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.
“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