The Gospel According to Maureen Dowd…

It’s a lesson I learned a long time ago. When the New York Times and other East Coast publications say they’re quoting Scriptures (especially Christian Scriptures), trust, but verify.

Maureen Dowd, the acid-tongued New York Times columnist clobbered Democrat Bart Stupak, who had downplayed the influence of the nation’s nuns when it comes to abortion and health care legislation. Then Dowd spoke approvingly of U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, who has sided with the nuns on the health care bill:

As Bob Casey, an abortion opponent who helped negotiate the abortion language in the Senate bill, observed, quoting Scripture: ‘They care for ‘the least, the last and the lost.’ And they know health care.”

Q. So where, precisely can one find ‘the least, the last and the lost’ in the Bible?

A. You can’t find the phrase in the Bible. However, it does appear in a book titled (and I’m not making this up) The Bible and the New York Times.

Updated: March 21, 2010 — 6:19 pm


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  1. I would like to see Sen. Casey’s original comments. Did Casey say that he was quoting scripture, or was that an assumption by Dowd?

    I also wonder if the error is the punctuation. Would you complain about this version?
    “They care for ‘the least’, ‘the last’ and ‘the lost’.”
    All three groups are called out in scripture, repeatedly. The sentiment is undeniably scriptural.

  2. The reference in the book you cite refers to a footnote 4, which says: “This phrase is borrowed from Robert Farrar Capon.” I googled him, and found that he was born in 1925 and is “an American Episcopal priest and author.” Beyond that, I’ve never heard of either him or quite this formulation of the phrase, though it does tend to track current Episcopal thought.

  3. My favorite part of the Dowd column, though, is this:

    “For decades, the nuns did the bidding of the priests, cleaned up their messes, and watched as their male superiors let a perverted stain spread over the entire church, a stain that has now even reached the Holy See. It seemed that the nuns were strangely silent, either because they suspected but had no proof — the “Doubt” syndrome — or because they had no one to tell but male bosses protecting one another in that repugnant and hypocritical old-boys’

    I know of a number of instances in the old Diocese of Covington, which used to include Lexington, in which nuns were instrumental in covering up the sexual abuse by priests. There were heroic nuns during this time period who did report their supervising priests, but they were few and far between, and usually didn’t come out well in the end. Another great sin of Catholicism is how it has treated its nuns, many of whom (40% by one estimate) were themselves the victims of sexual abuse.

  4. It is sad to see the pain that is so prevalent in the Catholic church at times. I’m sure there are many good priests out there trying to do their best, but there seems to be a sizable number who have serious problems. I think at it’s heart it is a problem with celibacy. Celibacy is unnatural, in my opinion. This may actually lead to the downfall of the Catholic church if they don’t take it more seriously. They can’t get away with as much in our more media-savvy age.

  5. John, the real issue, and I’ve worked in this area for years, isn’t so much celibacy, though that helps, as much as it is secrecy. The celibacy may have led the church to ordain people it shouldn’t have, but the secrecy allowed it to effectively cover up their behavior for so long.

    And to be honest, John, that’s why I worry about the Mormons. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t know of any brewing sex scandals in the LDS Church, but it’s the kind of church in which stuff like that can be covered up. Notice the churches that have been hardest hit by the sex scandals: It’s the Catholics and the Jehovah’s Witnesses, two monolithic male-dominated churches that enforce a tremendous degree of secrecy among their officials.

    I gather that the Mormons are the same way. Any time you keep something secret, you raise the spectre of this occurring. And, maybe it’s just that Episcopal openness getting to me (we couldn’t keep a secret if we wanted to; we’re a bunch of talky talky WASPs who think we have to talk everything to death), but I wonder why an organization, be it Catholic, LDS, or otherwise, that doesn’t know any national military secrets, or the formula for making an atomic bomb, and doesn’t have the formulas for Coca-Cola or the spice mixture in Kentucky Fried Chicken, still wants to keep things secret. I’ve never heard of a secret organization that didn’t get into trouble somewhere along the line. So, John, this might be a cautionary tale for the LDS Church before you do end up in a scandal.

    No doubt this will produce a typical response about how great all the Mormons you know are, and that might be true, but we used to think the same thing about priests. Just a warning for the future here.

  6. You have a point, Caleb. Secrecy is usually never good. One thing we Mormons have to our advantage, though, is that we have no life-time positions, other than the Quorum of the Twelve, within the Church. Bishops typically serve 5-6 years, a stake president 9 years, mission presidents only 3, and so forth. Also, these leaders are not shifted around from diocese to diocese and so forth. These leaders are never self-chosen either (believe me!), they are selected by those a rung above them out of the general congregations and “called” to the position. Remember, these positions are completely unpaid and sometimes create a significant financial burden on the person. This high turn-over rate would tend to discourage at least long-term abuse by those in some position of authority. In addition, every leader and teacher is never alone with a child or even fellow church member. Whenever a bishop is conducting interviews or taking a confession there is always one or more of his counselors or clerks in the room or hall right outside his office. Even one violation of these protocols will relieve him of his office, and most likely his church membership, even if nothing happened.

    We are absolutely paranoid about this! All church buildings in the entire world recently installed windows in every door in their buildings (except bathrooms and the Bishop’s and clerk’s offices), most already had them. I was called by my wife, who had in turn been called to be the president of our ward’s children’s programs, to be a nursery leader in our ward every Sunday. I tend the 1 to 3 year olds during Sunday School and other services. Another man was called with me, and we both have to be there at all times. We absolutely cannot be alone with a child or anyone else! These rules are followed to the letter.

    I don’t see how we Mormons could ever keep a secret either. Since everyone is so involved (if you show up more than once you’re gonna get a “calling”) that everybody knows what everybody else is doing. You can’t even cough in your own house without some ward member showing up at your door with a bowl of chicken soup. So, I just don’t seem to have the same worries you do. We still have incidents of course, just like any other organization, but they are handled as properly as can be expected, as far as I’m aware. A Bishop here in Utah was accused of sexual abuse a year or two ago and his face was instantly plastered all over the media.

    By the way, I DO think we have the secret 11 herbs and spices recipe from Kentucky Fried Chicken. The Colonel’s first investors were Mormons and the original and first KFC restaurant is still open in south Salt Lake City. It has all the original look and logos and such. But other than that you can believe what you want. Area 51? A secret Mormon training ground and atomic bomb research site. Jimmy Hoffa’s body? Buried under a Mormon chapel in Ontario. The Skull & Bones Club? A secret conference chamber with our Church President to get his advise and blessing in our quest to take over the world and enslave those particularly nasty Episcopalians. :)

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