Southern Religion

Women Religious stand tall for life and the enactment of health reform

Some 60 leaders of women religious, representing 59,000 Catholic Sisters, have broken with the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops to support passage of the Senate health reform bill.

It is a brave act of conscience. They have already called down the Vatican fire of an Apostolic Visitation (investigation), apparently through their efforts to adapt their ministry to modern life. Or other cause. In any event, this departure may be seen as additional provocation, and is not likely to be smiled upon by an increasingly embattled pope. With an average age over 60, however, most of the nuns have endured the bishop-mishandled sex abuse scandal from its inception. Under the circumstances, a failure to respond to bishops with reflexive obedience should be not only forgiven but also applauded.

In a letter, the nuns urged all members of Congress to vote “yes” for the Senate health reform legislation. The heart of the letter is:

We have witnessed firsthand the impact of our national health care crisis, particularly its impact on women, children and people who are poor. We see the toll on families who have delayed seeking care due to a lack of health insurance coverage or lack of funds with which to pay high deductibles and co-pays. We have counseled and prayed with men, women and children who have been denied health care coverage by insurance companies. We have witnessed early and avoidable deaths because of delayed medical treatment.

The health care bill that has been passed by the Senate and that will be voted on by the House will expand coverage to over 30 million uninsured Americans. While it is an imperfect measure, it is a crucial next step in realizing health care for all. It will invest in preventative care. It will bar insurers from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions. It will make crucial investments in community health centers that largely serve poor women and children. And 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.

Congress must act. We are asking every member of our community to contact their congressional representatives this week. In this Lenten time, we have launched nationwide prayer vigils for health care reform. We are praying for those who currently lack health care. We are praying for the nearly 45,000 who will lose their lives this year if Congress fails to act. We are also praying for you and your fellow Members of Congress as you complete your work in the coming days. For us, this health care reform is a faith mandate for life and dignity of all of our people.

In this endorsement they joined the Catholic Health Association, which, Bold Faith Type observed, “represents 1,200 medical facilities and providers, including 620 hospitals.” CHA president Sister Carol Keehan in her letter took a similar stand. She wrote:

CHA has a major concern on life issues. We said there could not be any federal funding for abortions and there had to be strong funding for maternity care, especially for vulnerable women. The bill now being considered allows people buying insurance through an exchange to use federal dollars in the form of tax credits and their own dollars to buy a policy that covers their health care. If they choose a policy with abortion coverage, then they must write a separate personal check for the cost of that coverage.

Both stand on the side of human life and in opposition to misguided zealotry. If there is finally judgment for this, we believe it will not fall on them.


Mark Silk suggests that this division within the Catholic Church in America over a matter of public policy is so rare that no similar one can be recalled by well-schooled observers.

Bear in mind that we’re talking about the leaders of most of the nation’s Catholic nuns and Catholic health institutions standing in opposition to the USCCB.

Yes, that is rare.

March 17, 2010 - Posted by | Catholic, children, Health, Politics | ,

1 Comment

  1. With this kind of Independent common sense thinking displayed by the sisters I could easily consider joining the Catholic religion. Their also pressing ahead with child abuse problems. Good job !!

    Comment by jack | March 18, 2010

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