Old-School Attacks on Catholic Church Don't Belong in 2014

Leaving out relevant information about why Catholic nuns oppose providing birth control is dishonest.

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The blog post by Jamie Stiehm entitled "The Catholic Supreme Courts' War on Women" referred to "pernicious Rome," claimed that "more than WASPS, Methodists, Jews, Quakers or Baptists, Catholics often try to impose their beliefs," and said that the Little Sisters of the Poor were "seemingly innocent" but were actually "trouble-making."

So "Rome" is "pernicious," Catholics in positions of authority are inherently more dangerous to liberty than people of other religions and our most self-sacrificing nuns are actually trouble makers hiding behind a veneer of innocence? It may surprise you, but we Catholics have heard this before. It is the same bigotry we heard when our convents were burned and our people spurned when we moved to this country. Referring to the Catholic Church as "Rome" and attaching adjectives like "pernicious" and "trouble-making" is old-school know-nothing speak. I just didn't expect to see it in U.S. News and World Report in the year 2014.

As far as contraception is concerned: the sisters don't want to be forced to cooperate in providing contraception for others, because according to our traditions, to cooperate in obtaining a sin is to sin itself. Why no mention of the real reason the Sisters are objecting to signing the various forms and "compromises" that have been offered to them? Why no mention of our tradition that to cooperate with a sin is to sin itself, and our tradition that we should all have the liberty of conscience to avoid being forced to do such acts? The reader is left to believe that the sisters are not even facing a real conflict between upholding what our tradition has taught us about sin and liberty on the one hand and the form the government is forcing them to sign on the other. Sometimes leaving out relevant information is a type of dishonesty, and that's what happened here. You may not agree that contraception is a sin. You may not agree that cooperating with a sin is a sin itself. You may not agree that we should have the liberty of conscience not to be forced to do something we think is a sin. But you should say all that up front, and argue your point on those grounds – leaving out relevant information instead, in order to just pretend that our consciences aren't being put on the line here so that you can accuse us of secret plots and "trouble-making," is just dishonest.

So, one point for bigotry, one point for dishonesty. Put them both together and you have a good way of letting us Catholics know that any stick is good enough to beat us with.


Kirk Doran

Assistant Professor
University of Notre Dame

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