The second night of the Democratic National Convention came with plenty of star power. After all, the Democrats had consumer advocate and US Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren as the opening act for former president Bill Clinton. But it was Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of the Roman Catholic Social Justice Organization NETWORK that may have stole the show.
In a simple but effective speech Sister Simone was able to take back the right’s dominance of the mantle “pro-life” by systematically destroying the Romney-Ryan budget plan.
Paul Ryan claims his budget reflects the principles of our shared Catholic faith. 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, and thatís why we went on the road: to stand with struggling families and to lift up our Catholic sisters who serve them. Their work to alleviate suffering would be seriously harmed by the Romney-Ryan budget, and that is wrong.
Sister Simone conceding agreement with the Bishops is an important marker since her group, and her sisters, have been the target of Vatican ire for their refusal to advocate against gay marriage and family planning access, instead focusing on feeding the poor and housing the homeless.
I am my sisterís keeper. I am my brotherís keeper. While we were in Toledo, I met 10-year-old twins Matt and Mark, who had gotten into trouble at school for fighting. Sister Virginia and the staff at the Padua Center took them in when they were suspended and discovered on a home visit that these 10-year-olds were trying to care for their bedridden mother who has MS and diabetes.
They were her only caregivers. The sisters got her medical help and are giving the boys some stability. Now the boys are free to claim much of the childhood they were losing. Clearly, we all share responsibility for the Matts and Marks in our nation.
In Milwaukee, I met Billy and his wife and two boys at St. Benedictís dining room. Billyís work hours were cut back in the recession. Billy is taking responsibility for himself and his family, but right now without food stamps, he and his wife could not put food on their family table.
We all share responsibility for creating an economy where parents with jobs earn enough to take care of their families. In order to cut taxes for the very wealthy, the Romney-Ryan budget would make it even tougher for hard-working Americans like Billy to feed their families. Paul Ryan says this budget is in keeping with the values of our shared faith. I simply disagree.
Sister Simone then explained what a pro-life platform should look like and should embrace.
In Cincinnati, I met Jini, who had just come from her sisterís memorial service. When Jiniís sister Margaret lost her job, she lost her health insurance. She developed cancer and had no access to diagnosis or treatment. She died unnecessarily. That is tragic. And it is wrong.
The Affordable Care Act will cover people like Margaret. We all share responsibility to ensure that this vital health care reform law is properly implemented and that all governors expand Medicaid coverage so no more Margarets die from lack of care. This is part of my pro-life stance and the right thing to do.
Simone’s presence was an important one for Democrats. To begin with, it proves that the right does not hold a monopoly on faith and religion and that their protests about the Democratic platform not including “God” was nothing more than more optics and cynicism. It also shows that while Democrats certainly have more room to go when addressing structural economic inequality and deep poverty, they are listening and have not entirely abandoned the poor. And finally, in a convention largely dominated by abortion politics Sister Simone laid waste to the idea that the Republican party is the pro-life party and painted, in pretty stark contrast, that they are in fact the pro-forced birth party.
Photo from tvnewsbadge via flickr.