Nun acknowledged for her Obamacare ‘generous service’

Pope Francis Carol Keehan

Pope Francis has praised the work of Sr Carol Keehan as someone “continuing the healing ministry of Jesus Christ”.

Sr Keehan, DC, is the former head of the Catholic Health Association. Her crusading work in US health care led her to defy the US bishops’ conference to support President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act in 2010.

Keehan was recognised with the Spirit of Francis Award from Catholic Extension, a Chicago-based nonprofit organisation that assists ministries in poor dioceses.

Archbishop Christoph Pierre, the Vatican’s nuncio to the United States, read a message from Pope Francis at an awards banquet on May 25 at the Library of Congress.

“His Holiness willingly associates himself with this recognition of her many years of dedicated leadership in continuing the healing ministry of Jesus Christ through the provision of quality health care for all, especially those most in need,” the message read, referring to Sister Keehan.

“He appreciates as well her generous service to the Holy See and her fidelity to the charism of Saint Vincent de Paul, carrying out the apostolate of charity in ‘the consciousness that we are responsible for the fragility of others as we strive to build a common future’ (“Fratelli Tutti,” 115).”

It continued, “To Sister Carol, and to all who gathered for this happy occasion, the Holy Father cordially sends his blessing as a pledge of peace and joy in the Lord”.

Cardinal Wilton Gregory, the archbishop of Washington, and Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago also attended the dinner.

“Sister Carol stands in a long line of consecrated religious women who have led the way in providing quality health care that leaves no one behind,” said Cardinal Cupich, who serves as the chancellor of Catholic Extension.

“To this day, she continues to show great leadership, advising the Holy See on health care issues and, most recently, cooperating with Pope Francis’ initiatives to educate the world about Covid-19 vaccination.”

Sister Keehan entered the contentious debate over the Affordable Care Act at a pivotal time, lending Catholic support to a bill that had been criticised by US bishops.

While supportive of expanding access to health care, Catholic bishops had come out against the bill because of concerns that it would expand access to abortion. Sister Keehan reviewed the legislation and said she did not share those concerns.

The Washington Post called Sister Keehan’s sign-off of the legislation “a critical endorsement.” Later, then-President Barack Obama credited her with helping provide the necessary support to help pass the bill.

“We would not have gotten the Affordable Care Act done if it weren’t for her,” Mr Obama said at a Catholic Health Association gathering in 2015.


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