Sr. Keehan as President Obama's Propaganda Czar
By: Anne Hendershott
Continuing her quest to marginalize the Catholic bishops, Sr. Carol Keehan, President of the Catholic Health Association used her association’s annual meeting in Denver this week to once again misrepresent Catholic social teaching–and diminish the teaching authority of the Church.
Employing yet another video—persuasive films about people in pain and in need of health care reform have been the primary mainstay of the Catholic Health Association for the past year—Sr. Keehan now claims that President Obama’s health care reform “draws on Catholic social teaching,” and “was an ethical necessity, a building block for the common good of the nation and the strength of its communities.”
This time, Sr. Keehan’s video gave a starring role to yet another Catholic Democrat senator with a dismal voting record on pro-life issues. Senator Robert Casey states in the propaganda piece that if the Catholic Health Association had not been involved, then it is unlikely that the bill would have passed.
Contradicting the bishops, Senator Casey states in the video that the health care reform legislation was “pro-life legislation.” Of course, this is the same Catholic Democrat senator who had no problem voting in favor of funding abortions overseas when he voted last year to allow President Obama to lift the Mexico City Policy, a Reagan-era policy that prohibited taxpayer funds from going to organizations that promote or perform abortions overseas.
The essence of propaganda consists in winning people over to an idea so deeply and emotionally that it no longer matters whether the idea is true. Calling the Obama health care reform “pro-life” is a lie. But, it is possible that the lie has been repeated so often and portrayed on film so compellingly that even the filmmakers are beginning to believe it.
Of course, the big star of the video is once again President Obama as the crowd of more than 800 participants at the CHA annual meeting applauded when President Obama appeared on the CHA video and thanked everybody at the association for their “help and courage in passing health care reform.” And, once again, in the video, the President singled out Sr. Keehan for the “extraordinary leadership she has shown in advancing our national discussion.” Sr. Keehan is obviously very special to President Obama—and he has shown how grateful he was in awarding her one of 20 silver-tipped signing pens after the signing ceremony.
In his video message, President Obama referred to Sr. Keehan’s biggest piece of propaganda—the one she made as part of the campaign of promoting health care reform entitled “I Can’t Wait for Health Care Reform.” This is the film where she depicts priests, nuns, and health care workers from Catholic hospitals holding up signs claiming that they too “Can’t Wait” for health care reform—implying that the Catholic Church can’t wait for health care reform either. In his video message, President Obama reassured all of those gathered in Denver that those in the CHA video “won’t be waiting much longer.”
Noticeably absent from this latest CHA video were the Catholic bishops who have recently called the Catholic Health Association’s action in endorsing the health care plan a “wound to Catholic unity.” Faithful Catholics are hoping that the bishops’ new ad hoc Health Care Concerns Committee will begin to heal this “wound.”
The first thing the bishops can do is to refuse to allow the Church and her teachings to be distorted and used as part of a propaganda campaign. Propaganda is not an end in itself but a means to an end, and the bishops must recognize this. The Catholic Health Association has been effective in using propaganda to gain the moral high ground on health care—they “look” like caring people at the same time they are promoting a culture of death. Archbishop Chaput has been courageous in saying that out loud. It is time for the other bishops to begin to do the same. Maybe they need a video.