Category Archives: Health Care
By Matt Smith
U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson, a federal judge in Richmond, Virginia declared a key section of the Obama administration’s health care reform law unconstitutional. The lawsuit was filed by Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli in defense of Virginia’s own law that prohibited those living in the Commonwealth from being forced to purchase insurance. (more…)
By Matt Smith
As a father of two, I often find myself asking my children to be quiet at times when I do not want them to speak during in opportune times. Now, in the wake of the very unpopular pro-abortion health care reform, TARP, failed stimulus, and extremely low approval ratings for the institution, Congress this week is attempting to silence our voices from being heard in this year’s elections.
H.R. 5175, the DISCLOSE Act, was introduced in April to legislatively overrule the recent Citizens United Supreme Court decision and narrowly passed the House of Representatives on June 24, 2010 by 219 – 206. The primary author of the legislation is Representative Chris Van Hollen (D, MD-08) who also serves as Chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
The Citizens United ruling was a victory on behalf of those who cherish the fundamental freedoms protected by the First Amendment. The proposed legislation will not ensure free, fair, and transparent elections, but rather create a punitive measure for associations of persons who choose to exercise their right to free political speech as guaranteed by the Constitution, and affirmed by the Supreme Court in the Citizens United v. FEC case.
The bill targets corporations and conveniently exempts traditional Democrat campaign supporters, including unions. Disclaimer requirements and limits on foreign corporations and government contractors target only the political speech of corporations, with no effect on unions including foreign-influenced labor unions, public-employee unions, or government grant recipients.
One key casualty will be grassroots organizations such as Catholic Advocate and other pro-life, pro-family organizations.
In May, nine former Federal Election Commission (FEC) members, spanning thirty-five years of service co-signed a letter to the House of Representatives stating:
“Its disclosure provisions are unnecessary – duplicating information that is readily available to the public or providing information of extremely low informational value at a significant cost in terms of complexity and lack of clarity, especially for grassroots political speech.”
On July 22, 2010, Senator Chuck Schumer (D, NY) began working feverishly to have the DISCLOSE Act moved through the Senate before Congress leaves for their August recess later this week, signed by President Obama, and implemented before the November 2nd elections.
The DISCLOSE Act is an acronym for Democracy is Strengthened by Casting Light on Spending in Elections Act, or in the words of some it should probably be called “Democratic Incumbents Seeking to Contain Losses by Outlawing Speech in Elections”.
The DISCLOSE Act is not about accountability in our elections. This Act is about silencing those who are frustrated with the direction of our country and who want to hold our elected officials accountable for their votes.
Members of the Catholic Advocate community interested in ensuring their voices are not silenced should immediately contact their Senators today.
Matt Smith is Vice President of Catholic Advocate
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: Anne Hendershott
Now that they have completed their work in helping to pass President Obama’s health care reform legislation—replete with public funding for abortion—the Pacific Institute for Community Organizations (PICO), a progressive national network of faith-based organizations, is once again taking money from the Bishops’ CCHD fund to support the President’s financial reforms. With an initiative called “Our Money Our Values,” PICO teams with Faithful America to pressure banks to “serve the needs of the people…We’re organizing personal bank accounts, congregational investments, and even public dollars as leverage in negotiating with top bank executives to win the reforms our communities need.”
Like health care reform, this newest PICO initiative aims to redistribute wealth by demanding that “faith leaders step into the big banks’ boardrooms.” Claiming on the website (www.ourmoneyourvalues.org) that “we’ve got real money on the table, but it’s still a big fight,” they complain that the banks “continue to use our money to generate obscene profits for those at the top.”
Like recalcitrant teenagers who are more than happy to take an allowance from their parents, yet unwilling to take their advice, PICO continues to take money from the Bishops’ CCHD collections, but as with health care reform, they remain unwilling to accept their authority.
Founded in 1972 under the leadership of Father John Baumann, a Jesuit who learned community organizing in Chicago, PICO has a history of using CCHD money to promote pro-choice candidates for office. During the campaign for health care reform, PICO organized “Faith and Health Care Sundays” throughout the country. Teaming with Jim Wallis’ Sojourners and the George Soros funded Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, PICO provided congregations with a Health Care Tool Kit to help sell the legislation.
