Category Archives: Abortion
By Anne Hendershott
During the past decade—beginning with a PBS broadcast in 2000 entitled On Our Own Terms: Moyers on Dying, and culminating with the provisions for “end of life” counseling in the current health care legislation—assisted suicide and euthanasia have become so successfully defined down that even Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA) volunteered to co-host a luncheon and fundraiser last year for Compassion and Choices of Northern California—the assisted suicide advocacy organization formerly known as the Hemlock Society.
Indeed, for Progressive Democrats like Feinstein and other liberal lawmakers, the movement for assisted suicide and euthanasia has become the new frontier for the freedom to choose. And, like abortion advocacy organizations, powerful pro-death advocacy organizations—some with annual budgets of more than a million dollars—have emerged with generous funding from leftist foundations like the Tides Foundation.
According to Wesley Smith, a Senior Fellow in Human Rights and Bioethics at the Discovery Institute and author of Culture of Death, “Compassion and Choices clearly wants to become the Planned Parenthood of assisted suicide, no doubt hoping one day to receive public funds and medical referrals for end-of-life counseling, and to facilitate assisted suicide.” (more…)
By Stephen Phelan
Just when faithful Catholics thought they’d heard the last of the troubled Patrick Kennedy, we find that he had one more curious public spectacle up his sleeve. As we have come to expect from the lame-duck congressman from Rhode Island, the occasion is one last attempt to make himself relevant to his family’s party by opposing pro-life Christians.
Kennedy is joining the chorus of supposedly “objective” Democrats who are traveling to Kenya and weighing in on the upcoming congressional referendum. Like Vice President Biden and a handful of other Democrat congressmen, Kennedy doesn’t see a problem with telling Kenyans how Washington thinks they should vote. But Kennedy has taken the rhetoric up a notch in both tone and absurdity, threatening to use the Congressional Oversight Committee (COC) to expose Western pro-life organizations that finance the opposition to the new pro-abortion constitution.
This threat is just crazy for several reasons. First, the efforts he is threatening to expose are in no way illegal. Human rights organizations on a daily basis do exactly what Kennedy apparently finds so nefarious – working with Kenyans to keep their country the way they want it – abortion-free. Along with the majority of Kenyans who are pro-life, these groups are right to be concerned by the proposed constitution, which essentially opens the door for a complete reversal of Kenya’s prohibitions against abortion. (more…)
By Matt Smith
Members of Congress are still trying to hide behind Catholic Health Association CEO Sister Carol Keehan’s pro-life declaration about the health care bill suffered another defeat on July 2, 2010.
One component buried in the health care bill is a minuscule $25 million pregnancy assistance grant program to be administered by states through arrangements between the federal Department of Health and Human Services and partners such as institutions of higher education, high schools, community organizations, and state attorneys-general offices.
HHS states the $25 million will be distributed in amounts between $500,000 and $2 million, if applicants meet certain criteria. This is throw away money considering Planned Parenthood annually receives $350 million in taxpayer funding.
The Catholic Advocate community might remember hearing about a Government Accounting Office (GAO) report released the Friday of Memorial Day weekend this year that proved taxpayers paid $967.1 million to groups that perform or promote abortion between 2002 and 2009.
- $967.1 million (nearly a billion dollars of your money) to support abortion according to the GAO
- $25 million to pregnancy assistance
And now for the real surprise from the Obama administration’s Department of Health and Human Services led by Kathleen Sebelius, a Catholic…
Planned Parenthood and its clever grant writers are able to compete for these federal dollars the way grant rules are written and assessed. Applicants have until August 2, 2010 to submit their proposals for funding which, among other things, must include a letter of endorsement from a “state representative.” With stringent criteria such as this, the game is fixed and only the few true pregnancy assistance centers with some form of State government endorsed partnership will be able to apply for these funds.
