Thursday, June 21, 2012
‘Nuns on the Bus’: Catholic Sisters Drive Across America for Faith, Family & Fairness
By Michael Ireland
Senior International Correspondent, ASSIST News Service
WASHINGTON, DC (ANS) -- Catholic Sisters across the country work every day with people struggling at the economic margins. Meanwhile, the House of Representatives has approved a budget plan which the nuns say will harm millions of the people they serve.
The organization they belong to, called NETWORK, said in a media release the nuns are on an “exciting new venture: a bus tour through nine states to highlight the work of Catholic Sisters, meet the people they serve, and learn about the harm that would be caused by these federal budget cuts.”
“Nuns on the Bus: Nuns Drive for Faith, Family and Fairness” will make stops in Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia during the two-week tour which began June 18, said Lindsey Boerma, who covers the 2012 presidential campaign for CBS News and National Journal.
The CBS report said they’ll visit social service agencies and offices of members of Congress, highlighting their opposition, as well as the U.S. Catholic bishops' opposition, to the proposed budget that passed the House.
Starting in Iowa, and looking to also head into Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Maryland, the "Nuns on the Bus" will wrap in Washington, D.C. on July 2.
The tour was organized by NETWORK, a Washington-based Catholic social justice group criticized in a recent Vatican report that said some organizations led by nuns have focused too much on economic injustice while failing to promote the church's teachings on abortion and same-sex marriage.
"Because of their work, Sisters see the suffering of people in poverty on a daily basis. As a result, they recognize the harm that the Ryan budget will cause," read a press release announcing the tour.
Facing a Democratic Senate and opposition from President Obama, the plan has stalled since passing through the House in March, CBS News said.
‘Nuns on the Bus’ leader Sister Simone said: “We're living the gospel, and we won't back down.”
An online report by Dean Reynolds, CBS News, says fourteen Roman Catholic nuns on the nine-state bus tour were in Chicago Wednesday, after several stops in Wisconsin.
Officially, they're protesting cuts in federal programs for the poor. But the "Nuns on the Bus" tour is also an act of defiance against criticism from the Vatican.
Sister Simone Campbell is a Roman Catholic nun and the executive director of NETWORK -- a liberal social justice lobby in Washington.
She's been under siege, but she's not fazed. "Into every life a little rain must come," she said.
Sister Simone is also a bit of a provocateur, CBS News stated.
"Catholic sisters have always been out on the edge," she said. "And quite frankly we have a long history of kind of annoying the central authority."
CBS News said the ‘central authority’ they've recently annoyed is the Vatican itself.
In April, sister Simone's group and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious -- representing 80 percent of the nation's nuns -- were attacked by the church hierarchy for focusing too much of their work on poverty and economic justice, while being silent on abortion and same-sex marriage, CBS News reported.
The Vatican reprimanded the U.S. nuns over "radical feminist themes," but the U.S. Catholic nuns continue to go about work after that rebuke.
Sister Simone says she pleads guilty to part of that charge: "That I spend too much time working for people in poverty. I wear that as a badge of honor," she said.
CBS News said The Vatican has appointed a bishop to correct what the church calls "serious doctrinal problems" in the way the nuns work.
They've been called radical feminists, the broadcast network reported.
Simone's response: "Oh my heavens! I actually have to laugh! We are strong women. We're educated women. We ask questions. We engage in dialogue. That's all we do. We stay faithful to the gospel and trying to live it,” she said.
"But in living it, you break it open and ask questions," she said. "It's fabulous!"
So Sister Simone has doubled down -- launching this bus tour in what can only be seen as a retort to Rome, the network reported.
CBS News said the sisters are focusing on social issues all along the way -- holding press conferences and staging protests against the proposed budget cuts which they say will endanger those most in need.
At the starting line in Iowa, there was no talk of same-sex marriage, CBS said.
"The truth is we have to speak up for the people who are suffering in our society," Simone said. "That's our mission. That's our goal. That's what Jesus would do. That's the gospel."
CBS News commented: “Off they went -- the Daughters of Charity, the Sisters of Mercy and others -- barreling down the back roads -- and not slowing down.”
CNN reported that along the way, the nuns on the bus will visit Catholic-sponsored social service agencies that serve people who they say will be further harmed by proposed budget cuts, and they will meet with congressional offices to advocate for a fair budget. Local Church and political officials and the media are invited to meet with the Sisters during their daily stops.
CNN also reported The Vatican recently criticized Catholic Sisters in the U.S. for spending too much time working for social justice instead of speaking out on issues such as gay marriage and abortion.
The trip comes during a controversial time between American nuns and their leadership in Vatican City. Recently, the Vatican has been critical of the nuns, in particular, charging the nuns of espousing “radical feminism” and straying from church teaching.
The busing nuns referenced this controversy in their announcement of the event, stating that “despite the controversy, Catholic Sisters stand with the Bishops in criticizing the Ryan budget and are committed to staying faithful to their mission to serve those in need.”
“In fact, on this issue, we stand with the bishops,” Campbell said.
That is true. In an April release from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the bishops call on "Congress and the Administration to protect essential help for poor families and vulnerable children and to put the poor first in budget priorities.”
CNN said that despite the controversy, Catholic Sisters stand with the Bishops in criticizing the proposed budget and are committed to staying faithful to their mission to serve those in need. Because of their work, Sisters see the suffering of people in poverty on a daily basis.
As a result, they recognize the harm that the proposed budget will cause, including:
**Undermining the food stamp program (SNAP) at a time when millions need it to feed their families
**Beginning to shift Medicare to a voucher program, thus driving more seniors into poverty
**Giving large tax breaks to the wealthy at the expense of protections for struggling families
**Drastically cutting funding for health insurance programs for low-income people, causing millions to lose access to healthcare
The bus tour is meant to focus attention on the enormous moral choices facing our country.
The NETWORK press release asks: “Do we choose to be a nation of individualism and fear where the rich get richer at the expense of those in need? Or do we reclaim the principles of our founders and work together for all the people to form a more perfect union?”
For up-to-date information on the tour schedule, please check their "Nuns on the Bus" website at www.nunsonthebus.org
NETWORK is a Catholic leader in the global movement for justice and peace—which educates, organizes and lobbies for economic and social transformation.
MEDIA CONTACT: Stephanie Niedringhaus, 202-347-9797 x224, firstname.lastname@example.org
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