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Catholic Bishops Should Change Health Care Strategy Before It's Too Late

By Deal Hudson

The lobbying strategy of the Catholic bishops in the health care debate, thus far, has been one of qualified support.  We support the health care reform bill, the bishops argue, as long as it does not contain abortion funding and provides for conscience protection for health care workers.

The only help the bishops have received in their effort is from Catholic Democrat Bart Stupak whose coalition of pro-life House Democrats is the only hope of either killing the bill or eliminating its abortion funding.

The bishops have made no head-way with the Democratic leadership in Congress, such as Catholic Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, or Catholic Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, both of whom lied about the presence of abortion funding in the Senate version of the bill.

It should be clear to the bishops and their staff at the USCCB that there is no good will in either the Congress or the White House toward their concerns about abortion funding and conscience protections.

It’s time for a change of strategy before it’s too late.  Why?  The answer is simple: None of the Democratic leadership in control of this legislation has the least bit of interest in keeping abortion funding out of this bill. Democratic leadership hopes that by keeping the bishops in the posture of qualified support, the prospect of an outcry from grassroots Catholics will be postponed until after the bill is pushed through by some sort of legislative sleight of hand.

By the time the bishops can restart another national postcard campaign, health care reform with abortion funding will be a fait accompli.

As I have argued all along, even if by some miracle the health care bill was passed without abortion funding, the increased government control over health care services would lead, inevitably, to mandated abortion funding, when abortion advocates immediately head to the courts to finish the job. That the bishops don’t seem to recognize – publicly anyway — this inevitability, is disappointing.

The support shown by the bishops and the staff at the USCCB to Bart Stupak and his pro-life coalition effort among House Democrats is commendable, perhaps even historic. But it is a slender thread upon which to hang their hopes for an abortion-less health care bill.

If there are those among the Catholic leadership who think the bishops’ risky strategy is justified by the immense problem of uninsured American citizens and immigrants, both documented and not, then they should be reminded of the danger of proportionalism.  To put it bluntly, trading universal coverage for federal abortion funding is not morally justifiable.

When Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Secretary Kathleen Sebelius lied about the presence of abortion funding in the health care bill it made national headlines. The corrective came from Richard Doerflinger, from the USCCB pro-life secretariat, and other pro-life leaders from outside the USCCB whose comments were published in a few Catholic news services.  When the Catholic Speaker of the House and Secretary of HHS mislead the nation on such a crucial issue as abortion funding then they should be answered by their peers – the bishops.

Again, the strategy of qualified support is risky, because it means that the Congress and the White House are not hearing the fury that is building at the grassroots level among Catholics.  And, I suspect they are also not hearing about the growing distrust and impatience of many bishops towards this process.

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3 Responses to Catholic Bishops Should Change Health Care Strategy Before It's Too Late

  1. Bob Lyncheski says:


    You are on target.

    As long as tacit support is given by Bishop’s conference, the demagogic leadership will be able to tell many “on the fence Catholics” that the Bishops supported everything but the “minor” issue of abortion funding.

    The Bishops tacit support of this bill, while well meaning, shows a clear –political naiveté when dealing with these so called Catholic politicos. The Pelosi’s and Reids have long abandoned character and honesty for political power. They will use the Bishops as they use any other factions.
    The Bishops should have taken the moral high ground long ago to denounce this bill that will inevitably result in government health care rationing and eventually lead this power hungry administration to further intrude into our lives.
    I wonder where the charity is in taking from one who earns to one who does not. Where is the sacrifice when one is forced to do good? Simon helped carry the cross because the roman soldiers forced him to do it. Was it a charitable act?

    Deal, please continue to shine the light on the reality of this situation.
    For Life,

    • admin says:

      Bob, thanks for taking note of this particular column — it’s sad to see the USCCB being less than effective at a crucial time like this.

  2. Jim St. Clair says:

    Dear Deal,
    Thank you for this well versed oped about the bishops\’ implied approval of the healthcare bill. They raise the objection of abortion and conscience clause out of fear that the people will be on to them if they do not, but because of their lack of gusto, one can see that their heart is not into it with the fire and sense of urgency that this issue calls for. Therefore, I am beginning to smell a cancer within the USCCB. I\’ve been screaming the question from my rooftop for about 20 years now: Why do the bishops put up with so many infractions within the churches of the USA? Why are they not enforcing Rome\’s guidance? Why do they turn a blind eye in the face of so many so-called catholic universities? (sic) I believe it is indicative of a clear cut warning to each of us loyal to Rome laymen that we should beware of who we listen to. It\’s a sad commentary for a Knight of Columbus to be so cynical, but I\’m beginning to believe it is the prudent way.
    Thanks to Bob Lyncheski for his well thought out comments as well.
    Pax et bonum
    Jim St. Clair

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