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


Freedom, Patriotism — and, of course, Health Care

July 4, 2011

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

“… with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.”
~The Declaration of Independence”

Oh how we love our red, white and blue bunting, balloons, T-shirts and lapel pins to show our patriotism.  And there’s nothing like a good fireworks display synchronized to a rousing rendition of Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever” to give rise to a few goose bumps!

But perhaps a more authentic expression of our love for democracy would be that of exercising our freedoms to reclaim the values upon which our nation was founded. Dare we forget our forebears’ declaration that in the sacred act of creation we are granted with certain unalienable rights, including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? And dare we forget that they constituted a government to promote the common good and secure the blessings of liberty?  Indeed, the ideals, the freedoms — and the responsibilities — crafted by those leaders are not to be taken lightly.

In the midst of the pomp and picnics of this holiday, just maybe one of our greatest acts of patriotism should be that of actively participating in the democratic process, and of calling upon our elected leaders to truly work for the common good.

The two cherished freedoms of religion and speech conveniently intersect in our health care work. We celebrate our religious freedoms, including the right to give voice to sacred values that guide how we live as individuals and in community: compassion, concern for those who are vulnerable, health and wholeness, and sanctity of life, to name a few.  Just as important, we celebrate our right to speak out in support of a health system that reflects those values — and to publicly oppose legislative proposals that undermine our collective vision.

Unfortunately, passing the Affordable Care Act did not end our work on health care reform.  The assaults on it continue daily as opponents work to repeal, de-fund, or dismantle it.  In addition, Medicaid and Medicare are under attack to address our federal budget and debt concerns. We know, of course, how important both programs will be in our health care future and that cutting benefits or restructuring either program will compromise the successful implementation of health care reform itself.

The assault on Medicaid and Medicare will reach fever pitch as both houses of Congress convene this week. Faith voices must help build the groundswell of opposition to using either program as the solution to solving our nation’s financial problems.

Send an email to the President, your U.S. Senators, and your U.S. Representative to show your support for Medicaid and Medicare.  Just a few quick clicks will send your message to each of these elected leaders.

Empowered by our commitments to social justice, let’s exercise our freedoms, our rights, and our responsibilities to make our democracy work for the common good.  Let’s raise our voices, inspired by the passion of our earliest leaders when they penned the final words of their declaration:  “… with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.”

May this be your most patriotic July 4th ever!  Take action today!

SEND your email to the President, your U.S. Senators, and your U.S. Representative.

MLK’s “Radical Revolution of Values”

January 17, 2011

by Rev. Linda Hanna Walling
Faithful Reform in Health Care

“…we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a ‘thing-oriented’ society to a ‘person-oriented’ society.”  [Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., April 4, 1967, Riverside Church, New York City]

In a recent gathering with Arkansas faith leaders, I listened as Rev. Wendell Griffen, the pastor of New Millennium Baptist Church in Little Rock, passionately proclaimed that what we need is the “radical revolution of values” of which the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke a year before his death.  Absolutely!  Of all of Dr. King’s eloquent words, these are among the ones most needed now.

It was a very different time in our nation’s history, and Dr. King was speaking in opposition to the war in Viet Nam. But his words – a radical revolution of values – call us to the timeless need to turn to our moral values when deliberating over those things that define how we share life as an American family.  The revolution of values to which Dr. King called us still awaits the transformation of our hearts and minds – and our commitment to working for the common good… to building a sense of community that offers blessings for all… and to acting upon our concern for those who are most vulnerable.

The events of recent days demonstrate how little progress has been made in our ability to live together.  Senseless killings by a man presumed to be mentally ill have caused endless speculations about what led to these horrific acts. Was the killer incited by inflammatory political verbage?  Is security sufficient around public officials? Are our gun laws too lax?  Was this an anti-Semitic act? Is this a statement about inadequate mental health services?  Or was this simply a random act of evil which we don’t quite understand?

