Political activism by religious took a relatively new twist during the last presidential election cycle when the Nuns on the Bus initiative hit the road. The Roman Catholic sisters insisted they backed neither candidate, but were vehemently opposed to Sen. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) proposed budget.
The election has long since been decided, but the progressive crusade of Nuns on the Bus and its parent organization Network continues apace not only on the nation’s highways and byways, but as well in corporate boardrooms. This last is precipitated by proxy resolutions by “social justice” activists who are elbowing their way into annual shareholder meetings, courtesy of retirement funds invested in stocks or tax-deductible stock donations made to such organizations as Network.
On its website, Network asserts: “Gifts of stock are a great way putting the stock market to work for justice!” However, Network’s concepts of justice don’t necessarily align with the faith that all nuns have taken vows to uphold.
For example, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith appointed Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle to reform the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. In its “Doctrinal Assessment” of LCWR, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (Congretatio Pro Doctrina Fidei) concluded in 2011: “It is a serious matter when these Leadership Teams are not providing effective leadership and example to their communities, but place themselves outside the Church’s teaching.”
The assessment also notes ties between the LCWR and Network and The Resource Center for Religious Institutes, concluding the LCWR’s approach to social issues are not compliant with Catholic doctrine.
Some non-Catholic (and, admittedly, some Catholic) readers may think it inside baseball to read that the Vatican and USCCB are reining in groups of Catholic nuns who desire women qualify for the priesthood, view same-sex marriages favorably, and consider abortion less than morally abhorrent. But a quick view of Network’s homepage reveals the group’s social justice tentacles reach well beyond feminist and marriage equality causes into stumping for the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid expansion, higher taxes for what it identifies as “the privileged class” and increasing the minimum wage.
And thus the Nuns on the Bus have been traversing the country trumpeting Network’s support of these government schemes under the guise of social justice for the economically disadvantaged. While assuming a moral superiority based on their status as religious, these women reveal a woeful lack of economic knowledge as well as Church teaching regarding the poor.
On the one hand, economics recognizes that wealth isn’t a finite resource. What Network identifies as “privileged” could be disputed by others as honestly earned income. Increasing taxes on the incomes of the successful won’t necessarily level the playing field between the wealthy and the needy. In fact, increasing taxes on higher earnings simply reduces successful individuals’ potential to invest, hire new employees and donate to charities of their choice. Likewise, increasing the minimum wage may result in higher wages for some, but ultimately works as a disincentive for hiring new employees thereby hurting more than helping the unemployed.
Left in the hands of those who earn it, more wealth would wind up given to religious organizations better able to effectively assist the needy rather than government bureaucrats who have enabled the creation of a permanent and growing underclass. As noted by Rev. Robert Sirico in an Acton Institute essay on combined political and religious philanthropic efforts: “Why do politicians turn to religious charities in the first place? Because they know we have a secret in caring for the poor – our faith. And only dilution and compromise come to the faith when it gets entangled with politics.”
Network and other similar organizations take the too easy route that government is the only entity that can guarantee the effective care of our less advantaged – often doing so outside the teachings of their respective church. These organizations’ adherence to the tenets of their faith should be thoroughly vetted before philanthropists donate their stock shares or money.