It’s sad to watch the New York Times and the Washington Post, along with MSNBC, attack Benedict XVI. The story they concocted over the past few weeks, with the help of retired Bishop Rembert Weakland about Rev. Joseph Murphy, is risibly tenuous.
These once-great newspapers trivialize themselves by publishing front-page stories making obvious their chronic disregard of the Catholic Church and, especially, the Pope. Nothing else but a kind of seething hatred explains their willingness to ignore the canons of credible reporting and comment.
The Church’s staunchest defender in this country is Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, who has been countering this latest attack from the first blow. Donohue calls the New York Times story on Father Murphy the “last straw,” but no doubt there will be more straw to ignite Donohue’s flaming pen. (And it won’t be from the pages of the Summa Theologiae, which its author deemed as “so much straw” in the hours before his death.)
I asked Donohue, and a number of other experts, the question, “Why does media like the New York Times and the Washington Post hate the Church and the Pope – what’s the source of the animus?”
Donohue replied, “As I said in today’s New York Times op-ed page ad, it stems from three issues: abortion, gay marriage, and women’s ordination. So, when they can nail the Church on promiscuity, they love it. The goal is to weaken the moral authority of the Church so it won’t be as persuasive on issues like health care.”
Fred Barnes, executive editor of the Weekly Standard, agrees the media wants to weaken the Church. He echoes what his friend the late Bob Novak used to tell me about the mainstream media; it is “the most secular, liberal group in the country. The Catholic Church stands for everything you and I believe (though I’m not a Catholic) and for practically nothing the media likes. But the media cannot ignore the Catholic Church because it is so strong, popular, and enduring. That leaves the media one avenue of attack: Jump on any mistakes or scandals involving the Church and don’t let go.”
Another Evangelical friend of Catholics, Ralph Reed, founder of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, wrote to me that the “lamestream media hates the Pope because he exemplifies the vibrancy and relevance of orthodox faith in today’s society, which many in the press find either alien or deeply troubling.” Reed also views the media as alarmed that for the “once divided Evangelicals and devout Roman Catholics, the Pope is a symbol of a faith-based constituency the media views as hostile to modernity and values-neutral ‘tolerance.’”
Some responses to my question were brief and to the point. Bishop Robert F. Vasa of Baker, OR wrote saying, “Deal, Jesus told us it would happen: John 15:18-19. Looking the passage up I found: “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you” (NIV translation).
Another quotation from Scripture came from the founder of Wallbuilders, David Barton, who cited Romans 1: 28-30 to describe what happens to those who directly reject belief in God. “They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed, and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant, and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil. . . . (NIV translation).
The philosopher Francis Beckwith, a recent convert to the Catholic faith, located the source of the media’s hatred in “the narrative of secular liberalism.” “The media doesn’t want to acknowledge that Catholics even have an “intelligent” point of view,” he explained. “This is why they don’t assess arguments, they seek out scandal in order to demoralize opposition. Given its status as an unquestioned first principle, secular liberalism can not allow a divine foot in the door.”
Russell Shaw, who used to deal with the press on a daily basis as communication’s director of the bishops’ conference, also thinks, “The people in charge in those places are secularist ideologues who believe they possess the right answers.” Shaw is not particularly sanguine about the outcome of the struggle: “It would be nice to think there’s a happy ending to this story, but I doubt it. Somebody’s got to win in the end.”
The recurring theme in the answers I received was that of two powers, two opposing moral viewpoints, competing for influence. The secular power of the media detests the traditional moral teachings of the Church but does not confront it directly, preferring coverage of scandal to argument. As Jim Bopp, Jr., general counsel to National Right to Life, wrote to me, “The Pope and the Church are the strongest force making people accountable to traditional moral requirements. It therefore must be destroyed by any means necessary, even though liberals are soft on pedophilia, they are prepared to condemn the Catholic Church for not dealing harshly with them.”
