Little Sisters of the Poor: Doing God’s Work. Fighting Goliath.

Little Sisters of the Poor: Doing God’s Work. Fighting Goliath. January 9, 2014


The Little Sisters of the Poor, the stand up nuns who’ve taken on the Obama administration over the HHS Mandate, are a bunch of tough customers.

I mean that in the best understanding of the word “tough.” Providing frail elderly people with loving care on a 24/7 basis is work that would make the average Navy Seal turn weak in the knees.

When I say 24/7, I mean twenty-four hours, right around the clock; every single day, right around the calendar. Caring for a frail elderly person is more demanding in a lot of ways than caring for a toddler. They are both sweet, precious and strong-minded. The differences are that the toddler isn’t always trying to die on you, and they don’t have a memory of having once been a strong, independent adult.

The Little Sisters of the Poor do God’s work here on earth by providing care for people who are at the end of their earthly journey. The last phases of life are not a waste, and they are not a bother. Elderly people are beautiful, wonderful gifts to all of us. The fact that they require a bit more of us than our me-ism allows only makes them more precious.

The closest anyone will ever be to God in this life is not while sitting in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, but when they are sitting on the bathroom floor at 3 am, holding a croupy baby while the shower runs, or when they are changing the sheets on the bed of their incontinent elderly parent. Jesus is standing right beside you when you do these things, because when you do them for the least of these, you are truly doing them for Him.

This work of caring for those who can’t care for themselves is the life’s work of the Little Sisters of the Poor. They have given their lives to caring for Christ in the disguise of our frail elderly.

It’s no surprise to me that someone like this would become such a thorn in the side of the mighty and powerful United States Department of Justice. It’s also no surprise that those who want to force these sisters to accede to the will of a galloping secularism that seeks to mow down religious expression in public places in these United States should find the Little Sisters so problematic.

How do you turn public opinion against a bunch of nuns who have given their lives to care of the frail elderly?

The usual method in cases like this, where the problem persons are just too good to attack directly, is to redirect your venom by choosing an easier target. You might, say, go at a Catholic Supreme Court justice and that mean old Catholic Church and, of course, everyone’s favorite bugaboo, the Catholic bishops.

The trick is to make the fight about something other than those sweet little nun ladies with their bedpans and rosaries. Shift the focus and make the fight about the big, bad Catholic Church and you can count on the Pavlovian Catholic haters lining up on your side of the argument.

But the fact is, the argument is precisely about the Little Sisters of the Poor, along with their bed pans and rosaries. It’s about every Christian everywhere who wants to exercise their right as free Americans to practice their faith without government interference.

As much as its proponents try to twist and turn it, the HHS Mandate is a direct attack on the Constitutional protection of the free exercise of religion of American citizens.

The HHS Mandate is a regulation, promulgated by an appointed committee and signed by the president. It has the force of law, but it is not a law. It is a star-chamber bit of special interest government bullying that seeks to make an end run around the First Amendment of the Constitution. It is a vile piece of work that directly contradicts the guarantees in the Affordable Health Care Act, which is the legal authority by which the HHS Mandate was created.

Did that last bit go in a confusing circle? There’s no surprise in that, since it is circular. Congress passed the Affordable Health Care Act, which contained guarantees of religious exemption. The act also gave regulatory powers to the Department of Health and Human Services. Then (deep breath) …

… HHS created a committee to draft these regulations, and this unelected committee of representatives of special interests wrote the HHS Mandate which goes against the specific language in the law guaranteeing religious exemptions that gives the committee its power to promulgate the regulation in the first place.

Now. Is that clear as mud? The truth is, if the whole thing seems circular, it’s because it really does go in circles. But, to add to the confusion, this circle, unlike every other circle, has a starting point.

That starting point is a president who lied.

The HHS Mandate directly contradicts the president’s own executive order guaranteeing religious exemption as part of the enforcement of the Affordable Health Care Act. The fact that the president signed the HHS Mandate and has staked his presidency on it, means that he lied when he issued that executive order, in the promises he gave Congressman Bart Stupak and to the American people.

Enter, the living saints, the Little Sisters of the Poor and their tough-as-nails insistence on their Constitutional rights as American citizens.

What to do with a bunch of nuns who take care of sick old people?

I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see attacks on the nuns themselves sooner or later. That would be the usual behavior track. But for now, the administration apologists are confining themselves to attacking the Church.

In the meantime the Little Sisters continue to do God’s work in many places, including, here, here and here.

For information about the on-going debate on this topic at US News and World Report, check out Frank Weathers.

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22 responses to “Little Sisters of the Poor: Doing God’s Work. Fighting Goliath.”

  1. Rebecca,
    Thank you for this outstanding commentary. You provide great clarity on how the HHS Mandate came to be as a direct result of regulatory overreach (to be kind) by the Obama Administration to achieve objectives that would be unattainable legislatively. And, in this case, those objectives are especially pernicious–to limit the free exercise of religion and the ability for people of faith to follow their conscience.
    I would hope that the lawyers arguing critical cases in the Federal courts in the coming months are able cleary and cogently identify and substantiate the obvious Constitutional flaws in the promulgation of the HHS mandate(e.g., President exceeded authority granted by Congress) as effectively as you did above.
    Ray Glennon
    Twitter: @RayGlennon

  2. I think you are right to suspect a time may come when the sisters themselves come under attack. Most likely, there are “investigative journalists” and others in the pro-abortion/anti-Catholic camp who are digging into who the individual nuns are to try to find something in their backgrounds to paint them as degenerates masquerading as good women. Never mind that all people have bad in their backgrounds and human frailties, or that we Christians are fond of enabling the more obviously wretched people others give up on to in fact turn their lives around when they show a true willingness to do so, from addicts to prostitutes to thieves and murderers to even us garden variety selfish jerks. 😉 I will try to remember to pray for them, things are probably going to get a lot uglier before this is settled before the High Court…. assuming they don’t punt again.

