Follow-Up: Stiehm’s Anti-Catholic Bigotry; US News’ Silence – UPDATED

Let’s pick up where we left off with our fisking of Jamie Stiehm’s ignorant and bigoted attack on Justice Sotomayor and Catholics in general. Stiehm’s column is being discussed in various corners of the blogosphere, including legal ones, and all points of view are worth reading.

I wondered, particularly after discovering that Stiehm suffers from what she calls a mild case of bi-polar disorder, whether I should shrug off her recent column as a one-off; every writer, after all, knows what it is to have a bad day and write something regrettable, and bi-polar living is no walk in the park.

Upon consideration, though, that seemed unjust for several reasons, the first being that Ms. Stiehm clearly sees herself (and wants to be seen) as a strong and capable woman. To regard her terrible column as an excusable product of her illness would be to minimize Stiehm, herself; it would define her as woman, a writer, and a thinker who is a mere hostage to her chemistry (a charge that has been made against women for ages unto ages) and therefore not responsible for her own work; it would be to see her as ultimately dismissable, and not-mattering.

As a Catholic, I find the idea of pigeonholing a human being into a “dismissable” category to be abhorrent; it’s a kind of “throwing people away”, which — as much as Stiehm might prefer otherwise — we do not do.

Secondly, Stiehm’s column was no one-off; it was a full fleshing-out of a theme she has sketched out in the past. While decrying the lack of WASPS on the 2012 presidential tickets she wrote for Creators Syndicate:

Instead, we have two Catholics on the presidential tickets, Vice President Joseph Biden and the Republican Veep nominee, Rep. Paul Ryan. The Wisconsin congressman is not my cup of tea, shall we say, partly because he bluntly forces his own religion into our politics. That is not the American way.

Obviously, Biden (like Nancy Pelosi and Archie Bunker’s work pal “Black Elmo”), is one of the “good ones”, as Catholics roll in Stiehm’s world. But there was more; while ostensibly writing about the dearth of WASP politicians she diverted thusly:

The Supreme Court has no WASPs among nine justices. Catholic men in particular give me pause when it comes to wielding power over the rest of us. Yes, I mean you, “Justice” Antonin Scalia. Catholic men can be the most aggressive enforcers of their private religious beliefs in the public square. Scalia and Ryan are fierce foes of human reproductive rights, determined to chip away at the constitutional right to choose in privacy, enshrined in Roe v. Wade. On the high court, Scalia has zero shame or judicial restraint when it comes to inflicting the boot of his religion on all Americans. Ryan, right across First Street in the Capitol, is taking that fight forward in the legislative branch. It’s called the war on women.

When you add in the political power of the American Catholic Bishops, who tried hard to derail Obama’s health care reform at the 11th hour because employers are required to make contraception available, then we have a real sea change. Even the religious pilgrims who crossed the ocean seeking freedom knew their invention of a “civil Body Politick” for governing had to stand apart from religion.

You can read the whole thing here. It is as judicially and historically ill-informed as her most recent piece, so at least Stiehm is consistent.

“The Catholic Supreme Court’s War on Women” is seen by some as a simple, mediocre hate-screed but there is nothing simple about it. While partially a warning to Justice Sotomayor that she’d better get back in line and serve the sisterhood or see herself tagged as the Latina Antonina, Stiehm’s words were the opening notes to a fanfare for fascistic discernment, a tune meant to suppress Catholics (except for those Pelosi-and-Bidenesque “good ones”) from participating in any form of governance if they seem remotely obedient to “pernicious Rome.”

This is old-fashioned Know-Nothingism being repackaged for a sisterhood movement gone stale, and marketed with a “new and improved angle” banner, which suckers always fall for.

It ought not be dismissed, though, not when U.S. News — which has always been a more-than-respectable news outlet — has gone noticably silent on Stiehm’s piece.

