Vatican Tells Nuns “Enough is Enough”
NETWORK, a DC Catholic lobbying organization, has been little known outside the Beltway since its founding by Catholic sisters in 1971. Within the Beltway and in the media, NETWORK is known as a Catholic organization whose representatives often visit members of Congress but never to advocate on behalf of the unborn or the true meaning of marriage.
When President Clinton presented the Presidential Citizen’s Medal in 2001 to one of NETWORK’s founders, he praised the “national Catholic lobby that has mobilized thousands of nuns and lay people to fight for social progress in South Africa, for women’s rights and for economic justice.”
Yet, it was during the debate over Obamacare when NETWORK attracted national attention. As NETWORK describes proudly on its web site: “….during the 2010 health care reform struggle, NETWORK Executive Director Simone Campbell, SSS, wrote the “nuns’ letter” supporting the bill and got 59 signers on the letter, including LCWR. She was thanked by President Obama and invited to the ceremony celebrating its being signed into law.”
That the Leadership Conference of Women’s Religious (LCWR) had signed on to a letter supporting health care legislation with federal funding for abortion — and opposed the position of the U.S. bishops — was stunning news and provided the Obama administration Catholic cover in its attempt to overcome the resistance from Catholic Democrats in the House who were opposing the legislation. Then Speaker Nancy Pelosi was handed a powerful tool to strong-arm recalcitrant Catholic Democrats who were not towing the line. In the end, all but one — Rep. Dan Lipinski of Illinois — voted for the bill.
The bishops were furious, and Cardinal George of Chicago, then USCCB president, tried to set the record straight by issuing a statement that groups like NETWORK, LCWR, and the Catholic Health Association did not speak officially for the Catholic Church. But it was too late, the media battle had been waged and won.
Many Catholics have wondered whether or not NETWORK, LCWR, and Sr. Carol Keehan, head of the Catholic Health Association, would ever be held accountable for their scandalous support of health care legislation containing federal funding for abortion. Yesterday’s announcement from the Vatican provided an answer regarding NETWORK and LCWR, but Sr. Carol Keehan and her trade association of Catholic hospitals were not mentioned.
The Vatican’s Congregation for the Faith issued an eight-page “doctrinal assessment” leading to the conclusion that “the current doctrinal and pastoral situation of LCWR is grave and a matter of serious concern, also given the influence the LCWR exercises on religious congregation in other parts of the world.” An investigation of LCWR, including its ties to NETWORK, described as its “social justice lobby,” and the Resource Center for Religious Institutes will be headed by Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle, WA, assisted by Bishop Leonard P. Blair of Toledo, OH, and Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki of Springfield, IL.
The Vatican’s statement specifically mentioned LCWR’s silence on the right to life issue and its explicit opposition to the U.S. bishops in some of its public statements. The Congregation observed that on “issues of crucial importance in the life of the Church and society, such as the Church’s biblical view of family life and human sexuality, are not part of the LCWR agenda in a way that promotes Church teaching.”
The ongoing investigation will make it very difficult for NETWORK to play much of a role in the 2012 election cycle. The Congregation’s announcement also serves as a shot over the bow to any Catholic leader, like Sister Carol Keehan, or any organization that explicitly contradicts the position of the U.S. bishops on a settled issue like abortion and marriage. Prudential matters give Catholics significant leeway when it comes to differences of opinion, but when it comes to an intrinsic evil like abortion it was only a matter of time before the Vatican intervened.
By Deal W. Hudson, Chairman of Catholic Advocate