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What Wasn't Said

One of the most well-received speeches at last weeks Democratic National Convention was the one given by Sister Simone Campbell, Executive Director of NETWORK, a Catholic social justice lobby founded and supported by American women religious. Campbell was one of the principal organizers of the Nuns on the Bus tour that tried to raise awareness about poverty and the failings of the federal budget proposed by Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI).There was much in the speech with which I heartily agree, such as its criticisms of the Ryan Budget and its defense of the Affordable Care Act. Indeed, I had a hard time finding anything in the speech with which I disagreed. It was what wasn't said that bothered me.

At a convention where the Democratic Party's full-throated support of abortion rights was emphasized by speaker after speaker, Sr. Simones speech did not mention abortion at all. There was one tangential reference toward the end, where Sr. Simone stated that extending health insurance to the uninsured was part of my pro-life stance. The line provoked a roar of applause, no doubt because it allowed the overwhelmingly pro-choice crowd to rest secure in the (false) conviction that most pro-life advocates care nothing for the poor.

When the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith released its doctrinal assessment of the Leadership Conference on Women Religious earlier this year, it noted that while there has been a great deal of work on the part of LCWR promoting issues of social justice in harmony with the Church's social doctrine, it is silent on the right to life from conception to natural death This comment provoked a great deal of criticism and numerous counter-examples were offered by the LCWRs defenders.Unfortunately, I think that Sr. Simones speech is an example of the problem the CDF was trying to highlight. While I have no doubt that her personal motivations for speaking were noble ones, there is no question that the leaders of the Democratic Party put her on that podium for a very specific reason. She was there to symbolize the support of the Church (or at least part of it) for the partys agenda. I do not think Sr. Simone sought such a role, but once it was thrust upon her, it came with a responsibility to present the social teaching of the Church in its fullness.American women religious have a noble and long-standing tradition of speaking truth to power. With respect to the unborn, however, are not the leaders of the Democratic Party an example of a power that needs to hear truth?Would it have been so difficult to invoke the late Cardinal Bernadins concept of a seamless garment? To recall, in the spirit of Hubert Humphrey, that the moral test of government is how it treats those in the dawn of life, the twilight of life, and the shadows of life? To highlight the political heroism of Congressman Bart Stupak (D-MI), who stood boldly for both health care reform and the right to life and lost his congressional seat as a result?I do not wish to hold Sr. Simone uniquely accountable for a problem that exists across the Churchs ideological spectrum. For years, politically conservative Catholicsand more than a few bishopshave presented a truncated version of Catholic social teaching that appears to suggest that the only morally acceptable option for Catholics is to pull the lever for the Republican Party.The solution, though, is not to become a mirror image of the other side. It is for Catholics to develop a truly independent voice that can hold both parties accountable, supporting them when they defend the common good and the dignity of the human person and challenging them when they do not. Its clear we have a long way to go.

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"This is the perfect example of 'talking at' people."Not to belabor the point butI take Mr. Nixon's point to be that Sister was uniquely positioned, based on her pedigree and natural demeanor, to have the audience feel that she was talking to them, not at them. She didn't take the opportunity to move the Democratic party in a pro-life direction. That's a shame.

Thanks for your response, Bruce. Now I see better what you wanted. And Mark, thanks too for your comments about her pedigree and natural demeanor, which do project a non-hostile image.

We are in serious danger of becoming irrelevant if all we have to say is we are opposed to abortion. We must address the causes that lead people to consider abortion, the huge lack of support for families, for pregnant and nursing women, for women's medical needs and those of their children. To measure ourselves on this single issue as republican or democrat would make even Jesus weep.

For the most part, the "pro-life" movement is an anti-abortion movement. Despite Peter saying it's false that "most" pro-life Catholics are anti-poor the fact is that many anti-abortion Republicans are as evidenced by their allergy to social welfare programs and their self-serving proclamations that such programs just "encourage dependency." Dependency encouraged before birth, discouraged for Moms trying to feed their kids. Kudos to Sr. Simone, truly a pro-lifer.

Sister was uniquely positioned . . . Mark Proska,Kind of like Pope Pius XII?

SR.SIMONE DID A GREAT JOB ON RYAN'S BUDGET. SHE ONLY HAD 7 MINUTES TO TALK.YOU EXPECT HER TO COVER THE WHOLE CATHOLIC MANTRA? NOT FAIR. GIVE SISTER CREDIT,SHE DOES NOT LET THE ULTRA-CONSERVATIVE VATICAN PLAN OUT HER CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT OF FREE SPEACH. AMERICA WOULD BE BETTER OFF LISTENING TO THE SISTER. AT LEAST SHE IS NOT SELLING HERSELF TO THE HIGHEST BIDDER. GOOD JOB SISTER,GOOD JOB. LONG LIVE NUNS ON THE BUS TOUR. CATHOLICS SHOULD SPEND MORE TIME LISTENING TO SISTER.

David Nickol--I do not think it is fair to Sister Campbell to hold her to the standard set by Blessed Pius XII.

"For the most part, the pro-life movement is an anti-abortion movement."That is a very good observation. It is definitely true that among people not involved in the pro-life movement that is the perception. Notwithstanding that ignorance however, we have five notches under our belt over the past five years in repealing state death penalties, the latest being this April to which the bishops, Conference and Mobilizing Network deserve great credit.

Moms trying to feed their kidsI find it very disheartening that somehow the pro-life community is perceived as only having 'allergy to social welfare programs'. Frankly, I do have an allergy to social welfare programs as a way for Mom's to feed their kids. But that allergy is because these 'social welfare programs' seem designed to create an Ayn Randian mom at the expense and replacement of the father. I want society to hold both the father and mother responsible for the upbringing of their children. Stay together and raise your progeny - that should be our fundamental message.

The fact that Dem are so staunchly pro-choice makes voting easier for me allows me to vote the party rather than the man (or woman) straight Republican since 1980!

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