Hell’s Bible attacks a U.S. Bishop

From the editors of Hell’s Bible comes this contribution to The Magisterium of Nuns (nearly everything that needs to be said, was said in that entry) with my emphases and comments:

Courage of the Sisters

Published: April 30, 2010

In the fierce closing debate over health care reform, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops charged [accurately] that the legislation didn’t do enough to restrict insurance coverage of abortions. Many Catholic nuns and the Catholic Health Association of the United States, which represents hundreds of Catholic hospitals, looked at the same bill and concluded that it would have no effect on abortion financing. [Because they have their own magisterium!] They signed a letter urging its passage, saying the reform was “life-affirming” and consistent with Catholic values.

Now one bishop is punishing the nuns who supported reform. Bishop Lawrence E. Brandt of Greensburg, Pa., has decreed that “any religious community” that signed the letter would be forbidden to use the diocese’s offices, parishes or newspaper to promote programs that encourage young people to consider the religious life. [I don’t think the bishop said that those groups couldn’t exist.  It is just that they can’t infect potential vocations with their contagion using any resources of the diocese.  You want to build a parallel church with a parallel magisterium?  Go ahead!  Just don’t leach off us.]

That was precisely what the Sisters of St. Joseph of Baden, Pa., whose leadership team signed the letter, were asking Bishop Brandt’s parishes to help promote. Many of the sisters — who specialize in health care, social services and education — work in hospitals, hospices and nursing homes as administrators, nurses and therapists. In an age of declining vocations, they are trying to encourage young women to join their ranks.

Bishop Brandt accuses the nuns of taking “a public stance in opposition to the church’s teaching on human life.[That’s what they did.] The nuns did not challenge the church’s doctrine of life from conception to natural death.  They saw the bill as a powerfully positive step, [that is the editorial position] because it provided health insurance to millions of people without it, and hundreds of millions of dollars for the care of pregnant women.

The Sisters of St. Joseph of Baden showed courage and compassion when they spoke out for reform. It makes no sense at all to try to punish them or thwart their efforts to find new sisters who would care for the sick and dying and lead exemplary Catholic lives[They can recruit all they want!  They are not going to get the help of Bishop Brandt.  And for good reason.]

Kudos to Bp. Brandt.  We should all write him a nice note of support.

Just to heap additional scorn on the mainstream media’s coordinated effort to be stupid about Catholic social teaching, TIME named Sr. Carol Keehan to its 100 important "people who most affect our world" but not Pope Benedict.

At this point I would also like to thank L’Osservatore Romano as well for all its fine efforts to support the U.S. bishops.  Perhaps Sr. Keehan could donate the pen she received from President Obama to be displayed in the offices of the Vatican’s paper?

And do read Ken Woodward’s piece about the NYT: The religion of the New York Times, “a hell of a thing”



About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. TNCath says:

    Hell’s Bible aside, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Baden and ALL other Catholic religious communities of men and women are reaching a fundamental question: Are you going to “think with the Church” or not. If not, then why do you continue to associate yourselves with the Church?

    You just can’t have it both ways.

  2. rayrondini says:

    I sent the following email to the bishop’s secretary, hoping she would forward it along… kudos, indeed, to Bp. Brandt!

    Your Excellency,

    Praised be Jesus Christ!

    I just wanted to offer a brief note of encouragement to you, Bishop Brandt, in light of the recent media attacks. Your decree forbidding the religious sisters who were involved with signing the health care bill letter from using diocesan resources was very courageous and very encouraging. It is so wonderful to see our Church’s bishops firmly standing up in solidarity, defending Holy Mother Church’s teachings and precious resources from the ever-invading worldly attacks. As a young Catholic, indeed a convert to the Catholic Church, I greatly admire your example and courage in letting those who would oppose the Church’s bishops know that they cannot cause disunity and rupture without consequence. I know your actions were borne only of a patriarchal desire to protect the image of the Church and bring Her children, your flock, back into a right understanding of filial obedience and humility. I hope you receive many consolations and graces from Our Lord and Our Lady, as you will be lifted up in prayer by me, as well as many, many others who are thrilled and encouraged by your bold pastoral actions.

