The White Lily Blog

Sister Arlene Welding: Off the Poor

Arlene Welding is a School Sister of St. Francis, the Milwaukee motherhouse. Sister Arlene will just love you to death. No, seriously!

Arlene, identified incorrectly as Arline in an article in Cathnews USA, December 2, specializes in writing letters to the editor.  Somebody thinks she’s good at it, for in 2005 her order awarded her their Peacemaker certificate for “her letters on the sanctuary movement, HIV/AIDS, war, global hunger, the tax system, welfare reform, abortion and racism” which their website brags  “have reached countless politicians, editors and readers.”

Let’s hope not. Let us pray that readers snooze reading her ramblings. Let us pray that editors run them only because she is a sister, a dear School Sister, the respected voice of a Catholic nun, and fail to read between the lines. Sister Arlene is about as Catholic as a black widow spider.

Because Arlene Welding is a killer.

But only, of course, for the best of reasons. Only for a real good cause.

Here is a slice of one of Arlene’s recent letters. This one was printed, according to Cathnews USA in the Milwaukee Catholic Herald. After maintaining first that God, like our new president-elect, is pro-choice and that the bishops better ‘wake up and realize that 54% of Catholics who voted for Barack Obama do not agree with the bishops telling people how to vote,’ Arlene wrote,

“Yes, abortion is the killing of an innocent life. So is war and violent killing on the street. I have often seen many starving babies in hospitals in Honduras and witnessed their pain. In these cases, abortion might have been the lesser of two evils, and even the most merciful alternative.”

Oh, really now, Arlene? In ‘these cases’?  There are any number of poor little Hondurans who would just beg to differ. And Sudanese. And Americans. And didn’t some awfully poor little slumdogs just win an oscar for their cheerful zest for life in spite of poverty?

On the other hand, there are a great number of similar mercy-killers who agree. They are hoping Sister Arlene convinces the entire Catholic world that suffering is unspeakable, and the first guy with suffering in his agenda who should have been aborted was Jesus Christ. You know, that guy who taught us how to bear suffering and even to welcome suffering as a great privilege?  Born in a poor stable to boot!  How unspeakable!  Off with his little head! (And his arms! And his legs!)

What an economic, what a graceful solution to poverty: let’s off them! (But only when they can’t fight back. Only when they’re very small.)

I was a poor child.  Before my mother remarried and came back from wherever she’d been, I lived in the rolling hills of rural southern Illinois with my grandmother.  My grandmother’d married a good-looking Cherokee Indian, who liked his liquor straight up until it stopped his heart. Now she was left with my fatherless and apparently motherless brother and me and a tiny widow’s pension and what was left of his indian patrimony, all the rolling acres he hadn’t had time to drink, maybe a hundred.  She hadn’t a dime for seed.

We were hungry, sometimes. My mother hadn’t sent any money, then, from wherever she’d run to.  We ate dough in tomato sauce a lot. It was just after World War II, and lots of  dads were killed in it, including mine. In the summer we kids ran around in our underwear, because we didn’t have anything else.  In the winter we sometimes stayed in bed all day, for lack of stove coal.  Our lives, to Sister Welding, might have seemed—diminished, so diminished that Arlene would be downright kind to kill us. So she would like to think.

On the contrary, our lives were wonderful and full of God!  McLeansboro, Illinois, has a public library on the town square that my grandmother took us and visited regularly, and she  read to us every night by kerosene lantern, after we said our prayers. The well water was cold and sweet, and mint grew wild all the way to the outhouse, and I really liked dough in tomato sauce. My fat jolly indian-looking little Aunt Betty told us we were playing Three Old Bums in the Woods when we stayed in bed from the cold, and all the way under the covers she told us scary stories better than movies. If we had a quarter extra, we’d go for ice cream. No one was sad, well a little my grandmother sometimes, because she loved and missed her drunken indian husband. But she was the first to say, ice cream! And she won the zenia contest every single year! And sang in the church choir. Even her sadness was rich, because it came from love. Our lives were wonderful and full of God!

