Nun Bus Stops at Fountain Square
He was supposed to be a political target, but Congressman Steve Chabot wasn’t there when Nuns on the Bus rolled up to Fountain Square Sunday afternoon to protest a Republican federal budget proposal and rally the troops around nuns and religious sisters everywhere.
Sr. Simone Campbell, SS, (one of the two religious sisters actually making the nine-state bus tour) didn’t mind. She emerged from the bus to cheers from about 30 people gathered to wait for her, and launched into interviews for local television, meet and greets with supporters, and footage for at least two documentary companies. By the time the podium was set up for her speech, about 100 supporters, staff, religious sisters, members of the media, and curious onlookers had gathered around.
The budget devised by Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan and passed by the House “fails the basic moral tests,” Sr. Simone told the crowd. (Ryan, a Catholic, says his budget is based on a different interpretation of Catholic Social Teaching.) Saying social programs for the poor and a higher minimum wage “is not about charity, it’s about justice,” Sr. Simone showed the crowd a different budget plan she said was devised by leaders from several religions. She promised to deliver a copy of this “Faithful Budget” to the West Chester office of US Speaker of the House John Boehner Monday at the next Nuns on the Bus stop.
The Faithful Budget, she said, would not cut spending. “Everybody who’s benefited from this country needs to invest in it,” she said. “We need to raise revenue, and in a country as rich as ours it’s easy to do.”
Sr. Simone and Sr. Diane Donoghue, SS, are the only two sisters on the bus for its entire trip. For the Cincinnati stop they were joined by Sr. Reg McKillip, OP; Sr. Marge Clark, BVM; and the only local “nun,” Sr. Mary Wendeln, CPPS, from Dayton. Sr. Simone, Sr. Diane, and Sr. Reg all work for NETWORK, a politically and socially liberal lobbying group associated with Catholic sisters and recently called out as problematic by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome. The tour, which takes place over the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ “Fortnight for Freedom” but is pointedly not connected with it, seemed to mean different things to different people. Some in the crowd expressed anger with Republican politicians. Others were eager to thank sisters and nuns for their work as teachers and in helping the poor.
Catholics were not the only supporters on Fountain Square. Carol Taylor, a Buddhist who lives in Avondale, said she came to support the sisters because they teach what she believes: “that humanity leads.”
Taylor said she was brought up as a Catholic but chose a different path. “But I had 13 years of Catholic schooling, and those values mean a lot to me,” she said. “Compassion is the common element in every faith tradition. We respond to each other as human beings. We feed the hungry. A homeless, drug-addicted man came to me the other day, and I fed him. What was I supposed to do, judge him?”
A Clifton resident who did not want to be identified said he came to support the sisters although he is an atheist. “I basically see religion as one of the most evil forces in the world,” he said. “I always say I don’t have enough hate in me to be a Christian. But these sisters are different. They’re doing what everyone should do.”
After half an hour in the hot sun, the event billed as a press conference ended. Half a dozen homeless people had gathered on the steps. Several of the sisters and their supporters gave them money and the rest dispersed, leaving them to sit and chat in front of the empty bus.