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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. PaxChristi2U

    "... 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," But she has it backwards – her "commitment" should be first as a woman religious, and only second as someone who serves the poor, something Mother Teresa implicitly understood, which is why she is a saint. If she wanted it otherwise, she should have become a social worker instead of a Catholic nun and political dupe in games of partisan politics. So please don't blame the Church, sister; blame your own vocation decision.

    September 9, 2012 at 5:04 am |
    • NY Veteran

      You gor sister! Dont let the mysogonists that believe that the church is never wrong stop you. If women ran this church it wouldnt be full of hate, so anti woman, and so anti poor. The poor dont need an opportunity, they need a hand. The opportunity can come after food and shelter needs are met. Women are no more subservient to men than men are to some mythical deity. Look at teh anger in this mans statement. He goes to church every sunday, prays at night, and then gets right to the business of hate, classism, and trouncing on the minority. Priests are just men. If you want to see a real holy man, then go to a mission in a 3rd world country dont look at the nice homes of these ministers to the middle class. I only hope that the justice that they preach each Sunday and ignore on Monday awaits them in their afterlife.

      September 9, 2012 at 9:33 am |
  2. hinduism source of hindufilthyracism.

    only party to represent hindu Atheist, filthy self centered is pig's party, self centered party follower of hindu Judaism, filthy self center ism, belong not among humanity but of their own reserved place, called pig's pe,. For more please visit http://www.limitisthetruth.com/blog.html

    September 8, 2012 at 12:22 pm |
  3. tuvia

    מלחמה בלתי נגמרת

    September 8, 2012 at 9:41 am |
  4. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    September 8, 2012 at 8:48 am |
    • hal 9000

      I'm sorry "Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things", but you assertions regarding atheism and prayer are unfounded. I see that you repeat these unfounded statements with high frequency. Perhaps the following book might help you overcome this problem:

      I'm Told I Have Dementia: What You Can Do... Who You Can Turn to...
      by the Alzheimer's Disease Society

      September 8, 2012 at 9:06 am |
  5. cnnsukz

    I don't think she is a nun and much less catholic. nuns are not allowed (or any clergy), to be involved in political movements of this kind. She's probably a closet lesbian.

    September 8, 2012 at 8:42 am |
    • Arvoasitis

      No doubt you disapprove of the rabble-rouser and revolutionary, Jesus, who cared about the well-being of the poor and disadvataged. Are you saying He must have been gay?

      September 8, 2012 at 9:33 am |
    • brett

      classy.

      September 8, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
    • Wrenn_NYC

      Yes. Classy.

      No true scotsman followed by ad hominem/ wild a*dassumption you disprove of.

      Way to go.

      September 10, 2012 at 9:23 am |
  6. thecollegeadmissionsguru

    I felt Sister Campbell gave a powerful speech. I do not agree with the Catholic Church on a single issue, but I do think that her heart is in the right place on the issue of women's rights and the plight of the poor among us.

    September 7, 2012 at 5:54 pm |
    • hinduism source of hindufilthyracism.

      Right means limit and to demand rights without fulfilling designated duty as female, a woman has no right, nor does a man, To learn causes of mayhem among humanity please visit http://www.limitisthetruth.com/

      September 7, 2012 at 8:01 pm |
  7. tuvia

    *******

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

    September 7, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
    • old ben

      This Jonathan Pollard is a traitor to the U.S. And a highly unstable lout to boot. Keep him locked up.

      And just google Richman and "red cow" to read more about this nutball.

      September 7, 2012 at 4:50 pm |
  8. SoldierOfConscience

    She is a CINO (Catholic in name only).

    nobody who supports c0ntrac3ption, g@y r1ghts (and b3stiality, p3dophilia by extension) or easy d1vorce is a true catholic.

    September 7, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
    • saggyroy

      Well I guess none of you are Catholic because you all support pedophilia "by extension" (no pun intended).

      September 7, 2012 at 8:31 pm |
    • brett

      i think your keyboard is broken.

      September 8, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
    • sam stone

      Soldier of Condiments: To equate gay rights with beastiality shows you have no conscious, and that you are just another bigoted loudmouth

      September 10, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
  9. tuvia

    ****

    B"H

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

    DOES HE AND THE REST OF THE AMERICAN PEOPLE

    WANT THE TORAH?

