home
RSS
September 5th, 2012
12:58 PM ET

Catholic nun brings her star power to DNC

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

(CNN) – Sister Simone Campbell got what may have been the biggest media platform of her life on Wednesday night, when she addressed the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. But the Catholic nun had plenty of star power before that.

Walking around Charlotte this week, Campbell was repeatedly stopped by fans who wanted to pose for pictures.

They had seen her on "The Colbert Report," pushing back on the Vatican's crackdown on American nuns, or read about the "nuns on the bus" tour that Simone organized to decry Rep. Paul Ryan's federal budget proposal.

"One woman came up to me and said 'my husband loves you; I'd be jealous if you weren't a nun,' " Campbell, 66, said Tuesday night.

By asking her to speak at their convention, the Democrats appear keen to capitalize on Campbell's budding celebrity at a moment when the official Roman Catholic Church has been critical of the Obama administration, claiming that it is infringing on religious liberty.

And at a convention that is revolving largely around an alleged GOP-led "war on women," Campbell is a poignant feminist symbol. She has stood up to the Vatican's criticisms of American nuns for what the church says is their fixation on progressive advocacy at the expense of promoting socially conservative positions.

"We're certainly oriented toward the needs of women and responding to their needs," she told Colbert in June, defending the nuns against the Vatican. "If that's radical, I guess we are."
But Campbell isn't taking marching orders from the Democratic Party, either.

When party officials asked her to speak in Charlotte, she made it plain she'd do it only if she could give voice to her anti-abortion views.

And when Democratic handlers revised a draft of her speech in a way that sounded too political to her, she told them she was happy to give her speaking slot to someone else.

The handlers were more than happy to work with her to revise the revisions.

On Wednesday night, Campbell said that Obama's health care law and expanding Medicaid coverage "is part of my pro-life stance and the right thing to do." It was the biggest applause lines in her speech, which was filled with big applause lines.

"Paul Ryan claims his budget reflects the principles of our shared Catholic faith," Campbell said later in her speech. "But the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops stated that the Ryan budget failed a basic moral test, because it would harm families living in poverty.

"We agree with our bishops," Campbell said. "I am my sister's keeper. I am my brother's keeper.
Campbell, who has a law degree from the University of California, Davis, has always been political.

Her parents took her the Democratic convention in Los Angeles to see John F. Kennedy.

But she says her work has always been fueled by a passion for helping the poor. When she's not giving interviews and staging bus tours, she works as executive director of Network, a Washington-based group that describes itself as a "Catholic social justice lobby."

In 2010, the organization played an important role in promoting President Obama's health care act at a time when the Roman Catholic Church opposed the legislation. The church alleged that the Affordable Care Act used federal funds to cover abortion (Democrats deny that claim).

Campbell organized a letter of support for the Affordable Care Act that was signed by dozens of leaders from women's religious orders, giving the White House and Democrats political cover in the face of attacks from conservative religious groups.

At a celebration after the signing ceremony for the law, Obama thanked Campbell for her help: "He gave me a big kiss and said I was a tipping point."

Campbell, who joined a religious order after her freshman year at college, says her support for Obamacare grew out of a lifelong concern for the poor.

"I remember as a kid, driving back from visiting relatives in Colorado and going through Indian reservations," she said. "I would cry because it was so hard to see such poor people. Something touched me."

She got her J.D. with an eye toward advocating for pro-poor public policy but wound up hanging a shingle in Oakland, California, helping the working poor on family law cases.

"For me, it was about being the gospel and living like Jesus did," she said. "Following folks who were suffering and at the margins, struggling hard to make ends meet. I was like a parish for the unchurched."

Campbell later traveled the world as the general director of her religious order, the Sisters of Social Service, founded in the 1920s by Hungary's first female member of parliament.

At Network, Campbell's proudest accomplishment is helping pass Obamacare. But she also boasts of becoming an early thorn in the side of Paul Ryan, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney's running mate, by organizing the "nuns on the bus tour" in May.

The nine-state trip from Iowa to Washington was aimed at attacking the federal budget Ryan drew up as the chairman of the House Budget Committee.

The Ryan plan, in Campbell's view, "set up this total undermining of government services as a way for there to be additional tax cuts for the wealthy."

