An Episcopal Tea Party Movement?

We now have at least two bishops who sound like they are leading an Episcopal version of the Tea Party movement. Bishop Lawrence E. Brandt of Greensburg, Pa., won't permit the Sisters of St. Joseph of Baden to advertise for new members in diocesan media because their leadership signed the Network letter championing health care reform.

But we now have the larger specter of former St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke, head of the Vatican's Apostolic Signatura, giving an address critical of pro-health-reform nuns at the conservative Institute for Religious Life's national meeting at Mundelein Seminary in Illinois.

As reported frist by Thomas Peters of the American Papist blog, Burke criticized severely those who signed Network's letter to members of Congress supporting health care reform, even calling into question their Catholicity!

In part, he said, "Who could imagine that consecrated religious would openly, and in defiance of the bishops as successors of the apostles, publicly endorse legislation containing provisions which violated the natural moral law in its most fundamental tenets – the safeguarding and promoting of innocence and defenseless life, and fail to safeguard the demands of the free exercise of conscience for health care workers?"

He also said, "Now is the time for us all, and in particular for consecrated persons to stand up for the truth and to call upon our fellow Catholics in leadership to do the same, or to cease identifying themselves as Catholics."

Talk about inaccurate, over-the-top rhetoric! Jerry Filteau, NCR Washington correspondent, has fact-checked the health care reform contentions of the bishops as they relate to abortion, and found them inaccurate.

But in any case, the dispute was about the interpretation of legislative language, not moral teachings on abortion! Since when can't there be honest disagreements on legislation? Or has that now been elevated to the infallible?

Of course, I understand that the bishops realize they lost, and lost big time, in this debate. The nuns, on the other hand, won. Now that may be hard for the bishops to take… but I have just one suggestion for those bishops: just say "Yes, Sister" and have a cup of tea.

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