No matter what happens with health care reform, I emerged from the bruising debates and battles with new heroes: nuns. Back in December 2009, I learned that nuns have a history of speaking up for women's reproductive health care options. (One nun in particular went so far as to escort women seeking abortions past protesters at clinics.) Last week, a group of nuns sent a letter supporting the Senate health care bill, noting that Jesus helped the lepers and as such it is their responsibility to "do likewise that we stand up for health care reform.” The nuns who signed the letter noted that they are anti-abortion but felt that the Senate bill was adequate in protecting a variety of interests and would not make abortion more widely available.
This beautiful sentiment was met with anger. Rep. Bart Stupak, who has been doing everything he can to use health care reform as a tool to prevent women from obtaining abortions, basically told FOX News and "Hardball" that the nuns should sit down and shut up. “With all due respect to the nuns, when I deal or am working on right-to-life issues, we don’t call the nuns,” he said on the MSNBC program "Hardball," the New York Times reported on Saturday.
I have written many times before that any statement that begins with the phrase "with all due respect" is an indication that the speaker feels that no respect is actually due. Now many people are really pissed. Who the hell is Bart Stupak to diss nuns? After all, what can nuns possibly know about human suffering and Catholicism? I turn to theologian Marian Ronan for an answer:
Why would he listen to Catholic sisters? They run hospitals and clinics and food pantries and homeless shelters; they deal day in and day out with the parents of children in Catholic schools; they educated many of us for free. Better to consult the bishops and the lobbyists at Focus on the Family.
Heh. That's exactly who Rep. Stupak prefers to trust. Because they are men. And who better knows about women's health care needs, or really anything in general, than men? The idea that men know what's best and women should just defer to them cuts across every issue that has been raised in health care reform and reproductive rights. Men understand religion better. Men understand health care better. Men understand pregnancy better. Men, men, men. If we'd just listen to men, there would be no problems in this world. Especially if they are celibate old white men! Have you not seen the ceilings of the Sistine Chapel? Right. Old white men always know what the rest of us need.
Anyway, since the nuns forgot to be good little girls (i.e. to obey and remain silent), they are in big trouble with the big man in Rome. Forget that the pope is up to his eyeballs in a serious scandal about the abuse of children in his diocese in Germany. Leslie Griffin at Religion Rogue notes that, "More shocking is the news that the same pope and church that refused to pursue allegations of sexual abuse by priests around the world launched investigations of American women's religious orders for their alleged infidelity to church doctrine on homosexuality, women's ordination and interreligious dialogue." (Mata H wrote an amazing post on the Vatican crack-down at BlogHer in July 2009. I also love her post on the nun who supported the Protestant Reformation, but I digress.)
On the flip side, RH Reality Check notes that Stupak is really upset that nuns are calling his office to protest his treatment of them. Oh, poor Stupak! Insult 59,000 women, and look at what stress it causes. And in case you want to know what the Senate bill really says that the nuns found so unacceptable, Media Matters has an excellent fact sheet explaining what the rest of the mainstream media doesn't. In a nutshell, "Senate bill does not allow federal funding for abortion in cases other than rape, incest, and danger to the life of the mother." Of course, that's not good enough for Bart Stupak, the Catholic bishops and a handful of other people who profess to love life (so long as it isn't a woman's), and we should just be quiet and listen to them. Because they know what is best for us. Just ask the nuns!
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