Silence usually implies consent, so perhaps we may understand their editorial board as being in agreement with her. Even as they host a “Debate Club” on whether or not the Little Sisters of the Poor have a case against the HHS Mandate and run a couple of indignant letters to the editor, the editors themselves have nothing to say about Stiehm’s ideas.

Until they say something muscular about unacceptable bigotry and address the suggestion that Catholics vacate the public square, no, this ought not be dismissed.

Stiehm should not be silenced, though**; she should certainly not lose employment opportunities, but perhaps U.S. News might ask her to acknowledge where she got it wrong on Thomas Jefferson, and that it was the Catholic Chief Justice, John Roberts, who saved the dubious Individual Mandate when it seemed poised to get the boot, even though he’s not “one of the good ones.”

And then perhaps they might help Ms. Stiehm to get to know some Little Sisters of the Poor, and spend some time watching them work; they could commission a feature article from Stiehm on what she saw and what she thought, after going out begging with the sisters, or watching them tend — with great love, — to human beings our society would just as soon forget, because Catholics do not throw people away.

So, yes, U.S. News needs to speak up. When paranoiac columns appear in mainstream media, hooting that a certain group people ought not participate in government or leadership, and they go ignored by editors and others in media — when no one in the mainstream calls it out for the jackboot-cobbling that it is — then it is not in the least bit paranoid to point to it and say, “keep an eye on this.”

**Bill Donoghue, of the Catholic League — a man who takes easy offense on behalf of the church and has fallen in with the egregious, socially-destructive (and all too rampant) mindset that people should face job loss and public-disappearance if their opinions are offensive to anyone — was quick to write to Creators Syndicate demanding that Stiehm be fired. They deny having anything to do with Stiehm’s latest column which, they say was written expressly for U.S. News. Amid Creators Syndicate’s multiple responses they noted that they also syndicate columns by Patrick Buchanan, who is as capable of writing offensive material as anyone, and even Donoghue has decided that it’s a fair point.

And for the record, as if I actually need to say this, I don’t hold with people losing their jobs or being made to “go away” for saying stupid or offensive things. I say let everyone talk. That way, you know what everyone is thinking, and who to look out for.

UPDATE I: Unsurprisingly, Ed Morrissey — another Catholic faithful to “pernicious Rome” — is thinking along the same lines and does not think Stiehm should be silenced and made to go away.

UPDATE II: US News has responded

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • FW Ken

    I tend to agree that silencing offensive viewpoints has the potential to create martyrs. Americans love heretics. Maybe it comes from being a Protestant culture. :-)

    On the other hand, this sort of thing is just one end of the persecution spectrum. We see some tens of thousands of Christians killed annually. We see that secular Britain has seen 200 assaults on clergy in the past 5 years. Nineteen priests and three more workers were murdered in 2013. Is there tacit permission being given by written assaults like this?–112353/

  • Manny

    I’m not letting Stiehm off the hook. Did she apoplogize? Not that I’ve seen, and if she claims bi-polar, her piece was very lucidly written. That was viscious bigotry and I’m not falling for lame excuses that are designed to pull at heartstrings. I don’t care if she’s fired or not, but I will not spend a give an iota of support to US News and World Report or any journal she writes for. Some editor let that piece go through and it was out there for days without a response. What was he thinking? If I see sincere apologies I’ll reconsider.

  • AnneG

    I find it weird that USNews wants somebody who bolluxes up history and law so badly, but I think Stiehm is just writing what in her narrow world is self-evident. I do think she should have to do a substantial and humbling apology.

  • Dave Zelenka

    “And for the record, as if I actually need to say this, I don’t hold with people losing their jobs or being made to “go away” for saying stupid or offensive things. I say let everyone talk. That way, you know what everyone is thinking, and who to look out for.”

