A letter of support for the Senate health care bill from NETWORK, a women's religious group claiming to have the support of 59,000 sisters in supporting the current Senate health care bill, has caused the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to state that the group “grossly overstated” the number of sisters who endorse their position.
In a recent letter to the House of Representatives, NETWORK said it represents 59,000 women religious across the U.S. and urged members of Congress to “cast a life affirming 'yes' vote” to the Senate health care bill. Wednesday's letter also stated that “despite false claims to the contrary, the Senate bill will not provide taxpayer funding for elective abortions” and “will uphold longstanding conscience protections.”
Sr. Mary Ann Walsh, director of Media Relations at the USCCB, stated on Thursday afternoon that “the recent letter from Network, a social justice lobby of sisters, grossly overstated whom they represent in a letter to Congress that was also released to media.”
“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,” Sr. Walsh clarified.
“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,” the U.S. bishops' spokeswoman concluded.
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. Cardinal Francis George issued a statement on Monday that denounced the current Senate health care bill and outlined its problems, including its funding of abortion and lack of conscience protections.