Sister Marcia cites errors in lobbying group’s letter

March 19, 2010 by

On Wednesday and Thursday, there was wide media coverage about a letter sent by Network, a Catholic social justice lobby, to Congress reporting that Catholic sisters were in support of the Senate health care bill now being debated. The letter included misleading information about the scope of the support among sisters; those errors were then reported and re-reported in coverage by most of the major news organizations, including NPR, the Associated Press, Fox News and newspapers across the country.

The Salina Journal, which published the Associated Press version of the story, has agreed to run this response from Sister Marcia Allen, president of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia, on its Tuesday Opinion page. But the vote on the bill is expected earlier than that, so we are making Sister Marcia’s piece available now.

Although she is the elected head of the congregation, Sister Marcia does not speak for all individual sisters on political matters. In a debate over a complex proposal to reform health care, such as now faces Congress, the 150 Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia represent a wide range of personal political opinion.

This, however, represents the view of Sister Marcia and the seven-member congregational Leadership Council on the critical nature of the debate and why it should be important to all Americans.

• • • • •

By Sister Marcia Allen, CSJ

The Salina Journal headlines of March 18 (“Catholic nuns break with bishops to support reform” and “Nuns: ‘This is the REAL pro-life stance’ ”) are misleading at best. The Associated Press article reported that 60 congregations of women religious signed on to a letter to Congress prepared by the Network organization encouraging support of the Senate health care reform bill. If you look through the signers on that letter, and count the congregations represented, you’ll see that the actual number is fewer than 50 — but the bigger math problem is that there are more than 400 congregations of women religious in the United States. So to suggest that this lobbying group speaks for all sisters is simply incorrect.

We Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia would like to note that we did not sign on to the letter. We are sure that other women religious in the Salina area did not sign on to it either, yet readers are led to believe that we all did. Many will find it offensive and we religious congregations will feel the brunt of inadequate coverage of the news and misleading headlines.

There are numerous reasons we did not sign on to this letter. But there are also numerous reasons for our belief that health care as it exists today must be reformed:

  • The medically underserved need to be guaranteed adequate health care,
  • Pre-existing conditions should not be excluded from health care insurance coverage,
  • Those who choose not to be on any health care plan should not be penalized,
  • Other programs should not be cut in order to pay for universal health care, and, finally,
  • Political partisanship needs to be curtailed to find a solution and the true work for the common good needs to be a legislative commitment.

We Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia support the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ call for genuine health care reform that respects and protects the life, dignity, consciences and health of all, especially the poor and vulnerable and that health care reform should provide accessibility to affordable and quality health care for all.

We are called to live the Gospel mandate to honor and respect each person and to work to alleviate the conditions that cause ignorance, poverty, suffering and oppression.

In our Catholic tradition, health care is a basic human right. That belief is a gift and a responsibility.  We, as women who have been called to be followers of Jesus, desire to embrace that call in its full dimension of “loving God above all things and our neighbor as ourselves.”  That call urges us to hear the cries of those who do not have adequate health care coverage and to respond with moral integrity.

In the midst of writing this piece, we received a call from a well-educated middle-class woman whose son is a brittle diabetic. He has been refused full coverage of insurance as is offered to his mother because of  “pre-existing conditions.” Where is moral integrity in this situation?

In Matthew 25:36 we read, “I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you took care of me…” In today’s world, care for the sick has everything to do with health care access not dependent upon where a person works, how much that person earns or where he or she lives.

Therefore, health care reform is critical because its effects are systemic. Surveys in recent poverty reduction initiatives show that many who live in poverty cannot work because of health issues.  Yet, their health issues cannot be addressed because they have no health care; thus it is a vicious cycle.

We have grave concerns about the possibility of increased costs for insurance premiums and rising costs of prescription medication. We do not want to re-create a “survival of the fittest” society based solely upon one’s economic resources.

Because of numerous basic flaws in the Senate proposal, we chose not to sign in support of it.  Instead, we have added our small voice of conscience to the many who are attempting to craft effective health care reform for all Americans. We advocate compassionate creativity rather than political belligerence as an answer to the health care dilemma faced by this country.

— Sister Marcia Allen, CSJ, is president of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia, Kan.


7 Responses to “Sister Marcia cites errors in lobbying group’s letter”

  1. Joanne on March 29th, 2010 1:31 pm

    Thank you, Marcia, for offering this balanced reflective perspective! Joanne, csj

  2. Bette Moslander on March 20th, 2010 12:19 pm

    The headlines in the Salina Journal were certainly misleading. This is such a contentious question because we want desperately to see healthcare reform become a reality. But when one reads parts of the bill it is in no way clear to me that federal money will not be available for abortions. There is also a lack of clarity that conscience questions will be protected. Marcia, your response in t he oped to the Salina Journal clarifies the situation.

  3. Christine Doman, CSJ on March 19th, 2010 9:56 pm

    Thank you,Marcia, for your pointed and compasonate response to The Salina Journal media reports regarding The Health Care Bill.
    S. Christine Doman

  4. Sister Doris Marie Flax on March 19th, 2010 1:58 pm

    Sister Marcia,
    I was unaware that the vicious rumor is going around. Thank you for the well-thought out letter.
    Sister Doris Marie Flax

  5. Fr. Larry Letourneau on March 19th, 2010 1:50 pm

    Sr. Marcia,

    Thank you for speaking out on behalf of Health Care in our country. However this bill comes out in Congress is far from the end of the battle to protect ALL human life from conception to natural death. God has a plan in all this but He also wants us to do our part to “clothe the naked” and “care for the sick”.

    Fr. Larry Letourneau

  6. Pat McLennon on March 19th, 2010 12:43 pm

    Marcia, Thank you for writing a response to the Salina Journal. It is an articulate and compassionate response to a critical issue.

  7. Missy Ljungdahl on March 19th, 2010 11:36 am

    Thank You! This is a well thought out and crafted message.

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