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Catholic nuns and Franciscan friars call Romney out on his views about the poor

Catholic nuns and Franciscan friars call Romney out on his views about the poor

On August 8, Catholic nuns, NETWORK, who did the “Nuns on the Bus” campaign, called Romney out on his views, in a recent campaign ad, concerning the poor and challenge him to spend a day with them to see how much damage his proposed cuts would do to the poor.  They want to show him the plight of the poor, stating that the poor are not lazy, but work hard just to survive.

The campaign ad Romney aired upset and disturbed the two Catholic groups, of which Sister Simone Campbell, NETWORK’s executive director said “demonizes families in poverty” and shows Romney’s “ignorance about the challenges” the poor face in America, as they struggle to meet their needs.

“He thinks they’re lazy,” Campbell said, in reference to Romney’s misleading welfare reform ad. “It is hard work to keep things together when you’re poor. He doesn’t have a clue. Let him talk to them, and maybe they’ll touch his heart. And his mind too.”

“Recent advertisements and statements from the campaign of Governor Romney demonize families in poverty and reflect woeful ignorance about the challenges faced by tens of millions of American families in these tough economic times,” stated Sister Simone Campbell. “We are all God’s children and equal in God’s eyes. Efforts to divide us by class or score political points at the expense of the most vulnerable of our brothers and sisters reveal the worst side of our country’s politics.”

The next day, a group of Franciscan friars, called the Franciscan Action Network (FAN), who work with the poor concerning hunger relief and mental health, called on him on his comments and asked him to spend a day with them in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to spend a day with the poor.  The group called Romney’s ad hypocritical, because it stated that Romney’s plan would ensure low-income people work, even though the GOP endorsed budget cuts to job-training programs.

[Rhett Engelking, OFS, a lay Franciscan in Milwaukee] said, “Wisconsin is getting a lot of attention as a swing state, and political leaders talking about the poor in demeaning ways while proposing to cut job training programs should spend time with the people they are affecting.”

Engelking also stated, in reference to the invitation, “Political leaders would not talk about the poor in demeaning ways or cut job training programs if they spent more time with the people they are affecting with their policies.”

While many anti-poverty charity organizations have criticized politicians, FAN goes farther and accuses the rhetoric in Romney’s ads as “unfairly using welfare recipients as political props.”  Lonnie Ellis, a spokesperson for FAN, told Huffington post that Romney is doing “worse than ignoring the poor”, adding that he is “essentially criticizing Obama for helping low-income families.”

"It's saying look, 'President Obama is actually supporting poor people too much, or he's just giving a free ride to poor people,'" Ellis said. "So it's actually using poor people in a really bad way."

“With the political conversation now on ensuring that low-income people are working, the most blatant affront is that the Romney-Ryan Budget actually cuts job training programs for low-income people,” FAN Executive Director Patrick Carolan said in a statement.

FAN gave a press release stating, “The Franciscan Action Network (FAN), an organization of Franciscan friars and sisters and lay Franciscans, is disturbed by the demeaning campaign ad and conversation about welfare by the Romney campaign.  Franciscans, and Christians everywhere, follow Jesus who came to "preach good news to the poor" (Luke 4:18).  Our Christian tradition teaches that we are to treat the poor with dignity and to prioritize the poor in our policies as a society. At a time when millions are struggling financially, it is degrading to talk about the "dependency" of people hurting in this economy, as Gov. Romney did recently.”

They close their press release statement by asking Romney to make his campaign more just and dignified to all Americans and adding couple lines from the Prayer of St. Francis.

Franciscan friar Fr. Joe Nangle, OFM, said, "We ask our political leaders to not sow hatred of the poor, but to speak with compassion. Our national leaders should aim to follow the spirit of The Prayer of St. Francis, which is loved by people of all faiths:

Lord, make me a channel of your peace;

Where there is hatred (of the poor), let me sow love.”

The two groups called Romney's ad, as well as a memorandum and press release, concerning welfare reform misleading.

Romney recently endorsed a GOP plan that will make deep cuts in food stamps and other safety net programs, such as Medicaid and Pell Grants, which benefits the poor and working class.  These cuts could potentially cut off aide to low income families.

