The National Catholic Review

From the Associated Press:

Catholic nuns are urging Congress to pass President Barack Obama's health care plan, in an unusual public break with bishops who say it would subsidize abortion. Some 60 leaders of religious orders representing 59,000 Catholic nuns Wednesday sent lawmakers a letter urging them to pass the Senate health care bill. It contains restrictions on abortion funding that the bishops say don't go far enough.

The letter says that "despite false claims to the contrary, the Senate bill will not provide taxpayer funding for elective abortions." The letter says the legislation also will help support pregnant women and "this is the real pro-life stance."
 
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the National Right to Life Committee have denounced the bill as a backdoor subsidy for abortion. But the nuns and the Catholic Health Association — representing some 600 hospitals — say restrictions in the Senate bill would still prevent taxpayer funding for abortion, although the legal mechanism for doing so is different from what the bishops prefer.

"This is politics; this isn't a question of faith and morals," said Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of Network, a national Catholic social activism lobby. "We are the ones who work every day with people who are suffering because they don't have health care. We cannot turn our backs on them, so for us, health care reform is a faith-based response to human need."

The test of the letter, on the website of Network, is below:

Dear Members of Congress:

We write to urge you to cast a life-affirming “yes” vote when the Senate health care bill (H.R. 3590) comes to the floor of the House for a vote as early as this week. We join the Catholic Health Association of the United States (CHA), which represents 1,200 Catholic sponsors, systems, facilities and related organizations, in saying: the time is now for health reform AND the Senate bill is a good way forward.

As the heads of major Catholic women’s religious order in the United States, we represent 59,000 Catholic Sisters in the United States who respond to needs of people in many ways. Among our other ministries we are responsible for running many of our nation’s hospital systems as well as free clinics throughout the country.

We have witnessed firsthand the impact of our national health care crisis, particularly its impact on women, children and people who are poor. We see the toll on families who have delayed seeking care due to a lack of health insurance coverage or lack of funds with which to pay high deductibles and co-pays. We have counseled and prayed with men, women and children who have been denied health care coverage by insurance companies. We have witnessed early and avoidable deaths because of delayed medical treatment.

The health care bill that has been passed by the Senate and that will be voted on by the House will expand coverage to over 30 million uninsured Americans. While it is an imperfect measure, it is a crucial next step in realizing health care for all. It will invest in preventative care. It will bar insurers from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions. It will make crucial investments in community health centers that largely serve poor women and children. And despite false claims to the contrary, the Senate bill will not provide taxpayer funding for elective abortions. It will uphold longstanding conscience protections and it will make historic new investments – $250 million – in support of pregnant women. This is the REAL pro-life stance, and we as Catholics are all for it.

Congress must act. We are asking every member of our community to contact their congressional representatives this week. In this Lenten time, we have launched nationwide prayer vigils for health care reform. We are praying for those who currently lack health care. We are praying for the nearly 45,000 who will lose their lives this year if Congress fails to act. We are also praying for you and your fellow Members of Congress as you complete your work in the coming days. For us, this health care reform is a faith mandate for life and dignity of all of our people.

We urge you to vote “yes” for life by voting yes for health care reform in H.R. 3590.

James Martin, SJ

 

Comments

Tom Maher | 3/19/2010 - 11:07am
To further document the damage done by the nuns, read The Washington Post article by E.J. Dionne, Jr. of March 18, 2010 titled, ''On Health Care, Listen to the Nuns''.

Dionne article sums up the problem nicely in his praise of the nun's actions: ''Fortunately, major Catholic leaders - most of them women in religious orders - have picked up flag of social justice discarded by a bishops' conference under increasing right-wing influence.''

The nuns are precived in this article as ''major Catholic leaders''. The nuns' ''social justice'' morality and dismissiveness of the hazard of funding abortion is superior to the Bishops' judgement.