While Planned Parenthood has received what amounts to an abortion-entitlement program from the federal government for years, crisis pregnancy centers and other pro-family, pro-mother organizations have been succeeding for years without the handouts. Instead of needing to lobby Capitol Hill for funding, the free market and support for life have allowed them to establish a lasting formula for success.
A true pro-life champion of Congress, not one of those who compromised with their vote for the health care bill needing cover, should consider introducing legislation that extends the deadline and clarifies for HHS how the funds can be used to ensure Planned Parenthood or another pro-abortion entity cannot possibly use these funds that are meant to support women and their unborn babies.
Matt Smith is Vice President of Catholic Advocate
By: Anne Hendershott
While support for President Obama remains strong among African Americans, it is difficult to understand why so many seem to overlook the fact that the expansion of abortion rights under this President and the current Democrat Congress continues to contribute to a daily death toll of nearly 1,500 black children lost to abortion.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, more than one-third of all African American women end their pregnancy with abortion. Since 1973, the number of abortions by African American women has totaled more than thirteen million. Although African Americans represent only 12 percent of the American population they account for more than 35 percent of all abortions. As a result, the abortion rate (number of abortions per 1,000 women ages 15 to 44 per year) for African American women is nearly 3 times that of white women.
In some localities, including Mississippi, Louisiana, Maryland, and Georgia, more than half of all abortions are performed on black women. Black women in New York City receive nearly half of all abortions performed there. This national disparity in death toll for African Americans is likely to increase as President Obama recently signed legislation which will provide public funding for abortion for those living in Washington, DC—a city with a majority population of African Americans. Legislation is pending that will provide federally funded abortion on military bases—and soon we will be confronted with the new legislation on health care reform–replete with funding for abortion.
Still, Catholics must be encouraged that their bishops are not silent on what Bishop Joseph N. Perry, Chicago’s Auxilary Bishop recently called “the decimation of the black community.” Bishop Perry has taken the lead in addressing what many in the pro-life community believe is the targeting of the black community for abortion.
Bishop Perry, an African American, published a statement on his home archdiocesan website entitled “Abortion and Its Impact on the Black Community.” In the statement he encouraged parish pro-life activities to “raise awareness about alternatives to abortion, particularly, to let women in trouble be aware that they have other options.”
Unfortunately, some of Bishop Perry’s own co-workers in the Archdiocesan Office of Racial Justice have been working against his pro-life goals. Last Spring, the Archdiocese honored Fr. Michael Pfleger, one of President Obama’s strongest supporters, with the Racial Justice Lifetime Achievement Award. Fr. Pfleger, a member of the “Catholics for Obama” advisory board, has a long history of using his parish to host various pro-abortion figures including the Rev. Al Sharpton. In 2003 Lifesite News reported that Pfleger violated archdiocesan rules forbidding pro-abortion individuals to speak at the pulpit by inviting the singer and political activist, Harry Belafonte to speak at Sunday Mass at St. Sabina. At the Mass—from the pulpit—Belafonte criticized President Bush for “threatening a woman’s right to choose.”
Sr. Anita Baird, who is African American and the founding director of the Office for Racial Justice in the Chicago Archdiocese, denies that President Obama is “pro-abortion” and told a Lifesite News reporter that “to be pro-abortion is that you believe in abortion and you support it. I don’t think you will find that the president has ever said that…the president is not pro-abortion, he is pro-choice. I think they are two very different things.”
Until Bishop Perry begins to address the pro-abortion politicians promoted by those within his own Archdiocesan staff , it will be difficult for him to make a difference in addressing the real racial injustice—the racial disparities in abortion rates.
Anne Hendershott is head of the Politics, Philosophy, and Economics Program at The King’s College in Manhattan.
By Matt Smith
During questioning from Senator Tom Coburn (R, OK), Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan responded, “I said in my opening statement that I was only going to make a single pledge, the pledge that I made in my opening statement, but I’ll make you another: I’ll re-read The Federalist Papers.”
The Federalist Papers were written after the Constitutional Convention as part of what today would be considered a massive intellectual public relations campaign for state ratification. What Senator Coburn might have thought to press Elena Kagan on was whether she had recently re-read the key document of America written before the Constitution.
