DUBUQUE, Iowa, July 3, 2012 ( – Vice President Joe Biden made a quiet visit to the religious sisters of St. Francis in Dubuque last week, the motherhouse of the current president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR).

David Gibson of the Religion News Service wrote that about 150 people were present at the event, and noted that the Dubuque location is the motherhouse of LCWR president Sr. Patricia Farrell, OSF. A recent newsletter also lists Farrell as one of the vice presidents of the Dubuque house. It wasn’t clear whether Farrell was present for Biden’s visit.

“The Vice-President got to know the sisters through an old friend in Dubuque, during a previous trip to the city,” said a campaign official, according to RNS. “This was nothing more than a private, casual reunion of friends of faith over ice cream and cookies.”


Biden’s Twitter account confirmed the visit, saying the vice president went to “catch up” with the sisters during a campaign stop in the battleground state. A photograph of Biden greeting one sister was tweeted from the account.

LCWR, a large umbrella group of religious sisters well known as a lobby for liberal social causes, made headlines in 2010 as one of the most high-profile Catholic groups supporting the federal health care legislation, joining the Catholic Health Association.


Although an association of conservative sisters shot back at the time with their own statement opposing the reform effort, in union with U.S. bishops, at least one Catholic Democrat in the House cited “the nuns” as the reason for deciding to support the bill, according to a source on the Hill.

President Obama later appointed Sr. Marlene Weisenbeck, who headed LCWR during the health care push, as the only Catholic on his Council for Faith-Based Partnerships in 2011.

More recently, LCWR expressed outrage after it was sanctioned by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith this year, following an investigation into its liberal advocacy.

The Vatican’s doctrinal assessment cited evidence that, despite LCWR’s promotion of legitimate social justice in certain areas, the group’s agenda “is silent on the right to life from conception to natural death” and does not include “the church’s biblical view of family life and human sexuality … in a way that promotes church teaching.”


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