US Nuns Targeted by Vatican Push Back, Assert Obedience to the Gospel

Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of NETWORK, a group founded by 47 Catholic sisters that speaks out on social justice issues, has pushed back against the Vatican's criticism of U.S. nuns holding liberal views, saying they have been more than "faithful to the Gospel."

The Vatican officially reprimanded the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), the largest group of Catholic nuns in the U.S. and with whom the NETWORK is associated, for "serious doctrinal problems," including "radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith."

When asked by host Stephen Colbert on Monday's edition of "The Colbert Report" about accusations by the Vatican that the nuns have been diverging from conservative Roman Catholic Church doctrine, Sister Campbell replied, "Actually what I'll admit, is that we're faithful to the Gospel. We work every day to live as Jesus did, in relationship with those in the margins of our society. That's all we do."

In its report, the Vatican praised the U.S. Catholic nuns for their social work, but focused on their stances that go against traditional church teachings, such as their defense of homosexuality, support of President Barack Obama's overhaul of healthcare that mandates contraceptive coverage for religions institutions, and for supporting the ordinance of women as bishops, a role traditionally held by men.

"I'm stunned," Sister Campbell said at the time, in response to the report.

"I would imagine that it was our health care letter that made them mad. We haven't violated any teaching, we have just been raising questions and interpreting politics," she added.

The Vatican's warnings have not distracted NETWORK from what it positions as its primary goal, which is helping the poor in the country. It is planning a bus tour around the U.S., visiting states like Iowa, Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia, and will protest federal budget cuts proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan, (R-WI) that are said to hit poor families living in those states the hardest.

"We have an obligation, not just a legal obligation, but a moral obligation to do something about it," Ryan said, explaining that the reason for the cuts was the growing national debt. In March, the House of Representatives voted to approve the cuts in a 228-191 decision.

In a press release, the Sisters say they "see the suffering of people in poverty on a daily basis," and that Ryan's budget cuts will undermine the food stamp program, drive seniors into poverty, give large tax breaks to the wealthy at the expense of struggling families, and drastically cut funding for health insurance programs for low-income people, causing millions to lose access to healthcare.

"We're stopping at Congress' office and Congressional offices of people who voted for the House budget proposed by Congressman Ryan, and that budget undermines the whole fabric of our society. And people don't know it," Sister Campbell explained on "The Colbert Report."

"We want to educate people about Congress, and make sure that they push back against high-jacking our nation. It is the least we can do for people who are suffering in this economy, that are left out, that are pushed to the margins."

She stressed that despite the recent controversy surrounding the nuns and the Vatican, the Sisters' most important mission remains helping the poor and those in need.

"You know, there is enough to go around, if we can only share. It's this American ideal that we should hoard and hold on to the individual things that we have," Sister Campbell said, and reminded that "Jesus broke the bread and said to everybody 'eat and be filled.' And there was enough, and they shared."