The poet Matthew Arnold wrote in “Dover Beach” about loss of faith that left us on a “darkling plain/Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight.” In this round of attacks on Benedict XVI we are witness to just such a scene. But, as Francis Beckwith reminded me, the Pope knows how to defend his faith. “This scares the crap out of the mainstream media, since it upsets the narrative: only dumb, ill-informed, people disagree with us. The narrative must be sustained at all costs, even if it means engaging in wicked defamation.”
Well, maybe it would be more accurate to say that President Obama loves some Catholics more than others. He loves Catholics like Sr. Carol Keehan, President of the Catholic Health Association because she successfully deflected the bishops’ concerns about funding for abortion by convincing the members of the House of Representatives that they should support the bill. She was so good at convincing lawmakers that the bill was one that Catholics could support, Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL ) told Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday last week that the bill had the support of the Catholic Church. And, when advised by Paul Ryan( R-WI) that the bishops were against the bill, Schultz responded that the nuns were in favor of it and asked Ryan why he believed that women could not speak for the Church.
Sr. Keehan has been a good soldier in the health care wars. In fact, President Obama loves Sr. Keehan so much that he awarded her 30 pieces of silver at the bill signing ceremony. Sorry, I meant to say he awarded her one of the 20 silver signing pens—the coveted souvenir pens that he gave only to his most faithful helpers in shepherding health care reform.
President Obama also loves Alexia Kelley, his pick to be the director of the Federal Center for Faith Based and Community Initiatives. Kelley is a special kind of Catholic because she couples an ability to talk the Catholic talk with phrases like “seeking common ground” but then applies them to abortion at the same time she is heading a group called “Catholics for (the pro-abortion) Sebelius.”
As founder and director of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, Kelley somehow convinced people like George Soros, and a long list of labor unions, that they should love Catholics too. In 2008, Kelley was paid $110,000 a year to direct Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good—but, it was money well spent because her Catholic organization received $100,000 from George Soros’ Open Society; $25,000 from the AFL-CIO; $75,000 from the ARCA Foundation; $50,000 from the PBL Fund; $50,000 from the American Federation of Teachers; $25,000 from AFSCME; $25,000 from IBEW; and $10,000 from IUPAT. Who would ever have guessed that labor unions loved Catholic teaching so much that they would spend thousands of dollars in 2008 to help Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good fulfill their stated mission of “promoting Catholic social teaching through media.”
When one looks closely at the funding streams for Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, it is hard to believe it when their leaders claim that they are non-partisan. Funders like the ARCA Foundation have funded leftist causes for years including Planned Parenthood and People for the American Way. And, neither George Soros nor the long list of labor unions are known to be contributors to conservative causes.
Still, President Obama must have been really grateful for the role that Catholics in Alliance played in allaying fears about the health care plan among Catholics. Teaming with Jim Wallis’ Sojourners and the Catholic Campaign funded Pacific Institute for Community Organizations, Catholics in Alliance provided Catholic congregations with a “Health Care Tool Kit.” While the kit’s brochure never denied that the proposed health care reform would fund elective abortion with public money, it stated rather neutrally: “How Congress applies current policy on federal funding for abortion to new systems created through health reform will be an important issue for the faith community.” It also reassured readers that conscience protections would remain in place—even though no such assurance was ever promised.
But, President Obama must love Chris Korzen’s Catholics United best of all because Korzen was so good at neutralizing the voices of the bishops. Formerly employed as an organizer for SEIU, and a master at messaging (he was one of the leaders of Catholics for Sebelius), Korzen once said in an interview that Catholics United does the “edgier” work. He’s right about that. Implying recently in a radio interview that the Catholic bishops are just not smart enough to understand the complexities of health care reform, Korzen enlisted 47 theologians who were willing to sign a statement on his website decrying the interference of the bishops in the debate over health care reform. Advising the bishops to stay out of the conversation on health care reform (unless of course they wanted to support it), the letter that the theologians signed stated that, “It is troubling to see some bishops sending messages that give spiritual sanction to narrow partisan agendas promoted by staunch opponents of reform.”
