Catholic nuns have taken to the street on a Midwest bus tour protesting the new Republican budget by Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan. They are highlighting the cuts to the social safety net by visiting hospitals, schools, healthcare facilities, homeless shelters, food pantries and other institutions where they can reach those most likely affected. The tour is an affront to the Vatican who recently chastised U.S. nuns for promoting “radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith” and focusing too much on poverty and economic justice while remaining “silent” on issues of “abortion and gay marriage”. The vatican also banned a book by female theologian Sister Elizabeth A. Johnson inside Catholic institutions. The nun’s predicament recalls a recent incident in Michigan when a female lawmaker offended the male leadership by invoking her “vagina” and literally lost her speaking privileges. As women across America continue to speak up for equality there seems to be an effort by patriarchal institutions just as determined to keep them in their place.
Gay marriage and birth control have been used to portray Obama as waging a war on religion and earlier this year Bishops came out against both efforts citing expression of religious freedom. Still Obama leads Romney with Catholics as he did McCain in 2008. Those 2 wedge issues aside the Bishops and nuns do agree that the Paul Ryan budget fails to meet their “moral criteria”. That rebuke came in a letter to the Budget Chairman from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. They joined a chorus of social justice advocates and clergy who agreed that, “this budget is morally indefensible and betrays Catholic principles of solidarity, just taxation and a commitment to the common good." It will also disproportionately affect women since they make up over 57% of the US poor. A report by Progress Texas showed that lawmakers in the Lone Star State have voted against women's healthcare at least 50 times in the past decade. So, unfortunately for Texas women they probably won’t get any state help when it comes to mitigating its $244 billion share of the cuts to Medicare and Medicaid that the plan offers. Ryan, a Catholic himself, said it was his faith that guided him through the process of proposing cuts to healthcare, food stamps and scholarships because, “one of the primary tenets of Catholic social teaching, means don’t keep people poor, don’t make people dependent on government”. He continued that “government shouldn’t be responsible for lifting its citizens out of poverty — rather, that it’s the obligation of the citizens themselves to be society’s caretakers”. Ideally a conservative would be speaking about religious organizations or charities but in this case it's his own church that is expressing grief over the proposal. Most Catholics in congress will also likely oppose the measure as Catholic Democrats outnumber Catholic Republicans 2 to 1 (103-52). Even if the budget were to pass the house Democrats hold a slim majority in the Senate. And, if there were to be a tie there? Vice President Joe Biden, a Roman Catholic, would be the deciding vote.