US Catholic Sisters Urge Health Care Reform

March 18, 2010 at 10:08 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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In the midst of yet another round of dispiriting reports on sex abuse by Catholic clergy, I’m thrilled to report that a large group of US Catholic sisters have spoken out in support of the health care reform bill now before Congress. The letter to Congress,  circulated by Network, the Catholic social justice lobby, is signed by 59 leaders of various women’s religious congregations, including Sister Marlene Weisenbeck, the president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR). Considering the current Vatican doctrinal investigation of the LCWR for taking just such positions as this one, it’s quite brave of Weisenbeck and the other congregational leaders to send out this message.

According to the letter, the signers represent 59,000 Catholic sisters. You should read it for yourself–it’s short and accessible–but here’s a crucial paragraph:

“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.”

A major reason for the current visitations of women’s religious congregations and the investigation of the LCWR, is that Catholic sisters in the US , since Vatican II, have dared to speak for themselves. The LCWR submitted an unsolicited evaluation of the Code of Canon Law to the Vatican as it began revising that code in the 1970s (the sisters assumed, innocently, that their evaluation would be welcomed). Before that, the LCWR changed its name to “Leadership Conference of Women Religious” from “Conference of Major Superiors of Women.” Vatican officials resisted the change strongly; even the heads of women’s congregations, to their mind, are transmitters of church mandates, not “leaders.” 

And now theses women dare to suggest that there are other Catholic positions on health care besides that of the US bishops, and to point out that the bill does not expand abortion coverage.

Thank you, sisters.


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  1. Please sent me information on the different congregations and the procedure of joining.




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