Friday, March 19, 2010

The health care debate: The Catholic nuns vs. the Catholic bishops

As you know, the health care debate is reaching climactic votes this weekend in the Congress. As you may also know, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is opposing health care reform unless the bill contains strong anti-abortion provision. The bishops are close to abandoning their long-sought goal of providing universal health care especially for the poorest among us.

However, the bishops are not the only voice of Roman Catholicism. Enter the nuns.

Many years ago, I got to know a courageous nun, Sister Simone Campbell (photo at right), introduced to me through mutual friends. I got to know her when she was the executive director for Jericho in Sacramento, a religiously-based public interest lobbying organization that works on health care issues.

When she got to Sacramento, Sister Simone looked me up and picked my brain about how to work in the Legislature and who-is-who. I happily gave her a crash course.

A few years ago, Sister Simone moved to Washington D.C. where she is now the executive director of Network (read about her and her organization by clicking HERE).

For months, Sister Simone and other nuns have been in the thick of the health care debate. My friend E.J. Dionne wrote about her and the force of the nuns on Thursday in The Washington Post. You can read his column by clicking HERE.

The conflict between the Catholic nuns and the Catholic bishops on this issue is part of a larger conflict that is just beneath the surface. The National Catholic Reporter wrote recently about how the male hierarchy is attempting to muzzle the nuns. The lead: "Bishops have stones in their hands aimed at women religious..." You can read the full story by clicking HERE.

And it should go without saying but I will say it anyway: thanks be to God we have ordained women in the Episcopal Church with full voice and vote in our governance. If you ever had any doubt about what a difference that makes, ask a nun.

No comments: