Let me tell you, I went through 14 years of Catholic school. The nuns were never my role models or heroes. In fact, they were a thorn in my side in my younger years. But the Nuns on the Bus? They’re my heroes. Times have changed. The nuns have changed. And this generation of nuns has made me completely forget the unpleasantness of my Catholic learning experience. It’s pretty clear that the Vatican is out of touch with reality, but the nuns? They get it. Totally.
The Vatican remains wrapped up in pointless dogma. What the Vatican cares about is the literal interpretation of a document written for a world long gone, and the absurd notion of Papal infallibility. However, it is the nuns, not the Vatican, who embody what the Catholic church should be all about. The Vatican wants the nuns to spend less time on social issues — like helping those in need (read: the poor, the homeless, and women) and to spend more time talking trash about same-sex marriage, abortion and contraception. The nuns, however, view their roles very differently. They understand the value of openly discussing issues facing Americans and believe that it is their role to protect the interests of the poor.
The Vatican’s nun bashing escapade began in the spring when they came out in support of the Obama administration’s health care initiative in spite of the bishops’ objection because it would provide government funding of abortion. The nuns disagreed with the bishops’ interpretation of the law and continued to support the plan. That’s when the Vatican decided that strong action was required. In April, the Vatican announced the overhaul of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, and appointed an American archbishop to oversee the reform. According to the Vatican, the nuns were undermining the Church’s teaching on the priesthood and homosexuality while promoting “certain radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith.” If only the Vatican had responded so quickly and decisively to its cadre of pedophile priests, thousands of victims could have been spared the pain of sexual abuse. However, to the Catholic hierarchy, uppity women who can actually think and do not view themselves as breeding chambers for domineering husbands is much more distasteful that pedophilia. Yet, if the Vatican overlords expected the nuns and their leadership to roll over and capitulate to its demands, they were sadly mistaken.
Sister Pat Farrell, president of LCWR and a member of the Sisters of St. Francis in Dubuque, Iowa had this to say about the Vatican’s position:
“The insinuation that I think many people could draw from reading that Vatican document is that if we raise those questions, we’re unfaithful to the church,” Farrell said. “That’s not true. And I don’t think that’s really fair. I think, in fact, that that is a sign of our deepest faithfulness to the church — questions that the people of God need to raise, that we need to talk about together in a climate of genuine dialogue.”
Indeed, not only do the nuns support Obama’s health care agenda but they’ve also got Rep. Paul Ryan’s Draconian budget in their sights. To this end, the nuns have embarked on their Nuns on the Bus tour, traveling from the Midwest to Washington, D.C. to spotlight the plight of the poor and to protest the Paul Ryan budget, which actually gives the Pentagon more money than it asked for while slashing Medicaid and food programs to help the poor. The tour is organized and led by Sister Simone Campbell, who has been the executive director of NETWORK — an organization that protects the interests of the poor — since 2004. The savvy sisters decided to ride the wave of media attention brought about by the Vatican’s rebuke to draw attention to their cause. And what attention they’ve gotten! Rush Limbaugh, whose mouth continues to spew garbage unabated in spite of his defamatory attack on Sandra Fluke, called the nuns “feminazis.” (Not a good idea, Rush.)
Along the way, the nuns have stopped at the offices of Speaker John Boehner, Rep. Joe Walsh, and Rep. Paul Ryan to voice their concern over the budget passed by the GOP. Under the plan, the Congressional Budget Office expects 22 million households with children to lose food aid, 300,000 children would be cut from school lunch programs, and 300,000 would lose health coverage. In the meantime, the wealthiest Americans are not being asked to contribute one penny more to reduce the deficit.
Americans should look up to the Nuns on the Bus. They are clearly willing to take the Vatican’s heat to help those in need. That’s a damn sight more than you’re going to get from our self-serving politicians who erroneously view themselves as “public servants.”