On Sunday, America commemorates the 234th Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. A document signed by fifty-six patriots who believed:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
As you examine the writings of the time, the Founding Fathers in their drafting of what has been dubbed “The Charters of Freedom” viewed the documents from the Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention, held 1774-1789, as a continuous philosophical formation of our country.
However, on January 22, 1973, seven justices on the Supreme Court inserted words into the Constitution under the guise of privacy and forgetting the “unalieanable” right to life written in the Declaration of Independence, our country’s first founding document.
Since 1973, averaging estimates from both the pro-abortion Alan Guttmacher Institute and Centers for Disease Control brings us to 3,804 abortions per day or roughly 51,373,020 children who never had the chance to invoke their unalienable rights.
Instead of asking if Elena Kagan has read The Federalist Papers – ask her how she is going to interpret the document they are about from the highest court in the land. Does she think the Constitution is a living document? Does she think the Constitution should be modernized? Does she think international law should be consulted as she has written? Since President Obama publicly said he would nominate someone who shared his world view, how is she going to use such a view in her approach to rulings?
President Obama decided on March 18, 2008 to open his major address on race during the 2008 presidential campaign by highlighting that the drafters and signers of the Declaration wanted “to form a more perfect union.” The speech is filled with a history lesson and rhetoric on important issues such as race relations and civil rights. It is clear though, he chose to pick and choose which sections of the Declaration to highlight.
Unfortunately, the one civil right omitted from the speech delivered by the man who broke down the very barriers he talked about that day was the right to life. The omission is one seen time and again by certain Members of Congress. They can be seen on C-SPAN standing in the well of the House of Representatives or Senate speaking with all their oratory abilities on the rights of citizens but not once mentioning the unborn.
The Founding Fathers had a “world view” for our country and the principles to uphold it. We would be served well and placed once again down the path to becoming a shining city on the hill if elected officials referenced our Charters of Freedom instead of trying to constantly re-write them.
So on this July 4th, maybe President Obama, his Supreme Court nominee, and those in Congress who repeatedly vote for pro-abortion policies can take a moment to read the Declaration of Independence and be reminded of the rights that were written down by the Founders not inserted by the Court 197 years later.
Matt Smith is Vice President of Catholic Advocate
Catholic Advocate has joined with eighteen pro-life organizations and leaders to request the Catholic Health Association support H.R. 5111, the Protect Life Act.
As we informed our community back in April when Congressman Joe Pitts (R, PA-16) announced the introduction of H.R. 5111, the Protect Life Act is an effort to fix the abortion language in the Obama health care bill. The Protect Life Act includes a bi-partisan list of 108 co-sponsors as of June 24, 2010. The Catholic Advocate community might remember the original pro-life effort to the health care legislation was the Stupak-Pitts amendment. While Congressman Stupak has announced his retirement, Congressman Pitts is demonstrating his commitment to life by continuing the fight.
Many may remember when President Obama told America on September 9, 2009 – “…and one more misunderstanding I want to clear up – under our plan no federal dollars will be used to fund abortions, and federal conscience laws will remain in place.”
Wednesday, June 23, 2010 marked the three month anniversary since the enactment of Obama-care. Since it was signed into law, there has been no progress on implementing Executive Order 13535, which President Obama claimed would bar taxpayer funding of abortion under ObamaCare and eliminate the need for enactment of the pro-life Stupak amendment.
Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, after Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, dodged questions about the implementation in a May 11 letter to Members of Congress, Minority Leader John Boehner asked President Obama directly about his administration’s plans regarding abortion in the health care legislation. The questions included:
- Has the Department of Health & Human Services provided guidance to states to implement the president’s Executive Order on abortions?
- When does the Obama Administration expect to issue a directive on abortions?
- Will the new federal high-risk pools touted by the Obama Administration also ensure that abortions will not be covered?