Once the health care reform bill was signed, Korzen dismissed the authority of the bishops on healthcare reform by stating on Kresta, an Ave Maria radio program that, “ It’s important to remember that they (the bishops) really don’t speak with authority on this, and as Catholics, we are free to disagree with them…they don’t have any particular charism in that field.” Rather than trusting their bishops, Korzen advises Catholics that, “When I want to know what’s in a piece of legislation, I don’t consult folks who are experts in ecclesiology, I consult folks who are experts in health care. The Catholic Hospital Association is one of those organizations…”
It seems that Korzen might trust some Catholics whose expertise is in ecclesiology and theology though, when he invited those 47 theologians to speak with authority on health care reform. But then again, by enlisting the theologians in advising Catholics on what Catholic teaching “really says” about health care reform, Korzen places the theologians in the position of providing a kind of Alternative Magisterium—a role that many of them have already assumed. I think lawyers call that venue shopping.
Regardless of their motivations, the reality is that Keehan and Korzen have diminished the authority of the bishops in the health care debate. They have attempted to silence the voices of those Catholics who are concerned about public funding for abortion. And, they have provided permission to Catholic lawmakers to support a bill that will dramatically expand abortion. President Obama must really love these Catholics.
There are only two facts Catholics need to know about the health care bill to decide it must be repealed. The bill signed by the President includes federal funding for abortion, and the Executive Order does nothing to remove that funding.
You don’t have to accept those facts on my authority – they have both been expressly asserted by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
For those who have been led astray by the false and misleading statements of Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI), the Catholic Health Association, Catholics United, and Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, here is why the health care bill funds abortion (according to the USCCB):
Federal funds can be used for elective abortions in community health centers; federal funds will subsidize health care plans that cover abortions; and Americans are forced to pay for other people’s abortions even if they disagree morally.
Obama’s Executive Order, that gave Stupak comfort in supporting the bill – after months of stating his opposition – cannot, according to Cardinal George, president of the USCCB, serve as a “substitute for statutory provisions.”
Richard Doerflinger, from the USCCB pro-life office, explained it was the “unanimous view of our legal advisors and of the experts” that present laws concerning abortion as “construed by the courts would override any Executive Order or regulation.”
Given the unaltered abortion funding, the only recourse for Catholics is to work for a repeal of the legislation. What good is contained in the bill is far outweighed by the abortion funding and the lack of conscience protection.
Any justification of why this bill should not be repealed will necessarily involve proportionalist reasoning. One such argument being used by Catholic “progressives” is that the benefit of the universal coverage contained in the bill outweighs the impact of the abortion funding. As John Paul II explained in Veritatis Splendor (75), the proportionalist thinks in terms of the “greater good” or “lesser evil” which makes all moral norms “always relative and open to exceptions.”
The bishops’ explicit rejection of this specious reasoning is found in their explanation of why they opposed passing the bill in the first place. The USCCB statement of March 23 contained the following passage (emphasis added):
“Nevertheless, for whatever good this law achieves or intends, we as Catholic bishops have opposed its passage because there is compelling evidence that it would expand the role of the federal government in funding and facilitating abortion and plans that cover abortion. . . . If this new law is intended to prevent people from being complicit in the abortions of others, it is at war with itself.”
The moral argument for repealing the health care bill is no different. If Catholics in the U.S. support the implementation of this bill, rather than calling for its repeal, they will become, just as the bishops point out, complicit in millions of abortions.
A so-called “Repeal It” pledge has already been signed by 64 members of Congress. Some GOP leaders such as the senators from South Carolina, Lindsay Graham and Jim De Mint, are proposing a “repeal and replace” strategy.
The question of repeal necessarily reaches out toward the 2010 election. No doubt, the fate of health care will be determined by the outcome of many congressional races, perhaps leading to a Congress whose first item of business will be a repeal. Catholics will have a powerful reason – the protection of unborn life — to cast their votes behind candidates who promise to end abortion funding by repealing the legislation.
