Catholic Health Association's Support for Health Care Bill Exposes Failure of USCCB Strategy
By Deal Hudson
The Catholic Health Association, a lobbying group for Catholic hospitals, has now offered its support for the health care bill containing abortion funding. A statement from CHA president, Sr. Carol Keehan, expresses “concern on life issues” while underscoring the bill’s requirement that “a separate check” would have to be written for abortion coverage.
Keehan’s statement, along with the March 11 letter of her vice president, Michael F. Rodgers to the Congress, is a masterpiece of doublespeak. On behalf of CHA, both Keehan and Rodgers urge passage of the bill. But, while Keehan cites the separate check stipulation for abortion coverage to assuage her “concern,” Rodgers admits abortion coverage would have to be “amended” in a second “corrections” bill.
The position of the Catholic Health Association and its member hospitals puts CHA in direct opposition to the Catholic bishops who have stated unambiguously that the Senate health care bill contains abortion funding. Bishop Robert F. Lynch of St. Petersburg is on the CHA board, while Bishop Kevin Vann of Ft. Worth is its Episcopal Liaison. Other board members include the four CEOs and seven VPs of Catholic hospital systems.
The Catholic Health Association has long enjoyed an intimate relationship with the USCCB. CHA is often cited by the USCCB as a partner, along with Catholic Charities USA. For example, in September 2008, Sr. Keehan co-signed a letter with the head of Catholic Charities USA and Bishop William F. Murphy, Chairman, Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, urging Congress to pass a stimulus plan. CHA has also been involved in joint efforts with the Catholic Campaign for Human Development in welfare-to-work projects.
The long list of such collaborative efforts between CHA and the USCCB is easily found by searching the USCCB website.
At present, the USCCB has not issued any statement directly opposing the Catholic Health Association or any of the Catholic groups supporting the Senate bill such as Catholics United and Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good.
The lack of such a statement allows the press, the White House, and the Congress to hold up these groups as providing official Catholic support to a public which largely does not know any better.
A direct rebuke from the USCCB towards the Catholic Health Association would not be in keeping with what I have termed its strategy of qualified support, but it would certainly keep wavering members of Congress from finding political cover from these groups willing to accept abortion funding.
With a vote on the bill coming as soon as Friday or Saturday, the USCCB is running out of time to get tough. The parish bulletin program emailed last Friday by the USCCB comes too late to have any serious impact on a vote this week.
The willingness of such an intimate partner with the USCCB to break with the bishops on the health care bill is just another aspect of its failure to negotiate powerfully with Congress and speak loudly and clearly to the media on this legislation. Its strategy of qualified support has put the USCCB in a weakened position and allowed the initiative to be taken over by groups with vested interests. CHA wants federal money for its hospitals, while Catholics United and Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good were created precisely to keep Democrats in power, even if it means further endangering the lives of the unborn.
It’s common sense that you can’t win a negotiation if you aren’t willing to walk away from the table. Thus far, the USCCB hasn’t shown that willingness. Bishop Thomas Wenski of Orlando understood this when he wrote a few days ago, “No health-care legislation is better than bad health-care legislation.”
It’s alarming to hear the nonchalant attitude of those who remark how many other countries have government-run health care systems that pay for abortions, so why not us? Bishop Wenski knows what it is that has so many Catholics outraged at the prospect of this bill being passed:
“Using taxpayers’ money to pay for other people’s abortions would make all citizens complicit in what many regard as a morally heinous act. . . . Whatever you might call it, a procedure that results in the death of a living human being — whether at the beginning or end of life — is not health care.”
Special Message from Catholic Advocate:
Are you concerned about the Catholic Health Association’s position on the health care reform legislation?
According to their website “CHA’s Vision…the Catholic health ministry will be a vibrant presence in enhancing the health of communities and access to quality care for everyone, with special attention to those who are underserved and most vulnerable.”
Let them know it is important to stand for the most vulnerable – the unborn.