The Michigan Senate this week approved the appointment of a Roman Catholic nun as state social services director after she testified before a Senate committee that she can "tolerate" abortion funding for women.
Sister Agnes Mary Mansour had refused her archbishop's order to resign the post because she refused to repudiate state-paid abortions. The case is expected to reach the Vatican.
"I am morally opposed to abortion, which is the taking of life," Mansour told a packed confirmation hearing before a state Senate committee in Lansing on Tuesday.
She said that "those of us that are prolife have an obligation to be convincing, not condemning. That is why, although I am opposed to abortion, I can tolerate Medicaid funding."
The committee recommended confirmation of her appointment and the full Senate voted 28 to 9 Wednesday for it.
Gov. James J. Blanchard had appointed the Religious Sisters of Mercy nun to the post in December. Detroit Archbishop Edmund Szoka then ordered her to resign because she failed to publicly oppose Medicaid funding for abortion.
One of the department's responsibilities is administering welfare funds for abortions. Mansour, who has held the state post since Jan. 3, has said she personally opposes abortion, but that it is unfair to deny the poor what is available to the rich: "That would be compounding one injustice with another."
The Rev. Thomas Doyle, canon lawyer for the Apostolic Delegation in Washington, said a report on Mansour will be sent to the Vatican if she continues to hold her job against the wishes of church officials.
Once the case is in the Vatican, he said, it would be up to the Sacred Congregation for the Religious to review the situation and decide what, if anything, should be done.
About two dozen protesters, including a nun and a priest, gathered in rain outside the building Tuesday where the hearing was held carrying signs reading "Mansour or Manslayer," "Mansour belongs in the convent, not Lansing," and "Sister Mansour no longer Catholic."
Blanchard said that "as far as her disagreement with the church, that's a matter between Agnes and the church." He said that she "doesn't have any power over abortion in her position as director."
Mansour, former president of Mercy College in Detroit and an unsuccessful candidate in a congressional primary last year, has received the support of nuns from several religious orders, including her own.
A Benedictine priest who was the first Catholic chaplain in the United States to die while serving men in battle and the only one to die in combat in the Civil War is to be honored today, 118 years later.
The Rev. Emmeran Bliemel was killed while pronouncing the words of absolution over a dying officer during the Battle of Jonesboro in August 1864 near Atlanta.
The 32-year-old cleric had joined the 10th Tennessee Regiment, still remembered because of its casualties as the "Bloody 10th," eight months earlier. He was the pastor of Assumption Parish in Nashville, Tenn., when the city was captured by Union troops in 1862 and the church was converted into a hospital. Parishioners who had joined the 10th asked Bliemel to join them as their chaplain.
His story escaped the history books until another Benedictine priest came across it while doing research and published it last spring.
The Confederate Medal of Honor will be awarded posthumously to Bliemel today by the Sons of Confederate Veterans in a ceremony on the grounds of the Clayton County Courthouse in Jonesboro.
The Rev. David Harms of Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Portland, Ore., on Sunday spoofed excuses people use for not going to church by giving them everything they say is lacking.
For those who complain about hard pews, the church provided pillows. For those who like to sleep late, there were cots.
The church had ear plugs for people who complain the sermon is too loud. Anyone tempted to skip church for outdoor pursuits found fishing poles and a small pond filled with duck decoys. There was also a putting green equipped with golf clubs and balls.
Harms, who even provided hard hats for people who joke that "the roof would fall in if I ever went to church," called the day "a spoof on what is otherwise a serious subject."