It is the most profound disrespect of the poor, the most profound misunderstanding of the poor, to assume they are unhappy. (It is profound disrespect of the rich to assume they are happy.) It is not the world’s goods, it is not even food, that makes happiness. It is love, love of God, love of family, love of community, that makes happiness. If Arlene had left the middle class shelter of her Honduran hospital (where I doubt babies were actually starving, since they so rarely do in hospitals, as in fact they rarely do in slums, but let us allow her at least a few clichés in her tired defense of abortion), if she had gone quietly and often into those slums and spent regular face time in the meanest tin-roofed shanties, she would have seen a much more complicated truth: that some people there were happy, and some people were sad, and some people were joyous beyond her wildest dreams.  To think otherwise is racist,  it is fascist, it is anything but Catholic. Let me add some more, just for the sake of my blood pressure: to think otherwise is stupid, white, petit-bourgeois, liberal, left-wing, infantile, disordered, radical, ignorant , and downright blindingly dumb. . . even the communists despised such. Faugh!

Arlene has simply no clue.  Suffering is redemptive.  No, really, Arlene! That is our Catholic secret. (Thank God I had real nuns who loved the poor and taught us that secret instead of killed us.)

I am going to write some letters myself. I urge you to do so as well.

Write the motherhouse. Snail mail: School Sisters of Saint Francis, 1515 S. Layton Blvd., Milwaukee WI 53215; email,

Write the Milwaukee Catholic Herald.

Brian T. Olszewski, editor
The Catholic Herald
3501 S. Lake Dr.
Milwaukee, WI 53235-0913
The phone number is (414) 769-3466
Mr. Olszewski’s e-mail address is

Write her bishop, William Patrick Callahan (he recently took over from former bishop Weakland) using the contact form at the diocesan website,

Write the archbishop:

Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan
3501 S. Lake Dr.
P.O. Box 070912
Milwaukee, WI 53207-0912
Phone: (414) 769-3497

Write the head of the US’s Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life, and Vocations, The Most Reverend Sean Patrick O’Malley, OSF, Archbishop of Boston, 2121 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, MA 02135-3192, or give him a call at 617 782 2544. I plan to ask him what he thinks St. Francis would have thought of using holy poverty as an excuse to kill the poor unborn.

Write the Vatican’s Congregation for Religious, Prefect

or Secretary

Maybe one of them will take “Sister” Arlene Welding, School Sister of St. Francis, to (Catholic) school.

10 Comments so far
Leave a comment

It’s really hard to remain charitable when one reads the things this nun says… but I’ll make an effort and ask the Holy Spirit for guidance.

I think she is actually, if unintentionally, recommending the abortion of Christ: ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me’. Nevertheless, I guess she probably speaks out of those misguided good intentions Hell is paved with.

May God forgive her and, specially, forgive her superiors. May the Holy Spirit inspire them to at least read the Catechism. They do not nead a Ph.D., reading the Catechism, if done in good faith, would be more than enough to dispel those ridiculous opinions they have.

Comment by Bruno (Spain)

Bruno, you are a charitable person and make me ashamed of my anger. I did pray for Sister Arlene today at mass. I’m sure she feels it is probably best–for them, especially given the recent equivocation regarding limbo and unbaptized children by that commission–for some children not to get born. But it’s so pagan, so untranscendent, and what is our faith if not that? The last shall be first, that’s Christ. Did you by chance read Flannery O’Connor’s short story by that name? It’s a brilliant insight into Christianity. Anyway, thanks for your good example.

Comment by Jan

I pray so that this nun truly love Christ and humanity, especially in the humanity of little ones who cannot defend themselves from the killer hands of abortionists, and their mothers who consent the killing.

Comment by Steven


Your article did not seem uncharitable to me. These are hard times, when children are killed by their own mothers with the approval of nuns, and hard words are appropriate. I agree that it is always a good thing to pray for people like this and leave judgement to God (while at the same time making it clear that their actions are totally wrong).

In my opinion, legal abortion will be the factor used by future historians to mark the decline of a Christian culture in Europe and America. As you say, it a totally pagan practice.

Let’s hope that, one day, a total rejection of abortion will also mark the beginning of a new Christian civilization in our world.

BTW, your blog is in My Favourites, so I do come here regularly. Thank you for your message in my blog (and in Spanish!)

Comment by Bruno (Spain)

St Teresa of Calucutta said to people who did not want their unborn babies, “Give them to me and I will love them!”

Comment by Laurence England

There’s a real nun for you.

