WaPo: Dissenting Lefty Nun ‘Part Zen Master, Part Political Tactician’

Liberal media outlets have never met a dissenting Catholic they didn’t like. The flavor of this month – a liberal nun and her publicity tour group for “social justice” – got the requisite puff piece in The Washington Post to complete the adoration heaped on them by CNN, Time, and MSNBC.

In her June 27 article “The Nuns on the Bus tour promotes social justice – and turns a blind eye to the Vatican,” the Post’s Michelle Boorstein fawned over activist nun Sister Simone Campbell and her “Nuns on the Bus” tour, which she calls “an attempt to motivate opposition to a House budget that would sharply reduce spending on social services” and a “response of sorts to a Vatican report in April raising alarm about ‘radical feminism’ among top American nuns.”

Boorstein made sure to portray Campbell in a favorable light, writing: “Campbell’s style of engagement on the Hill is part Zen master, part political tactician.” Boorstein celebrates the tour as combining “gender, partisanship, religion, and health care, all things that make a sexy story inside the beltway these days.” (Left-wing feminist nuns – is there anything they can’t do?) Her summation of the tour read more like a ringing endorsement of it: “The tour’s unspoken, but nonetheless loud, message: The nuns’ moral compass is working just fine, thank you.”

Boorstein even implied that the Vatican has declared war on all nuns, writing: “You might think such a critical papal spotlight would send all nuns deep underground.” But of course, plenty of  nuns support the hierarchy – and Boorstein might have noted that the ballyhooed Vatican statement that so offends liberals also “acknowledges with gratitude the great contribution of women Religious to the Church in the United States as seen particularly in the many schools, hospitals, and institutions of support for the poor which have been founded and staffed by Religious over the years.” 

Boorstein ended her piece with a political broadside from Campbell: “This nonsense about [Rep. Paul Ryan’s] shifting more money to the top and devastating poor people — that’s wrong! And calling it Catholic social teaching in keeping with [his] conscience,” she said, putting on her drippy voice. “Bull! In keeping with his campaign donors.”

In Boorstein’s narrative, the Catholic hierarchy are shills for the Republican political party; she writes that “the report said many nun leaders are focusing too much on same-sex marriage and abortion.” (The same hierarchy hailed the Supreme Court decision to strike down most of the Arizona immigration law earlier this week.)

But the media doesn’t see nuns allied with liberals as political – they’re activists and fighters for “social justice.” But in Catholic teaching, “social justice” and doctrine are inseparable. A fixation on doctrine without “social justice” results in spiritual sterility, while “social justice” lacking a doctrinal foundation gives rise to chaos.

But this unity of doctrine and charity is not clear to people such as David O’Brien, whom Boorstein quoted as a “historian of the Catholic left” as saying: “There aren’t enough clerical leaders who are sympathetic to stuff on the left who have the courage to step apart from their superiors. Then there are women like Simone, who are so articulate and engaged.” Boorstein found brief room for only one critic of Campbell, conservative blogger Thomas Peters, who called the bus tour “literally the only thing they have left: a dwindling group of hold-over pantsuit activists from the 1970’s.”