- What steps has the Health & Human Services Department taken to ensure that community health centers will not use federal funding authorized under ObamaCare to perform abortions?
As the Catholic Advocate community understands, relying on an Executive Order is not effective in protecting the sanctity of life in the Obama health care law.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) even acknowledges the bill “was profoundly flawed in its treatment of abortion, conscience rights,…” In a May 20, 2010 letter announcing support for the Protect Life Act, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, Chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities, implored Members of Congress to “…help give us a reformed health care system that respects the life, health, and conscience of all.”
The Protect Life Act is a positive step in restoring the Hyde amendment language to the health care bill and protecting the unborn.
Will the Catholic Health Association join us?
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.
By: Anne Hendershott
As the Obama administration continues to clamp down on executive salaries at financial firms receiving government aid, the real money for executive salaries remains in the non-profit health care world. A 2008 Wall Street Journal study of tax exempt hospitals revealed that the average total compensation paid to top officials was $1.4 million. Some health care executives—especially those at Catholic health associations—make much more. But, we are seeing now that there is a price to pay.
Lloyd H. Dean, President/CEO of Catholic Healthcare West, a hospital system based in San Francisco, made more than 5.3 million in 2006—including the forgiveness of a $782,541 housing loan from his employer. Recognizing that hospitals stand to make even greater profits as more individuals are required to have medical insurance, Mr. Dean teamed with the Catholic Health Association’s Sr. Carol Keehan to lobby for Mr. Obama’s healthcare reform. In fact, Dean brought the resources of one of America’s largest hospital systems to help to shape the national health care reform debate. Their public campaign included a video highlighting the organization’s own town hall meetings, an advertising campaign which ran in major US media publications, as well as a Congressional outreach.
And, while the University of San Francisco thought so highly of Lloyd Dean’s efforts to pass health care reform that they honored him at last month’s Commencement, they might have looked more closely at how Dean’s Catholic hospital system is now handling the Church’s ethical and religious directives.
Drawing from an article in the Ventura County Star, California Catholic Daily reported that Phoenix Bishop Thomas Olmsted declared that a nun at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center—a Lloyd Dean led Catholic Healthcare West hospital—had automatically excommunicated herself for approving an abortion in order to treat a mother’s underlying medical condition. The Star also reported that the excommunicated nun’s counterparts in Lloyd Dean run hospitals in Ventura County would make the same choice if confronted with a similar case.
On the website of the Phoenix Diocese, Bishop Olmsted writes, “I am gravely concerned by the fact that an abortion was performed several months ago in a Catholic hospital in this diocese. I am further concerned by the hospital’s statement that the termination of a human life was necessary to treat the mother’s underlying medical condition…While medical professionals should certainly try to save a pregnant mother’s life, the means by which they do it can never be by directly killing her unborn child. The end does not justify the means.”
Faithful Catholics know that the unborn child’s life is just as sacred as the mother’s life and neither can be preferred over the other. They also know that Catholic institutions are obliged to defend human life at all stages from conception to natural death. Perhaps someone should tell Lloyd Dean (and the University of San Francisco) exactly that.
By: Anne Hendershott
As the 2010 commencement season concludes, a review of the graduation speakers and honorees reveals, yet again, that Catholic colleges continue to honor pro-abortion and pro-gay marriage politicians on their campuses.
Drawing from research compiled from the Cardinal Newman Society, California Catholic Daily reports that several Catholic colleges—many of them in California—have invited commencement speakers or awarded honorary degrees to those whose public positions and actions are clearly at odds with fundamental Catholic teachings. Despite the USCCB’s 2004 statement, “Catholics in Political Life,” which maintains that Catholic colleges “must not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles,” the reality remains that these Catholic campuses continue to defy the bishops’ instructions.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Jack O’Connell, a career Democratic politician who during 20 years as a Democratic state legislator compiled a nearly perfect pro-abortion, pro-Planned Parenthood voting record addressed the graduates at St. Mary’s College in Moraga. California Catholic Daily points out that “O’Connell was a high profile opponent of Proposition 8, the initiative constitutional amendment approved by voters in 2008 that defined marriage in California as between one man and one woman.