Sister Simone Campbell and other sisters criticized Romney’s plan and even called it immoral.  Think Progress pointed out that the Ryan budget would slash 62% of the budget for programs that help low-income families and kick some off food stamps and other programs.

“Faced with long-term debt problems, they say we must immediately slash protections for the poor, even as they fight tooth and nail for trillions of dollars in tax cuts for the wealthy and explode the debt at the same time,” Sister Simone Campbell said. “And then they line the pockets of the wealthiest one percent in our nation. This is wrong. And they’re doing it under the guise of fiscal austerity.”

“I’m not going to stand here and say the Ryan budget is moral. It’s immoral!” Sister Diane Donoghue added. “That’s all there is to it. And we stand with our bishops when we say that. It is immoral.”

Think Progress also quotes Sister Richelle Friedman as saying, “The Ryan budget would slash food stamps, it would slash Medicaid, it would slash a lot of domestic programs that benefit low-income people, affordable housing programs that [the Dept. of Housing and Urban Development] does. So this is just really critical.”

Sister Campbell told Think Progress, in an interview, that Romney does not have a clue about low-income families and the struggles they face.

“The fact is, his policies shift wealth to the upper class,” she said. “Yes, it hurts the middle class, but it devastates those at the margins of our society.”

If Romney accepts her offer to see what the poor deals with on a daily basis, she would take him to St. Augustine’s in Cleveland, Ohio, where food programs help the poor and give them “a hand up” in the community.  Sister Campbell hopes Romney accepts her offer and believes he should accept it, but so far, the Romney campaign has not yet accepted it.

“He thinks they’re lazy,” Campbell said, in reference to Romney’s misleading welfare reform ad. “It is hard work to keep things together when you’re poor. He doesn’t have a clue. Let him talk to them, and maybe they’ll touch his heart. And his mind too.”

Sister Campbell also stated in the NETWORK’s press release, “Recent advertisements and statements from the campaign of Governor Romney demonize families in poverty and reflect woeful ignorance about the challenges faced by tens of millions of American families in these tough economic times.  We are all God’s children and equal in God’s eyes.  Efforts to divide us by class or score political points at the expense of the most vulnerable of our brothers and sisters reveal the worst side of our country’s politics.”

Sister Campbell is also quoted with saying, “That’s not Christian,” according to the Rachel Maddow Blog, concerning Romney’s stance on low-income families.

Other religious group also call the GOP plan immoral, saying that it “robs from the poor and gives to the rich”, and Bishop Gene Robinson, of the Episcopal Church, stated that it fails the moral test.

“The Ryan budget robs the poor, the marginalized and the vulnerable of the safety net so integral to their survival,” [Bishop Gene] Robinson said. “By any measure of civility and regard for one’s neighbor, it is an immoral disaster.”

Other leaders of various faiths also gave their critical opinion of the GOP plan, but only the nuns and friars invited Romney to spend a day among the poor.

Rev. Michael Livingston, director of the National Council of Churches’ Poverty Initiative:  “Rep. Ryan’s budget uses the deficit as an excuse to pursue an ideological agenda that punishes poor people who can’t find a job.  If Rep. Ryan wants us to take his moralizing about the national debt seriously, he should have the courage to ask for shared sacrifice from his millionaire donors instead of kicking poor families while they’re down.”

The Romney campaign has not yet responded to the friars’ invitation either and Steve Benen quotes Rachel Maddow from an show in June, saying, “I have one thing to say here personally, not as a TV show host here but just as a person who happens to be related to some nuns: don't mess with nuns. It's not a warning. It's not advice. It's not a threat. It's fact that I have learned from personal experience. Ask anybody in my family, if you mess with nuns, you will lose every time. You will always regret messing with nuns."

On August 11, Romney chose Paul Ryan as his running mate and NETWORK wrote another press release strongly opposing his choice of a running mate, calling it the "starkest election decision in years".  The sisters strongly oppose Ryan because his budget plan would "eliminate critical food assistance for many hungry families, decimate safety-net protections that keep people from falling further into poverty, and enrich the ultra-wealthy at the expense of low-income families."

