Nel's New Day

June 21, 2012

Nuns Tour to Help Poor

The nuns are still on their tour although people who read only the mainstream media wouldn’t know it. There’s much more coverage on the bishops’ protesting birth control than the nuns’ protesting economic injustice for the poor. If nuns were men ….

The best coverage for the nuns’ activity on Tuesday, the second day of the tour, comes from Barbara Miner’s blog View from the Heartland, called “The Nuns Are Here! The Nuns Are Here!” She tops the story with a photo of 81-year-old Sister Diane Donoghue, as she snaps a photograph from a freeway pedestrian overpass in Milwaukee’s central city. Each week a group of people use well-lit placards to send messages to freeway travelers. Last night Overpass Light Brigade’s message was “Question Authority,” and the nuns marched with Overpass Light Brigade.

The energy of these women is phenemonal! Their walk across the overpass to highlight the anti-poor essence of the Ryan budget proposal culminated a 14-hour day. To quote Miner, “The nuns began with a 9 a.m. press conference at a food pantry in Iowa, got on the bus to Wisconsin, visited Ryan’s office in Janesville to deliver their budget critique, headed up to Milwaukee where they ate dinner at the St. Ben’s meal program in downtown, followed by a “Friend Raiser” at St. John’s on the Lake.” (I was tired by the time that they got to dinner!)

The Nuns on the Bus tour is organized by Network, a social justice lobby in Washington, D.C., that was founded more than 40 years ago by group of Catholic nuns inspired by the Vatican II reforms and religious involvement in civil rights, antiwar and feminist movements.

Some of the Catholic men in the United States are irritated by nuns believing in their support of the poor rather than the male opposition to birth control. In the New York Times, Bill Keller quoted Bob Donohue, president of Catholic League, as saying that Catholics who don’t want to follow the current Vatican should “shut up or go.”

Instead of helping the poor, New York’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan, now president of the U.S. bishops organization that opposes the nuns, established a policy almost ten years ago to pay off pedophile priests to that they would go away and not be an embarrassment to the Catholic Church. The initial payoff was a $20,000 bonus followed by a $1,250 month pension and, until they found a job, health insurance. That may be why men in the Catholic Church don’t worry about the Ryan budget: pedophiles are rewarded with $15,000 a year plus health insurance. That’s more than 50 percent above the poverty level and more than 25 percent of the people with a job make annually in this country.

The nuns know about the need for a safety network in this country to keep people from being “food insecure,” but the Senate refused to keep an amendment that would keep $4.5 billion in food stamps funding. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NW) proposed that the money for food stamps would come from trimming the guaranteed profit for crop insurance companies from 14 to 12 percent and by lowering payments for crop insurers from $1.3 billion to $825 million. The Senate vote down the amendment by 66-33. The loss of this $4.5 billion for people in poverty means families will each get $90 less per month, about one-fourth of its food budget.

According to Gillibrand, “Half of the food stamp beneficiaries are children, 17 percent are seniors, and unfortunately now 1.5 million households are veteran households.” About 26 million people in the United States received this aid in 2007, while more than 44 million got it last year, at a total cost of $76 billion. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that demand will continue to grow through 2014 because of the recession. At least the Senate doesn’t go as far as the House; their budget calls for $134 billion in cuts over 10 years.

Farm Bureau President Steve Nelson said it was critical that Congress pass a farm bill soon “to provide certainty for farmers and ranchers.” There doesn’t seems to be a concern about “certainty” for people who cannot afford to buy food.

Bill Moyers is one journalist who is following the nuns’ tour. His website has  videos and a great interactive map of their 15-day journey. Thus far the bus has stopped at the state offices of Reps. Steve King (R-IA), Paul Ryan (R-WI), and Joe Walsh (R-IL), all who voted for Ryan’s budget and none of whom were available. Tomorrow they’re scheduled for Reps. Joe Donnelly (D-IN) and Justin Amash (R-MI), both of whom voted against Ryan’s budget.

Monday they head to the office of House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), who supported the Ryan budget. In just Ohio, the Ryan budget would eliminate $72.6 million from the Head Start budget, more than $110.8 million in special education spending which affects nearly 63,937 students, and 177 million meals for families needing food stamps as well as ending a tax credit that would help 107,210 Ohio small businesses provide insurance to their employees.

Tony Vanacoro, a commenter on an article from Think Progress, said it best: “I am a complete and avowed atheist, but even I know it’s bad karma to piss off Nuns!”

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