Catholic Nuns Show Bishops How it’s Done on ObamaCare

In the end, it would be a fitting sort of justice if it were the Catholic nuns who saved the Affordable Care Act. After all, it was only through the efforts of Sister Nancy Keehan of the Catholic Health Association and Sister Simone Campbell of the social justice lobby NETWORK that the ACA passed in the first place.

Both Keehan and Campbell lent their support to the measure when it was under sustained, and nearly fatal, attack from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops for what it falsely implied would be taxpayer funding of elective abortions.

Now, NETWORK is hoping to harness some of its moral authority to halt what it called in a letter signed by more than 7,000 nuns “the most harmful legislation for American families in our lifetimes.” They also noted pointedly that the most recent legislation passed by the Senate and other efforts to “reform” the ACA out of existence “goes against our Catholic faith teaching.”

Unlike the Catholic bishops, whose largely pro forma objections (to the parts that don’t further limit abortion or contraception) through an obscure USCCB committee run by an equally obscure bishop, 7,150 Catholic nuns were willing to sign their names to efforts they see as a direct affront to their mission “to serve our nation’s most vulnerable people.”

And, unlike the bishops, they are willing to criticize not just the plan but the whole haphazard, politically driven process that may culminate today with senators being asked to vote on a mystery measure that affects nearly one-fifth of the U.S. economy:

Since this letter was circulated, Senate leadership has repeatedly changed course – from the BCRA, to a repeal of the Affordable Care Act without a replacement, to amendments of bills from 2015. This is not good governance. … Rather than continuing to negotiate partisan legislation that would cause tens of millions of Americans to lose access to health coverage, Congress should seek bipartisan solutions to expand quality, affordable coverage.

And the nuns behind the effort have made themselves visible on Twitter and Capitol Hill. Yesterday, Sister Campbell personally delivered the letter to Sen. Mitch McConnell’s office and nuns made visits to numerous senate offices. The last time there were that many bishops on the Hill was the infamous 1996 prayer rally on the steps of the Capitol to back an override of President Bill Clinton’s veto of a measure banning so-called “partial-birth” abortion.

As usual, Sister Simone, of Nuns on the Bus fame, isn’t shy about using her celebrity status to advocate for social justice, albeit in a manner that tends to stay away from hot-button issues like abortion. But even she seemed to take an unusually political shot at the USCCB and the GOP with this tweet this morning: