By Peter J. Smith

WASHINGTON, D.C., March 18, 2010 ( – Immediately after a leading group of religious sisters flouted US bishops to announce support for the Senate health care bill as “the REAL pro-life stance,” a group of traditional Catholic nuns have backed the bishops’ condemnation of the bill as a serious threat to Catholic pro-life values.

The Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious (CMSWR) entered into the health care scrap after the US Catholic Conference of Catholic Bishops was challenged by the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR). LCWR, a left-leaning nationwide organization of religious sisters, joined the Catholic Health Association yesterday in demanding the House pass the Senate health care bill.

The USCCB has urged Representatives to oppose the Senate bill, as the legislation does not have strong enough restrictions against federal dollars subsidizing abortion coverage, and gives seven billion dollars to “community health centers” to serve the urban poor. That section of the bill leaves funds open to go to sexual and reproductive “health” clinics that provide abortions, such as Planned Parenthood.

The CMSWR, which claims to represent 10,000 Catholic sisters (20 percent of US women religious groups), announced that they stood with the US Bishops in opposing the Senate version of ObamaCare.

“Recent statements from groups like Network, the Catholic Health Association and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) directly oppose the Catholic Church’s position on critical issues of health care reform,” wrote Mother Mary Quentin Sheridan, R.S.M, President of the CMSWR on behalf of the organization.

“The Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious, the second conference of Major Superiors of Women Religious in the United States, believes the Bishops’ position is the authentic teaching of the Catholic Church,” she continued. “Protection of life and freedom of conscience are central to morally responsible judgment.

“We join the bishops in seeking ethically sound legislation.”

Sheridan’s letter gives much needed support to the embattled US Catholic Bishops, who have found the Catholic front on health care undermined by the Catholic Health Association, several retired bishops, and the LCWR, which have all thrown their endorsement behind the Senate bill, despite the grave objections of the US Bishops and the leading pro-life organizations.

The White House has eagerly turned the defections into political gold, but the architect behind the break with the bishops was revealed to be none other than the President himself. Today White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters in a press conference that Obama was involved both in convincing the LCWR to break with the bishops on Wednesday, and had met personally with Sr. Carol Keehan of the CHA to get her public support for the health care bill.

The endorsements have hammered bishops’ efforts to support a fragile coalition of pro-life Democrats led by Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) united against the health care bill.

Rep. Jim Oberstar (D-Minn.), who formerly supported the Stupak amendment, announced Wednesday morning that he would now support the Senate bill, saying he believed the Senate language sufficiently prevented federal money from subsidizing abortion.

Gibbs told reporters that pro-life Democrat Rep. Dale Kildee’s (D-Mich.) support for the health care bill had been enabled in part because these Catholic groups came on board endorsing the Senate bill.

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