    DO THEY WANT THE ISRAELITES, THE LEVIHIM AND THE KOHANIM AND DOES THE WORLD AND WILL YOU PLEASE
    ASK MR. ROMNEY, AND HIS CONVENTION THE FOLLOWING QUESTION.

    WE THE ISRAELITES, THE LEVIHIM AND THE KOHANIM
    WE WANT TO GET PERMISSION FROM THE WORLD TO
    BUILD THE 3RD TEMPLE.

    WE WANT TO ADVANCE THE EDUCATION TO THE WORLD
    THROUGH THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

    THE TEMPLE INSITUTE IN JERSUSALEM WILL HELP THE
    MINISTRY OF EDUCATION IN THE UNITED STATES WITH
    PERMISSION.

    MR. ROMNEY THE FOLLOWING QUESTION IS DIRECTED TO YOU.

    DO YOU MOURN THE DESTRUCTION OF THE SECOND TEMPLE AND WILL YOU ALLOW THE ISRAELITES, THE LEVIHIM AND THE KOHANIM TO SERVE HASHEM IN THE LAND

    PLEASE ASK THE CANDIDATE THE FOLLOWING QUESTION.

    JONATHAN POLLARD HAS SPENT ENOUGH TIME IN PRISON.

    IT IS TIME THAT HE IS PARDONED.

    WILL THE PRESIDENT PARDON JONTATHAN POLLARD ON

    THE PLATFORM OF HUMANITARIANISM

    WILL THE AMERICAN PEOPLE AGREE TO LET
    JONATHAN POLLARD GO BACK TO ISRAEL
    WITH HIS WIFE ESTER AND LIVE THEIR LIVES IN
    ISRAEL ONCE IF POSSIBLE THE PRESIDENT
    AND THE AMERICAN PEOPLE AGREE TO THIS.
    LET MY PEOPLE GO. PLEASE PARDON JONATHAN POLLARD
    MR. PRESIDENT.

    THANK YOU,

    TUVIA

    September 7, 2012 at 1:04 pm |
    • old ben

      This Jonathan Pollard is a traitor to the U.S. And a highly unstable lout to boot. Keep him locked up.

      And just google Richman and "red cow" to read more about this nutball.

      September 7, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
    • hinduism source of hindufilthyracism.

      Ya, hindu Jew, filthy self centered can build his temple in his ancestral home land Egypt, Do not mess with truth absolute hindu Jew's filthy secular s, desire's of truth absolute, or Muslim'swill bury hindu Jew's filthy secular s with their hindu filthy family of Pharaoh's. Nothing but hindu's racist of Egypt and Persia pretending to be what they never were Israelite to hind, fool humanity. For more visit http://www.limitisthetruth.com/blog.html

      September 7, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
    • I Don't Get It

      What does this have to do with a nun speaking at the DNC?

      September 7, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
    • NY Veteran

      Pollard will be returned to Isreal in a box in a few years. Be patient.

      September 9, 2012 at 9:28 am |
    • sam stone

      soak the body in pig's blood first

      September 10, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
  10. hinduism source of hindufilthyracism.

    NUN is a word of divine language, you bet she have no clue of the meaning's of this word, She can never be a NUN for her belief in hindu Mithra ism, pagan savior ism labeled as Christianity. For more visit http://www.limitisthetruth.com/blog.html

    September 7, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
  11. chet99

    The church can't tell you who to vote for. She might be right, but she should leave the church. As a nun, she has stepped outside of her position.

    September 7, 2012 at 9:38 am |
    • Wrenn_NYC

      BINGO!!!

      Oops. sorry, you gave me a lingo bingo with socialism, communism and no true scottsman. Thanks!

      September 7, 2012 at 11:32 am |
    • Wrenn_NYC

      wrong place too.

      September 7, 2012 at 11:33 am |
  12. tuvia

    ----

    MR. ROMNEY, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
    LET MY PEOPLE GO LET JONATHAN POLLARD GO NOW ON HUMANITARIANISM.
    HE SERVED LONG ENOUGH
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TyBZhTaf1oU

    September 7, 2012 at 9:35 am |
    • old ben

      This is bull sh it. Also this Jonathan Pollard is a highly unstable traitor to the U.S.. Keep him where he is.

