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At Democratic convention, ‘Nuns on the Bus’ sister rips Ryan budget, says USCCB backs her views

September 06, 2012

Hours after telling a reporter that she does not know whether abortion should be illegal, the executive director of the social justice lobby Network addressed the Democratic National Convention and blasted the budget proposed by vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan.

“Paul Ryan claims his budget reflects the principles of our shared Catholic faith,” Sister Simone Campbell told the delegates. “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.”

“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,” she added. “Their work to alleviate suffering would be seriously harmed by the Romney-Ryan budget, and that is wrong.”

Sister Campbell, who revealed in a June talk that she is uncomfortable calling herself pro-life, also said that her support of President Barack Obama’s healthcare program is part of her “pro-life stance.”

“We all share responsibility to ensure that this vital health care reform law is properly implemented and that all governors expand Medicaid coverage,” she said. “This is part of my pro-life stance and the right thing to do.”

Sister Campbell attracted national media attention early this summer when she organized a “Nuns on the Bus” tour to protest the Ryan budget plan. She and the Network lobby have been prominent in their support of liberal social programs, including the Obama administration's health-care reform. In June, a Charlotte newspaper reported that in an appearance there Sister Campbell had "scorned the US bishops for their continued opposition to the health insurance law."

In April, a Vatican critique of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious cited the group's ties with Network as a source of concern, noting the failure of the group to take a public stand in defense of human life.

Sister Campbell’s statement about the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ criticism of the Ryan budget is a reference to a May letter by Bishop Stephen Blaire of Stockton, the chairman of the bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.

“The Catholic bishops of the United States recognize the serious deficits our country faces, and we acknowledge that Congress must make difficult decisions about how to allocate burdens and sacrifices and balance resources and needs,” Bishop Blaire said in his letter to all members of the House of Representatives. “However, deficit reduction and fiscal responsibility efforts must protect and not undermine the needs of poor and vulnerable people. The proposed cuts to programs in the budget reconciliation fail this basic moral test.”

During the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ June meeting, Bishop Earl Boyea of Lansing criticized the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development for its opposition to the budget plan put forward by Ryan.

“There have been some concerns raised by lay Catholics, especially some Catholic economists, about what was perceived as a partisan action against Congressman Ryan and the budget he had proposed,” Bishop Boyea said. “We need to be articulate only in principles, and let the laity make these applications … It was perceived as partisan, and thus didn’t really further dialogue in our deeply divided country.”

“I’m not sure that we have the humility yet not to stray into areas where we lack competence, and where we need to let the laity take the lead,” he added. “We need to learn far more than we need to teach in this area. We need to listen more than we need to speak. We already have an excellent, fine Compendium [on the Social Doctrine of the Church].”

Echoing Bishop Boyea’s comments, Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City said at the June bishops’ meeting that the committee is “at times perceived as partisan” and needs to consider the principle of subsidiarity, which has been “neglected in past documents.”

In August, Ryan’s own bishop came to his defense.

Making clear that he was endorsing no candidate, Bishop Robert Morlino of Madison praised Ryan as a Catholic who “is very careful to fashion and form his conclusions in accord with the principles” of Catholic social doctrine.

“It is not for the bishop or priests to endorse particular candidates or political parties,” he said before distinguishing between intrinsic evils and policy decisions on which Catholics of good will may legitimately disagree.

“Making decisions as to the best political strategies, the best policy means, to achieve a goal, is the mission of lay people, not bishops or priests,” Bishop Morlino added. “Thus, it is not up to me or any bishop or priest to approve of Congressman Ryan’s specific budget prescription to address the best means we spoke of … Vice Presidential Candidate Ryan is aware of Catholic Social Teaching and is very careful to fashion and form his conclusions in accord with the principles mentioned above.”


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Show 3 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: - Sep. 07, 2012 12:44 AM ET USA

    It is good pointing out Sr. Campbell's misguided accusations at the democratic convention against Paul Ryan, but just how big of a group does Sr. Campbell represent? If this is only a small splinter group then let's indicate this fact and be done with it. Why provide free publicity to the group so they can further spread their false message?

  • Posted by: williiam ronner - Sep. 06, 2012 8:59 PM ET USA

    As though Campbell really cares what the bishops think.

  • Posted by: sparch - Sep. 06, 2012 1:23 PM ET USA

    Sr. Campbell is throwing many under the bus to further her social justice political agenda. It will be only a matter of time before she lays where the rubber meets the road, another victim of the Obama political machine. When will these opportunists ever learn.