    You are right on…until you write: “and who to look out for.” Transparency is good. Paranoia is dangerous. I know that’s not your outward intention, however, there’s a group-think out there that: we’re gonna get gotten. We can’t think that way. We can’t even set our sights in that direction. I’ve spent too much of my life pondering the fall of the Western Civilization and how a new martyrdom will commence. Uh, uh. No more.

    We need hope. Hope is the vision that the Almighty Father has prepared for us. When Jesus said he can only do what he sees the Father doing, he was seeing hope through a clear lens and actually seeing the Hope in its final form. We must rely on Christ’s eye. And we do so through the misty lens of Christian Hope. There is a real and actual gravity to hope. Christian Hope is a walk in faith, because it is so difficult to do amid the climate of worldliness. But we must have hope. The alternative is not an option and it actually makes it MORE difficult for us to get to the Kingdom of Heaven.

    No, we are not Pollyannas. We know the reality of Satan and his cohorts. They are on the prowl and have deceived all. But don’t give them even a thought. When we give evil even a thought, the real and actual gravity of Hell draws us closer. This is why we all say: Lord Jesus have mercy on me a sinner.

    Read Philippians 4:8:
    “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is
    right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

  • Thomas R

    In that one deal she actually used the word “popery.” Is she a nineteenth century feminist?

  • James Patton

    “Is there tacit permission being given by written assaults like this?” – FW Ken

    Yes, there is understood permission being given and it is protected in the U.S. until you are able to legally demonstrate that an “assault” or “persecution” has actually occurred. I would recommend you look at the legal definitions of assault and persecution before employing such words in your descriptions of anther’s rant.

  • HermitTalker

    Ms Scalia backs her right to express herself but wonders why US N and W Report did not reply. I for one am with Dr Bill Donohue for wanting such an ignorant, virulently ant-Catholic piece excised from the magazine. Biased blindness cannot be excused.

  • Captain America

    Silencing offensive viewpoints is PC correctness. Something reasonable people should take care to avoid; progress comes through the clash (and study) of dissenting views.

    Me, I SCREAM!!!! SCREAM!!! when I hear liberals talking about moderates and conservatives “imposing” their moral views. . . when they themselves are RABIDLY pressing THEIR moral views hither and thither.

    Witness our attorney general (who should be prosecuting Wall Street criminals) saying that the federal government would uphold federal aspects of the Indiana gay law—even though the law’s in the courts.

    Where does THIS come from? THIS is pressing moral views on the public.

  • Billiamo

    While I admire Bill Donohue’s pugnacity, and don’t doubt his sincerity, I sometimes wonder if he’s in the employ of the opposition, if you know what I mean. Like you, I hope Stiehm isn’t fired; her opinions should see the harsh light of day.

  • Mack

    The planet is bi-polar; Miss Stiehm is simply immature and writes like a freshman – hyperbole, cliches’, inverted commas for sarcasm – on a junior-college newspaper.


    Hypocrisy is alive and well in America. The purveyors of it write copiously of their purety of thought and positions, but one only need compare the treatment of Richard Milhoud Nixon to that of Barack Hussein Obama in filtering the clarion call for impeachment, for what? For using the IRS as the arm of a RICO operation suppression the freedom of legitimate political opposition groups the use of their Fourteenth Amendment Rights to Equal Treatment Under The Law.
    The rationalization of evil abounds in our land, its called Socialism. It corrupts everything., and everybody into dependency.

  • Jeffrey Quick

    For me to boycott USNWR for this would be a bit like giving up Peking Duck for Lent. But were I a subscriber, it would be appropriate to cancel, and to tell them why. That’s got nothing to do with Jamie Stiehm. The fault is editorial. And if Stiehm can’t write under a civilized code of conduct, and editors don’t employ her, she needs to find a different line of work. That’s not personal destruction. That’s having the respect to assume that Stiehm can follow social norms.


