The media stuntsters, “Nuns on a Bus,” led by Sister Simone Campbell of the progressive Catholic social advocacy project called NETWORK, recently went on the road so “’We the People’ can stand up against big money in the 2014 midterm elections.”[i]
 
Of course, NETWORK Sisters aren’t concerned about the “big money” flowing into progressive causes or being used to support progressive politicians.  They and their “partners and collaborators,” which include various Alinskyian organizations and other concerted efforts that target “faith-based institutions” for politicizing, get plenty of “big money” for their political activism.[ii]
 
Moneyed interests attempting to influence government policy are only a problem when the “other” side has the big bucks.  “Establishment Republican money finally got what it paid for — an electoral wave,” complains Politico (and tea party spokesmen agree).[iii]  The big, “establishment Republican” guns include Karl Rove’s Crossroads, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and “mega-donors” such as Stan Hubbard or Sheldon Adelson.
 
But progressives have their big guns, too.  The infamous George Soros and his many-tentacled political machines, including the Center for American Progress, Peter Lewis, and Tim Gill are among the superstars of Democrat campaign funding.   Moveon.org and the Democracy Alliance are some of the organizations that raise millions of dollars for progressive candidates.
 
Republicans outspent the Democrats in the 2014 midterm elections – but not by that much.  According to the Center for Responsive Politics, $1.75 billion was spent on Republican campaigns as compared to the Democrats’ $1.64 billion.  “The real story of the election’s campaign finance chapter was not which side had more resources, but that such a large chunk of the cost was paid for by a small group of ultra-wealthy donors using outside groups to bury voters with an avalanche of spending. Both sides had plenty of support from outside spenders, but Republican and conservative outside groups outpaced the spending of Democratic and liberal ones.”[iv]
 
So the “Nuns on a Bus” are a tool of – and an effective media attraction for – the progressives.  This wouldn’t be remarkable if it weren’t for the fact that the progressive “agenda” includes abortion rights and same-sex marriage, among other untenable moral positions.   It isn’t that the religious sisters who are active in NETWORK directly state their support for these positions – it’s that they don’t care about them enough to advocate for public policy that addresses them.  Health care provision is such a “good,” as they see it, that it overshadows any evil embedded within it, including abortion coverage or mandatory contraceptive funding.  “We haven’t violated any teaching,” Sister Campbell is reported to have said. “We have just been raising questions and interpreting politics.”[v]
 
“Interpreting” politics.  What an interesting, nuanced way of expressing it.  Along with their Alinskyian allies (and moneyed donors), they are reinterpreting Catholic moral teaching to suit a political agenda.  It’s disingenuous. 
 
Like orchestrating a bus tour “to stand up against big money” when one really means “to stand up against money used to support conservative interests,” arguing that a progressive political agenda represents a “seamless garment” or a more multifaceted set of life-affirming concerns ends up supporting pro-abortion policies and politicians.  “Sister Campbell questioned many Catholics’ focus on that one issue [abortion], criticizing the pro-life movement as not considering the entire spectrum of Catholic social teaching…”[vi]
 
If we were truly embracing a seamless garment, if we were really standing “with Church teaching on the value of all human life from conception to natural death,”[vii] there would be no anti-Catholic, immoral provisions included in the package. 
 
Notes
 
[i] NETWORK website: www.networklobby.org/bus2014
[ii] TJ Whittle, “Nuns in a Glass Bus,” Juicy Ecumenism, blog for Institute on Religion and Democracy, 11-3-14.
[iii] Kenneth P. Vogel, “Big win for conservative big money,” Politico, 11-5-14: www.politico.com/story/2014/11/big-win-for-conservative-big-money-112571.html#ixzz3ImaYUbMR
[iv] Russ Choma, “Money Won on Tuesday, But Rules of the Game Changed,” Open Secrets, blog of Center for Responsive Politics, 11-5-14: www.opensecrets.org/news/2014/11/money-won-on-tuesday-but-rules-of-the-game-changed
[v] Laurie Goodstein, “Vatican Reprimands a Group of U.S. Nuns and Plans Changes,” New York Times,
4-18-12.
[vi] “Social justice advocate calls for 'meaningful conversation',” Catholic News Herald, 6-26-12.
[vii] Ibid., quoting Sr. Campbell.

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Spero News columnist Stephanie Block edits the New Mexico-based Los Pequeños newspaper and is the author of the four-volume Change Agents: Alinskyian Organizing Among Religious Bodies, which is available at Amazon.

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