Nuns on the Bus Rolls Out of Des Moines

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Moyers & Company producer Andy Fredericks and production assistant Jackie Kostek are traveling with the Nuns on the Bus tour. They contributed reporting to this post and will be filing regular text and video updates. Check for more.

Sister Simone Campbell, organizer of the Nuns on the Bus tour, speaking in Ames, Iowa. Photo by Jackie Kostek

They call it Nuns on the Bus. A bus filled with Catholic nuns rolled out of Des Moines, Iowa this morning, beginning a journey from the Midwest to Washington, D.C. to spotlight social justice issues and protest the House Republican budget, which slashes spending on safety-net programs such as Medicaid and food stamps. Along the way, the nuns will visit homeless shelters, food pantries and hospitals to highlight their own work on behalf of the poor, and call attention to  services the nuns say will be “decimated” by the so-called Ryan budget. Their bus — of a type usually reserved for rock stars and their roadies (the driver dropped Dolly Parton’s name) — will also be taking the plain-clothed nuns to congressional offices in each state they pass through.

The tour’s first stop was at the office of Rep. Steve King (R-IA), a supporter of the Ryan budget. The nuns had planned to present the congressman with a copy of the Faithful Budget, an economic approach drafted by a group of Christian, Jewish, Muslim and other religious organizations as a rebuttal to the House budget. The Faithful Budget calls for increased aid to the poor and cuts in military spending.

Though the nuns say they had an appointment, the congressman’s office was shuttered and dark.

Tomorrow, they’ll be visiting the office of the budget’s namesake, Rep. Paul Ryan himself. The nuns will just miss Mitt Romney, whose own bus tour passed through Ryan’s hometown of Janesville, Wisconsin this morning. Ryan, a Catholic, has said his faith played a role in the drafting of his budget.

“The Holy Father himself, Pope Benedict, has charged [that] governments, communities and individuals running up high debt levels are ‘living at the expense of future generations, and living in untruth….

Our budget offers a better path consistent with the timeless principles of our nation’s founding and, frankly, consistent with how I understand my Catholic faith. We put faith in people, not in government.”

But Sister Simone Campbell, who organized the Nuns on the Bus tour, has a different interpretation, which she explained to our producer Andy Fredericks:

“Pope Benedict says that until people have justice you can’t give charity; justice is what is owed by society to a person, and charity is largesse above it….

We try to live in relation to people at the margins of society and lift all up for justice. Where there is one bit of injustice, we all suffer.”

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