheduled some posts to get posted automatically, and one of them is a bit of a barn-burner!

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About Elizabeth Scalia
  • TomG

    Couple of comments here: “distribution” of wealth should be what we mean, not “redistribution”. Creating an economic climate in which the pie increases, not someone’s share of an existing pie – which is simply robbing Peter to pay Paul. Also, Obama and his minions, by their own consistent statements, have no interest in lowering the number of abortions: their stated goal is to lower the “number of women seeking” abortions. Just ask Alice.

  • http://spreadingolive.blogspot.com Elizabeth Anne

    Lovely hostess, I believe you may have made a link error – the two racism stories both lead to the same NY Post editorial? Unless *I* missed something, which is ALWAYS possible…

    [Thanks for the heads up as I am heading out - corrected - admin]

  • Just_Saying

    I’m appalled at the disrespect shown to nuns these days. As a life-long Lutheran, I have a great deal of respect for nuns, and to read some of Rudnick’s article makes me ill. Other than the fact that I’m beginning to think we’re in the End Times, our culture certainly has lost a lot of class, hasn’t it?
    .

  • bt

    I find it strange that anyone is using nuns to make fun of these days. Nuns aren’t nearly as predominant and in evidence in society (unfortunately) as they were in the 50′s and 60′s. Many Catholic schools that were once staffed by nuns are now staffed by lay teachers. My grade school which had been staffed by nuns (Sister of the Holy Cross, I believe), by the time I got there only had three nuns left in full time positions–first grade, eight, and the principal, and by the time I graduated, it was down to two. It is wrong to use nuns as fodder for this type of humor, but it seems strange that one needs to grasp so low for subject material. And writers probably do not realize that most of their readers have very little idea any more what a nun actually is.

    I look forward to the revival of teaching orders of nuns, and also a revival of respect for the religious life.


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