I have long been amused by how often the phenomenon of synchronicity has reared its head in my life. Synchronicity is a coincidence of events that seem to be meaningfully related. Jungian theory hails synchronicity as an explanatory principle on the same order as causality. Throughout my life I have seen events arise that seem completely unrelated but suddenly a connection appears.
Yesterday I had posts fisking anti-Catholic bigot Jami Stiehm here, and a post on the Ursuline nuns and their role in the battle of New Orleans here. Today Ed Morrissey at Hot Air supplies the connection between the two:
Arguing that Jefferson would cheer federal dictates on the choices of health insurance for nuns is therefore either high ignorance or deliberate obtuseness. In fact, we have a historical record for Jefferson’s thoughts on the freedom of religious expression specifically for Catholic nuns, in his own hand. Joanne McPortland reminded us of this yesterday at Patheos:
In 1804, the Ursuline Sisters, who had fled the anti-Catholicism of the French Revolution to found schools, orphanages, and hospitals in the Louisiana Territory, wrote to President Thomas Jefferson of their concerns that the United States government, now in control of New Orleans, would interfere with their freedom to operate their institutions and set their own regulations. They were aware of Jefferson’s support of the French Revolution and of his writings concerning the “wall of separation” he saw in the First Amendment’s guarantees.
Jefferson’s letter in response–often omitted from collections of his works–is respectful, clear, and reassuring. Read the text and substitute Little Sisters of the Poor for the Ursulines, and it’s immediately apparent that Stiehm is conjuring the wrong guy.
I have received, holy sisters, the letter you have written me wherein you express anxiety for the property vested in your institution by the former governments of Louisiana.
The principles of the constitution and government of the United States are a sure guarantee to you that it will be preserved to you, sacred and inviolate, and that your institution will be permitted to govern itself according to its own voluntary rules, without interference from the civil authority.
Whatever the diversity of shade may appear in the religious opinions of our fellow citizens, the charitable objects of your institution cannot be indifferent to any; and its furtherance of the wholesome purposes of society, by training up its younger members in the way they should go, cannot fail to ensure it the patronage of the government it is under.
Be assured it will meet all the protection which my office can give it.
I salute you, holy sisters, with friendship and respect.
The letter, in Jefferson’s hand, is on display in the museum of the Ursulines in New Orleans, where I’ve seen it. It is recognized, rightly, as one of the founding documents in our American understanding of freedom of religion.
It’s difficult to see how Stiehm could have possibly been more ignorant on freedom, religion, tolerance, and the law than in her self-exposure at US News. Continue reading