All of these potential explanations are woefully inadequate, perhaps because we are asking the wrong questions.  As people of faith, a revolution of values means that we have to challenge priorities that elevate politics over people… or protect the rights of gun owners over needs of victims and perpetrators of gun violence… or demonize rather than celebrate our diversity… or exclude those with mental illness from our system of health care.  If we were to engage in this deeper conversation about values, wouldn’t the teachings of our communities of faith lead to different conclusions about the Arizona shootings and our ability to live together as a national community?

The health care debate, which symbolizes our nation’s discussion on numerous social justice issues, was laden with what many called values-based messaging.  Economic values. Political values. Personal self-interest values. But people of faith labored on with messages about moral values which focused on the common good, compassion, concern for those who are most vulnerable, shared responsibility, and an equitable distribution of our abundant health care resources.  And we were right to do so.

In the midst of this tragedy, above the babble of blame, we are beginning to hear others join the call for a return to the values that bind us to one another.  And in that conversation we are called to commit ourselves to Dr. King’s “radical revolution of values” that will always put the needs of people – our brothers and sisters – above all else.  We do this believing that we can be instruments of healing as our country continues to dialogue about how to make Dr. King’s vision of a beloved community – and our vision of health, wholeness, and human dignity – a reality for all.

Health and peace,

Rev. Linda Hanna Walling

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Take action today in support of health care reform!

In honor of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., take action today to promote our faith-inspired vision for our health care future.  Send an email to your member of Congress — and then invite family, friends, and colleagues to join you!

Send an email now

A Daily Dose of Truth (Introduction)

November 19, 2010

by Rev. Linda Hanna Walling
Faithful Reform in Health Care

Daily DoseIt’s clear.  The attack on health care reform will continue and, in all probability, escalate as the new Congress convenes.  Why?  Because polls show that attacks work — even if they are not completely true or, worse, false. Shame on us!

As people of faith — trusted messengers — it’s our turn!  With fewer financial resources, but with relationships that reach into the depth and breadth of our communities, it is our job to transcend partisan politics and economic self-interests, and to be the truth-tellers in support of a compassionate health care future with a system includes and works well for all of us.

We begin with the declaration that “truth is witness to the whole.”  We know that one short sound-bite taken out of context — even if it’s a fact — does not necessarily represent the whole truth. We denounce the use of such sound-bites (from any party!) when they are intended to pervert truth for electoral gain. In the end, we acknowledge that a manipulation of facts to frighten and confuse vulnerable populations is just plain immoral.

We can change what’s happening, but it means each of us must be willing to share the TRUTH when we hear it.  We can and must make a difference because health care is, first and foremost, a people issue that should not be relegated to the caverns of political ideologies.  In sharing TRUTH, we are not supporting one candidate over another. We are simply making sure that people make their choices based on truth that witnesses to the whole — not on distorted perceptions based on mis-represented facts.

“A Daily Dose of Truth” will be published regularly to help you compare what you are hearing to the real TRUTH in the Affordable Care Act. Please help spread the message to the far reaches of our country — via viral email, Facebook, telephone calls, chats with neighbors, and discussions in your communities of faith.  Help us counter what is touted as true (with a little “t”) with what is actually the TRUTH!

Why is health care reform so difficult?

February 27, 2010

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

Yes, we were the first to talk about it! Well, maybe not THE first, but pretty close in recent history. In our desire to encourage values-based dialogue among people of faith, Faithful Reform in Health Care has offered insights into our century-long struggle over health care for all. Our Seeking Justice in Health Care Guide, workshops, PowerPoints, and adult study materials, have helped thousands of people understand why health care reform is so contentious.  Now, in the wake of the Health Care Summit, the columnists and pundits are answering the same question we addressed long ago: Why is health care reform so difficult?  Our answers are framed as five challenges, hoping that they are not a permanent indictment on our ability to move forward.

Challenge #1 – Moral Vision. The underlying challenge is the absence of a strongly articulated moral vision.  Do we want a health care future that includes everyone and works well for all of us — or not?  Without a clear answer to that question, reform efforts remain locked in conflict over competing views of who we are as a nation and where our responsibilities lie in caring for those who live here.