America's Catholic bishops also criticized Ryan's budget. But weeks before the nuns on the bus tour, the Vatican issued a bruising assessment of many American nuns, saying they offered a platform for "radical feminism" and played down church teachings on abortion and gay marriage.

To some church watchers, the nuns on the bus tour represented a thumb in the eye of the assessment from Rome.

But Campbell, who is not formally a part of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, the group singled out by the Vatican assessment, has not been shy about saying that the church hierarchy is out of touch with the church's religious life.

"The shock made me numb at first, and then I was profoundly sad that my life as a woman religious and my commitment to serving the poor would be so denigrated by the leadership of our church,"

Campbell said this year, responding to Vatican criticism of American nuns.

Campbell didn't mention the nuns' tiff with Rome in her Wednesday night speech, but her mere presence raised the profile of women religious leaders at a time when the Democrats say women are under attack.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: 2012 Election • Barack Obama • Catholic Church • Politics

soundoff (603 Responses)
  1. tuvia

    B"H

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=947by3X6_RU

    IMMEDIATE NEWS RELEASE

    PLEASE ASK THE CANDIDATE THE FOLLOWING QUESTION.
    JONATHAN POLLARD HAS SPENT ENOUGH TIME IN PRISON.
    IT IS TIME THAT HE IS PARDONED

    LET MY PEOPLE GO SENETOR HILLIARY CLINTON AND hussein OBAMA. LET JONATHAN POLLARD GO NOW
    LET MY PEOLE GO

    Rabbi Chaim Richman answers President Obama's Cairo speech

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=947by3X6_RU
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TyBZhTaf1oU

    WORLD VS ISRAEL. HILLARY CLINTON-THIS IS A MESSAGE FOR YOU – LET MY PEOPLE GO. FREE JONATHAN POLLARD NOW. LET MY PEOPLE GO BARRAK HUSSEIN OBAMA – NOW!
    The Land of Israel is the Promised Land given to our forefathers Abraham Isaac and Jacob and is given to us, their seed, as an everlasting Inheritance.
    PLEASE PLAY ON YOUR NETWORK NOW
    THANK YOU IN ADVANCE

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=947by3X6_RU

    September 5, 2012 at 8:57 pm |
  2. tuvia

    NEWS RELEASE:JERUSLAEM, ISRAEL
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TyBZhTaf1oU
    AND PRESIDENT OBAMA. LET JONATHAN POLLARD GO NOW
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TyBZhTaf1oU
    LET MY PEOPLE GO

    B"H

    IMMEDIATE NEWS RELEASE

    PLEASE ASK THE CANDIDATE THE FOLLOWING QUESTION.
    JONATHAN POLLARD HAS SPENT ENOUGH TIME IN PRISON.
    IT IS TIME THAT HE IS PARDONED

    LET MY PEOPLE GO SENETOR HILLIARY CLINTON AND hussein OBAMA. LET JONATHAN POLLARD GO NOW
    LET MY PEOLE GO

    Rabbi Chaim Richman answers President Obama's Cairo speech

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TyBZhTaf1oU

    WORLD VS ISRAEL. HILLARY CLINTON-THIS IS A MESSAGE FOR YOU – LET MY PEOPLE GO. FREE JONATHAN POLLARD NOW. LET MY PEOPLE GO BARRAK HUSSEIN OBAMA – NOW!
    The Land of Israel is the Promised Land given to our forefathers Abraham Isaac and Jacob and is given to us, their seed, as an everlasting Inheritance.
    PLEASE PLAY ON YOUR NETWORK NOW
    THANK YOU IN ADVANCE

    !!

    September 5, 2012 at 8:53 pm |
  3. Mike

    As awful as the current Catholic "management" has become, I see hope. Her activism has helped restore my faith that the Church can grow with the times – I see hope for the future of the Catholic church.

    September 5, 2012 at 8:48 pm |
    • IloveRCC

      Not through her, Mike. There are plenty of nuns (she is a sister, there is a difference) who live in cloister and pray for people, peace, the world. Their work is most worthy and they are the hope of our church, not this has been old hippie from the 60's.

      September 5, 2012 at 8:56 pm |
  4. shawbrooke

    Things are not better in the US than they were 4 years ago. Internationally, Obama brought home the troops, at close to the Bush schedule, and has not closed Guantanamo. There's a health care proposal that will not help everyone.

