Is the USCCB "Advancing the Republican Agenda?"
By Deal Hudson
Regular readers may be taken aback by my headline. But I didn’t raise the question in jest – I am repeating a question put to Cardinal George by a reporter for the Catholic News Service.
A March 23 story from CNS, written by Nancy Frazier O’Brien, featured an interview with Cardinal George, president of the USCCB, in the aftermath of the health care bill being passed by the House. Cardinal George registered his concern about the abortion funding in the bill and the inadequacy of an Executive Order to remove that funding.
O’Brien proposed a question to the cardinal about the USCCB’s motives with regards to the health care debate:
“Cardinal George also rejected claims by some that the USCCB had allied itself in the health reform debate with groups that were primarily interested in advancing the Republican agenda.”
Before we continue, it should be noted there was no parallel suggestion regarding the possibility the USCCB was trying to advance a Democratic Party agenda, given the visibility of support for universal coverage.
Indeed, given the visibility of the bishops’ overall support for the bill, I can only come to the conclusion that those who accuse the USCCB of advancing a “Republican agenda” must have abortion in mind. Why? The only parts of the bill they objected to were abortion funding and the lack of conscience protection for medical workers.
It’s ironic when it’s implied that the pro-life cause is being lead by the Republican Party rather than the Catholic bishops. Isn’t someone putting the cart before the horse?
Other than stifling a laugh when I read that question in the CNS story, my only other reaction was to recall the many times I warned people not to trust the GOP to make the life issue a priority – any political party should know it has “to earn your vote.”
I shouldn’t have been surprised by the question to Cardinal George. During the 2008 election a number of bishops who questioned the pro-life claims made by Obama and his Catholic surrogates were accused of being “partisan” or Republican.
This points to one aspect of the tragedy of Bart Stupak. Stupak could have carved out a proud place in the history of American politics as the man who broke the strangle hold of abortion advocates on the Democratic Party.
America would have once again had a two-party system, from a pro-life point of view.
But to return to how Cardinal George answered the question of purported support for the GOP’s agenda.
“I really don’t think that’s true,” he said. “The principles are twofold — everybody’s taken care of, nobody killed. And I think that moral voice, while it doesn’t correspond politically to either party, has been consistent.”
True, the principles don’t correspond to either political party, but the two principles are not equal in moral weight. The aim of universal health care does carry with it a non-negotiable obligation for Catholics — the protection of innocent life – both Cardinal George and the USCCB have been pointing to this throughout the health care debate.
As implied by the question posed by the reporter, the pro-life principle has become so identified with the Republican Party that some regard the bishops’ own pro-life effort as partisan rather than, simply, Christian.
The sad state of affairs seems to be this: When Catholics object to abortion funding in health care they are accused of being Republican shills. But, when Catholics ignore the presence of abortion funding in health care they are applauded for their commitment to universal coverage.