Prayers for Our Sisters in Faith

April 25, 2012

~ by Rev. Linda Hanna Walling, Faithful Reform in Health Care

Recent news reports have called to our attention the Vatican’s reprimand of Catholic Women Religious in the United States.  Those of us who have worked closely with the nuns on a variety of issues of social justice are heartbroken by this action.   For those of us who have worked with them on health care reform, we are particularly grieved that the nuns’ faithfulness is being questioned.

After all, it was women religious who as nurses were among those who started the first hospitals in the United States.  The oldest free clinic still in operation in the U.S. is administered by an order of nuns.  Sisters are regularly found in volunteer settings where under-served persons receive a gift of medical care and a touch of compassion.  Because these women have been first-hand observers of the injustice of U.S. health care, they were logically at the forefront in working for system reform.  All of us know that their support was integral to getting the Affordable Care Act passed.

Unfortunately, the national health care debate coincided with a Vatican-ordered investigation into the life and practices of religious orders in the U.S.  The final report released last week cited the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR); NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby; and the head of the Catholic Health Association, presumably for their support of the Affordable Care Act, in conflict with the position of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

Sister Simone Campbell, Executive Director of NETWORK, said in a phone interview with the Christian Science Monitor that “I can only infer that there was strong feeling about the health care position that we had taken.  Our position on health care was application of the one faith to a political document that we read differently than the bishops.”  In a BBC News interview she said, “There’s a strong connection. We didn’t split on faith, we split on politics.”

When I asked Sister Simone what we could do to affirm their leadership and show our support in these difficult days, she responded:  “The Spirit has led us this far and won’t leave us orphans. We count on your prayer and acting in love.”  So now I invite you to join me in doing just that.

  • Offer prayer or reflection.  Later this afternoon, Washington DC-area nuns and their colleagues will gather for a time of prayer and dialogue.  Wherever we are, whatever our religious background, all across the country, may we give thanks for the ministries of the nuns and pray for peace for them in these days.
  • Offer words of support on this blog post.
  • Offer words of support via the Faithful Reform Facebook page.
  • Offer words of support to the nuns in your own networks and coalitions.

In addition, Catholics United has launched two social media options:

It is my prayer that even as all of us have been blessed by the women religious in our midst, our efforts will be a blessing to them in these difficult times.

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More detailed information may be found in the web links below.

NETWORK Press Release: NETWORK Responds to Vatican Report

Leadership Conference of Women Religious Statement: LCWR Statement from Presidency on CDF Doctrinal Assessment

Huffington Post: Sister Simone Campbell Fires Back At Vatican Criticism

BBC News (including a video): Leader of ‘radical’ US nuns rejects Vatican criticism

Christian Science Monitor: Vatican nun crackdown hits US group for ‘radical feminist’ ideas

The NY Times: Vatican Reprimands a Group of U.S. Nuns and Plans Changes

The NY Times Editorial:  American Nuns, Conscience and the Vatican

The Washington Post: American nuns stunned by Vatican accusation of ‘radical feminism,’ crackdown

The Nation Magazine: The Vatican’s Latest Target in the War on Women:  Nuns