    Censored again

  • Jimmie

    We should thank Ms. Stiehn, for displaying her anti-Catholic bigotry for all to see. A lot of people believe, mistakenly, that it is a thing of the past. Not so. A few years ago, my sister swam the Tiber in the wrong direction, washing up in a high church Protestant sect. She is amazed at all the casually anti-Catholic comments she hears, even by people who know of her Irish Catholic roots. I too have heard comments that could not be made about any other minority without exposing the speaker to severe condemnation and censure. At least with Ms. Steihn, you know where she stands. The battle is joined, and it is just beginning..

  • FW Ken

    Oddly enough, I’ve read precisely this argument made against Christians by gay rights activists. We say that fornication is sinful, therefore we are giving permission for basing gays.

  • Chris Travers

    I want to say that this is a well done piece. I am not a Catholic but you have my total respect.

  • James Patton

    II think it is the selective nature of what Christians consider sinful that causes other Christians an issue. Secular folk are not worried about what is sinful or not…:)

  • Matthew J. Ogden

    I don’t remember U.S. News being a reputable source for information. Like their counterpart Time Magazine, they both seem to be purveyors of juvenile trash that, at present, cannot even keep them in good financial straights.

  • yan

    So: it is better to treat Stiehm as a full grown woman and condemn her? That is the Catholic thing to do? And it’s wrong to charitably assume that her diseased mind might be responsible for some of her more egregious generalizations, or at least, the presentation of such generalizations in a tactless way, thus enabling us to more easily forgive her?

  • Gail Finke

    My husband, who is a cradle Catholic and not at all of the Triumphalist type, said that piece did not make him angry — it made him frightened. He said that’s the kind of thing that gets published right before it becomes permissible to take physical action against a group. It makes it okay to say and think those kinds of things, which made it okay to “do something about those uppity n—s” here, or to “do something about those rich greedy Jews” in Weimar Germany. I agree.

    But I don’t agree with you on JS’s employment prospects — not out of revenge, but because she is ignorant and vicious. If that is the caliber of her knowledge, her temperament, and her thinking, I sure wouldn’t hire her, at least not for a long time after she had demonstrated improving all three. And if she were my employee I wouldn’t fire her, I’d give her a warning and clear guidelines of what I expected. But then, I would never have printed that crap either. I would have given her the talk THEN and thrown away the piece.

  • FW Ken

    Sin is not the topic. The possible progression from “soft persecution” to physical violence is the topic.

  • MeanLizzie

    Are you a bad reader? I have no animus at all toward Stiehm, and don’t want her condemned, fired or silenced. I want her educated.

  • Cha5678

    Liberals’ criticisms would have no more or less credibility, as their criticisms are irrational already, if they attacked the liberal moralizing and liberal ‘theocratic’ laws, but it would be nice if they practiced their hate consistently.

  • James Patton

    Hmm……I thought this was about bigotry being confused with persecution and assault?

  • yan

    Usually I am a pretty good reader. You wrote quite a bit. I was responding to the first part, where you decide it is ‘unjust, for several reasons’ to ‘shrug off’ her piece in view of the fact that she is, as you point out, mentally ill. I would think it is rather unjust to not at least attempt to do so. So I think you are wrong to not at least permit her condition to temper your condemnation.

    As for the word ‘condemn,’ I see no need to quibble over definitions. It is shorthand and quite normal to say that when one ‘condemns someone’ that this means they are condemning the person’s views on something, and this is obviously the sense in which I used the word. That is of course precisely what you do for the rest of your piece. Since my comment was clearly in reference to your piece, why didn’t that context cause you to understand me in that way?

  • MeanLizzie

    I’m a pretty good reader,too, and I’m still having trouble understanding your point.

  • yan

    I have now written enough that seems plainly comprehensible to me–for instance, that you are wrong to not permit the existence of Stiehm’s mental disability from tempering the condemnation of her piece–that I don’t feel justified in burdening the comment box by marching off into the air with speculations about what you are having trouble understanding, without at least some indication of what in particular you don’t understand. So please let me know what that is, and I will endeavor to respond.