Dionne's article documents a church divided by "social justice" politics.
Kay Satterfield | 3/18/2010 - 3:12pm
From the beginning the church began as a community of struggle, disagreements and even crisis.  Peter and Paul didn't see eye to eye.  Strong leaders with strong opinions.
The nuns are presenting a different voice than the bishops.  Their obvious motivation is to be a voice for the poor women, men and children who are most affected by the lack of health care.  Maybe the bishops are hoping that by maintaining a hard stand they will get abortion taken out of the bill. The nuns must feel a strong calling of conscious to take an opposite stand for the bill.  Like any relationship where there is struggle and disagreement we don't get anywhere if there is a lack of respect.  I think the nun's statement should be heard with respect.  They should have the freedom to present a different view.  For the church to become more balanced it needs to start taking these women's views seriously. Maybe if the nuns called to leadership were allowed to participate in church positions and decisions, letters like this one would not need to be written.  These nuns have given their life in service of the church too.  
Pearce Shea | 3/18/2010 - 12:50pm
Jeremy, give me a break. The Bishops, love them or hate them, have vocally, actively and laboriously gone over their arguments for and against the healthcare bills as they are currently extant. These sisters have done very little in that respect. And come on, even if you agree with the basic premise that this legislation ought to be passed, who could really call themselves an adult and stand behind such an immature letter (I mean, "REAL"??? in all caps??? cute dig)? Frankly, I agree with a lot of the premises of the letter, but I would rather not have these sisters make the job of everyone lobbying for reform that much harder by making us look so ridiculous.
James Lington | 3/18/2010 - 11:38am
Why can't it be the bishops' actions, Tom, that are "very destructive to the life and unity of the church"? Moral authority comes with wisdom and experience. It's not automatically granted at an installation liturgy. This is one situation where our dear bishops need to pipe down and listen to those who really and truly understand what's going on.
Tom Maher | 3/18/2010 - 10:59am
Let's not kid ourselves, the nuns actions are very destructive to the life and unity of the church. The nuns very unwisely openly challenge the moral authority and leadership of the Bishops and contradict their message on health care reform. The nuns know better. How tenable is it to have two contradictory voices speaking on behalf of the Catholic church and Catholics? How much confusion within and without of the church will two contradictory voices cause? How many minutes can this unsustainable power play last?

Who is in charge here? Who speaks for the Catholic church? The self-appointed nuns or the Bishops? The church has been fighting abortion for 38 years. Why should we now walk away when we have the ability to prevent the federal funding of abortions?

The nuns statements are wrong. The senate bill does indead allow abortions. If the senate bill becomes law, abortions will be expanded as never before. This is not health care.

The nuns would have us make a deal with the devil. Their judgement of health care now no matter what is rash and ill advised. The nuns have done the church harm.
Marc Monmouth | 3/18/2010 - 6:49am
Gail, good people don't always do good things!
Gail Grazie | 3/17/2010 - 11:09pm
The Sisters' letter is filled with love, compassion and wisdom - I have no doubt the Sisters were inspired to act by the Holy Spirit. May God continue to be with them  - I join them in their prayers for health care reform and for the alleviation of the suffering caused by our broken and unfair system.   I also wpuld like to add that I have read several of Sister Joan's books and have heard her speak in person. She is a good and wise person who has dedicated her life to doing God's work. Snide and snarky ad hominem attacks on her are inappropriate.
 
 
Anonymous | 3/17/2010 - 10:21pm
Well I said no bishops are standing up for the health care bill ...wrong ., it does now 'seem' that bishop Lynch of St Petersberg Fl is having second thoughts. maybe more bishops will stand up too.. they have about 2 days to speak up or Lynch will be left twisting all by himself. My guess is at least some will second Lynch's remarks.
Anonymous | 3/17/2010 - 6:45pm
Hmmm. Signed, in part, by -- Marlene Weisenbeck, FSPA LCWR President Leadership Conference of Women Religious Joan Chittister, OSB Co-Chair Global Peace Initiative of Women Erie, PA Are we surprised? I did not see any Carmelites or Poor Clares on this list. I wonder why...
Vince Killoran | 3/18/2010 - 12:26pm
"Who speaks for the Catholic church?": I don't think they were claiming to do this exactly, but why do you assume that it is the USCCB when it comes to matters of pending legislation in the U.S. Congress? Are your views as an American citizen formed solely on what the USCCB says?
 
A  "deal with the devil"?  "Rash and ill advised"? I don't see evidence of this, but please share it if you know of any.
Michael Bindner | 3/17/2010 - 4:30pm
Good for the Sisters, who by the way, don't work for the Bishops. This proves why they should not have to, since they are correct that the USCCB view on this has been sacrificed for Republican coalition politics. Until they can get Doug Johnson to say that a vote for the Senate Bill with Stupak is a must-pass, one has to conclude that they are carrying water for the GOP. I hope Catholic Charities, USA shows some backbone and follows their lead (although I do not expect it, since the CC directors work for their individual bishops).
David Nickol | 3/17/2010 - 3:41pm
I wonder who is more likely to come in contact with a poor or uninsured person on a daily basis - the average bishop or the average nun. 
Vince Killoran | 3/17/2010 - 2:27pm
Good for them!  It is appropriate for them to make their opinion known.  Enough of this USCCB nonsense-they are too clever by half.
Anonymous | 3/17/2010 - 2:02pm
What I find most interesting and revealing is that when conservative bishops have recently said 'USCCB papers/documents have no standing in my diocese' not one of the 300 dioceasn bishops has stood up and said 'I think that prudentially it is  OK to support this health care reform'. Only conservative bishops  can critique other bishops?
Do the bishops have a hidden talking points website? 
Marc Monmouth | 3/17/2010 - 2:01pm
And one wonders why it is necessary to have a visitation of these religious orders???
neel kets | 4/9/2012 - 6:04am
The empower of the Women or the good health of the women always show the point of healthy family. because most of the time the healthy women is the symbol of healthy child which will helps to improve the social health and also accelerate progress toward improved survival, health and the well-being of women and children.
Women Health