      September 7, 2012 at 11:01 am |
    • Jeff

      Goes to show that anyone can be hyperbolic.
      There are only two ways this particular situation can end. Either one side exterminates the other or an endless Cold War that will go on for generations. Anyone who thinks differently is a fool. Neither side is willing to give an inch in a land dispute over a patch of dirt that has little value beyond centuries old stories, which I'm pretty sure isn't a solid legal standing for ownership.
      In an election year where everyone keeps saying that we aren't focusing enough on the economy, jobs, and US debt, why are we spinning our wheels on a blood feud between Muslims, Christians and Jews that will probably not be resolved in my lifetime?

      September 7, 2012 at 11:25 am |
    • hinduism source of hindufilthyracism.

      JEW'S ARE HINDU'S, DENIERS OF TRUTH ABSOLUTE.
      Ya, hindu Jew, filthy self centered can build his temple in his ancestral home land Egypt, Do not mess with truth absolute hindu Jew's filthy secular s, desire's of truth absolute, or Muslim'swill bury hindu Jew's filthy secular s with their hindu filthy family of Pharaoh's. Nothing but hindu's racist of Egypt and Persia pretending to be what they never were Israelite to hind, fool humanity. For more visit http://www.limitisthetruth.com/blog.html

      September 7, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
  13. John

    Democrats: "SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE!" unless we need to score some points to get elected. Honestly, what, EXACTLY, do Democrats stand for. Their platform is a moving target. Four years to get it together from the last convention and they're still changing things at the last minute. They can't even run their own party and people think they can run the country.

    I DO agree with the Democrats on one thing though. I am definitely NOT voting for Bush this November. I didn't think he could run again, but they talk about him so often he must be.

    September 7, 2012 at 8:06 am |
  14. Robert

    I listened to her for an hour on I think it was Frontline. She is a socialist/commie pretending to be a nun.

    Democrats think if they win in November, that is it. Far from it. The war will begin.

    September 7, 2012 at 7:22 am |
    • Jeff

      "The war will begin"?
      "She is a socialist/commie pretending to be a nun"?
      Is that the kind of 'love thy neighbor' stuff that passes for being a good Christian these days?
      Check your history; the Social Justice movement started with Catholics. Puritans believed in industrious work, but also communal living.

      September 7, 2012 at 10:51 am |
    • sam stone

      robert: i see you are still talking like a mouthy little punk. good for you.

      September 10, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
  15. J R Brown

    The idea that a Catholic nun who publicly rejects the teachings of the Catholic Church is a "hero" is just asinine...she's no hero, she's a fraud. As an atheist, even I can see a person who claims to be a "believer" of a religious sect and yet rejects the very principles of the sect is nothing short of a charlatan.

    Since when did Jesus teach that his followers were to be active in secular government fighting for "human rights"? The very idea is a self-defeating argument....Jesus/God does not believe in "human rights".

    September 7, 2012 at 6:26 am |
    • 1+1=2

      A2 JR brown. You are a troll, and you are not atheist. Loser.

      September 7, 2012 at 9:15 am |
  16. kevin

    The democrats should be ashamed of themselves using a nun who sometimes does not side with her church on certain issues. Using her as a puppet in their game of pawn. Shameful !

    September 6, 2012 at 11:02 pm |
    • Pamela

      Oh the contrary, it would have been more shameful for them to have stiffened her from speaking. This isn't RUSSIA.

      September 7, 2012 at 12:03 am |
    • jack

      Shame is in the eye of the beholder. I was proud to see this bright woman give her views on some of the moral issues of our day.

      September 7, 2012 at 2:11 am |
    • ForGoodOfAll

      Sister Simone stood up for her own beliefs. In America, it is permissable to speak about what you believe in, no matter your occupation or religious views/affiliations. I am thankful to live in a country that honors and encourages freedom of speech, and I am thankful for Sister Simone for her personal values, hard work and dedication to her cause despite those who try to silence her. Way to go, Sister!!!

