On the feast of St. Joseph, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi invoked the patron saint of worker's intercession to help pass the current Senate health care bill.
Noting that St. Joseph was especially significant to Italian Americans and to workers, Pelosi said that St. Joseph, the saint Catholics revere for being the foster father of Jesus and the husband of the Virgin Mary, was important in passing the health care reform bill which would help “30 million American workers.”
The showdown over the Senate bill has remained in the national media spotlight lately as Representative Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) continue s to reiterate his opposition to the bill because it provides for taxpayer funding of abortion. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has also insisted that the bill “must be opposed unless and until these serious moral problems are addressed.”
Despite the outcry, Pelosi, a self-profressed Catholic, also used this morning’s press conference to promote the Senate bill by citing a statement from NETWORK, a social justice lobbying group of Catholic sisters. “I’m pleased to say that the School Sisters of Notre Dame and the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, two sisters that taught me in my life, were on the list,” she said. “But every order that you can think of was there.”
Pelosi finished her appeal by urging representatives to “cast a life affirming 'yes' vote.”
Although Speaker Pelosi correctly identified that NETWORK represents close to 60 religious groups, she did not mention a discrepancy in the number of sisters the group claims to represent. The lobbying group claimed on Wednesday to represent 59,000 sisters, but USSCB spokeswoman Sr. Mary Ann Walsh issued unusual statement pointing out the membership claims were false.
“Network’s letter, about health care reform, was signed by a few dozen people, and despite what Network said, they do not come anywhere near representing 59,000 American sisters.” “The letter had 55 signatories, some individuals, some groups of three to five persons. One endorser signed twice,” she added. “There are 793 religious communities in the United States.”
“The math is clear. Network is far off the mark,” Sister Walsh stated.
NETWORK's letter has also received criticism from the head of the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious, Mother Mary Quentin Sheridan, who charged that the group “directly opposed” the position of the U.S. Catholic Bishops on health care reform.