    I remain your spiritual son in Christ,
    Ray Rondini

  3. idatom says:

    Fr. Z.;

    I would like to see Archbishop Timothy Dolan ask all Catholics to cancel their subscription to The New York Times until such time as they agree to stop their attack on The Holy Father and our church. No other religion would put up with this. Why does any catholic, with an IQ over 30, pay for the Times?

    Tom Lanter

  4. wanda says:

    rayrondini, Wonderful letter that you sent to the good Bishop. Would you share the emaill address that you used? Thank you.

  5. Semper Idem says:

    It is rather unfortunate that a bishop doing his job makes headlines as something out of the ordinary.

    Kudos to Bp. Brandt. Make them take their orthopedic shoes and lapel pins and recruit elsewhere.

  6. Sandra_in_Severn says:

    In charity please pray for these sisters, especially those in the community of Sisters of St. Joseph of Baden, Pa., that they will return to the Church. One of the sisters, and previously named in many of that congregation’s activities is a cousin of my mother.

    I no longer recognize the young woman that was so excited and joyful on the occasion of the profession of her vows. That shared much of what drew her to her vocation as a religious sister with so many little cousins when I was barely 7 or 8. When I last saw her at a family gathering, she was not joyful at all. Rather ‘hateful’ or ‘bitter’ actually. Something it seems those that pull away and turn their backs on their ‘Mother’ (church) tend to become.

    I fully support this bishop, and all other bishops that follow in his steps on this action. Way overdue in my humble opinion.

  7. TNCath says:

    Sandra_in_Severn wrote: “I no longer recognize the young woman that was so excited and joyful on the occasion of the profession of her vows. That shared much of what drew her to her vocation as a religious sister with so many little cousins when I was barely 7 or 8. When I last saw her at a family gathering, she was not joyful at all. Rather ‘hateful’ or ‘bitter’ actually. Something it seems those that pull away and turn their backs on their ‘Mother’ (church) tend to become.”

    Your story sounds very familiar. The Sisters who have abandoned the religious life they espoused so many years ago are extremely bitter and angry indeed. I am wondering if their bitterness isn’t not only just with the Church but also with themselves for the direction they took with their lives and in their communities. You can see the sadness and bitterness in their faces whenever they appear in public for Church events, which is becoming more and more infrequent as they are fewer and fewer in number and also less inclined to show up for things. My last encounter with one such Sister was at our diocesan Chrism Mass. Seated near me in the same pew, I watched her grim countenance as the priests entered the Cathedral during the entrance procession. During the Mass, mention of the “Year of the Priest” was made and Sister grimaced. When the Mass was over, this Sister greeted me and said, “I want to suggest that next year the Pope declare that it is the ‘Year of the Nun.'” I was tempted to reply, “Well, perhaps Mother Clare will recommend that upon completion of the Apostolic Visitation,” but figured she was angry enough and let it pass.

    I hope and pray that more bishops follow Bishop Brandt’s lead in defining what is and what is not acceptable for the religious (both female and male) in their dioceses.

  8. Oneros says:

    Somewhat makes you wonder about their priorities, however.

    I don’t actually buy the logic that supporting the Senate health care bill meant supporting abortion. There was very real disagreement not about the evil of abortion in principle, nor even about the question of federally funding it, but actually about whether the Senate language did, in fact, federally fund abortion in any substantial way more than the House language. These communities didn’t think that was, in fact, in the bill according to their legal experts’ reading of it. Some people even read the Senate language as being MORE restrictive than the House language. At the very least, this was a prudential question about a matter of concrete facts.

    But, nevertheless, the case is interesting as it shows that bishops can act punitively and decisively when they want to do so, and have weapons at their disposal for doing so. You have to wonder, if they could do this, why couldn’t they do a lot more? Why are they punishing the nuns for what really was a prudential call about a bill that only marginally touched on abortion…but then not excommunicating pro-abortion politicians for holding a position that is objectively wrong in principle and practice, who actually vote explicitly to keep abortion legal?

    It seems a reversal of priorities to me…

  9. Traductora says:

    Deo gratias! I can’t believe the thundering silence from the US bishops on this clear, public repudiation of Catholic teaching. I’d never even heard of Bp Brandt, but I’m going to write him immediately.

