Excerpted from Laurie Goodstein’s article in The New York Times:
In a spirited retort to the Vatican, a group of Roman Catholic nuns is planning a bus trip across nine states this month, stopping at homeless shelters, food pantries, schools and health care facilities run by nuns to highlight their work with the nation’s poor and disenfranchised.
The bus tour is a response to a blistering critique of American nuns released in April by the Vatican’s doctrinal office, which included the accusation that the nuns are outspoken on issues of social justice, but silent on other issues the church considers crucial: abortion and gay marriage.
The sisters plan to use the tour also to protest cuts in programs for the poor and working families in the federal budget that was passed by the House of Representatives and proposed by Representative Paul D. Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican who cited his Catholic faith to justify the cuts.
“We’re doing this because these are life issues,” said Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of Network, a liberal social justice lobby in Washington. “And by lifting up the work of Catholic sisters, we will demonstrate the very programs and services that will be decimated by the House budget.”
The bus tour is to begin on June 18 in Iowa and end on July 2 in Virginia. The dates overlap with the “Fortnight for Freedom,” events announced by Catholic bishops to rally opposition to what they see as the Obama administration’s violations of religious freedom. The bishops object in particular to a mandate in the health care overhaul to require religiously affiliated hospitals and universities to offer their employees coverage for birth control in their insurance plans.
Sister Simone, a lawyer who ran a legal clinic for the poor in Oakland, Calif., for 18 years, is not completely on board with the bishops’ religious liberty campaign. She said that financing for Catholic social services had increased significantly in the three years since President Obama took office: “We’re celebrating the religious freedom we have.”