I remember the nuns I had at St. Pancratius grammar school(no longer extant) on the southside of Chicago. They were the Franciscan Sisters of Cunegunde. Their names I don't recall, with one exception, Sister Narsissus, a diminuative nun who taught 1st grade. I met her years later on a bus and towered over her. She was much older. But it was hard to tell because her wimple and habit left only her face and hands visible to the outer world.
So different nowadays. Nuns---most of them--- aren't cloistered any more or inviolately swaddled . They intermingle and interact more outside the convent. Running businesses and hospitals. Working in food pantries and homeless shelters. Teaching. Nursing. Counseling the incarcerated. Consoling the sick, the old, the dying . Performing the corporal and spiritual works of mercy enjoined by Christ in the Gospels.
This focus on those in need has led many nuns to become social and political activists. They have become advocates for the poor, the underprivileged, the less fortunate. They speak for the people without power or influence in the corridors and chambers of government.
Such a group, Nuns on the Bus, has been shadowing the Romney campaign in Iowa and will do so (like Hounds of Heaven) through key battleground states like Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Maryland. They're led by Sister Simone Campbell who is the executive director of Network, a liberal social justice lobby in Washington. Their message is the antidote to the Republican Party's obsession with the uber-wealthy. The nuns want to expose the immorality of unfettered greed, the moral bankruptcy of the unregulated free market, and the evil of the widening gap between the haves and have-nots in our nation.
Republicans who call themselves Christian are worshipping at the altar of Objectivism, the materialistic, godless, self-serving philosophy of Ayn Rand. Representative Paul Ryan, architect of the GOP budget and Roadmap to America's Future, is one of her disciples. He even has mandated that his staff read Rand's works, like The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. Don't raise revenue by taxing the Top 1%, Ryan says. Do it by cutting social programs for the bottom 50%. Social Security and Medicare are wasteful unsustainable entitlements. Privatize them. The right-wing dog whistle for enriching the Republican campaign moneytrain on Wall Street.
This is the message of the Nuns on the Bus. Like what Pope John Paul II said at the Puebla Conference in 1979. He warned against "the ever increasing wealth of the rich at the expense of the ever increasing poverty of the poor." He admonished that private property "must lead to a more just and equitable distribution of goods...and if the common good demands it, there is no need to hesitate at expropriation itself, done in the right way."
Just and equitable distribution of goods? The common good? Mr. Romney, I hope you're listening.