    So what is the nun's point? Who is Obama helping? She's a nice person doing unspecified good work, but why does that give her media time?

    September 5, 2012 at 8:44 pm |
    • 13directors

      Yeah well, I think he would if he could. I always take campaign promises with a grain of salt and settle for candidates who would do what would I do if given the chance.

      September 5, 2012 at 9:04 pm |
  5. nostrildamus

    United we stand, divided we fall. Let us not split into factions which must destroy that union upon which our existence hangs. – Patrick Henry.

    September 5, 2012 at 8:36 pm |
  6. Eduardo Boro

    Rock on Sister!!!

    September 5, 2012 at 8:25 pm |
    • Please Dont Contact ME

      I love this nun!

      September 5, 2012 at 8:47 pm |
  7. CSX

    Wicked. Even to a cult she is wicked to address the devil's council.

    September 5, 2012 at 8:16 pm |
    • Aezel

      Don't forget your tinfoil hat.

      September 5, 2012 at 8:50 pm |
  8. Ed in Cali

    "Keep your politics out of my healthcare..." sign, whatever side you're on, is a little rich, considering that politics IS how the healthcare bill and law work. It's all politics.

    September 5, 2012 at 8:08 pm |
  9. Arvoasitis

    How is it possible for so many people to find offense in such a heartening story?

    September 5, 2012 at 7:57 pm |
    • Lindalou

      To some people the glass is always half empty, there are no silver linings, and everyone's out to scam you.

      September 5, 2012 at 8:24 pm |
  10. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things

    September 5, 2012 at 7:31 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      It changed my underwear.

      Amen.

      September 5, 2012 at 7:33 pm |
    • Mike

      HeavenSent: Thank God something did.

      September 5, 2012 at 7:57 pm |
  11. Ron

    Catholic Nuns that are pro abortion, pro gay marriage, anti-Catholic. Time for excommunication. Join the Anglicans, you could be priests.

    September 5, 2012 at 7:24 pm |
    • M.A.

      Absolutely. She is a radical feminist and a supporter of the pro-abortion movement. She is the furthest thing from a Catholic nun and should be ex-communicated immediately.

      September 5, 2012 at 8:01 pm |
    • k

      Here, here!!! While her work for the poor is laudable ... the remainder of her record is an absolute disgrace to the Holy Catholic Church.

      September 5, 2012 at 8:17 pm |
    • drillteamer

      actually, if you had read it, you'd have seen that she is anti-abortion.

      September 5, 2012 at 8:22 pm |
    • Eduardo Boro

      In the article it states that she would only speak if she could voice her pro-life views also. And in fact was about to give up her speaking slot if the organizers didn't allow her to preach anti-abortion.

      September 5, 2012 at 8:24 pm |
    • Lindalou

      Oh the horror of it all!! A nun standing up for women and trying to aid the poor..burn her at the stake!!

      September 5, 2012 at 8:26 pm |
    • Please Dont Contact ME

      lol Lindalou that is funny! I can't imagine why there are so many people mad at this nun! Maybe it is because they fear she is helping Obama.

      September 5, 2012 at 8:58 pm |
    • KMW

      She never once mentioned anti-abortion principles. Oh wait, the Dems had a pro-abortion platfiorn. How foolish of me for thinking this Roman Catholic nun would even talk about the pro-life movement. She is a sham and it is such a shame to have her as a Catholic nun. She should be excommunicated immediately.

      September 6, 2012 at 10:16 am |
  12. Oh PLEASE

    Nuns go away no one cares.

    September 5, 2012 at 7:23 pm |
  13. EKIA

    What a joke. A woman that has dedicated her life to God that supports a party that excludes any references to the same God in its platform.

    September 5, 2012 at 7:18 pm |
    • sam

      That must tell you how bad the catholic church has gotten.

      September 5, 2012 at 7:21 pm |
  14. Shipper

    A nice article in content and in academically demonstrating what the absence of one word does to a sentence.

    "Her parents took her the Democratic convention in Los Angeles to see John F. Kennedy."

    The leaving out the the "to" between "her" and "the Democratic convention" changes the meaning of the sentence that the convention was brought to her.