Sister Simone Campbell, NETWORK’s Executive Director, stated,  “We agree with Catholic Bishops that Paul Ryan’s budget fails the test of Catholic Social Teaching since it deliberately harms people at the economic margins. It is also unpatriotic because it says that we are an individualistic, selfish nation. This is emphatically not who we are. Both our Constitution and our faith teach us that “We the People” are called to care for one another, to have responsibility for each other. This year’s election will present us with a critical choice. Do we want to favor the rich on the backs of people in need? Is that who we want to be?”

The Franciscans have not made any statement at this time on Romney's chosen running mate.

About Mriana

Mriana is a humanist and the author of "A Source of Misery", who grew up in the Church of God, Anderson Indiana. After she became an adult, she joined the Episcopal Church, but later left the Church and became a humanist. She has two grown sons and raises cats. Mriana raised her sons in the Episcopal Church, but in their teen years, they left the Church and she soon followed. One of her sons became a "Tao Buddhist" and the other a None, creating his own world view. She enjoys writing, reading, science, philosophy, psychology, and other subjects. Mriana is also an animal lover, who cares for their welfare as living beings, who are part of the earth. She is a huge Star Trek fan in a little body.
  • Romney was an LDS bishop so he dealt with the poor on a one to one level. You take care of those in need and help those that can get off their a**** if they can.

  • Deborah_B

    What's interesting about this whole Catholic angle is that on the one hand, Mr. Romney is appealing to the "religious liberty' issue over contraceptives in a recent ad that he created, with images of Pope John Paul II, and on the other hand, seems opposed to the social justice teachings of the church.

    • I was thinking the same thing.

    • Chris W

      These sisters do not represent the "teachings" of the church and are viewed by the Holy Father as "rogue". I view them as socialists who are willing to join liars and evil people to achieve their socialist vision in the USA. Knowing that they receive support from Catholic Charities has caused me to rethink the organizations I have supported over the years.

      • Interesting, given that the Gospel stories portray Jesus as communal and socialistic. As an apostate [Episcopalian] I can support these nuns, but then again, I still support the views of the Episcopal Church too, even though I'm no longer a believer.

      • Deborah_B

        Then the bishops are wrong, too. Or are they not rogue because they were born males?


        I find it odd how the nuns are demonized but not the bishops/priests who speak up for social justice.

        • That was my thinking too and with the friars behind them… I see what is happening with the nuns as the "Rule/Reign of the Patriarchy". In other words, the men want power over the women and quite honestly, if pushing anti-abortion and alike is the Church's teaching, then it's not Biblical, esp if you read the Gospels. Jesus had a few women helping care for the poor, the sick, etc, not pushing Pro-Life (Pro-death) agendas. So the nuns are following the character of Jesus' teachings and the Pope, the Vatican, is not. Thus, while I am not a Xian, I can get behind the nuns. Too bad there isn't an actual hell, because I'd send the Pope and his minions there in a newborn's heartbeat and the nuns would be greatly rewarded for their efforts. lol

          • DeborahB

            And have you noticed that the commentators focus only on the nuns?

            • yes, I have and I've also noticed that it's mostly men or rather male priests cracking down on the nuns like abusive husbands. Gee, doesn't put the pope, archbishops, bishops, cardinals, or priests in any better light. First they abuse children and now they are going after nuns. Doesn't seem like these abusive men are getting any better.

  • Aish
  • I'm a Catholic, but Sister Simone is out of her head right along with the church. It one thing to be truly poor where there is no hope and living in the USA where opportunities are there for everyone who seek them. I work hard and long hours to keep my head above water and not asking anything from anyone and have given a fair share to help others. God helps those who help themselves.

  • If it were not from us supporters, the church would go bust. I wish they would remember that too.

    • Deborah_B

      This is correct, and a good reminder. However, the church is authoritarian so they really don't care what the supporters think or donate.

  • Shame of these commie nuns and friars! May God help us defend ourselves from Obama and from these commie nuns and friars, who are helping the commie in the White House!
    With "help-the-poor" scams like Obamacare, the Castro brothers MULTIPLIED POVERTY and

    transformed an imperfect
    but happy, prosperous and FREE island into a GULAG of abject misery, where the
    only hope for most is being able to escape.

    Hugo Chavez is doing the same in
    Venezuela and Obama is doing it in the U.S.

    “Hey, Obama has just
    nationalized nothing more and nothing less than General Motors. Comrade Obama!”
    Chavez cheered on Venezuelan TV. He added that he and Cuba’s Fidel Castro would
    now have to work harder just to keep up.

