Sister Simone Campbell, a Catholic nun who is active in progressive causes, was interviewed June 7 by Bill Press in a podcast that was broadcast on AmericasDemocrats.com
Campbell is the executive director of Network, a group that describes itself as a “Catholic leader in the global movement for justice and peace—educates, organizes and lobbies for economic and social transformation.” She is also one of the so-called “Nuns on the Bus,” which travels across the country advocating progressive politics.
Press – who is described on his website as a White House correspondent and a progressive – declared at the beginning of the interview, “No one does the Lord’s work better than Sister Simone.” When asked to describe the status of her opposition to the Trade Promotion Authority requested by President Barack Obama, she said, “We are working on that, trying to stop it.” She argued that the bill, if pass, would have negative effects in the United States especially in rural agricultural communities. Campbell added that one of the reasons she opposes trade agreements is that they allegedly encourage “undocumented migration” of foreign nationals into the U.S. “The trade agreement is creating undocumented migration to our country,” she said, “and we refuse to fix our immigration laws….So we have this problem that we refuse to address, so it only makes it worse.” This was the cause of the mass influx of mostly Central American minors along the southern border of the U.S. in 2014, she said.
During the interview, Campbell also promoted Earned Income Tax Credits for working families, as well as tax credits for children, as a way of balancing tax measures that favor large business interests, which she labeled “corporate welfare.”
As for the forthcoming visit of Pope Francis to the U.S. and his expected encyclical letter on the environment, Campbell said “That’s the crystal ball question,” when asked for comment. She gushed, “It’s so exciting. Everybody wants the Pope to say their thing.” She said that she believes that Pope Francis will exhibit more of his “economic analysis” and an “integration of the economy with environmental issues.”
“He doesn’t compartmentalize, like we do here in D.C. He sees it as a single fabric and says we’re all in this together and that we can make a difference,” said Campbell of the Pope. As for the anticipated speech by the Pope to a joint session of Congress on September 24, Campbell said he will challenge both sides of the aisle. She anticipates that his message to progressives is that “the safety net is not the end-all and be-all, but we have to work at the structural change.” For conservatives, said Campbell, the message may be “You can’t continue the economy the way it is, the is creating the gap, that’s preferring the rich. Like he says, ‘inequality is the source of all ills.’”
As for the encyclical on the environment, interviewer Press said that leaks of the document indicate that the Pope appears to believe that “climate change is real.” In response, Campbell said the pontiff is a scientist himself and “has a good understanding of the science, and the spiritual reality that we’ve got to take care of this blue planet of ours.” She laughed when asked about the Catholic bishops of the United States, “who are not quite there yet.” The nun said “They are struggling. But they don’t really see that climate change is a moral issue or a spiritual issue that they need to lead on.”
Campbell agreed with Press that there is no issue more important than climate change, when she was asked to respond to statements made by presidential candidate Rick Santorum – a Catholic and Republican from Pennsylvania. She said that losing Pennsylvania to rising sea levels due to climate change is an important issue.
“This is individualization – that anything that an individual does is only about the individual,” said Campbell while characterizing Republican views. “They just don’t have a clue that there’s a societal morality that we need to care for each other. They missed that lesson in Catholic social teaching.”
Campbell was once the head of her congregation, the Sisters of Social Service, and is a lawyer. In 2012, she addressed the Democratic National Convention during President Obama's re-election campaign.