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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

At Democratic Convention, a Cardinal and an Outspoken Nun


The Democrats are giving a convention speaking slot to Sister Simone Campbell, an outspoken advocate for the poor and elderly, according to an aide with President Obama's campaign who would speak only on background.

In doing so, the Democratic Party has balanced its own Catholic ticket by showcasing both Sister Campbell, who pushed for the passage of the Obama administration's health care overhaul, and Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, who is suing the White House over a provision in the health care overhaul that requires employers to cover birth control in their employee insurance plans.

Cardinal Dolan, who says he is a personal friend of Representative Paul D. Ryan, Mitt Romney's running mate. has been perceived by many Catholic commentators as being too cozy with Republicans, while Sister Campbell has been seen as being too supportive of Democratic causes. In June, she led the “Nuns on the Bus” tour to c all attention to cuts affecting the poor and elderly in the budget proposed by Mr. Ryan.

Cardinal Dolan will give the closing prayer at the convention, and Sister Campbell will speak but not offer a prayer. Cardinal Dolan had first accepted an offer to give the closing prayer at the Republican convention in Tampa, Fla., this week, and said then that he would accept an invitation from the Democratic Party to establish that it was not a partisan gesture.

Sister Campbell is the executive director of Network, a liberal Catholic lobbying group in Washington.

After the Vatican accused the country's largest umbrella group of nuns, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, of straying from church doctrine, many of its members were reluctant to speak publicly.

But Sister Simone, already a public figure, gave scores of interviews defending the group.

She said that she organized the “Nuns on the Bus” tour with the dual purpose of raising awareness about the Ryan budget and calling attention to the work that American nuns perform every day providing social services to poor and vulnerable people.

The nuns gave her a standing ovation when she was introduced earlier this month at a meeting of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. Sister Campbell said in an interview at the conference that she and Mr. Ryan had a private meeting after the bus tour back in Washington.

She said that they did not see eye to eye on what Catholic teaching says about the government providing a social safety net for the poor: “We agreed that we would agree to disagree.”