As Superintendent of Public Instruction, O’Connell was featured in TV ads urging voters to reject Proposition 8, claiming that public schools would not teach or influence students to favor same-sex marriage. O’Connell worked in direct opposition to the current Bishop of Oakland, Salvatore Cordileone, St. Mary’s presiding bishop and one of the main promoters of the pro-Proposition 8 campaign. As a reward for his defiance of their bishop, O’Connell was given the honor of addressing the graduates of the Catholic college.
The pro-abortion Democratic Governor of Massachusetts, Deval Patrick, was the commencement speaker at Loyola Marymount University. Prior to serving as governor, Patrick served as assistant attorney general for civil rights during the Clinton administration where he claims to have “led the fight to keep discrimination out of the Massachusetts constitution and preserve the right of same sex couples to marry.”
Loyola Marymount also invited Marlene Canter, a former Democratic member of the Los Angeles Unified School Board, to address the Graduate commencement. In Los Angeles, Canter has called the legalization of same sex marriage “an issue of simple fairness and basic human rights.” The Cardinal Newman Society also reports that Canter has opposed a parental notification abortion law.
The University of San Francisco gave an honorary degree to Lloyd Dean, president of Catholic Healthcare West, and a strong proponent of Obama’s health care reform – replete with abortion funding. While Dean is not a politician, he has been a generous donor to the Democratic Obama campaign, and joined Sr. Carol Keehan in defying the bishops on passing the health care reform plan. USF also gave an honorary degree to Notre Dame President, Fr. John Jenkins, whose invitation to Barack Obama for last year’s Notre Dame commencement address helped to set a precedent for other Catholic colleges wishing to defy their bishops.
Beyond California, Mark Shriver, a 2002 pro-abortion Democratic candidate for the U. S. House of Representatives from Maryland was the commencement speaker at the College of the Holy Cross. The Cardinal Newman Society reports that while a 2002 candidate for the House, Shriver joined the rest of the Kennedy family in their pro-abortion advocacy by stating in a Washington Post interview that, “I will continue to fight for a woman’s right to choose.”
And, although new Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown is the lone Republican in a long list of pro-abortion Democratic commencement speakers on Catholic campuses this year, Brown’s pro-choice position most likely made him a palatable choice for commencement speaker at Boston College’s Law School.
It is ironic that the same month that Jack O’Connell, the pro-gay marriage politician was honored to give the commencement speech at St. Mary’s College, a professor of music there was being reprimanded and forced to take a diversity training course because he offended one of his students by asking those in his voice class to perform a rendition of “Old Man River.” Beth Dobkin, the Provost at St. Mary’s, has told the Contra Costa Times that the professor will undergo diversity training and had to apologize to his students for forcing them to perform such a racist song. Dobkin also said that the professor’s “future at the school is being discussed.” This, despite the fact that several other students in the class have written letters of support for the voice instructor claiming that the instructor had performed the song himself many times and wanted his students to have the opportunity to do so also.
But, in the upside down world of Catholic higher education, Catholic students and their families are not allowed to be offended when a pro-gay marriage proponent who has directly defied the authority of the bishop is honored. Only certain groups—including gays, lesbians, transgendered individuals, and racial minorities—are allowed to be offended. Catholics are never afforded such protected status.
By: Stephen Phelan
Five years short of its centennial anniversary, the Catholic Health Association (CHA) appears to have achieved a level of influence in American politics unsurpassed by perhaps any other health industry association, religious or secular, in history.
Its role in helping to pass trillion-dollar health care reform legislation is widely recognized as having been crucial, to the elation of the Party in power, and to the dismay of the Catholic bishops and the American Church.
Achieving such influence can exact a price, however, both to CHA’s finances and its Catholic identity. Indeed, one can question whether the CHA, the largest association of hospitals and health care providers in the nation, actually wielded any influence over the legislation at all, or if it is simply basking in the evanescent glow of a grateful, and relieved, ruling political party.