In his Diocese of Madison, WI, Catholic Herald column, Bishop Robert Morlino answers the question, “Who is called to lead the people in faith?” He states unequivocally that it is NOT the Catholic Health Association nor the nuns who are members of NETWORK.
Bishop Morlino stated in his letter that the bishops are called to “teach, sanctify, and govern.” Even though they, like the rest of us, are sinners, the bishops are the successors to the Apostles, and, as such, have authority to “teach the word of Christ.” It is up to the faithful to accept their authority on Church teaching rather than view it as “opinion.”
The disobedience of the Catholic Health Association and NETWORK nuns to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ efforts to stop passage of the health care bill as long as it contained federal funding for abortion was a direct slap in their faces. Since when does a trade organization or a group of liberal nuns, not representing by the way, 59,000 nuns in America, hold more authority over Church teaching than our own bishops?
We can certainly disagree as to whether or not the bishops pushed soon enough or hard enough to ensure federal funding of abortion was removed from the health care bill. But, for organizations like the CHA and NETWORK, who call themselves Catholic, to call the shots is a travesty pure and simple. It was they who opened the door for “pro-life” Catholic Democrats to turn aside from true Church teaching to follow the “falseness” of their own disobedience.
From Jack Smith at the Catholic Key Blog comes an important report on a story from the diocesan newspaper of the Archdiocese of San Francisco. Remember this is Nancy Pelosi’s diocese and one of the most “progressive” in the country.
Smith writes about a former friend and colleague, George Wesolek, who serves as Director of the Office of Public Policy and Social Concerns for the Archdiocese of San Francisco. Wesolek, Smith explains, “is no conservative, but rather that type of thoroughgoing pro-life, Catholic social justice advocate that is much talked about but rarely evidenced.”
Wesolek wrote a column in Catholic San Francisco that Smith describes as dropping “a bomb.” Wesolek writes:
So now we have some nuns accusing the bishops of lying about abortion. Are you shocked? Don’t be because this has been going on for a long time.
For years, most of the leadership of the LCWR and the Catholic hospitals (most of which are owned by these very same LCWR leaders) have been advancing a view of Catholic social teaching that reflects a vision that they learned in the 60s and 70s – a tired feminism that distorts the role of women and has at its center the freedom of women to “choose” to kill the infants in their womb if they so desire.
This view rightly offers deep concern for justice for the poor and vulnerable, but like so many in this age-group, minimizes or trivializes the unborn. “Network,” the Washington, D.C. lobbying arm of the LCWR does not include pro-life legislation as part of its work. If it does at all, it distorts the term “pro-life” to be so ambiguous and far-reaching that it includes everything. Thus, the sisters can say with a straight face that the current health care legislation is “life-affirming.”
Catholics currently occupy more positions of influence in every sector of American society than at any time in the history of our country. Today, 25 U.S. Senators and 130 of the 435 members of the House of Representatives identify themselves as Catholics. A Catholic serves as Vice President, another as Speaker of the House of Representatives, six of the nine Justices of the Supreme Court are Catholic, and several Cabinet members claim Catholicism as their religion.
Coupled with these attainments in the political arena are the gains 68 million Catholic Americans have achieved in business, the professions, the media, education, and other areas of national life. With the degree of influence that follows from this preeminence, one would expect a national temperament that is compatible with Catholic teaching. Yet, our society is more anti-religious in its policies and laws, its views and attitudes, its behavior and inclinations than it has ever been.
America is plagued with abominations of abortion, cohabitation, same-sex marriage, dissolution of family life, destruction of embryonic stem cells, contraception, pornography, and a growing acceptance of assisted suicide and euthanasia. If professed Catholics truly practiced their faith, this would not be.
