By David Waters
Hard to say which men will find this more troubling, U.S. Catholic bishops or Glenn Beck, but a “social justice” coalition representing 59,000 U.S. Catholic sisters sent a letter to Members of Congress Wednesday urging them to pass the Senate’s health care bill.
The letter was a direct challenge to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which supports health-care reform but opposes the Senate’s version. As three bishops wrote for On Faith this week, the Senate bill “extends abortion coverage, allows federal funds to pay for elective abortions and denies adequate conscience protection to individuals and institutions.”
Poppycock, say the sisters. “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.”
Can 59,000 Catholic sisters be wrong?
Surely they couldn’t be more courageous. At a time when American sisters are under investigation by the Vatican, a direct challenge of the public position of the bishops is likely to raise a few eyebrows in the Church hierarchy. (Priests for Life is already responding.)
But while the letter might confound Catholic bishops, it’s likely to make Beck apoplectic. Earlier this month, the Fox News/Views celebrity implored Christians to “look for the words ‘social justice’ or ‘economic justice’ on your church Web site. If you find it, run as fast as you can. Social justice and economic justice, they are code words (for socialism.) Now, am I advising people to leave their church? Yes!”
Catholics and other Christians who believe Jesus taught individual as well as social salvation assume Beck left the church long ago. But while Beck is busy promoting himself and getting rich, America’s Catholic sisters continue to live with and serve America’s poor.
(Read more about Catholic moral thought and action at Patheos.com)
As Father Thomas J. Reese reminded us a few weeks ago, America’s Catholic sisters “went to the frontier bringing education and health care. They provided medical services to both sides during the Civil War (and) began the first health insurance plan in the nation.”
When it comes to matters of health care, do any religious figures in America have more credibility than Catholic sisters?
Update: Sister Mary Ann Walsh of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops send this note to media outlets today:
“A recent letter from Network, a social justice lobby of sisters, grossly overstated whom they represent in a letter to Congress that was also released to media. Network’s letter, about health care reform, was signed by a few dozen people, and despite what Network said, they do not come anywhere near representing 59,000 American sisters. The letter had 55 signatories, some individuals, some groups of three to five persons. One endorser signed twice. There are 793 religious communities in the United States. The math is clear. Network is far off the mark.”