But in politics, as they say, perception is reality, and CHA’s support for the bill was publicly hailed as a crucial moment in the passage of the bill over the objections of the bishops.
We now know the story: After months of public statements alternating between passionate endorsements of Obama’s “universal health care” legislation, sometimes qualified by calls for the bill to respect the right to life of all persons, CHA president Sr. Carol Keehan had a chance to show exactly where the CHA stood.
Negotiations had stalled in Congress as Democratic leaders’ flagrant bribing and arm-twisting of hesitant colleagues had failed to achieve clear majorities in favor of passage. The bill was held up by a small cadre of “pro-life Democrats” who, like the majority of the American people, claimed to find the bill’s expansion of federal funding for abortion unacceptable.
This small group threatened to bring down their own party’s largest domestic policy initiative in generations rather than consent to the largest expansion of abortion since Roe. In the end, however, all but a handful caved in to party pressure to support the bill, and the backbone of Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI), their erstwhile leader, simply crumbled into dust.
Although feverishly denied by its increasingly desperate proponents, every serious analysis of the Senate bill (the version that would eventually become law) found that it would in fact expand federal funding of abortion. Through an accounting loophole at the level of individual “care,” and through a seven billion dollar appropriation to community health centers, including Planned Parenthood, the law would circumvent Hyde amendment restrictions on federal funding for abortions.
That fact is what led the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) to oppose the bill, even after the bishops had made it clear that many would have supported almost any version of the bill that didn’t expand abortion coverage. The bishops have been publicly supportive of government-funded universal health care since 1996.
Yet the controversial law ended up earning Sr. Keehan’s and CHA’s 11th-hour endorsement which, along with those of a coalition of female religious and various “Catholic” leftist groups, were cited by the bill’s proponents as proof that it had Catholic support.
The assertion of support by the media, Congressional leaders, and the Obama administration went unchallenged by Sr. Keehan, and, as a result, the Church suffered immeasurable damage. Once again, the Church appeared divided even on the question of the value of the life of the most vulnerable Americans. Indeed, Cardinals DiNardo, Murphy, and Wester, speaking for the USCCB, issued a statement on May 21 singling out the CHA for its responsibility for sowing “confusion” and opening a “wound to Catholic unity.”
This statement does not bode well for CHA’s future, but suggests the meaning of being Catholic in America will be readjusted by the bishops as a result of the controversy.
The bill of course passed, and Sr. Keehan, for her efforts and on behalf of the CHA, received a “signing pen” from President Obama, one that was used put into law a bill that was opposed by every bishop, and every Catholic organization faithful to the Church.
So the CHA’s historically unprecedented power affected neither the legislation itself, nor the highly questionable means of its passage—it merely made its being signed into law possible by giving cover to a small handful of wavering Catholic Democratic congressmen.
When presented a clear choice between the Church and the political party in power, the CHA chose the latter, eschewing the only chance it had to defend unborn human life in the law itself. Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood, claimed victory upon the bill’s passage, knowing full well the boon it promises for the nation’s largest provider of abortions.
When a Catholic organization blatantly opposes every Catholic bishop and finds itself sharing the joy of Planned Parenthood and the most radically pro-abortion president in the nation’s history, it may be time to reflect on that organization’s claim to identify itself as Catholic.
Sr. Keehan’s CHA sees its role as not only lobbying for the interests of its members, but as advocating a secular, statist view of health care policy in language that some Catholics might find reasonable. With the passage of “ObamaCare,” it has clearly succeeded at both. In defying the Catholic Church — and bizarrely claiming not to – Sr. Keehan made Obama and his Democratic Party her de facto moral authority.
It is difficult to understand why more Catholics don’t find this strange, even if they share CHA’s view on health care. If Sr. Keehan really has the influence in the corridors of power that she appears to have, why could she not secure meaningful protections for the unborn, the elderly, and the most seriously injured – those whose lives are already discounted or increasingly threatened in today’s secularized health care industry?