Archbishop John Ireland, a leading prelate of his day, in 1899, warned: “[I]f great things are not done by Catholics in America, the fault lies surely with themselves – not the republic.” Today, it is clear that Catholics are failing both the republic and themselves. They are forsaking the nation in not bringing the virtues taught by their religion to bear on issues of public concern. They are faithless to themselves because in their consuming drive for material success they are abandoning fundamental precepts of their religion.
Too many Catholics do not truly live according to their faith, even if they abide by obligatory devotions. Their professed beliefs do not affect their ideas, attitudes, decisions and actions, whether related to matters of public affairs, their drive for monetary success, tastes in entertainment, or the way they set priorities for living. In each of these instances, Catholics as a body are indistinguishable from the general populace. Only by ignoring what they say they believe could 54 percent of the Catholics who voted in the last Presidential election have cast their ballots for a candidate whose positions on abortion, gay marriage, and embryonic stem cell research are in direct opposition to that of the Catholic Church. Nor would the health care bill, which allows federal funding for elective abortion, have passed – symbolically, on Passion Sunday — if Catholic members of Congress had not ignored their bishops.
These people may attend an occasional Mass – only 23 percent attend weekly – but the rest of the time they live as if God does not exist. In pursuit of worldly prosperity, acclaim, or social acceptability, their behavior ceases to be regulated by the principles of their faith. They ignore and even deny the Church’s teachings, and have so compartmentalized their minds that they can say that they are personally opposed to an intrinsic evil, such as abortion, but would not deny others from engaging in it.
This attitude of misguided toleration treats religion as a matter of individual opinion. Nothing is held sacred, resulting in a national culture based on the lowest communal set of morals, made functional through laws and regulations. Religious beliefs are adapted to secular aims, rather than being used to shape societal practices. This frame of mind is appealing because it imposes no obligation on the individual to publicly live the faith, and does not interfere with one’s drive for material success.
The consequence is a divergence between what people profess to believe and how they act. While there are numerous examples of this aberration, it was vividly illustrated in a recent public exchange between Rep. Patrick Kennedy and his bishop, the Most Rev. Thomas Tobin of Providence, RI. The congressman, who has been a consistent and public supporter of abortion, stated, “The fact that I disagree with the hierarchy on some issues does not make me any less of a Catholic.” Bishop Tobin responded, “[W]hen someone rejects the teachings of the Church, especially on a grave matter, a life-and-death issue like abortion, it certainly does diminish their ecclesial communion, their unity with the Church.”
If one does not live by the fixed, unchanging beliefs about God, man’s purpose in the world, how he should live his life, and his ultimate end that the Church has been teaching for over two thousand years, a claim to be Catholic is hollow.
T.S. Eliot, in The Idea of a Christian Society, wrote, “one cannot but suspect that many who call themselves Christians do not understand what the word means.” This certainly is true of Catholics today.
If people do not understand what the term Catholic, or even Christian, implies, how can they be expected to lead their lives by its precepts? What is required is a reinvigoration of the faith, a re-evangelization of the laity. They must be taught what it means to be Catholic, to understand the timeless truth of its doctrines, to develop the moral values and commitment to live in accord with the faith.
Clearly, the clergy have a primary role in this effort. The bishops as stewards of the faith must assure that the laity are appropriately educated and form proper consciences, so that they can lead lives in conformity with the faith. But the responsibility goes beyond the ordained clergy. It is the family that is the first and foremost teacher of the young. Parents must take this obligation seriously, improving their own knowledge and behavior so they can pass the faith to their children. And it is the duty of all of us as laity to take action, in our public and private lives, to change society for the better. It is only when Catholics – indeed all Christians — become well-informed in their faith and fully live by its beliefs that they can hope to change the secular world.
Will we, as a society and as individuals, fulfill our responsibilities? We must! If left unaddressed, the ignorance of the faith among the laity and their laxity in living it will continue to grow, and lead to an increasing exclusion of religion from public affairs and to a decline in the values that underlie this nation.
Lawrence P. Grayson is a Visiting Scholar in the School of Philosophy at The Catholic University of America, and writes a monthly column for the Knights of Columbus in Maryland.
