First up from the God Machine this week is an unexpected group of critics raising concerns about suspect tales from Fox News host Bill O’Reilly.
As regular readers know, activism in the political sphere from Roman Catholic nuns has become increasingly common in recent years, as evidenced by the Nuns on the Bus tour in 2012, criticizing Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) far-right budget plan.
Soon after, Sister Simone Campbell and her group, NETWORK, a National Catholic Social Justice Lobby, invited Mitt Romney “to spend a day with Catholic Sisters who work every day to meet the needs of struggling families in their communities.” (He declined.)
Rachel noted on the show that summer, “I have one thing to say here personally, not as a TV show host here but just as a person who happens to be related to some nuns: don’t mess with nuns. It’s not a warning. It’s not advice. It’s not a threat. It’s fact that I have learned from personal experience. Ask anybody in my family, if you mess with nuns, you will lose every time. You will always regret messing with nuns.”
With this in mind, Fox’s Bill O’Reilly has faced increased scrutiny recently, claiming that he “saw nuns get shot in the back of the head” while he was in El Salvador in the early 1980s. When evidence made clear that was impossible, O’Reilly said he was referring to photographs he’d seen.
This week, some nuns seemed unimpressed by the Fox host’s comments, most notably nuns from the Maryknoll Sisters who issued a statement to Brian Stelter.
“Maryknoll Sisters were deeply saddened when our Sisters were killed in El Salvador, and shocked when we learned of Mr. O’Reilly’s statement inferring he witnessed their murder,” the statement said.“This is, of course, untrue and we hope Mr. O’Reilly will take greater care in the public statements he makes in the future,” it added.The Ursuline Sisters of Cleveland also offered a statement, calling for reporters covering the tragedy to do so with a spirit of “integrity and honesty.”
As best as I can tell, O’Reilly has not yet responded to the nuns’ criticisms. I reached out to Fox News for comment yesterday, but I haven’t heard back. I will update this piece if the network responds.
Also from the God Machine this week:
* In unexpected remarks, Pope Francis said this week he only expects to remain in his position for only “two or three more years.” He added, “I have a feeling my pontificate will be brief: four or five years, I don’t know. Two years have already gone by. It is a vague feeling I have that the Lord chose me for a short mission. I am always open to that possibility.”
* Speaking of the Roman Catholic Church, a federal judge ruled this week that a $55 million cemetery trust fund is not off-limits in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee’s bankruptcy case.
* Sarah Posner had a good piece this week noting widespread support for immigration reform among Evangelical Christians, who usually have some influence in Republican politics, but who are being completely ignored by GOP officials on this issue.
* A religious right group called Liberty Counsel is hosting an event this weekend called “The Awakening.” Among the notable Republican attendees are three likely Republican presidential candidates – Gov. Bobby Jindal, former Gov. Mike Huckabee, and Sen. Rick Santorum – along with Sen. Ted Cruz’s father, right-wing activist Rafael Cruz.
* And Franklin Graham this week decided to go after President Obama again, this time by insisting his mother was a secret Muslim. Stay classy, Franklin.