Wouldn’t a Catholic health care leader spend her hard-earned capital on making the health care law more “Catholic”, rather than simply promoting the President’s vision with Catholics?
This is where the thinking Catholic starts wondering what exactly is “Catholic” about the Catholic Health Care Association. Of course, the CHA does represent the nation’s Catholic hospitals in Washington. But, shouldn’t it also represent the Church?
One needn’t be a biblical scholar to recall numerous admonitions in Scripture against seeking the approval of worldly powers at the expense of fidelity to God. If this is too dramatic a comparison for some, then where is the defense of Sr. Keehan’s actions?
Let’s attempt one on her behalf, since she has yet to publish a serious, analytical response to the bishops’ and others’ many expositions of the bill’s problems.
It’s clear that Sr. Keehan shares the Church’s desire to have quality health care available to all at a reasonable expense. This shouldn’t be controversial, although it is worthwhile debating exactly what this means and whether a government-controlled system really is the best way to deliver on such a goal.
Sr. Keehan has also gone on the record repeatedly about her supposed agreement with the bishops on the need to defend the life of the unborn, to protect the conscience rights of health professionals, and to oppose the increasing threats to the elderly and those with seriously debilitating illnesses and injuries.
This is all well and good, but we don’t have to question the pro-life convictions and Catholic fidelity of Sr. Keehan and the CHA to question what happened to these convictions when they were most needed—when she faced a clear choice between the Church and the State, choosing the latter.
It is not enough to simply be offended by such a question and brush it off, as Sr. Keehan’s apologists have been doing since her baffling insubordination, as if the differences between Sr. Keehan and the bishops were merely of opinion. The bishops and other defenders of the Church’s position on Obamacare have published gigabytes of detailed analysis of the legislation and precise commentary on what the problems with the law are. Sr. Keehan has yet to demonstrate her acknowledged expertise with a serious defense of her actions: She has only replied with churched-up talking points that mirror those of Congress and the administration.
It should also not go without mention that the passage of health care legislation will be a boon to Catholic hospitals – the CHA’s membership – as currently uninsured patients will soon be paying bills, or having them paid, instead of skipping them. Look for an increase in dues and revenues to the CHA soon after this legislation takes full effect.
After the bill’s passage, Bishop Thomas Tobin wasted little time in putting an end to Rhode Island Catholic hospitals’ membership in CHA. Archbishop Chaput and a few other shepherds have also denounced the CHA’s betrayal of the Church in unequivocal terms.
Faithful Catholics are grateful for these rebukes to the CHA, but is this all that can be done? It is understandable that the bishops want to reach out pastorally to those who defy the Church, and surely this is happening to some degree behind the scenes.
But, it isn’t only the authority of the bishops that is at stake, although one would think that alone would be cause for severe sanctions against the CHA. The very possibility of unity on the clearest teachings of the Faith is at stake, not to mention the very definition of the word “Catholic.” Great violence has been done to the Church by the actions of the CHA, not to mention the violence that many expect will be increased against the most vulnerable Americans once this law takes full effect.
The Catholic bishops will be meeting in June, and we can be sure that the health care debacle and CHA’s role in it will be discussed. The May 21 USCCB statement descrying “the wound to Catholic unity” in the health care debate was merely the opening salvo in that debate. Without doubt, there are difficult hurdles to doing what needs to be done to this rogue organization – problems having to do with its independent status and the possibility of collateral damage.
But, this concern only strengthens the need for the bishops to do something as a whole. Bishop Tobin’s response was perfectly reasonable given the CHA’s intransigent belief that it has no need to justify its actions. Allowing the CHA to defy the bishops and pretend as if it remains in harmony with the Church is a continuing scandal and violence against the faithful, and to postpone action in order to preserve what remains of a disintegrating façade of unity is to deny the reality of what this event means to the Catholic Church in America.