From the earliest battles over health care, Sr. Carol Keehan, president of the Catholic Health Association (CHA) has been out on the front lines defending the plan—and attacking those who criticize her tactics. In her most recent offensive, on March 11th, Sr. Keehan wrote a letter to the House of Representatives which urged the Members to “move quickly” to enact health reform by passing the Senate-approved legislation. This, despite the fact that the USCCB continues to reject passage of the Senate bill.
In some ways, Sr. Keehan’s letter to the House on March 11 was simply confirmation of what many of us already knew—that Sr. Keehan’s organization has been supporting the President’s plans for health care reform from the earliest days. And, although her support for health care reform always adds the qualifier that “any health care reform package will provide no federal funding for abortion,” she must know, as the Bishops continue to point out, that unless a “correction” is applied to the Senate bill, the bill she is defending will greatly expand public funding for abortion.
But, during the past year, anyone who even implies that Sr. Keehan’s organization has broken with the Bishops on health care reform, is vulnerable to attack by Sr. Keehan and her staff. Indeed, she has rallied her troops on several occasions during the past year to attack journalists who have pointed out the ambiguity in her press releases, videos, and public statements. For example, when I published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal last October claiming that the Catholic Health Association was supporting the President’s plan, Fred Caesar, Sr. Keehan’s special assistant, was not content with simply demanding a retraction, but Mr. Caesar sent letters of complaint to my employers, in a not so subtle strategy, to silence anyone critical of the CHA.
There were several journalists who were similarly “corrected” by the Catholic Health Association. David D. Kirkpatrick, a New York Times reporter, was so convinced that the CHA strongly supported the President’s health plan that he published an article on August 28 declaring just that. But, the New York Timescorrected that article on its website on August 29, claiming that its reporter “overstated the support” of the Catholic Health Association for the President’s plans.”
Much of the media confusion began when the CHA posted a video entitled “I Can’t Wait…for Health Reform.” The video opens with a film clip of President Obama giving a speech in which he declares: “Health care reform cannot wait, it must not wait, and it will not wait another year.” And, following President Obama’s address to a joint session of Congress where he offered reassurance that “no federal funds will be used for abortion, ” the CHA produced yet another puzzling video that again appeared to support the President’s plan. In it, Sr. Keehan states: “I could not help but think of the speech I heard from President Obama last night while sitting in the House Chamber, on how important health reform is for our economy, not just for the poor, but for our middle class, and for our businesses…I was so heartened to hear our President say that no federal funds will be used for abortion.”
But why was she “heartened” by it? Her claim was specious. As Cardinal Justin Rigali, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities, wrote in an August 11 letter to Congress addressing defects in the “America’s Affordable Health Choices Act,” funds authorized by this legislation would still be eligible to cover abortion since the Hyde Amendment—which bans federal financing of abortion—is not applicable to it. Also, he wrote, the funds authorized by the legislation are “fungible” and “will subsidize the operating budget and provider networks that expand access to abortions.”
When Sr. Keehan’s video statement cited the importance of health care reform “to businesses,” she may have been referring to the health care businesses she represents. As their representative, Sr. Keehan joins the more than 3,000 health care reform lobbyists on the Hill. And although Catholic hospitals and Catholic long-term care facilities were created to serve the poor, and most of them do a fine job of doing so, the Wall Street Journal revealed recently that some non-profit Catholic health care organizations have become very lucrative. In 2008, the Journal published a series on the transformation of non-profit hospitals into what the series’ reporters called “profit machines.” The Journal pointed out that “Ascension Health, a Catholic non-profit health care system that runs 65 hospitals, mostly in the Midwest and Northeast, reported net income of $1.2 billion in its fiscal year ending June 30, 2007, and cash and investments of $7.4 billion…more than many large publicly traded companies…more cash than Walt Disney Co. has.”