    September 5, 2012 at 7:17 pm |
  15. Michael Cote

    Thank you Sister for giving a voice to the needy and sick of this country.

    September 5, 2012 at 6:53 pm |
    • k

      What about the needy pre-born children, who are the least capable of defending themselves? When she advocates for a woman's "right" to choose, how is she supporting those needy children?

      September 5, 2012 at 8:20 pm |
    • Sabrina

      K – Read the article. She is anti-abortion and would only speak if she was allowed to preach her anti-abortion views.

      September 5, 2012 at 8:51 pm |
    • DLM

      Well "K", those children that are born also need food, shelter, and health care. It is funny that the republican party states they want all of those unwanted babies to be born, but then wants to do absolutely nothing to care for them after they are here. I wouldn't exactly call their views "pro-life".

      September 5, 2012 at 8:58 pm |
  16. ma

    A rational, mature person who understands and respects other people can be Pro-choice and personally anti-abortion. I wish people would stop confusing the issue by calling it "Pro-life". I mean, everyone is pro-life. The Roe-vs-Wade decision stated it beautifully;
    "We need not resolve the difficult question of when life begins. When those trained in the respective disciplines of medicine, philosophy, and theology are unable to arrive at any consensus, the judiciary, at this point in the development of man's knowledge, is not in a position to speculate as to the answer".

    September 5, 2012 at 6:47 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      I'm pro death.

      September 5, 2012 at 7:31 pm |
    • k

      Hogwash! You state, "A rational, mature person who understands and respects other people can be Pro-choice and personally anti-abortion." A Catholic has a moral obligation to stand up and defend those who are unable to do so for themselves. This means children! They are, after all, the least capable of defending themselves (particularly the pre-born). Sorry ... but you have to choose. Christ requires this of us.

      And, as an aside, imagine transporting yourself back to the 1850's and the discussion of slavery. No matter how you slice it, it's just wrong. What kind of person would you be if you said, "I don't own slaves and am personally against slavery ... but if others want to do it, I can respect that." You would be an immoral coward (and there were a lot of them back then). Same story here. Grow a pair and make a decision!

      September 5, 2012 at 8:27 pm |
    • shawbrooke

      Not everyone is pro life. If you think that women should be able to abort babies at 5 or 6 months gestation, you are for sure not pro life.

      September 5, 2012 at 8:46 pm |
  17. SETH

    Time to sterilize all Catholics so they cannot have abortions! No, I'm serious. I respect these nuns. They see the damage done by people having children who should never have been allowed to have children. They see the problems caused by forced weddings, unwilling partners, unwitting and damaging parents, and all the rest of it. They see these people yet do not say what needs to be said: Everybody in the world needs to be sterilized.

    September 5, 2012 at 6:41 pm |
    • Joe

      Just you Seth, just you. I'm sure you can find some tweezers and a magnifying glass and take care of what needs to be done. Lunatic.

      September 5, 2012 at 7:12 pm |
    • ADW

      I think Joe is the one who needs tweezers here.

      I agree with SETH. I see people every day who should never have had children. Like Joe's parents.

      September 5, 2012 at 7:29 pm |
    • shawbrooke

      And who is wise enough to tell in advance which marriage will make it and which kids will turn out to be great adults? Apparently guidance teachers in high school think they have that ability, but everyone else is way too aware of the many things that affect situations.

      September 5, 2012 at 8:48 pm |
  18. the_dude

    Oh boy all of the sudden democraps are religious......

    September 5, 2012 at 6:36 pm |
    • jc

      They always have been...just not fanatics.

      September 5, 2012 at 7:01 pm |
    • Marky Merlot

      Jesus was a revolutionary. He started the movement to help the poor, the downtrodden, THE SICK. He reached across ethnic lines, opposed overbearing military etc, etc. Sound like a liberal or a republican to you?

      September 5, 2012 at 8:33 pm |
  19. gort01

    uiggh..........GO AWAY CATHOLICS.....................

    September 5, 2012 at 6:35 pm |
  20. gatecrasher1

    Wow another reason to burn my religion book and stop going to church. Time to restore Rome to the US Catholic Church.

    September 5, 2012 at 6:22 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11
Advertisement
About this blog

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 with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.