Over the years, we have accepted a collective moral responsibility for our most vulnerable populations — those with the lowest incomes, our elderly, our veterans, and our Native American and indigenous populations. The crisis facing us now is what to do about the 123 persons who die unnecessarily each day, and the millions more who risk that possibility, for lack of health insurance.

While most members of Congress would likely profess a commitment to health care for all, the lack of a national moral vision becomes evident as proposals are developed. Deliberations are informed by questions that focus on how much money is saved or what industry is protected, rather than on those who are left out as a result of the negotiations. Whether our goal is everybody in (or just some people) impacts how all other questions are answered and how challenges are overcome.

Challenge #2 – Access or Costs. Is our goal to improve access inspite of costs, or to restrain the growth of costs by reducing access and/or quality? Historically and currently, because these goals are often seen as contradictory, legislative efforts usually have polarized around one or the other. And because we don’t start with a commitment to include everyone, we argue over just how many/few more can be covered, and at what cost.  If money were no object, increasing access would be much less troublesome. But resources, though abundant, are finite, which means we have to practice faithful stewardship in using them. The difficulty lies in how to distribute these resources equitably and in how to determine who will bear the burden for controlling the costs.

In spite of the politics that might suggest otherwise, the truth is that successful reform will encompass both goals: improving access and containing costs while maintaining a high quality of care.  Neither goal can be fully achieved by itself; comprehensive reform will be impossible without a commitment to both.  All other industrialized democracies have found ways meet both goals, and so must the United States.

Challenge #3 – Marketplace or Government. The moral dilemma informs differing perspectives around the relative roles of competition and regulation.  Are human needs better served by markets, individual ownership, competition and profits, or by governments and laws that guarantee access and a fair distribution of costs and services?

Extreme ideologies in our country have failed to recognize that modern health care systems actually exist somewhere between unfettered free markets and complete government responsibility. A system that consumes one-seventh of our economy yet fails millions of us would benefit from both increased public accountability to protect the common good and improved private initiatives to encourage quality, innovation, and efficiency in covering 300 million people.  The most reasonable voices for reform understand the need for partnerships among all sectors to make this system work. The attempts by both sides to polarize the debate must be transformed into expectations that lawmakers will find solutions that demonstrate a creative mix of effective government regulation and fair market incentives.

Challenge #4 – Political Partisanship.
The three previous challenges and how legislators respond to them feed the political partisanship that paralyzes our efforts to achieve major reform. In spite of an initial goal to make health care reform bipartisan, the decline in cooperation between the two major political parties has limited their willingness to seek consensus for the common good.  In spite of broad and deep public support for reform, and in spite of numerous bipartisan agreements and compromises in the bills, legislators continue to fall into the usual and comfortable circles of partisanship. Party loyalty helps guarantee upward mobility, leadership and membership on key committees, funding for upcoming electoral bids, and campaign contributions from powerful stakeholders.

Ultimately, it will be dialogue around shared values, rather than debate over competing ideologies, that will lead to the possibility of transforming the public concience and creating the legislative priorities for successful and sustainable reform.

Challenge #5 – Economic Self-interest of Key Players. Almost everyone in the United States would benefit from health care reform. Some groups — low-middle income workers, persons with pre-existing medical conditions, the uninsured, racial and ethnic minorities, people living in under-served areas — stand to gain a lot. But a number of well-financed, tightly organized health care industries and trade associations fear what they could lose.  In spite of concessions to keep them engaged as supporters, in the end, they are now using their influence and affluence to derail reform.

As long as the discussion is dominated by those who fear the loss of their profits, the rest who have so much more to lose will continue to be crushed by the inequities and injustice of U.S. health care. Ultimately, strong public demands for change, coupled with substantial campaign finance reform, will be needed to promote the common good as a benefit to everyone’s self-interest and to prevent special interests from blocking progress.

Living into Our Health Care Future.
Good people with good hearts and moral grounding sit on both sides of the aisle in Congress, seemingly unable to recognize the value in one another’s perspectives. In spite of agreement that health care is a people, not partisan, issue, the ideologies embedded in a two-party system make differences appear to be insurmountable.

