Over the course of the past few days, a number of Catholic organizations have come out in support of the health care reform bill that is under consideration. Many Catholic legislators have been under pressure from the bishops to oppose the bill, among them being Michigan's Bart Stupak. He's not my rep, so I have no influence over him. I have no problem with him factoring in his faith as he considers how to vote on legislation, but as Diana Butler Bass notes in her first Huffington Post column, Bart should be listening to the sisters -- whom he has said he doesn't listen to (I heard him say this to Chris Matthews last night). Although Bart says the sisters don't speak for the church on such issues, Chris pointed out to Bart that Tip O'Neill was known to listen to them.
So, in her post, Diana notes that through history it has more often been the nuns who have provided the social conscience of the Catholic Church. And at a time when the hierarchy is under the cloud of suspicion for their own handling of the sexual abuse cases, they lack the moral authority possessed by these women's orders.
Throughout history, sisters have stood up and corrected a corrupt church. The medieval abbess Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179) preached all over Germany against the religious authorities who were given over to "despair, greed, and worldly sadness," saying that the priests and bishops had betrayed Jesus through "simony, fornication, oppression, insubordination, and negligence." She said they were "enveloped in the blackness of acrid smoke because of their habitually foul behavior." She cried out for a church that acted justly toward the poor and oppressed. For her trouble, the local bishop withheld the Mass from her and her sisters. A story all-too-typical in church history.I would agree with Diana.
Rep. Stupak and Catholic members of Congress, I have one question for you: Whom do you trust to speak for the Catholic faith? The bishops who covered up the sex scandal in the church, ignoring the cries of victims, while rewarding those with "habitually foul behavior" with ever-bigger parishes and positions in the hierarchy? Or the sisters -- the women who nursed your sick grandparents, who taught your children to read, cooked meals for hungry people, who started schools on the prairies and established hospitals in far-away jungles? When it comes to being pro-life, you best listen to the ladies.