Sister Simone Campbell gets cheered at DNC, online
Pictured: Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of Network, addresses the second session of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., Sept. 5. (CNS photo/Jason Reed, Reuters) Read more about her social justice programs in Charlotte at St. Peter Church.
CHARLOTTE — A Catholic sister was given several rousing rounds of applause by the thousands of delegates to the Democratic National Convention Wednesday night.
Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of the Catholic social justice organization Network and a Sister of Social Service, spoke to the DNC about a recent bus tour she took to meet with Catholic religious women working with the poor across the Midwest -- a campaign billed as "Nuns on the Bus" -- and the Democratic Party delegates and audience ate it up, erupting in applause during her remarks.
Sister Campbell also clearly enjoyed the attention, as shown by her smiles and laughs and waves to the crowd.
"In June, I joined other Catholic sisters on a 2,700-mile bus journey through nine states to tell Americans about the budget Congressman Paul Ryan wrote and Governor Romney endorsed," she began.
At the time, Rep. Ryan was not yet Gov. Mitt Romney's running mate on the Republican Party presidential ticket.
"Paul Ryan claims his budget reflects the principles of our shared Catholic faith. But the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops stated that the Ryan budget failed a basic moral test, because it would harm families living in poverty," she said according to prepared remarks distributed to the media by the DNC.
"We agree with our bishops, and that's why we went on the road: to stand with struggling families and to lift up our Catholic sisters who serve them. Their work to alleviate suffering would be seriously harmed by the Romney-Ryan budget, and that is wrong," she said.
She said she agrees with Romney and Ryan who say that "each individual" should be responsible.
"But their budget goes astray in not acknowledging that we are responsible not only for ourselves and our immediate families," she said. "Rather, our faith strongly affirms that we are all responsible for one another."
She cited several examples of Catholic sisters helping the poor -- in Toledo, Ohio, to Milwaukee, Wis.
"We all share responsibility for creating an economy where parents with jobs earn enough to take care of their families," she said.
Sister Campbell expressed support for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, saying it will provide health insurance coverage to more people.
"We all share responsibility to ensure that this vital health care reform law is properly implemented and that all governors expand Medicaid coverage so no more (uninsured) die from lack of care. This is part of my pro-life stance and the right thing to do," she said.
While earlier saying she was in agreement with the U.S. bishops about the proposed House budget, she did not detail what "proper" implementation of the health care reform would entail.
Catholic leaders, led by the bishops, have denounced one part of the Affordable Care Act that requires nearly all employers to provide free coverage for contraception and sterilization services. Known as the HHS (Health and Human Services) mandate, it offers a narrow exemption for religious employers who object to providing such services based on the tenets of their faith, only if they serve and hire people primarily of their own faith.
Catholics believe that contraception and sterilization are immoral because they unnaturally suppress human physiology and go against God the Creator's design for men and women on sex and procreation.
Catholic universities, dioceses, hospitals, charities and businesses would not qualify for the limited exemption, and so face the prospect of either violating Catholic teaching by providing such coverage, paying severe penalties for not following the mandate, or dropping all health insurance coverage for their employees and students. Dozens of lawsuits have been filed in federal court, challenging the mandate as a violation of the First Amendment right to religious lliberty.
The HHS mandate will be fully implemented in 2014, and pro-life Democrats, many of them Catholic, say they hope that there will be some kind of negotiated settlement rather than getting tied up for years in the courts or jeopardizing the rest of the Affordable Care Act.
The U.S. bishops have stated that they support universal health care, but the ACA has serious flaws that must be addressed.
While Sister Campbell said her support of the ACA was part of her "pro-life" stance, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, of which she is a member, has been rebuked by a Vatican doctrinal assessment for its lack of fidelity to Catholic teaching opposing abortion. The Vatican concerns do not extend to individual orders of women religious or to Network, but only to the LCWR.
Sister Campbell has publicly lambasted the Vatican's doctrinal assessment and she has criticized the U.S. bishops for their stance on the Affordable Care Act and the HHS mandate, as well as decrying what she sees as a Church leadership too focused on the right to life of the unborn versus other aspects of the Catholic pro-life message, and more. She's also publicly criticized Rep. Paul Ryan, also a Catholic; Cardinal Timothy Dolan, head of the U.S. bishops, and others.
Campbell rounded out her address to the Democrats by talking about how the nation has become polarized and people are not talking to each other in productive ways.
She said, "In Hershey, Pennsylvania, a woman in her late 30s approached us. She asked for the names of some people she could talk to, because she felt alone and isolated. Her neighbors have been polarized by politics masquerading as values. ...
"She wishes they, and the rest of the nation, would listen to one another with kindness and compassion. Listen to one another rather than yell at each other. I told her then, and I tell her now, that she is not alone."
She then again knocked the Ryan budget, saying "an immoral budget that hurts already struggling families does not reflect our nation's values. We are better than that."
"This is what we 'nuns on the bus' are all about: We care for the 100 percent, and that will secure the blessings of liberty for our nation. So join us as we nuns and all of us drive for faith, family and fairness."
— Stephen Guilfoyle, correspondent
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