June 6th, 2012
06:56 PM ET
By Dan Merica, CNN
Washington (CNN) - American nuns are taking their opposition of the proposed Paul Ryan budget to the American people and embarking on a bus tour through some of America’s most politically important states.
NETWORK, a group founded by 47 Catholic sisters that speaks out on social justice issues in particular, will be hitting states like Iowa, Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia in order to reveal “how federal budget cuts proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan, (R-WI), and passed by the House of Representatives will hurt struggling families in these states,” a release by the group reads.
In interviews after unveiling his budget, Ryan said that he applied his view of Catholic social teaching in his budget proposal, a statement that Sister Simone Campbell, the executive director of NETWORK, said co-opted sacred Catholic teachings.
“I think he was so direct in draping himself in the mantle of Catholic social teaching,” Campbell said. “He took the words but he took none of the meaning in the forming of the budget.”
Campbell continued: “It is one thing to have political differences, but to try to hide a budget that will devastate people and claim that it is supported by your faith. It is unacceptable. He is wrong and he needs to be told so.”
Ryan’s $3.53 trillion dollar budget doubles down on past proposals Republicans have made to overhaul Medicare and other government programs that are seen as politically sensitive. While the budget has little chance to become law, it draws a distinct contrast with Democratic views on spending and will loom large in the 2012 race for the presidency.
Ryan was given an opportunity to respond to Catholics who have questioned his budget in a speech at Georgetown University, the oldest Catholic university in the country.
“Of course, there can be differences among faithful Catholics on this. The work I do, as a Catholic holding office, conforms to the social doctrine as best I can make of it,” said Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican. “What I have to say about the social doctrine of the church is from the viewpoint of a Catholic in politics applying my understanding of the problems of the day.”
The Georgetown speech also gave Catholic opponents an opportunity to confront Ryan with their disapproval. As Ryan delivered the remarks, he came face-to-face with protesters who unveiled a banner that read “Stop the War on the Poor.” Outside the event, Catholics United protested the event. A little over a dozen people stood outside Healy Hall, where the speech took place, and held a sign the read, “WERE YOU THERE WHEN THEY CRUCIFIED THE POOR?”
The nuns' bus trip will go through Wisconsin, Ryan’s home state, and Campbell said the nuns will meet with congressional representatives and their staffs. In particular, Campbell indicated that NETWORK is specifically targeting Catholic representatives who had voted for Ryan’s budget.
“There are some Catholic representatives who have voted for the House budget that Representative Ryan proposed and we as Catholics believe that we should go talk to them and talk to their staffs,” Campbell said.
The trip comes during a controversial time between American nuns and their leadership in Vatican City. Recently, the Vatican has been critical of the nuns, in particular, charging the nuns of espousing “radical feminism” and straying from church teaching.
The busing nuns referenced this controversy in their announcement of the event, stating that “despite the controversy, Catholic Sisters stand with the Bishops in criticizing the Ryan budget and are committed to staying faithful to their mission to serve those in need.”
“In fact, on this issue, we stand with the bishops,” Campbell said.
And that is true. In an April release from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the bishops call on "Congress and the Administration to protect essential help for poor families and vulnerable children and to put the poor first in budget priorities.”
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team and frequent posts from religion scholar and author Stephen Prothero.