    Fortunately, thinking Americans are waking up and will defend
    themselves from the cancer of Marxism being imposed on us via scams like

    • Deborah_B

      Presumably, then, you think Romneycare is great? What is the difference, besides the state and federal level of the legislation?

      Chrysler paid off its debt; GM paid off a big chunk, but from my understanding, still owes more. Based on what you are saying, however, how is collateral is the same thing as Marxism? How exactly were the Obama bailouts worse than Bush's TARP?

    • Peter

      Sosa: Read. The first church was a commune. Each according to their need, each according to their ability. Commune/communist/ This abortion called the Catholic Church with all their riches would enrage your Jesus. Unfortunately, your brainwashing is complete, has been since you were a kid. Your edifice is going down

  • Sally Long Chicopee, MA

    As Catholics we must keep in mind the most important issue, chose life!! How can you support a President that thinks it is okay to murder a baby in the womb. Where are these nuns coming from. He also appoves of same sex marriage? Wake up nuns if you are truly Catholic.

    • Deborah_B

      How can you support a doctrine that says protect the fetus and let the mother die — and if she has other children, let them lose their mother, all in the name of "life." I am referring to what went on in Phoenix at St. Joseph's a couple of years ago, which is just one of several instances that I can think of where the rigid stance of the church conflicts with common sense.

  • For those of you who are spouting "Church Teachings" and "Pro-life", let me remind you of St. Francis of Assisi's Prayer, which the friars, all men, mind you and not nuns, refer to, which deals with the poor and life already here on this earth. It is a prayer I have always appreciated and know by heart, without looking it up, thus how I recognized the words, while reporting on this story, without looking it up and linking to it, assuming people knew it also, but I guess with Episcopalians love of animals and humans, they must know it better than RCs, which St. Francis was.


    Prayer of Saint Francis of AssisiLord, make me an instrument of your peace.
    Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
    where there is injury,pardon;
    where there is doubt, faith;
    where there is despair, hope;
    where there is darkness, light;
    and where there is sadness, joy.

    O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
    to be consoled as to console;
    to be understood as to understand;
    to be loved as to love.
    For it is in giving that we receive;
    it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
    and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen

    I never was Catholic, but boy did I try to be a damn good Episcopalian when I was Xian and St. Francis was my patron saint, due to my love of animals, nature, and life. So I'd be careful calling someone Pro-Choice as being anti-life, when the reality of it is, more often than not, Pro-life agendas do not support the living and anti-Civil Rights/marriage equality do not support humanity, just as cutting programs which help the poor is inhumane also. Most of the time Pro-life, Anti-gay agendas, and favour of gutting programs for the poor, children and elder are inhumane and immoral. If you want "eternal life" then supporting things that support and favour the living, and not some fetus, will help humans, as a society, have that for many generations. To do otherwise leads to the destruction of human life. Yes, I know, that's my opinion, but if you think about it, instead of going with what the Vatican mandates, you might understand what I'm saying.

    "Blessed is the fruit of thy womb Jesus" only applies to the story and maybe, when applied to reality, the hopes of a fetus being born healthy and both the mother and baby survive childbirth just fine, otherwise, nothing is blessed about pregnancy. Spew Catholic BS and I spew Episcopalian BS back just as well, even though I am no longer a Xian, and remind you of the various prayers. Now go sit out in the garden, in front of St Francis and contemplate his prayer for a while. Maybe you'll end up with some divine thoughts of your own from St. Francis in the process, instead of just accepting what the Pope, in his pope mobile with 6-plus inches of bullet proof glass, calling it faith, says. The man has no faith. He's just a talking head that demands you think as he does, instead of having your own revelations about life and humanity.

    Damn, maybe I ought to write another rant, given this post.

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  • lindasdf

    Personally, I think the truth is somewhere in the middle. I have heard that there is a movement afoot that those receiving government financial aid be held more accountable for what they receive. The best place to start is the suggestion of random periodic drug tests. This would include tobacco and alcohol consumption. I mean, it's my tax money they are given. If I'm having a hard time making ends meet, I do not want to see someone getting money that I paid in taxes, and using it to buy illegal drugs, or tobacco products, or booze.

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