Will Catholic Bishops Join Nuns on the Bus?
Not Backing Down
Someone recently described Catholic sisters as having “a spine of steel and a compassionate heart.” I can think of no better description for women who selflessly dedicate their lives to the most vulnerable while confronting injustice.
Embroiled in a tense dispute with the Vatican and U.S. bishops over promoting “radical feminist themes,” the sisters are not backing down. On the contrary, they are launching a nationwide bus tour to assert their Gospel-driven mission by standing up for the poor and speaking out against Rep. Paul Ryan’s reckless budget proposal. Traveling to social service agencies, soup kitchens, and health clinics run by Catholic sisters, the bus tour will highlight nuns’ contributions to the common good and call for a more faithful budget proposal.
The Bishops Agree
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops agrees with the sisters’ message of economic justice. They have repeatedly warned Congress not to slash food stamps, social services block grants, the child tax credit and other vital programs targeted in the House Republican budget. In their guidance to lawmakers, bishops have stated: “The needs of those who are hungry and homeless, without work or in poverty should come first.” Rep. Ryan has dismissed these concerns and continues to insist that a disproportionate share of cuts must come from programs that serve lower-income Americans even as the wealthy are coddled with more tax breaks.
Will the Bishops Get on Board?
Part of the Catholic sisters’ strategy, then, is to encourage the bishops to use their megaphone and the bus tour opportunity to speak out more boldly against the Ryan budget. They plan to invite bishops whose dioceses they pass through to join them at events. But given that the bishops are dedicating enormous resources during that same time towards their “Fortnight for Freedom” campaign to protest the Obama administration’s contraception mandate, that plea may fall on deaf ears. In fact, the bishops’ overheated rhetoric has caused many to ask whether that campaign is just a thinly veiled partisan effort in an election year. It’s even causing some backlash among Catholics in the pews.
As the political courtship of Catholic voters heats up in this contentious election year, Catholic sisters are remaining true to their mission and elevating our values debate. I’m grateful for their courage and persistence.