The Blog

Media Malpractice: WashPost Reports that All 59,000 Nuns in the U.S. Support Obamacare

6:35 PM, Mar 18, 2010 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

E.J. Dionne is pretty excited that NETWORK, an organization of Catholic nuns, supports the Senate health care bill and says it doesn't use federal dollars to pay for abortions. That claim isn't true (more on that soon), but the endorsement is supposed to give Democrats cover to vote for the bill. The Post's news report by staff writers Lori Montgomery and Paul Kane shows you why Dionne thinks this is such a big deal:

Meanwhile, in an unusual schism within the Catholic Church over abortion, a consortium of 59,000 nuns waded into the debate, declaring their support for the legislation despite the insistence of the nation's bishops and antiabortion groups that it would open the door to federal funding of abortion.

"Despite false claims to the contrary, the Senate bill will not provide taxpayer funding for elective abortions," the group said in a letter signed by leaders of dozens of religious orders. "It will uphold longstanding conscience protections and it will make historic new investments . . . in support of pregnant women. This is the real pro-life stance, and we as Catholics are all for it."

The Post reporters give no hint that NETWORK is a "progressive" organization, but that's exactly how the group describes itself on its own website. One of the group's board members works at "Wellstone Action," an organization named after the late left-wing--and pro-abortion--senator Paul Wellstone. Among the top 10 issues on NETWORK's agenda, you'll see that defending the right to life is not on the list. This is hardly an "unusual schism" within the Catholic Church.

But the Post's most egregious error is its report that 59,000 nuns endorsed the health bill, when 59,000 is roughly the total number of nuns in the United States. Steven Ertelt reports:

Sister Mary Ann Walsh, the director of media relations for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, emailed with a rebuttal.

"A recent letter from Network, a social justice lobby of sisters, grossly overstated whom they represent in a letter to Congress that was also released to media," she writes. "Network’s letter, about health care reform, was signed by a few dozen people, and despite what Network said, they do not come anywhere near representing 59,000 American sisters."

"The letter had 55 signatories, some individuals, some groups of three to five persons. One endorser signed twice," she noted. "There are 793 religious communities in the United States. The math is clear. Network is far off the mark."

In fact, there are only 59,000 women in Catholic religious orders in the United States, meaning the Network letter could never have represented all, or even most, of them.

Meanwhile, in a new statement, the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious spoke out against the letter endorsing the pro-abortion health care bill, saying it is “directly” opposed to Catholic Church teachings.

The CMSWR statement declares the Senate health insurance bill unacceptable based on the legislation’s expansion of abortion funding and its inadequate protection of health care workers’ right of conscience. [...]

The CMSWR represents over 103 women religious communities and 10,000 members.

Don't make Retracto the Correction Alpaca come after you, WaPo reporters. Spare him the trouble, and correct this error now.

Recent Blog Posts

The Weekly Standard Archives

Browse 19 Years of the Weekly Standard

Old covers