    Sandra in Severn, I know another congregation of SSJ. Except for a few women’s ordination loonies, they’re not wildly in rebellion, but they’re dying because they drank the Kool-Aid, abandoned their charism (teaching), destroyed their community life (think independently employed bachelorettes in apartments until they get too old to live alone), and are complete victims of the horrible liturgical practices of our diocese, whose bishop has put exactly NOTHING into next year’s budget for preparing and purchasing new materials for the new translation because he was one of the leaders of the opposition.

    But these things all go back to the bishop. Ours was a diocesan order, and neither our last bishop nor our current bishop has provided them with any leadership or guidance (in fact, neither of these bishops could do so, based on their general opinions on the Church).

  10. rayrondini says:

    I sent my email to lgordon@dioceseofgreensburg.org. Ms. Lauretta Gordon is listed as “Secretary” in the “Office of the Bishop” section of the diocesan website – hopefully it was ok to send to her!

  11. Traductora says:

    BTW, Bp Brandt has been there quietly for a number of years and has really not said much of anything on a national scale. One time I remember reading about the persecutions in England, and the author (I don’t recall who it was) said that sometimes the people you thought were leaders would cave immediately…and the people who really seemed the least likely would refuse to bow, would defend the Faith…and would go to the gallows. So you never know.

  12. chironomo says:

    Did anybody else immediately think “Sisters of Joseph Biden”?

  13. Traductora says:

    Oneros, this was not a USCCB action, and, knowing Greenville, I’d doubt that Bp Brandt’s diocese is infested with pro-abortion politicians. It was very obvious to anyone with half a brain that the language on abortion was very carefully chosen, easy to undo, and in fact it was known to all that the law would be immediately amended to get all of the Obama objectives through (not only abortion, but end-of-life and critical care policies). Obama’s executive order was meaningless because it was the usual “health of the mother” nonsense, which essentially means abortion on demand.

    The handing over of crucial personal life decisions to the federal government, in defiance of the Church and obviously with no concern for Catholic policies and beliefs, is ultimately the thing for which Bishop Brandt is censuring them.

  14. Denise says:

    Please do not confuse these Sisters of St. Joseph with the Sisters of St. Joseph the Worker. I have had the great fortune to meet several of the latter through their work in running a nursing home. I can assure you they were not supporting the recently passed health care reform bill.

  15. TNCath says:

    Denise: “Please do not confuse these Sisters of St. Joseph with the Sisters of St. Joseph the Worker.”

    Yes, yes! The Sisters of St. Joseph the Worker are a wonderful group of Sisters. They were founded in the early 1970’s by Sister Ellen Curran, a Sister of Charity of Nazareth, Kentucky (SCN), who formed a breakaway community with a group of SCN’s who were unhappy with the direction of their community, which has since become one of the most notorious group of LCWR congregations in the United States.

    By the way, as today is the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker, a happy feast day to the SSJW’s!

  16. dinsdale says:

    An interesting aspect of this story is that the Diocese of Greensburg has never been particularly conservative and rarely could be cited as a bastion of solid Catholic teaching and leadership. Bishop Brandt initially appeared to continue the course set by his predecessor, which is why his actions in this case are such news. As for the Sisters of St. Joseph in Baden, I grew up not far from there and still live in the general area. They embraced modernism quite rapidly in the ’60s and ’70s, and have been known to ridicule their own elderly sisters who continue to wear the habit. One cannot say that they are much involved in education, as their school has been closed for some time. In health care, they did build a nursing home on their grounds, but they have contracted Lutheran Affiliated Services to run it. Their work in social services also seems to be lacking, as someone I know well worked at their house for several years and told of how they would daily throw untouched food into the trash, despite the existence of a number of “soup kitchens” in their immediate vicinity. So I cannot attest to anything that they actually do that fits with social services, education, or health care – instead, they mostly appear to be middle-aged women in pantsuits who work as lawyers and live in the same place.

    I can only pray that they see where they went wrong and decide to fix it.

