Boy, our political debate is getting crasser by the moment.
And so it is that the National Organization for Women has put the Little Sisters of the Poor, an international congregation of Roman Catholic nuns who have devoted their lives to caring for the elderly poor, on its "Dirty 100" list.
NOW is upset that the Little Sisters sued the federal government, arguing that new ObamaCare mandates are inhibiting their constitutional right to freely practice their faith — that their vow to advance the dignity of life for every person, no matter how weak or unwanted, means they can never provide insurance policies that fund contraception, abortive drugs and sterilization, which ObamaCare was forcing them to do.
So NOW is calling the Little Sisters dirty — though the group should have done its research before attempting to tarnish some of the most remarkable women who have ever graced this Earth.
Little Sisters of the Poor was founded in France by Jeanne Jugan in 1839, when Jugan's association offered care and dignity to her first house guest.
Her mission, after all, was to dedicate her life to providing hospitality, dignity and care to the aged poor who could no longer care for themselves.
Born to modest circumstances, she trusted that God would provide the housing and resources she would need to care for her residents and she was correct.
To provide for the needs of the aged poor, she began a tradition still practiced today by which the Little Sisters visit merchants and others seeking alms of every kind — food, clothing, donations.
By 1849, she founded six more homes for the elderly. By 1850, she had 500 associates and houses as far away as England. By 1879, the year she died, she had 2,400 associates providing care.
Today, Little Sisters of the Poor operates 200 homes in more than 30 countries providing care to more than 13,000 elderly residents — including a wonderfully cheerful operation on Pittsburgh's North side.
For Jugan's efforts, she was canonized a saint in 2009.
Her "dynamism is continued today across the world in the Congregation of the Little Sisters of the Poor, which she founded and which testifies, after her example, to the mercy of God and the compassionate love of the Heart of Jesus for the lowliest," said Pope Benedict XVI at her canonization ceremony.
What is most striking about Jugan's legacy is how her worldview was so different from that of NOW and so many others in our culture today.
Jugan's interpretation of the term "rights" was that every individual is a child of God and has a right to experience dignity and love in his or her final days. She never demanded her government establish mandates to care for the elderly poor or even provide funding. She simply did everything she could as a private individual to provide dignity and love.
In the United States, her organization has always been free to operate according to its principles. It has provided health insurance policies for its employees for years that did not fund contraception, abortive drugs or sterilization (though employees were, and still are, free to purchase such items on their own).
This was never a pressing problem until our ever-encroaching federal government demanded these things be included in insurance policies with the passage of ObamaCare.
So NOW, which considers government-mandated birth control a greater right than that of religious groups to run their organizations according to their religious principles, is calling some of the most humble and accomplished women on the planet dirty.
And that's why, as our government expands into our personal and religious lives, our political debate is getting crasser by the moment.
©2014 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of "Misadventures of a 1970's Childhood" and "Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!" is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact [email protected] or call (805) 969-2829. Send comments to Tom at [email protected]