Some of the top executives at CHA’s member institutions—the Catholic hospital presidents and chief executive officers of Catholic health care organizations—are among the highest paid hospital administrators in the country, and some of them sit on CHA’s board. Lloyd Dean, the CEO of Catholic Healthcare West, became chair of the CHA in the spring of 2008. In 2006, Dean received a salary of $5.3 million from Catholic Healthcare West, a hospital system based in San Francisco. Dean’s salary included the forgiveness of Dean’s $782,541 housing loan. According to Healthcare West, Dean’s compensation “reflects his skill in turning the hospital system around financially.”
These hospitals have much to gain by helping to pass President Obama’s health care reform. On September 8, 2009, Lloyd Dean’s Catholic Healthcare West unveiled a multi-faceted campaign entitled “September for Reform” which marshaled its significant resources to support the President’s health care reform. But concerns about abortion or end-of-life care issues are not mentioned. A June 17, 2009 Catholic Healthcare West blog entry says: “We have been longtime supporters of health care reform. We took our first official position in support of universal access in 1992 and in 2003 we established four principles for reform: universal access, stable financing, and improved quality and accountability.” Catholics might be discouraged to find that respect for life from conception to natural death is not included in these four principles for reform.
Dean is not alone in receiving what most readers might conclude is a generous salary. According to the Wall Street Journal, Ascension Health paid its CEO an annual salary of $3.3 million. Like lobbyists on Capitol Hill, advocates representing Catholic hospitals in the health care reform debate are also paid well. Although Sr. Keehan’s $856,093 salary in 2006 (up from $654,915 in 2005) was paid directly to her religious order, according to the CHA’s 2007 IRS 990 report, several key employees at her organization received salaries of more than $300,000. Michael Rodgers, senior VP of advocacy, was paid $316,806 in 2006. Lisa Gilden, general counsel, was paid $325,206. Rhonda Mueller, VP of finance, was paid $268,873, and even Fred Caesar, Sr. Keehan’s special assistant made $198,212 in 2006. These health care reform advocates know that the single biggest variable for non-profit hospitals is how well insured the patient population is.
Faithful Catholics expect that advocates like Sr. Keehan remain faithful to the Church’s mission of protecting the unborn, the elderly, and those who cannot speak for themselves. Breaking with the Bishops in advocating passage of the Senate bill has created confusion for Catholics and has given lawmakers “permission” to pass a bill that will greatly expand the rates of abortion.
At Catholic Advocate, we are your eyes on Catholics in Congress. Late into the evening, during the final hours of the health care debate, we were impressed by the remarks delivered by Committee on the Budget Ranking Member Congressman Paul Ryan (R, WI-01) and wanted to share them with our community.
Transcript of Congressman Paul Ryan’s closing remarks in opposition to the health care bill:
“Madam speaker, there is a lot wrong with this bill.
“We know the problems with its cost. We know it doesn’t really reduce the deficit. We know that it increases health care premiums. The CBO has given us all of this information and it’s clear that what we have is a bill chock full of gimmicks and hidden mandates.
“So I’m not going to get into all of that again.
“But what I will ask is this: why has this decision become so personal to our constituents? Why are so many people swarming the Capitol over this? Why have we received 100,000 calls an hour from all over the country?
“It is because health care affects every one of us. And yet, here we are, debating whether the government should have a bigger role in making those personal decisions.
“So make no mistake about it. We’re not just here to pass a healthcare bill. We are being asked to make a choice about the future path of this country.
“The speakers to my left are correct: this is history. Today marks a major turning point in American history. This is really not a debate about prices, coverage, or choosing doctors.
“This is ultimately about what kind of country we are going to be in the 21st century.
“America is not just a nationality – it’s not just a mass of land from Hawaii to Maine, from Wisconsin to Florida. America is an idea. It’s the most pro-human idea ever designed by mankind.
“Our founders got it right, when they wrote in the Declaration of Independence that our rights come from nature and nature’s God – not from government.
