President Obama Loves Catholics
By Anne Hendershott
President Obama Loves Catholics…
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.