The Last Word | April 19, 2012
O'DONNELL: In the Spotlight Tonight , the politics of religion. In his sermon last weekend, a Catholic Bishop compared President Obama to Hitler and Stalin .
BISHOP DANIEL R. JENKY, CATHOLIC DIOCES OF PEORIA, ILLINOIS: Hitler and Stalin , at their better moments, would just barely tolerate some churches remaining open, but would not tolerate any competition with the state in education, social services and health care. In clear violation of our First Amendment rights , President Obama , with his radical pro-abortion and extreme secularist agenda, now seems intent on following a similar path.
O'DONNELL: Speaking of clear violations, those words leave the Roman Catholic Church in clear violation of the IRS code banning tax exempt religious organizations from participating in or intervening in "any political campaign on behalf of, or in opposition to any candidate for public office." Yesterday, the Vatican reprimanded American nuns on political grounds. So surely a reprimand from the Vatican to the political Bishop you just saw attacking President Obama should be coming any moment now, unless, of course, the Vatican is only upset with religious people who seem to be leaning slightly left. The Vatican charged the Leadership Conference of Women Religious , the nation's largest group of Catholic nuns, of espousing radical feminist ideas and challenging church doctrine on the ordination of women and homosexuality. To keep the nuns in line, the Vatican appointed Seattle Arch-Bishop Peter Sartain . Sartain already has his hands full in Seattle , where he's collecting signature to put Referendum 74 on the November ballot. The referendum would reverse the marriage equality law that Governor Gregoire signed if February. But several Catholic parishes have refused to join Sartain in this effort. One church even gave their priest a standing ovation after he announced the church would not participate. The Reverend Tim Clark said "the standing ovation experienced during one of the masses says less about me and much more about the health of this parish . I only wish the archbishop could have experienced the sustained applause, the serious fidelum of people he needs to listen to this voice. That is my prayer." And in news just in, in Catholic comedy, the Catholic League is objecting to a piece run by Jon Stewart this week, which we reran portions of on this show, where Jon Stewart talked about how Fox News treats the war on women. The Catholic League now says because that was such an offensive piece that they are trying to stop Jon Stewart . I'm going to quote from their statement. "Our effort against Stewart includes asking his most consistent sponsors to pull their advertising. If necessary, we are not ruling out a boycott of their products and a lengthy public relations campaign. The goal, to get him to apologize. If that doesn't work, we can guarantee that his reputation will never be the same ." The Catholic League has absolutely no official affiliation with that other thing you've heard of, the Catholic Church . It is run by a fraudulent operator, who is a divorced man, which is the kind of thing that used to get you excommunicated in the Catholic Church . Jon Stewart 's reputation will be unaffected by that sort of nonsense. Joining me now is Sister Jeannine Gramick , executive coordinator for the National Coalition of American Nuns . She was also silenced by the Vatican in 1999 for ministering to gays and lesbians. And Jeff Stone , communications director of Dignity USA , which advocates for justice and the for the LGBT community within the Catholic Church . Jeff Stone , a Bishop standing in a pulpit, in a mass in this country, comparing President Barack Obama to Hitler and Stalin , how could that possibly happen?
JEFF STONE, DIGNITY USA COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Well, I think it's really kind of an act of desperation, Lawrence . I think it's an example of how out of touch the church is with the lay people . You know, we see it with gay issues particularly. And you refer to the parishes in Seattle that are refusing to go along with the campaign to overturn gay marriage there. We have national polls showing that 71 percent of American Catholics support civil marriage for same-sex couples. We have a hierarchy that is just very much out of touch with where the people of the church are. And I think people need to be very careful about throwing around Hitler comparisons.
O'DONNELL: Sister Jeannine Gramick , what do you make of the Vatican 's reaction to American nuns? SR. JEANNINE GRAMICK , NATL. COALITION OF AMERICAN NUNS: Well, may I comment on the --
GRAMICK: -- the statement that the bishop made comparing President Obama with Hitler or Stalin . I think that bishops need to be very careful about making comparisons that are totalitarian. Because there's been much criticism, justifiable criticism, that the government of the Catholic Church is very totalitarian. And that is what we're seeing now with the Vatican trying to control - that's what it really is, control the women religious in the United States . I think basically we women come from a different conception of church from the Vatican . We are -- we are following what Vatican II , the Second Vatican Council in the Catholic Church , which was in the 1960s , talked about the church as a community. And in a community, people disagree. But in a totalitarian institution, there is no disagreement. And so this is the clash that we're seeing.
O'DONNELL: Sister, could you explain to us what it means to be silenced by the Vatican ? And how you can be speaking to us tonight?
GRAMICK: Well, I -- to be silenced by the Vatican means that the Vatican makes some pronouncement that some theologian cannot write or some sister cannot speak or whatever the particular issue of silencing is. But unless one complies with that request, if you will, the individuals or an organization or -- has only power if we accede to that power. So at the time that the Vatican said that I should no longer be speaking as an advocate for lesbian or gay Catholics , my response was that I -- I choose not to collaborate in that oppression, because the Vatican was asking me to silence myself, which is a basic human right.
O'DONNELL: Jeff Stone , it certainly sounds like a totalitarian dictate to --
STONE: Yeah, it does, Lawrence . And it's ironic because the highest law of the Catholic Church is the law of conscience. And Pope Benedict himself has spoken eloquently about it. You know, even -- if you find your conscience is in disagreement even with the words of the Pope , you are obligated in your conscience to follow your conscience. And that's what these Catholics in Seattle are doing.
O'DONNELL: And Catholicism has been full of argument for its entire history, as has most of the religion classes I was in 12 years of Catholic education . Sister Jeannine Gramick and Jeff Stone , thank you for joining us tonight. I'm sorry we've run out of time on this. Thank you very much .
GRAMICK: Thank you.
O'DONNELL: Coming up, Mitt Romney is padding his resume with a little item about small business . Mitt Romney 's real business record is in tonight's Rewrite . And the small business owner that Mitt Romney insulted at a campaign event will get tonight's LAST WORD .
O'DONNELL: In tonight's Rewrite , Mitt Romney