A group of US Catholic nuns will embark on a multi-state bus tour starting next Monday, following a week in which the Catholic Church hierarchy received public attention for reprimanding nuns for focusing on issues of poverty, was forced to defend its fight against birth control, and has been embattled with state legislatures over sex abuse scandals. The Nuns on the Bus: Nuns Drive for Faith, Family and Fairness tour will visit nine states between June 18 and July 20 to speak out against the House budget proposed by Paul Ryan (R-WI) because of the budget’s massive cuts for many social services.

On their website, the nuns wrote, “As Catholic Sisters, we are missioned to stand with people in need and to be witnesses for economic justice.” They continued, “We cannot stand by silently when the U.S. Congress considers further enriching the wealthiest Americans at the expense of struggling, impoverished families.”

The bus tour is especially notable because the Bishops recently called the nuns “radical feminists” for focusing too much on issues of poverty and social justice and not speaking out enough against homosexuality and abortion. On Tuesday, two leaders of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious met with Vatican officials and the Seattle archbishop to discuss the accusations. A petition signed by over 57,000 people condemning the inquiry was delivered to the Bishops and protestors rallied outside the Roman Catholic Bishops’ annual meeting, held yesterday.

The Bishops have been trying to manage other scandals as well this week. During yesterday’s meeting, the Bishops devoted a large portion of the time to defending their “religious freedom” campaigns, criticized as partisan efforts, which were launched in opposition to the Obama Administration’s rule that all employers’ insurance plans cover birth control. The hierarchy has also launched attacks in state legislatures against proposals to loosen statutes of limitations that dictate deadlines for victims to report sexual abuse. The Bishops are already fighting sex abuse scandals in court, as a groundbreaking trial against the Bishops concluded earlier this month in Philadelphia.

New York Times 6/14/12, 6/13/12, 6/5/12; The Diane Rehm Show 6/14/12; AP 6/13/12; Los Angeles Times 6/13/12; NunsontheBus.org