      September 7, 2012 at 7:57 am |
    • Jeff

      Right...because political opportunism is democrat-only trait.
      No one forced her to get up there. They asked, she accepted, and pushed back when she thought they were making her say things she didn't agree with. She sounds like a good Christian to me.

      September 7, 2012 at 10:54 am |
    • Wrenn_NYC

      On the contrary. She completely sides with her church on the topic she wishes to address. Namely, Ryan's budget that the Catholic Bishops have said is not in keeping with Christian values.

      So what would her choice have been? Speak for the RNC, where the budget doesn't agree with her church?

      See... many of us hold the budget and the economy to be a big deal. We don't ignore it, in favor of a single item litmus test. 'Pro-Life' as a party plank for the Republicans has been there since 1976. They have rarely addressed it in legislation, and have NEVER attempted an outright ban of abortion. In 36 years. Yet you use that platform plank as your reason to vote? Pretty dim...

      September 7, 2012 at 11:38 am |
  17. tuvia

    ^^^^^

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

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

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

    September 6, 2012 at 9:18 pm |
    • hinduism source of hindufilthyracism.

      One has to be a hindu, ignorant to believe a hindu Jew, filthy self centered, secular, they do not believe in truth absolute but consider themselves to be truth absolute in their hindu. Judaism, filthy secularism, Way of hindu Jew's, criminal secular s, end justifies the means, for more visit http://www.limitisthetruth.com/blog.html

      September 6, 2012 at 9:51 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      @hinduism source

      You still need coherency lessons I see. Either tha or you need some serious medication.

      September 6, 2012 at 9:55 pm |
  18. Joe

    It's interesting to watch the full time anti-Mormons post the same stuff again and again. They know what they are saying is always misleading.....but they just go on... I think if they really want to push their atheistic, gay, or other agenda they should be trying to work on Mitt rather than someone who will only hurt our Country.

    September 6, 2012 at 5:50 pm |
    • Joe

      oops, that was meant for another article, but now that I'm here, I heard the nun, it sounded like she said that some lady lost her job because the Democrats...UR I mean the REpublicans wouldn't go along with Obama on hardly anything, then Obama sved this lady with food stamps, then healed her with Obamacare (even before it was implemented) and this was all right after Obama got Osama with his golf clubs (apparently Osama was in Hawaii for a Brotherhood meeting same time as Obama...imagine that???) but I must have missed the part where the Nun said she wanted to pay more money to tear apart feeling babies....so long as we can't do the same thing to our gerbil (federal offence)....

      September 6, 2012 at 5:56 pm |
    • hinduism source of hindufilthyracism.

      Republican or democrats , both are same essence, hindu gentile, ignorant slaves of hindu Jew's, criminal self centered, for more visit visit http://www.limitisthetruth.com/blog.html

      September 6, 2012 at 6:12 pm |
    • bubba's left foot

      do you have anything to say? did you forget your medications?

      September 6, 2012 at 6:34 pm |
  19. Roe Breslin

    How long do we women have to hear the word "alleged" before the phrase GOP War on Women from the mainstream media? Do you reporters ever READ all the federal and state proposals of legislation placing restrictions on the U.S. female population's health issues and legal rights no matter how strongly and often we oppose them? You couldn't call it anything OTHER than a war!

    September 6, 2012 at 5:28 pm |
    • Roevwade

      You're funny, because you're silly.

      September 6, 2012 at 8:42 pm |
  20. hinduism source of hindufilthyracism.

    WHAT DOES WORD NUN MEANS, ANY ONE?

    September 6, 2012 at 5:04 pm |
    • Huebert

      Ask the question properly.

      September 6, 2012 at 5:31 pm |
    • hinduism source of hindufilthyracism.

      Learn to admit your hinduism, ignorance, than to hide under your hinduism, stupidity.

      September 6, 2012 at 6:08 pm |
    • Sam Yaza

      some one who marries a dead man

      September 6, 2012 at 9:57 pm |
    • billdeacons

      a woman who lives a religious life under vows. Also an honorific for an elderly person. derivative of nana.

      September 6, 2012 at 10:09 pm |
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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 with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.