The venerable old US News and World Report bit the dust some time back, but remains as a news website with a number of blogs by columnists. Frankly, I haven’t followed it – and now I’m rather glad about that. You see, it has descended from the best and most serious of America’s weekly news magazines to become instead a cesspool of bigotry – as exemplified by columnist Jamie Stiehm’s latest piece that constitutes one long foray into anti-Catholicism.
Et tu, Justice Sonia Sotomayor? Really, we can't trust you on women's health and human rights? The lady from the Bronx just dropped the ball on American women and girls as surely as she did the sparkling ball at midnight on New Year's Eve in Times Square. Or maybe she's just a good Catholic girl.
Do you doubt that last statement? Read on!
The Supreme Court is now best understood as the Extreme Court. One big reason why is that six out of nine Justices are Catholic. Let's be forthright about that. (The other three are Jewish.) Sotomayor, appointed by President Obama, is a Catholic who put her religion ahead of her jurisprudence. What a surprise, but that is no small thing.
But it gets better (or should that be worse?).
In a stay order applying to an appeal by a Colorado nunnery, the Little Sisters of the Poor, Justice Sotomayor undermined the new Affordable Care Act's sensible policy on contraception. She blocked the most simple of rules – lenient rules – that required the Little Sisters to affirm their religious beliefs against making contraception available to its members. They objected to filling out a one-page form. What could be easier than nuns claiming they don't believe in contraception?Of course, Stiehm neglects to mention that the rule in question also requires that the Sisters authorize their insurer to provide contraception coverage to the nuns and their lay employees. In other words, that lenient little paper makes them cooperate in providing services they believe to be immoral – in other words, to escape the requirement to do something immoral they must do something else immoral. It’s sort of like the ancient Romans saying that the simple, lenient laws of the Empire only requires them to burn a little incense before the image of the emperor – what could be easier?
Sotomayor's blow brings us to confront an uncomfortable reality. More than WASPS, Methodists, Jews, Quakers or Baptists, Catholics often try to impose their beliefs on you, me, public discourse and institutions. Especially if "you" are female. This is not true of all Catholics – just look at House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi. But right now, the climate is so cold when it comes to defending our settled legal ground that Sotomayor's stay is tantamount to selling out the sisterhood. And sisterhood is not as powerful as it used to be, ladies. Catholics in high places of power have the most trouble, I've noticed, practicing the separation of church and state. The pugnacious Catholic Justice, Antonin Scalia, is the most aggressive offender on the Court, but not the only one. Of course, we can't know for sure what Sotomayor was thinking, but it seems she has joined the ranks of the five Republican Catholic men on the John Roberts Court in showing a clear religious bias when it comes to women's rights and liberties. We can no longer be silent about this. Thomas Jefferson, the principal champion of the separation between state and church, was thinking particularly of pernicious Rome in his writings. He deeply distrusted the narrowness of Vatican hegemony.Got that? We can’t know what she was thinking, but because of her religion we can assume that Sotomayor was just being a good Catholic – and being a good Catholic means you are a bad American. Never mind that she can’t show that the five eeeeevilllll Catholic men on the Supreme Court make the rulings they do because of their religion – they are Catholic, therefore it must be presumed that they are doing so. She even claims that Jefferson shared her anti-Catholic bigotry – again without a shred of proof. Frankly, I’m surprised that Stiehm isn’t insisting that the only way to honor the First Amendment – she isn’t more than a step away from doing so, given her logic that being a faithful Catholic makes one incapable of operating within the parameters of the First Amendment.
By the way, about that "Vatican hegemony" hegemony argument -- we have heard it used in the past, most recently in the election of 1960 when secularist and Protestant bigots argued that a Catholic president would inevitably end up taking orders from the Pope and the destruction of the Constitutional order of things. America rejected such hate a half century ago, and we should be horrified to see it resurface today on the website of a supposedly respectable news source. What next? Arguments for segregation due to the racial inferiority of blacks or blatantly anti-Semitic arguments about Jews? Has the American Left really backslidden so?
The seemingly innocent Little Sisters likely were likely not acting alone in their trouble-making. Their big brothers, the meddlesome American Roman Catholic Archbishops are bound to be involved. They seek and wield tremendous power and influence in the political sphere. Big city mayors know their penchant for control all too well. Their principal target for years on end has been squelching women and girls – even when they should have focused on their own men and boys.
Wow. Just wow.
Apparently the author now argues that women whose religious beliefs and practices don't extend to the celebration of the latter-day Left's Sacrament of Abortion are just trouble-making tools of men -- especially " meddlesome American Roman Catholic Archbishops". Never mind that those archbishops are also American citizens who have every right to participate in the political and legal process. Forgive me if I find myself remembering this historical artifact of nineteenth century yellow-press anti-Catholicism.
In one stroke with ominous implications, there's no such thing as Catholic justice or mercy for women on the Supreme Court, not even from a woman. The rock of Rome refuses to budge on women's reproductive rights and the Supreme Court is getting good and ready to strike down Roe v. Wade, which became the law of the land 40 years ago. President Clinton had it exactly right in his formulation: abortion should be safe, legal and rare.
Got that -- "no such thing as Catholic justice". Isn't that strikingly similar to the arguments put forward to a certain group that claimed to be made up of patriotic Americans back during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries? It sure looks that way to me.
Stiem's concluding paragraph, amazingly enough, doesn't deal with the Catholic Church -- instead she rants about Rush Limbaugh and a cast of thousands of men leading a campaign to strip women of their human rights. Never mind that Stiehm herself is supporting the trampling of one of the most fundamental rights that we all have, the right to live out our religious beliefs free of government efforts to coerce us into violating them through "simple" actions compelled by "lenient" laws and policies. How long until Stiehm and her ilk seek to put religious believers -- especially Catholics -- in the back of the proverbial bus?