The Corner


Undeserved Derision from the New York Times

Nuns with the Little Sisters of the Poor (Photo: Becket Fund)

Did you happen to see the Gail Collins op-ed in the New York Times this weekend? She painted a picture of the Little Sisters of the Poor Supreme Court case as being about Donald Trump. She presented a caricature of the Little Sisters of the Poor as easily used for ideological purposes. She continued the party line used since the beginning of the Affordable Care Act — that there was nothing for all these silly Christians raising conscience objections to worry about. But there has been. And it was more about religious liberty than contraception. Of course, to insist it was about harming women across the nation was always a more convenient story line for many on the Left.

The Little Sisters of the Poor are beautiful, selfless women. They live for God and serve His people. Their work is caring for the elderly poor. They love them. They invite them into their homes. Their residents aren’t not-so-useful-anymore people, these are people Christ has sent to them to love as the Sisters love Him. They’ve given their lives to Him. And they need to live those lives with integrity.

The Collins op-ed was an insult to these remarkable women, and it was also an insulting dismissal of one of the most powerful images in Christianity. She begins with a hypothetical about a group of nuns whose devotion to the Sacred Heart was such that they created gods out of the human heart, essentially. What a cartoonish caricature. To see the Heart of Jesus as the prism through which you love is a transformative reality.

And, as it happens, there is a group of women religious founded with a devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. And instead of making an idol out of the human heart, they, with their foundress, Mother Frances Xavier Cabrini, started some of the first Catholic schools, orphanages, hospitals in the United States.

Some of our heroes of American history are missionaries who came here out of love of God and were trailblazers. This weekend, a California mission founded by Franciscan priest Junípero Serra was burned. And as the Little Sisters were given protection of basic religious freedom at the Court, hostility to these essentials of civil society certainly seems to be growing.

It, of course, doesn’t help that the Church wasn’t considered an essential service during the beginning weeks and months of pandemic shutdown. An accomplished woman treating these women who could help us all see God in the world more clearly as malicious simpletons should not pass without pushback. The Little Sisters of the Poor have been fighting for a most basic freedom, when they had plenty of others things to be doing. Among them: showing us how to love our elderly brothers and sisters — and family members.

In New York State, we don’t even know how many people died in nursing homes because of the governor’s order that had coronavirus-infected people going into nursing homes. Sometimes, I get the impression that people don’t even care. I hope it’s that they just don’t know. I suspect it’s a coping mechanism. They just don’t want to know, because what can be done? They just don’t want to know, because eliminating the sick and the impaired is the law in some of our states — to do anything but look away raises some difficult questions. (New York’s governor has voiced his support for physician-assisted suicide. How civilized they make murder sound. How dehumanized the medical profession becomes.)

The Little Sisters of the Poor deserve better than that New York Times oped. The women before them, like Saint Mother Cabrini, do, too. Collins uses her Catholic-school-educated background as a credential to go after the Little Sisters. Let’s all use our common bond of citizenship to defend those who make our country more tender, who show us how to love even when it’s most challenging.

And if I were going to make of this exercise a prayer, I might pray: Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us. That kind of prayer is a real and powerful thing. You don’t have to believe it — that’s what religious freedom is about — but have a little respect for us fools who do. Some of them even give their lives away for love of the Creator who made you, and they pray for you and would serve you as Christ Himself if given the opportunity.


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