A nun with the Catholic social justice group NETWORK Lobby said in an interview with Raw Story on Friday that she was encouraged by the new pope’s emphasis on income inequality, and her “secret dream” was for Pope Francis to write a letter to Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) about his “extremely unjust” budget.
“I guess one of my secret dreams would be to invite Pope Francis to write a letter to Paul Ryan about his budget. I think Paul Ryan’s budget, for one thing, strongly increases the wealth gap. And I think that’s something that Pope Francis would be very opposed to,” Sister Marge Clark, NETWORK’S lobbyist on domestic human needs, told Raw Story.
NETWORK has been a strong voice against income inequality and organized a “Nuns on the Bus” tour last year to bring attention to the fact that Ryan’s 2012 budget, which similarly cut programs for the poor while expanding tax cuts for the wealthy went against Catholic teachings.
Clark described Ryan’s budget this year as “extremely unjust.”
At the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on Friday, Ryan, who is a professed Catholic, pointed out that poverty is growing. “We’ve been dumping a trillion a year on all levels of government on fighting poverty,” he said. “We launched this war on poverty in the ’60s and look at where we are. Poverty is winning. So we have got to figure out how to fight a more effective war on poverty if we want to beat poverty.”
But, as Clark pointed out, “62 percent of his budget cuts are aimed at people in poverty and on the margin and at the same time he’s doing that, there are further tax benefits for the wealthy.”
She said she was disappointed that Ryan’s budget has disproportionately favored the wealthy while it cuts programs like food stamps, housing assistance, school nutrition programs, and other programs that the poor depend on. “I think one of the things that I hope to be able to do is point out the inconsistency between the lovely things that Paul Ryan says at something like the CPAC conference and how that relates to the actual things within the budget, because they’re diametrically opposed.”
When asked about how strong of a voice she thought Pope Francis might be on income inequality issues, Clark said she was hopeful. “I think the fact that he has been so dedicated to social justice. He has spoken very strongly with civil authorities about the sinfulness of the wealth gap.”
“One of my prayers for him is that he will find a way to spend time with people in poverty in various parts of the world. Perhaps especially those who have been victimized by the use of sexual abuse as a means of war. People who have ben genitally mutilated. I think it might soften his edge on issues related to sexuality.”
She went on to say she hoped the pope would be open to expanding women’s roles in the Church, even saying she hoped he would allow female priests and married priests in the Church.
“I personally know 30 or 40 women who have been through full seminary training and all they needed was a bishop who would ordain them,” Clark said. “We’ve lost some of the best ministers that we’ve had because they married and once they married, they could no longer be a priest. We’ve tremendous numbers of excellent ministers in the church.”
“We need leadership in the church that is more inclusive. Jesus hung out with the poor and the odious. He even hung out with sinners. He included them for their lives to be better,” she said. “I would hope that Pope Francis might do the same.”
Kay Steiger is the managing editor of Raw Story. Her contributions have appeared in The American Prospect, The Atlantic, Campus Progress, The Guardian, In These Times, Jezebel, Religion Dispatches, RH Reality Check, and others. You can follow her on Twitter @kaysteiger.
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