Rules Are for Schmucks: Church Kicks Nuns in the Teeth, Tries to Bill Taxpayers

A group of elderly nuns in Nebraska was in the news a week ago, appealing a state Health and Human Services decision denying them Medicaid benefits. The Sisters of Mercy have been championing the Catholic cause in Nebraska for over a century, indoctrinating children and staffing hospitals that provide some but not all treatments that patients need. Like many other orders, nearly all of their members are now extremely old, because for some reason no one wants to become a nun anymore. Nevertheless, the Catholic Church flatly refuses to take care of them. After all, they’re only women. So now the bright idea is that since the church they served all their lives has abandoned them, they’ll fling themselves on the biggest chumps they can find—US taxpayers, in the form of Medicaid benefits designed for people who (unlike these nuns) have nowhere else to turn.

Medicaid costs American taxpayers over half a trillion dollars every year. Its cost is growing at a rate much faster than the rest of the economy. To try to keep the costs manageable so the truly needy can be served, the government limits Medicaid benefits to those who have no other options. I accidentally hit a button to apply for Medicaid once a couple of years ago, and the amount of information and supporting documentation the government demanded to prove the hopelessness of my financial situation was daunting.

When the Nebraska nuns try to navigate this process, they stumble over the fact that they do have other assets they can rely on. Each one of them has something called a “Patrimony Fund,” just for her. The thing is, she’s not allowed to touch this money, by church rule. Each nun takes a “sacred vow” not to use it for trivial matters like her own cancer treatment. Instead, they con the taxpayers into paying the bills.

Keeping its money in lots of different pockets and every now and then exclaiming, “Oh no! My pocket is empty!” is a tried and true church financial ploy. They do it in bankruptcy cases whenever they can get away with it.

The church’s Medicaid trick has given me a wonderful idea. With a little planning, I could subdivide my own assets into several dedicated funds: the Granados Travel Fund, the Granados Wine Fund, the Granados Electronic Gadgets Fund, etc. This could leave me with so little in my general account that I could qualify for Medicaid, and get the sucker taxpayers to cover my doctor bills. Brilliant! In fact, unlike the nuns, I’m willing to guarantee that not a penny of my special funds will ever be used to brainwash children, lobby for subsidies, or traumatize gay people. Every penny will be applied directly to the furtherance of human happiness. One human, anyway.

Unfortunately, unlike the church, I lack the chutzpah to brazen out a swindle like this.

I was educated by Catholic nuns, nearly all of whom were competent, caring women. I have tremendous respect and affection for them. But I am infuriated by the thought of being stuck with the medical bills of people who worked for one of the wealthiest institutions in the country while listening to the bishops laugh all the way to the bank with the money they save.

A few years ago CNN ran a story on the spectacular mansions US bishops live in (feast your eyes on them here). Here in Washington, DC, Cardinal Wuerl has his own personal chef. (Thanks to the parsonage exemption, they’re not even taxed on the value of these palaces.) So I should pay more in taxes to get Medicaid to elderly nuns while these guys bask in luxury? Explain that one to me again.

When it’s not dumping its nuns on Medicaid, the church is evicting them from their convents, so it can sell them for cash. That’s what it did to the Sisters of Bethany a few years ago, and it’s what they’re trying to do to the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary right now. The archdiocese that owns their land is selling it out from under them, to singer Katy Perry. The nuns have been trying to paint Perry as the spawn of Satan for kicking them out, but she’s done nothing wrong. All she did was offer to buy property the archdiocese was anxious to sell. A couple of weeks ago, while trying to defeat the sale in court, one of the nuns got so worked up that she collapsed and died. One less pain in the butt for the church. Meanwhile, Perry spends her time chatting up the pope.

The church’s master plan for its nuns is the same now as it has always been. Wear ‘em out, then spit ‘em out. Some retired nuns are even reduced to shoplifting for basic necessities, like soap. But it’s not just nuns at risk. It’s everyone who is employed by the Catholic Church or one of its affiliates, including thousands of non-Catholics. Last year a church-affiliated hospital fought all the way to the Supreme Court for the right to disregard the ERISA pension fund rules that protect workers in every other US industry. Of course, in that religion-obsequious forum, they won. The bishops themselves now estimate that in the next few years there’ll be a shortfall of some ten billion dollars in Catholic retirement expenses (unless they can figure how to stick that one on the taxpayers, too).

If I were a store owner, I’d beef up my shoplifting surveillance.

Meanwhile, Pope Francis daubs his eyes and whimpers that “every worker … has the right to fair remuneration, social security and a pension.” Every worker except the ones who worked for him, that is, who the church dumps on Medicaid. If he’s not the biggest hypocrite of the century so far, I don’t know who is.