Earlier today, the Democrats amended their platform to include the word “God” after some contrived controversy on the right about the previously adopted “secular platform.” The platform actually devotes an entire section to the importance of faith and religion in US society:
Faith has always been a central part of the American story, and it has been a driving force of progress and justice throughout our history. We know that our nation, our communities, and our lives are made vastly stronger and richer by faith and the countless acts of justice and mercy it inspires.
Tonight, Sr. Simone Campbell offered her story of living out her faith to the DNC, highlighting her “Nuns on the Bus” tour earlier this summer, where a group of Catholic sisters traveled through nine states and the nation’s capital criticizing the Paul Ryan budget that, they said, would gut the social service safety-net, harm the poor, and give huge tax breaks to the wealthy. (Watch it here.)
Campbell, a Sister of Social Services and the head of NETWORK, an advocacy and lobbying group, tried to neutralize the hyper-individualism of the RNC, stating clearly and boldly, “I am my sister’s keeper. I am my brother’s keeper.” Standing in front of a crowd that has celebrated it’s pro-choice policies, Campbell declared that it was her pro-life position that compelled her to support the Affordable Care Act, or Obama-care, to “care for the 100%.”
Syndicated columnist Mark Shields said on PBS that “in any popularity contest in the Catholic Church, the nuns will beat the bishops 5 to 1 any day of the week.” He’s probably right. But not because the nuns are better people, or more Christian, than bishops. It’s just that the sisters are out there, using their hands to feed the hungry, care for the sick, and speak up for the poor. These are the issues that resonate with Catholics, and, judging by the amount of applause tonight, with Democrats.
My gut reaction is one of satisfaction; the fiery nun’s appearance offers a lifeline to Catholics like me who feel that we live in the edge of the church. My heart swelled watching Democrats leap to their feet to cheer on a Catholic nun espousing the basics of Catholic social teaching.
But last week, I wondered if Cardinal Dolan’s appearance at the RNC, and now the DNC, would help or hurt the church’s ability to be a prophetic voice in society (watch my interview on Fox News here). Campbell offered a strong and inspiring voice for the poor and marginalized voiceless tonight. But like Dolan, Campbell’s appearance was in a hyper-partisan convention hall that may further divide the church.
The church, and its leaders, must be prophetic. To do so, it may have to become less political.