  3. I think Charles Krauthammer said it best and let me try to paraphrase. The optics for the administration on this are horrendous. They aren’t fighting some big corporation, but “sisters.” And it’s not big sisters, it’s “little” sisters, and they aren’t for the middle class or the rich, they are “for the poor.” LOL. Win or lose, the Obama administration cannot look good. I just hope the Sisters win.

  4. Above and beyond what you said about Constitutional proprieties, there is one feature of this abomination that ought to damn it in the eyes of anyone who values freedom. (And yes, Bill S. and co., this means that I am tagging you as enemies of freedom. If you aren’t, prove it; if the shoe fits,wear it.) Justice Kennedy clearly said that the Mandate was constitutional because it was a tax, and nobody argued the right of a government to impose tax. But this tax was imposed not by law or even executive order, but by an administrative decision by an unelected body. I can tell you that in Italy such a mandate would not survive a visit to the TAR (Administrative Court, ruling on conflicts between state bodies and citizens and on the proper duties and limits of public bodies). It is an arrant violation of the principle of No Taxation Without Representation; and I seem to remember someone fought a war over that principle.

  5. During the 2012 VP debates, Joe Biden said:

    “With regard to the assault on the
    Catholic Church, let me make it absolutely clear,” Biden said. “No
    religious institution—Catholic or otherwise, including Catholic social
    services, Georgetown hospital, Mercy hospital, any hospital—none has to
    either refer for contraception. None has to pay for contraception. None
    has to be a vehicle to get contraception in any insurance policy they
    provide. That is a fact. That is a fact.”

  6. This is the certification that appears to be so problematic.

    I certify that, on account of religious objections, the organization opposes providing coverage for some or all of any contraceptive services that would otherwise be required to be covered; the organization is organized and operates as a nonprofit entity; and the organization holds itself out as a religious organization.
    Note: An organization that offers coverage through the same group health plan as a religious employer (as defined in 45 CFR 147.131(a)) and/or an eligible organization (as defined in 26 CFR 54.9815-2713A(a); 29 CFR 2590.715-2713A(a); 45 CFR 147.131(b)), and that is part of the same controlled group of corporations as, or under common control with, such employer and/or organization (within the meaning of section 52(a) or (b) of the Internal Revenue Code), may certify that it holds itself out as a religious organization.
    I declare that I have made this certification, and that, to the best of my knowledge and belief, it is true and correct. I also declare that this certification is complete.

  7. The accommodation is a violation of what Biden says here: ….”None has to be a vehicle to get contraception in any insurance policy they provide.” The accommodation is a vehicle.

  8. If the Little Sisters of the Poor have decided that they are unable to sign that statement, then that is their decision. Period. It is not your place, or anyone else’s place, to make that decision for them.

  9. Lets take it easy on Obama, we Catholics voted for him in the majority and our Bishops are Democrats as well. Lets play nice.

  10. The Little Sisters of the Poor are the modern equivalent of Laura Haviland who stood up against the U.S. Governments’ support of slavery. Freedom is something that every generation has to win again.

  11. I’m a Democrat, Jonenred. But I’m a Christian first, which is exactly what a Republican Catholic should be, as well; Christian first.

    However, if you want to lay into me for being a Democrat and tell me I can’t be a Christian, have at it. I’m used to it.

  12. That is something you will have to deal with. If you feel comfortable voting for someone who supports legalized child murder, then I feel sorry for you. How you can receive the holy Eucharist in good conscience, in this diabolical state of mind, I’ll never know…

  13. You’re full of judgements in areas you know nothing about Jonenred. First, you have no idea how I vote, second you have no knowledge about me or the things I do or have done. You are making a full-on judgement about me and my immortal soul based on the letter on my voter ID card. Try reading through some of the posts on this blog and then come back and we’ll talk some more.

  14. Bill quoted the second page, Ken. It is merely a directive for the TPA to consult the regulations to determine what its responsibilities are under the law. And since the Little Sisters participate in a self-insured “church plan” under ERISA and their TPA, the Christian Brothers Services, is ALSO exempt, the second page has absolutely no effect in this case. Under no scenario will the Sisters’ employee plan have to provide contraceptive coverage, since there is an exemption on top of an exemption. Nor will any third party be responsible for arranging or paying for coverage as the Little Sisters’ proxy.

    I highly recommend reading the actual court decision, where all of this is clearly explained.

  15. Yes, you belong to a party that boo’ed God at the National Convention. After all the evil that this party supports and you’re still a part it. This is not our parents Democrat party, those days are gone.

  16. I see the problem with the things you describe. However, I don’t exactly see your point about me. I think that we need more Christians — not fewer — in the Democratic Party. Do you have some plan for converting people that DOESN’T involve interacting with them? I think that you need to consider registering as a Democrat and getting your Christian friends to do the same. Then go to precinct meetings and work to change things. We can not change this culture with one political party Jonenred. We need both of them.