Sisters of St. Joseph Punished for Supporting Health Care Reform Legislation

By Rachel Walden — May 5, 2010

A group of Catholic nuns who broke with the bishops by supporting health care reform legislation has garnered the wrath of some leaders in the Catholic Church.

Earlier this year the nuns signed a letter to members of Congress from the National Catholic Social Justice Lobby. The letter stated that:

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 recent editorial in the New York Times, which praises the “Courage of the Sisters” who demonstrated “courage and compassion when they spoke out for reform,” notes that at least one Bishop has decided to take action against the Sisters. Bishop Lawrence E. Brandt of Greensburg, PA, according to reports, “has directed diocesan offices, parishes and the diocesan newspaper not to promote the ‘vocation awareness program of any religious community’ that was a signatory to a letter urging members of the House of Representatives to pass the health reform bill.”

The Sisters of St. Joseph in Baden, PA, who signed on to the letter, have therefore been denied their request to promote a vocational program through parish bulletins. As one poster at U.S. Catholic asks:

Is this really necessary? Even had I not been personally in support of health care reform, I would be outraged that a bishop was blocking the recruitment efforts of a women’s religious community. I’d like to ask the bishop, does he really think this is a prudent use of his energy? What kind of effect does he think it will have on the Sisters of St. Joseph? Will they learn their lesson and not speak up for causes they think go a long way in protecting life?


Thanks to the Sisters for standing up for better access to health care for women!

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