“Should we now subscribe to an ideology where government creates rights, is solely responsible for delivering these artificial rights, and then systematically rations these rights?
“Do we believe that the goal of government is to promote equal opportunity for all Americans to make the most of their lives – or do we now believe that government’s role is to equalize the results of people’s lives?
“The philosophy advanced on the floor by the Majority today is so paternalistic, and so arrogant. It’s condescending. And it tramples upon the principles that have made America so exceptional.
“My friends, we are fast approaching a tipping point where more Americans depend on the federal government than on themselves for their livelihoods – a point where we, the American people, trade in our commitment and our concern for our individual liberties in exchange for government benefits and dependencies.
“More to the point, Madam Speaker, we have seen this movie before, and we know how it ends. The European social welfare state promoted by this legislation is not sustainable.
“This is not who we are and it is not who we should become.
“As we march toward this tipping point of dependency, we are also accelerating toward a debt crisis – a debt crisis that is the result of politicians of the past making promises we simply cannot afford to keep. Déjà vu all over again.
“It is unconscionable what we are leaving the next generation.
“This moment may mark a temporary conclusion of the health care debate – but its place in history has not yet been decided. If this passes, the quest to reclaim the American idea is not over. The fight to reapply our founding principles is not finished, it’s just a steeper climb. And it is a climb that we will make.
“On this issue – more than any other issue we have ever seen here – the American people are engaged. From our town hall meetings, to Scott Brown’s victory in Massachusetts, you have made your voices heard. And some of us are listening to you.
“My colleagues, let’s bring down this bill – and bring back the ideas that made this country great!”
There was a series of three votes on Sunday, March 21, 2010. Catholic Advocate compiled a list of how Catholic Members of Congress voted on each with special emphasis on H.R. 4872, The Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act which is the key piece of the process that will eventually become the law signed by President Obama.
Vote 1 was on H.R. 3590, The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act also referred to as the Senate version of the health care bill (Passed 219 to 212).
Voting against H.R. 3590 was a pro-life vote.
34 Democrats Voted NO. Included in the 34 Democrats were 9 Catholics:
Representative Jason Altmire (D, PA-04)
Representative Michael Arcuri (D, NY-24)
Representative Tim Holden (D, PA-17)
Representative Dan Lipinski (D, IL-03)
Representative Stephen Lynch (D, MA-09)
Representative Jim Marshall (D, GA-08)
Representative Michael McMahon (D, NY-13)
Representative Charlie Melancon (D, LA-03)
Representative Gene Taylor (D, MS-04)
All Republicans Voted NO including the 37 Catholics.
Vote 2 was on a motion to recommit (MTR) H.R. 4872 and amend the bill to add the Stupak-Pitts House-passed amendment to prohibit taxpayer funding of abortions. This MTR would have fixed the problematic language regarding abortion from the Senate bill. The MTR was defeated by a vote of 199-232.
Voting for the MTR was a pro-life vote.
21 Democrats Voted YES. Included in the 21 Democrats were 7 Catholics:
Representative Jason Altmire (D, PA-04)
Representative Jerry Costello (D, IL-12)
Representative Joe Donnelly (D, IN-02)
Representative Tim Holden (D, PA-17)
Representative Dan Lipinski (D, IL-03)
Representative Jim Marshall (D, GA-08)
Representative Gene Taylor (D, MS-04)
All Republicans Voted YES including the 37 Catholics.
Vote 3 was on H.R. 4872, The Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act (Passed 220 to 211), a package of fixes to the Senate version of the health-care bill passed by the House of Representatives in Vote 1. The reconciliation bill must be voted on by the Senate. The package also included a major overhaul of student loan programs.
Voting against H.R. 4872 was a pro-life vote.
Vote 3 is the MOST IMPORTANT VOTE because it becomes the legislative vehicle that will eventually become law if passed by the Senate and signed by President Obama.
Catholic Advocate has listed out how each Catholic Member of Congress voted on the legislation that will likely become the pro-abortion law.