NCRegister’s article also fleshes out the bus trip’s origin as an attempt at retaliation against the Vatican for the CDF Doctrinal Assessment of the LCWR, and to detract from the Fortnight for Freedom.
In a July 2 profile of Sister Simone, Time magazine observed, “At times Nuns on the Bus can seem like Campbell’s personal act of retaliation against the Vatican for its virtual takeover of the nuns’ leadership conference and its rebuke of Network.” Indeed, the article quoted Sister Simone: “I’ve been a faithful woman religious for over 40 years. … And some guy who’s never talked to me says we’re a problem? Ooh, that hurts.”
Likewise, it was no accident that the sisters’ two-week bus tour was timed to coincide with the U.S. bishops’ June 21-July 4 Fortnight for Freedom….
The Network sisters support the HHS mandate that has been rejected by the bishops, and a press hungry for sensationalism was much more inclined to cover the sisters’ public disagreement with Catholic Church leaders than to cover thousands of Catholics — including many more sisters than those on the bus — praying in churches. The New York Times called the Nuns on the Bus tour a “spirited retort to the Vatican,” and Time’s headline on its July 2 profile of Sister Simone read: “Holy Strategist: A nun takes on bishops with a bus tour and Twitter.”
How did a handful of sisters on a bus get such wide media coverage? The answer might be found in the media professional who accompanied them on the bus and her employer. A perceptive blogger, Elizabeth at Laetificat, made the connection that the sisters’ media representative, Casey Shoenberger, is employed as a media relations assistant for the organization Faith in Public Life (FPL) and had worked in the associate program at Network.
Go read it. This is the most detailed and excellent faithful Catholic article there has yet been on the Nuns on the Bus and develops the story further. For the record, I read a comment at this link that brought up a connection between FPL and the Nuns on the Bus, what I did was research enough to demonstrate the truth of that, in the course of which I realized I’d interacted with and snapped a photo of Casey the FPL employee at the Janesville stop.
I was interested that the Register actually called up NETWORK and asked them about Casey Schoeneberger. Their response to this uncomfortable fact seems a bit defensive.
Network’s communications coordinator, Stephanie Niedringhaus, told the Register that FPL’s Schoenberger accompanied the bus tour only because she herself was unable to go due to family obligations. She said she was not aware of any funding for the tour from Faith in Public Life and said that the funding came from “a long list” of sources, with that funding still coming in.
Since Casey is a FPL employee, at it appears her services were funded by FPL, whose other staff of course were also actively working on promoting the Nuns on the Bus, through their website and so forth. We don’t know the specifics; Niedringhaus is vague enough that even if for instance FPL completely arranged and paid for the bus and driver it can still be true that Niedringhaus is unaware of FPL giving funds to NETWORK, and it can also be true that a long list of other donors, for instance small online donors, contributed.
The Register article also has this:
On the FPL “Successes” page is an entry about the March 17, 2010, letter on Network stationery to Congress urging passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare. The bishops, while supporting health-care reform, did not support that bill because it included funding for abortion and did not have adequate conscience protection. The Network letterclaimed to represent all 59,000 sisters in the U.S., but was signed by only about 60 sisters.
The bishops’ conference issued a clarification about that letter the next day, explaining that the signers had “grossly overstated whom they represent” in that letter.
No wonder Sr Simone told me “it’s complicated” in response to my asking whether she opposes the HHS abortion, contraception and sterilization mandate. I understood this to be a euphemism for “no”. As the Register article says with refreshing directness: “The Network sisters support the HHS mandate.”
In contrast, the National Catholic Register, through its parent company EWTN, is one of the plaintiffs in the coordinated lawsuits challenging the mandate’s constitutionality.