By MAUREEN DOWD — New York Times.
Angry nuns have been calling Congressman Bart Stupak’s office to complain about his dismissive comments on their bravura decision to make a literal Hail Mary pass, break with Catholic bishops and endorse the health care bill.
As a Catholic schoolboy, the Michigan Democrat had his share of nuns who rapped his knuckles when he misbehaved, like the time he crashed a kickball through the school window.
So, of course, he’s having some acid flashbacks, but he told me, “They’re not printable even in The New York Times.”
Like that other troublemaking Bart (Simpson), Stupak, who wants to kill the health care bill because he thinks the language on abortion funding is not restrictive enough, should have to write on the blackboard a hundred times: “I will listen closely when the nuns tell me I am wrong. I will not be an obstinate lawmaker.”
Stupak got in hot holy water when he told Fox News, “When I’m drafting right-to-life language, I don’t call up nuns.” He followed that with more scorn for sisters, telling Chris Matthews that the nuns were not influential because they rarely try to influence — which makes no sense — and because “they’re not the recognized spokesperson for the Catholic Church.” He listens to the bishops, he said, and antiabortion groups.
We might have to bang Bart’s head into a blackboard a few times before he realizes that in a moral tug-of-war between the sisters and the bishops, you have to go with the gals.
The nuns are giving the Democrats cover. As Bob Casey, an abortion opponent who helped negotiate the abortion language in the Senate bill, observed, quoting Scripture: “They care for ‘the least, the last and the lost.’ And they know health care.”
On Friday, Tim Ryan, an antiabortion Democrat from Ohio, took to the House floor to say he had been influenced by the nuns to vote for the bill.
“You say this is pro-abortion,” he said to Republicans, and yet “you have 59,000 Catholic nuns from across the country endorsing this bill, 600 Catholic hospitals, 1,400 Catholic nursing homes endorsing this bill.”
For decades, the nuns did the bidding of the priests, cleaned up their messes, and watched as their male superiors let a perverted stain spread over the entire church, a stain that has now even reached the Holy See. It seemed that the nuns were strangely silent, either because they suspected but had no proof — the “Doubt” syndrome — or because they had no one to tell but male bosses protecting one another in that repugnant and hypocritical old-boys’ network.
Their goodness was rewarded with a stunning slap from the über-conservative Pope Benedict XVI. The Vatican is conducting two inquisitions into the “quality of life” of American nuns, trying to knock any independence or modernity out of them.
The witch hunt has sparked the nuns to have a voice at last. Vulnerable children were not protected by the male hierarchy of the church, which treated sexual abuse as a failure of character rather than a crime. The men were so arrogant it never occurred to them that they should be accountable to the secular world. In their warped thinking, it was better to let children suffer than to call the authorities, embarrass the church and risk diminished power.
Now the bishops think that it’s better to deprive poor people of good health care than to let the church look like it’s going soft on abortion.
Under the semantic dodge of ideological purity, the bishops also are doing the bidding of the Republicans, trying to kill the bill and weaken the president. But the nuns are right when they say that “the Senate bill will not provide taxpayer funding for elective abortions” and that its protection of pregnant women is the “real pro-life stance.”
The nuns stepped up to support true Catholic dogma, making sure poor people get proper health care. (Which would lead to fewer abortions anyway.)
The men running the church seem oblivious to the fact that, with the ranks of priests and sisters dwindling, they can’t afford to alienate the nuns who make their schools and hospitals run smoothly.
And now, just as he’s finally issuing a pastoral letter about the Irish clerical child abuse, the pope himself has been ensnared in the international scandal, with a psychiatrist in Germany saying that an archdiocese that Benedict led at the time ignored warnings in the 1980s that a priest accused of sexually abusing boys had to be “kept away from working with children.”
Because Pope Benedict has addressed the sex scandal belatedly and sparsely, stonewalling on the skeleton in his German closet, he has lost authority to speak about the issue consuming his church.
The only internal investigation he has undertaken with alacrity, for heaven’s sake, is the one bullying American nuns.