LANSING, Mich. -- Sister Agnes Mary Mansour was confirmed today as Michigan's social services director despite a dispute with the Detroit archbishop over her role as overseer of the state's welfare abortion program.
The action came on a 28-9 Senate vote, less than a day after the Administration and Rules Committee had recommended her approval.
The Roman Catholic nun was ordered last month by Detroit Archbishop Edumund Szoka to relinquish her state position for failing to actively condemn welfare abortions.
But during the committee meeting, she maintained her stand of personally opposing abortions, while tolerating funding of the procedure for poor women.
The appointment of Sister Mansour by Gov. James J. Blanchard would have been automatically confirmed on Sunday had the Senate taken no action at all.
The affirmative vote followed some initial anxiety on the part of administration officials and some sharp debate on the abortion issue.
Senate Democratic Leader William Faust and Senate Republican Leader John Engler had both estimated about 25 of 38 senators would vote for appointment. Twenty votes were needed to reject her nomination.
'I come before you also as a symbol that is beyond myself but reflects what some people want me to be and what others don't want me to be,' Sister Mansour told the committee.
She said she is concerned the battle raises questions about church interference in state matters.
'I am morally opposed to abortion, which is the taking of life or potential life,' Sister Mansour said.
Szoka demanded her resignation because of her approval of Medicaid-funded abortions. The local headquarters of the Sisters of Mercy has endorsed her keeping her job but the matter now appears on its way to the Vatican for resolution.
The Mercy College president acknowledged that a decision from the Vatican could result in an order that she leave the $58,300-per-year job but did not indicate what her reaction would be to such an edict.
She refused to talk to reporters following the confirmation hearing.
She said she would not try to influence Blanchard's position in support of Medicaid abortions.
The move to place the appointment before the full Senate initially came over the objections of the majority Democrats on the committee. They said because all five committee members approved of the appointment there was no need to send it to the full 38-member Senate.
Engler said the entire upper chamber deserved a chance to vote on the appointment, even though he admitted some Senate opposition to her nomination.