Villanova University recently honored the social justice group NETWORK, which has been the subject of a Vatican doctrinal review and supported the Affordable Care Act despite the U.S. bishops’ concerns about abortion coverage and the HHS mandate, according to the University’s website.
Sister Simone Campbell, SSS, executive director of NETWORK, accepted the 2013 Adela Dwyer-St. Thomas of Villanova Peace Award last month. She delivered a lecture titled, “The Pentecost of Non-Violence: Policies of Struggle and Hope.”
“We are delighted to honor NETWORK, a group that has spoken time and again with a prophetic voice on behalf of the poor and marginalized,” said Kathryn Getek Soltis, director of Villanova’s Center for Peace and Justice Education. “Sr. Simone and her colleagues model for us what it means to publicly live out one’s beliefs with both courage and creativity.”
As part of its review of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a 2012 assessment that specifically called for a review of the LCWR’s relationship with NETWORK. The Congregation reported:
On June 25, 2010, Bishop [Leonard] Blair presented further documentation on the content of the LCWR’s Mentoring Leadership Manual and also on the organizations associated with the LCWR, namely Network and The Resource Center for Religious Institutes. The documentation reveals that, while there has been a great deal of work on the part of LCWR promoting issues of social justice in harmony with the Church’s social doctrine, it is silent on the right to life from conception to natural death, a question that is part of the lively public debate about abortion and euthanasia in the United States. Further, issues of crucial importance to the life of Church and society, such as the Church’s Biblical view of family life and human sexuality, are not part of the LCWR agenda in a way that promotes Church teaching .Moreover, occasional public statements by the LCWR that disagree with or challenge positions taken by the Bishops, who are the Church’s authentic teachers of faith and morals, are not compatible with its purpose.
Sr. Simone responded defiantly in a National Public Radio interview, claiming the Vatican “doesn’t know how to deal with strong women” and dismissed the Congregation’s doctrinal concerns:
They're big issues, but they aren't at the heart of faith. That's the problem. And what we do as women religious is, we minister to people everywhere who are suffering, who are being discriminated against, and we don't ask to see a baptismal certificate. We serve everyone we find, in keeping with the Gospel of Jesus. That's what we're doing.
The bishops have a different mandate and a different message. And they are trying to protect the institution and to worry mostly—apparently—about an orthodoxy that I can't quite understand. But our different missions still - serves one faith.
At the 2012 Democrat National Convention, Sr. Simone infamously responded to a question about whether abortion should be legal by declaring, “That’s beyond my pay grade. I don’t know.”
NETWORK worked against the U.S. bishops’ efforts to oppose passage of the Affordable Care Act, because they believed it funded abortion. Subsequent research by the Lozier Institute has confirmed that taxpayers will fund abortions, according to the Catholic News Agency.
The organization and Sr. Simone are responsible for the “Nuns on the Bus” tours across the country, focused on social justice themes.
Past recipients of Villanova’s Peace Award include Leymah Gbowee, an abortion-rights advocate; Noam Chomsky, who once said that an unborn child is just “an organ” of a woman’s body; and the pro-abortion rights Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
Catholic Education Daily is an online publication of The Cardinal Newman Society. Click here for email updates and free online membership with The Cardinal Newman Society.