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Christine Flowers: A good Swarthmore woman just can't stand those Catholics

Christine M. FlowersPhiladelphia Daily News

In 2007, a Philadelphia Pulitzer-winning cartoonist made a stir with his unique depiction of the Supreme Court.

Samuel Alito had been confirmed the year before, which meant that the judicial bullpen had a full complement of Roman Catholics: Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, Anthony Kennedy, John Roberts and Phillies Fan Sam.

Tony Auth decided to commemorate the occasion, along with a landmark ruling invalidating a common form of partial-birth abortion, by drawing the five Catholics with bishop's miters on their heads.

A picture is worth a thousand words, and although this one was actually quite worthless from the standpoint of intellectual acuity, it did get the artist's point across: abortion is good for women, anyone who hates abortion hates women, the five justices who were in the majority thus hated women and apparently did so because they were Catholic. No other reason.

The years passed, as did my sense of righteous indignation because I realized that I could simply turn the page if I didn't like (and I didn't) what I saw. .

That worked for a long while, and I'd almost convinced myself that anti-Catholicism was a figment of Catholic League's Bill Donohoe's imagination. I was even inclined to believe that perhaps it was a good idea to muffle my displeasure at certain, shall we say, slanderous comments by Bill Maher, since the reptilian fellow seems to actually thrive on negative attention. (As an aside, I'm in the process of reading "Paradise Lost" and am amazed at how Milton was able to model Satan after someone who wouldn't even be born for another 400 years. Masterful.)

Then, my old editor sent me the link to an article this week by a woman who attacked another Supreme Court justice for being Catholic. The writer is a Swarthmore grad. Bear with me; it does have relevance.

As someone who spent four years at Bryn Mawr, which formed the third point of the Tri-College Triangle in Delaware County (the other one being Haverford), I have some personal experience with the type of being that goes to Swarthmore. This person, particularly if a woman, is convinced that anything "right" is "wrong." They also tend to have a rather radical view of religion and its legitimacy outside of the pew.

So, this Swarthmore graduate named Jamie Stiehm wrote an article titled "The Catholic Supreme Court's War On Women," because she knew that if she did this, she would get a lot of attention and end up as a topic of discussion on Fox, in the National Review and at dinner tables where people don't think that Catholic Supreme Court justices are brainwashed by the holy water.

Stiehm was outraged that Justice Sotomayor had issued a stay blocking Obamacare's birth control mandate at the request of a group of nuns. It doesn't matter that this is the sort of thing justices do all the time (Sotomayor and her colleagues also enjoined Utah from conducting same-sex marriages while the issue was on appeal.) Never mind that she gave the other side an opportunity to plead its case (which it did, rather anemically). Stiehm attributed Sotomayor's judicial decision to her Catholicism, or, as she put it, being a "good Catholic girl."

Stiehm ignores statistics showing that "good Catholic girls" are just as likely to use artificial birth control as those in the general population. She does this because it would undermine her Catholic-bashing bottom line.

Make no mistake: Stiehm is a bigot of the highest order, and showed her hand with this comment: "(It) seems that (Sotomayor) 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."

She goes on to say that Thomas Jefferson was thinking about "pernicious Rome" when he talked about that separation between church and state.

I could dismiss Stiehm as an Auth-like blip on the radar.

I'd be wrong.

A couple of years ago, when Sotomayor was nominated to the bench, many of her most strident supporters loved the fact that she talked about being a "wise Latina," which was code for being empathetic.

Yes, they said, bring on those rich life experiences!

Except, apparently, if they happen to involve a crucifix.

Christine M. Flowers is a lawyer and columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News. Email, cflowers1961@gmail.com.


Christine M. Flowers
commentBy CHRISTINE M. FLOWERS