Comment by thewhitelilyblog

I couldn’t agree with your position more, or disagree with Arlene. However, I would encourage you to consider the value in her being published. We’re posting these blog entries and comments because of Arlene’s article and the Herald’s publishing it. As wrong as she may be, I do believe her views have a balanced place in Catholic publications.

Oddly enough, I used to work for the Herald and know Mr. Olszewski personally. He’s a very devout, kind man, and has the best of intentions. But he is a journalist. I get the impression you’re incensed by the publishing of Arlene’s views and the possibility that a Catholic newspaper might be endorsing them by publishing her commentary.

But it’s necessary to hear her out. If I were Brian, I would intentionally publish her work, if nothing else to solidify the pro-life base reacting to her. Sure she’s misguided and directly opposing the Church, but newspapers like the Herald lose their validity if they become mouthpieces of a singular viewpoint. It might be interesting to poll readers on their reactions to Arlene vs. Pro-life commentators. I don’t read a lot of pro-life literature(excluding this blog! 😉 that gets me fired up, but Arlene sure did.

Comment by Mike

I looked at your blog and your website–nice looking, possibly because you’ve chosen such nice-looking subjects (your friends’ photos were precious). But my machine hung on your website after I made two clicks. I forget which ones but think I was working in from the left–the first one went to an empty page, the second hung me up. It shut down eventually and an error message was sent, but they never say to whom. I’m wondering if the photos were big files, and if that might have done it.

Well, anyhoo, I’m flattered as all that such a well-traveled young man such as yourself visited the Whitelilyblog, and might even like it. About Sister Arlene and the publishing of her ideas. First of all, if the Herald is a diocesan newspaper, it is representing a particular point of view, and that is the view of the
Church. Its mission is not to serve “freedom” no matter how that’s defined. Its mission is to get people to heaven by presenting the truth as defined by the faith.

So do you think publishing such a letter, without commentary, was helpful to that end? Welding’s letter is not visible on the site itself, I got it at another link and used it anyway, though I’d have rather seen it at the original site. Thus I don’t have any knowledge of how they presented it; but I’m betting it was presented ‘as is.’ No surrounding commentary, or reply from the paper as is customary when a particular letter disagrees with a particular paper’s editorial policy. Mike, given how confused the presentation of the teachings of the Church have been in the last fifty years, and given especially how confused people were over their responsibilities in this election, judging by the Catholic vote, do you think there might have been a chance that they could be confused as to what the Catholic attitude ought to be on this issue?

Your point may be that it’s just good promotional policy to get a good scrap going, by pretending to be neutral in a given situation. I don’t know. In this particular situation, in this particular epoch, when the entire franchise, the entire definition of Catholicism is up for grabs by warring elements (or perhaps you think I overstate it?), I think that’s dangerous for Christ’s flock.

That’s what I think.

But to tell the truth, I was just so mad when I read the letter, I wasn’t thinking of the Herald at all. Like you, I just hated the attitude expressed in it. Arlene’s letter captures pretty well the expression on Hil’s face in that stunning photo on your website–like Hilary, Arlene’s so damn full of herself, the possibility that a poor child might lead a better, a richer, a holier, life than she, is beyond her frame of reference. “Good,” to her, seems to be defined strictly materially. It is a position staggeringly lacking in imagination. It rules out grace. And grace is the poor child’s meat, many days.

I’d rather not have to have the debate. If the debate is to be held, though, we don’t fight fair. We fight to win. You only invite “free debate” when your side dominates. Ours presently does not. God is not pro-choice just because he gives us a choice, ala Arlene, and I guess I’m saying I think He’s not a petit-bourgeois liberal either. If the paper didn’t publish that letter with a comment that gives Church teaching on both choice and abortion, I myself don’t think it matters what their intentions were. At least in these times.

Or what?

I’ll check in at your blog. Be well!

Comment by thewhitelilyblog

Mercy killing is so disgusting!

Comment by Hans Georg Lundahl

I think you all miss the point this nun is making an observation of an horrendous situation STARVATION not condoning or offering abortion as a solution.Its a challenge to all who claim to be pro-life How can you let this happen? How can we call ourselves Christians and let half the world starve while the other half is gluttonous with both food and resources. Her letter is a call for self examination, but it’s just easier to demonize her.

Comment by kath

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