Kadner: State Senate candidate Barbara Bellar a ‘former nun’ without vows
By Phil Kadner firstname.lastname@example.org October 22, 2012 6:38PM
Updated: November 24, 2012 6:17AM
Republican Barbara Bellar boasts on her website and on the campaign trail for the 18th District state Senate seat that she was once a Catholic nun.
But when asked if she ever took vows of fidelity and obedience she refused to return telephone calls for days and repeatedly walked away from this columnist during a Republican candidate forum at Moraine Valley Community College on Saturday.
“Dr. Bellar served as a Benedictine nun for five years and remains active in her church,” Bellar claims in a biography on her campaign website, which includes a logo that reads: “Barbara Bellar, State Senate, There’s ‘Nun’ Better.”
But Sister Patricia Crowley, prioress of the Benedictine Sisters of Chicago, said Bellar was only a postulant in the order, meaning she was there for a year and was a candidate to join the order.
Crowley explained that the layman’s definition of a nun really doesn’t mean anything to her order.
“You are a postulant, which is the first stage and lasts about a year, and then become a novice, which requires a vote (by the order) to be accepted, Crowley said.
“After a year or two after that you would take your vows.
“All I can tell you is that Barbara Bellar was a postulant here and never became a novice and never took any vows.”
After I told Bellar that I was going to write a column about the discrepancy in her biography despite her refusals to comment, she sent me an email.
“Regarding your inquiry, I submit the fact that I was a Benedictine nun stationed in both Illinois and Colorado motherhouse convents as well as parishes of Queen of All Saints and St. Hilary’s both in Chicagoland.
“I did several years of hard labor, taught CCD, working in farm harvesting and studied theology, chauffeured elderly nuns and worked in the infirmary.
“I decided to leave before I took any final vows because I came to see one can serve God in any walk of life,” Bellar stated.
There are several Benedictine orders in Colorado, and Bellar never returned a call or responded to my email seeking clarification on which one she served.
Several Catholic laymen I spoke to said it is their belief that to call herself a nun a woman must take vows.
“It’s like someone claiming they’re a doctor because they graduated medical school but never completed a residency,” one woman told me.
I repeated the analogy to Crowley and she replied, “I think that’s a fair comparison.”
In fact, Bellar, who is both a licensed doctor and lawyer, leaves out some information about her medical education on her campaign website as well.
Under “Barbara Bellar’s Life Story,” the candidate says she completed her medical training at New York Medical School and completed a family practice residency at the University of Illinois.
But the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation lists Bellar’s medical school as “universitarios de estudios-xochicalo, ensenada, baja california south, Ensenda, Mexico, 1988.”
According to a spokeswoman for New York Medical College, Bellar completed a fifth-year program there designed for people who had attended medical schools in foreign countries.
Bellar, 65, of Burr Ridge, failed to return my phone call about the lack of information regarding the Mexican medical school on her campaign website.
As someone who boasts of teaching medical ethics courses, you would think Bellar might understand that voters could be concerned about such inconsistencies in her biography.
What troubles me the most is that someone running for public office simply refuses to answer questions in person or return phone calls challenging her credentials.
If Bellar believes she doesn’t owe the public explanations now, why should anyone expect her to be more responsive once elected?
Bellar has become something of an Internet sensation in recent weeks with a diatribe against Obamacare that has gone viral on YouTube.
In addition to her medical education, Bellar claims she attended law school at St. Louis University and graduated from John Marshall Law School in Chicago. I tried to confirm that, but officials connected to the schools did not call me back in time.
I was able to confirm her claim that she served six years in the U.S. Army Reserves medical corps and attained the rank of major.
Bellar is running against Democrat William Cunningham, an incumbent state representative, in the 18th District race.
The district runs from approximately Willow Springs on the northwest to Chicago’s 19th Ward and Evergreen Park on the east, and through parts of Oak Lawn, Palos Hills, Palos Park and Orland Park on the southwest.
Late Monday evening, Bellar’s campaign manager called and told me the candidate was busy treating patients in her family practice and had not been able to get my messages.
But when I offered her opportunities last week via telephone and personally attended the candidate forum, she failed to respond, at one point accusing me of harassing her.
In her follow-up email, Bellar apologized, saying she was “focused on the forum and my opportunity with constituents. I should have just asked that we interact after the forum.”
In fact, I approached her before the forum began as people were still wandering in. It should have been a simple matter to answer challenges to the statements in her biography.
It now appears the claims on her website are at the very least misleading.
Voters will ultimately decide if they’re willing to trust Bellar to represent them.