January 14, 2014

US News Defends Running Virulently Anti-Catholic Op-ed Alleging ‘Catholic Supreme Court’s War on Women’

U.S. News, once a reasonably respectable weekly newsmagazine, recently published an op-ed by Jamie Stiehm (“The Catholic Supreme Court’s War on Women”) which generated so much furor that the now online-only publication’s editor felt compelled to issue an “official statement on the controversy.” Brian Kelly’s miserable defense only succeeded in making an already cavernous hole deeper.

When there is doubt about the bigotry inherent in a writer’s words, substituting a politically correct person or group’s name and imagining what would happen if the item were published as revised usually removes it. Readers who substitute “Muslim” or “black” in opportune places in the following excerpt from Stiehm’s original column won’t have any doubt about her stated bigotry once they do (bolds are mine throughout this post):

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.

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.

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?

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.

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.

… 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.

Gosh, I hope no one tells Stiehm that Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke, “the leading cardinal of the highest court at the Vatican,” has determined that Pelosi “should be denied Communion until she changes her advocacy views on abortion.” The cardinal said, in the words of the Washington Times’s Cheryl K. Chumley: “That’s canon law, not opinion.”

Only someone infected with anti-religious paranoia could possibly believe that the Sisters needed help to decide to fight the Obama administration’s sham “one-page form” gambit, or that Roe v. Wade is “good and ready” to be struck down.

Here’s Kelly’s defense, in its entirety:

Perceived bias on the court is a legitimate issue that U.S. News & World Report has covered for many years, from many perspectives. Our Opinion section has published pieces on the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive coverage from all sides of the debate and, just this week, included pieces from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Archdiocese of New York and Concerned Women for America. We are committed to publishing a diversity of views on a variety of topics. Jamie Stiehm’s piece is within the bounds of fair commentary. We have run letters rebutting the piece and will continue to feature a diversity of opinions on this topic and others.

As Hot Air’s Ed Morrissey noted on Saturday (link is in original):

The entire basis for the essay was factually wrong; all Justice Sonia Sotomayor did was issue a very temporary stay on the HHS contraception mandate for the Little Sisters of the Poor, which isn’t at all meaningful in terms of the case and had nothing to do with the rest of the Catholics on the Supreme Court.

… Most ridiculously and without a single citation, she then asserts Thomas Jefferson as a model for her Know-Nothingism (in unexcerpted material — Ed.), even though Jefferson himself is on record in his own hand arguing that government should not interfere with the religious practices of nuns in the very manner which Stiehm desires here.

Religious writer Deacon Greg Kandra reacted thusly to Kelly’s defense:

Glad they cleared that up. We will eagerly await, then, thoughtful and penetrating essays in the pages of U.S. News & World Report that belittle Jews, mock Muslims, sneer at African Americans, taunt gays and deride any chosen ethnic, racial or religious minority.

… As part of the U.S. News & World Report editorial policy, it is clearly acceptable for a writer on their site to denigrate, insult, and mock an entire class of people, purely because of their religion.

Greg knows, as does Anchoress Elizabeth Scalia that only Catholics and perhaps white males will be on receiving end at U.S. News — and other established media outlets:

… if America is headed — as I believe she is — to a more statist, over-controlled place, then someone in the press was going to have to begin identifying the officially unacceptable people, so the rest of the country could start falling in line.”

It is somewhat heartening that the commenters at Kelly’s statement are not impressed, as seen in the following sample of them:

“Replace ‘Catholic in Stiehm’s essay with Jew, Muslim, black, or any other cultural/religious/ethnic group, and the bigotry of the piece becomes apparent. *Can* she publish it? Sure. Should US News provide her a platform? It’s hard to see why.”

“I await a diatribe on how the Jewish justices are part of the Rothschild cabal. I can file that right next to this one in the “fair commentary” folder.”

“The appalling bigotry in this opinion piece is matched only by the thoughtless editorial indifference that both permitted it’s printing and resulted in this response. No other group could be so pilloried.”

“Oops! You have mistakenly put an editorial response to something about health care and contraception on your page that’s supposed to respond to the critique that Stiehm is a bigot. Somebody fix that.”

“Editorial malpractice like this, Mr. Kelly, is why I let my longtime subscription to USNews lapse years ago. It’s taken a while for the magazine to get THIS bad, but I could see it coming.”

“I am so old I can remember when the U.S. News wasn’t a joke.”

Too bad it is now.

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