  17. The-Monk says:

    As some have already opined, there is a tendency to lump all sisters of a particular community, in this case, the SSJs of Baden, PA, into the same lump of clay. Not all members of all communities of all of the traditionally vowed religious congregations of women have succumbed to the excesses that have led to the situation where some (perhaps, yes, many, but not all) leaders of some of these traditionally vowed religious communities of women in the second generation following Vatican II practice the personal magisterium of the Holy Spirit once proclaimed by Martin Luther, John Knox, and John Calvin and their illuminated devotees. I personally know of some, perhaps many, who continue to minister effectively (in schools, for example), their communities having left them not vice versa.

  18. TNCath says:

    The-Monk: “I personally know of some, perhaps many, who continue to minister effectively (in schools, for example), their communities having left them not vice versa.”

    Indeed! There are a number of religious orders of women and men who have individuals who suffer in silence at the spiritual collapse of their communities and yet continue to carry out their apostolates and are held in great esteem by the laity. Others live in their communities’ infirmaries and motherhouses, some better taken care of than others, and must be unbelievably strong in the Faith to persevere under the circumstances in which they live.

  19. Semper Idem says:

    Fun fact about the Diocese of Greensburg: it is the only diocese in the whole Archdiocese of Philadelphia that does not have the EF.

  20. AndyMo says:

    Fun fact about the Diocese of Greensburg: it is the only diocese in the whole Archdiocese of Philadelphia that does not have the EF.

    Unnecessary cheap shot. There are not that many priests in the diocese (I know, I work for it), and I don’t know if any are qualified to say the EF. It’s not a conspiracy, and for all I know there are some diocesan priests learning it. Also, the Diocese of Pittsburgh has several EF Masses (and, with the exception of Christ Prince of Peace, far more beautiful churches) only a half hour away.

    The response to Bishop Brandt from within the diocese has been, so far as I can tell, positive. My pastor received a call from the sisters-in-question just before his statement was released, and turned it right over to the diocese. I also suspect that he gave them an earful.

    Also, note Bishop Brandt’s good work at denying the CCHD a collection in the diocese! He’s interested in giving to charities that actually help the poor without killing babies.

  21. ilpapabuono says:

    I think I have to disagree with AndyMo vis-à-vis Bishop Brandt. Be assured that he is NO FRIEND of WDTPRSers. I am from the neighboring Diocese of Pittsburgh. For a while after the issuing of Summorum Pontificum Mass in the Extraordinary Form was offered at Saint Vincent Basilica in Latrobe. (I have relatives who are attending/have attended college at Saint Vincent.) The Bishop quickly put a stop to it. Word is that he views “Latin Mass crazies” as threats to his authority as Bishop. He has never been the slightest bit open to the plight of those attached to the usus antiquior. There is definitely a reason why Greensburg is the only suffragan see in the Province of Philadelphia that lacks the EF. That reason is seated securely on the Cathedra.

  22. dinsdale says:

    AndyMo, I could tell you the names of at least two priests in the Diocese of Greensburg who are quite competent in the EF.

  23. ilpapabuono says:

    dinsdale. I would be interested to know as well. I have lots of friends in that Diocese and they have seemed exceedingly negative as to any priests able/willing to celebrate the EF. Apart from Benedictines like Fr Maurus I would be hard-pressd to name anyone. Not that I would expect to know everyone. But it doesn’t seem like there are diocesan priests there familiar with the EF. Would love to be proven wrong of course!

  24. Semper Idem says:

    AndyMo –

    Before the Motu Proprio, +Brandt was presented with a petition for an indult, all it needed was the stamp of approval. They had the priests, and somewhere around 500 signatures. It was denied. After the Motu Proprio, the bishop refused to even see the group of people. And it wasn’t a cheap shot, I don’t care who you work for. It is the truth.

    Not everybody in the Diocese lives half an hour from Pittsburgh.

  25. ilpapabuono says:

    I have a friend who heard it from his (+Lawrence’s) mouth: He considers aficionados of the EF to be “nuts” who undermine HIS authority. The same thing is operative here. His issue is with the fact that the Sisters bucked the AUTHORITY of the Bishops. NOT the issue of abortion itself. He is one in love with the POWER of office. Not with serving Christ.

  26. Semper Idem says:

    No doubt, he isn’t undermining the authority of the Pope. Absurd.

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