Faith communities, however, with members representing the full spectrum of political views, are uniquely positioned to create the opportunities for dialogue and collaboration. In fact, in these moments, it is our calling to help move the debate surrounding health care reform from what is politically prudent or economically feasible to dialogue which embraces compassion and justice and the common good.  It is our task to transform these challenges into opportunities for moving forward by identifying the shared values that bridge the partisan differences.

In doing such work, it is in hopeful expectation that we will touch the hearts and minds of the American people so that together we may envision a health care future that fully embraces health, wholeness, and human dignity.  It is in transforming our collective conscience on the issue of health care that we eventually will make comprehensive, compassionate and sustainable reform a reality.

After the Health Care Summit: A Question about Moral Commitment

February 25, 2010

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

Finally… toward the end of the Summit… the heart of the issue was raised when President Obama noted that we as a society have to decide whether we think everyone should have needed health care — or not!  He continued by saying that if we don’t want to leave people out, then we have to figure out how to pay for it.  It is clear that voices of faith are needed more than ever!

People of faith have been saying throughout this debate that YES, EVERYONE should be included. AND we’ve been saying that we believe we are blessed with the abundant resources, wisdom, and talent to do it.  What we lack are the moral vision, and the political will to act on it.  Yes, it is clear that our voices of faith are needed more than ever!

We are called at all times to make people’s needs and the common good a priority for our life together. That the President even has to ask whether we really want to include everyone in our health care system suggests that we have not yet arrived at agreement on the priority of health care for all.  That ambivalence underlies every other part of the debate. In the absence of that commitment we argue about who should/should not be covered; how generous the benefits should be; who should pay for it, and who should be in charge.  And with every compromise and every amendment, we exclude more and more people. Yes, our voices are needed more than ever!

In these days, one of our important tasks is that of transformation — changing hearts and minds on behalf of the common good.  We can begin that process by recommitting to raising our voices — beginning with praying today and in the days to come for our country and our lawmakers. May our prayers call for renewed commitment to health, wholeness, and human dignity, and reflect a special concern for those who struggle the most.

We may begin this transformation with a commitment to prayer and with words adapted from a prayer offered by the Justice Coordinating Team of Sisters of Mercy of the Americas:  “Loving and gracious God, we remember that your plan for us is fullness of life, lived with love, mercy and justice. Be with us and our whole nation as we work together in reforming healthcare delivery and financing throughout our country. Help us design a system that will be fair for everyone. Let our work be rooted in respect for life and human dignity and in Your special concern for people who are economically poor. Enable each person to take responsibility for the gift of health You give us. Throughout the debate and deliberations, strengthen our gifts of insight, courage and respect for others’ views. Teach us prudence, patience, and gracious determination. Grant us the generosity needed to embrace the changes reform will bring. Amen.” (from Vision and Voice: Faithful Citizens and Health Care)

Visit the Faithful Reform in Health Care website for more prayers along the way.

And then… following your time of prayer… take action!  Let your lawmakers know that YES everyone should have needed health care!

Send a letter to the President and Congress today.

Faith letter delivered to President & Congress

February 25, 2010

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

“A Call for Political Courage, Vision, Leadership, and Faith” — our current sign-on letter — is making its way through the halls of Congress and the White House with signatures from 4000 individuals and hundreds of organizations.

The letter focused on those who would suffer if meaningful reform is not passes, and concluded:  “This is your moment for political courage, vision, leadership, and faith.  We urge you to take heart and move meaningful health care reform forward.”

The release of this letter began Wednesday with a full-page ad in The Hill and hand-delivered print copies to many participants in the Health Care Summit.  All Members of Congress, plus key White House and Health and Human Services staff, have now received the letter via email.

View the letter with all of the signatures;view a copy of the print ad that appeared in The Hill;  view the online ad.

Now it’s your turn! We know for a fact that such letters are more likely to be read by Members of Congress if they come from the people they represent.  Please help ensure that this letter is read by your lawmakers by sending it today.

Send the letter now to the President and your Members of Congress!