On many of these Sunday sessions, PICO brought pro-choice politicians to the churches to promote health care reform. In fact, the main speaker at the PICO “prayer vigil” for health care in Orange County, California in September, 2009, was Representative Loretta Sanchez, a pro-choice Democrat. She was joined at the head table by Auxiliary Bishop Dominic Luong. A decade before, CCHD-supported community agencies like PICO and the Orange County Organizing Project helped Ms. Sanchez defeat Catholic pro-life Representative Bob Dornan.
Now their attention has turned to financial reform. On April 29th, PICO and Faithful America joined with allies, including the National People’s Action, the AFL-CIO, SEIU, and MoveOn.org at a 4,000 person rally and march in New York City to confront banks with their demands. Carrying placards saying “No Bonuses for Big Banks” and “Wall Street: Never Again,” demonstrators took over the lobbies of Chase Bank and Wells Fargo/Wachovia “in order to get our message of reform to the leadership and CEOs of those institutions. We chanted, sang and refused to be moved until a letter with our demands was delivered to the offices of the CEOs.”
As the organizers of the April 29th rally state: “Our goal is to force a which-side- are-you-on-movement for U. S. senators on the issue of Wall Street reform: Are they with the American people or are they with the Wall Street Banks?”
Most Catholics who have generously supported the CCHD with their parishioner donations would agree that they wish to help the poor. Most would also agree that financial reform is needed. But, few would agree with the redistribution of income that this President’s financial reform legislation promises. But, the Bishops continue to collect money from parishioners and give it to organizations that continue to lobby against them.
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: Stephen Phelan
Good luck catching Katie Couric talking about the “staunch Baptist” who finally came around to supporting sex education for third-graders. Only slightly more common are mainstream media types who talk about how this or that political leader, “a devout Jew,” finally saw the light and came around to the Left’s position on some social policy issue.
Yet there are flocks of sincere-looking talking heads willing to assure us that the congressman who just passionately endorsed “gay marriage” is a “staunch” or “devout” Catholic.
Why is this? Why is it that only Catholics’ supposed sincerity about their faith is worthy of comment when the media reports said Catholic’s position on some issue?
There are probably several reasons for this odd phenomenon, but one in particular calls for special attention in today’s social and political climate: The marauding secularists of the media and the rest of the Left actually crave the moral authority of the very institution they are trying to destroy.
This is why President Obama and others of the secular Left, with the help of far too many fake Catholics, now openly strive to divide the Church in America. Besides democracy itself, the one institution that stands between them and far left utopia is the Catholic Church. This is why the Church must be turned against itself, confused, and brought to heel. Sadly, they are doing so with great efficiency and success as of late.
Case in point: No serious person, Right or Left, believes Nancy Pelosi when she claims devotion to her faith as her reasoning for supporting liberal policies and legislation. But everyone knows why she says it.
One of the many ironies here is that the very Magisterium that Pelosi and other fake Catholics find so inconvenient to their worldview is positively tepid in cracking down on heretics compared to the Magisterium of the Left. When Joe Lieberman, a staunch progressive from Connecticut, dared to oppose his party on the Iraq War, he was mercilessly attacked from the Left, and even had to leave the party to run for reelection. He was essentially excommunicated.
And consider how consistent pro-life Democrats are treated by the Left, from Pennsylvania’s devoutly liberal but pro-life Bob Casey being denied even the ability to address the Democratic convention in 1992 to the few recent pro-life holdouts on Obamacare. Bart Stupak flirted with excommunication from the Left for opposing health care reform, but ultimately sided with his party against the Church. And yet, he remains a Catholic in good standing.
Faithful Catholics could only wish that their doctrine were so rigorously, if not so viciously, enforced. We know that Catholic teaching by its very nature seeks to persuade, not to impose. Taken to heart and mind, it becomes an organic expression of the Faith, a welcome guide rather than a set of laws forced upon reluctant believers. But at least we admit that we have a Magisterium, just as we admit our consternation when public figures consistently flout Church teaching and suffer no serious consequences from that same authority/Magisterium for doing so.
The secular Left, however, admits no such thing. True believers of the Left utterly lack this self-awareness. Not only would they deny that they have a Magisterium, or even a body of teachings from which the faithful may not dissent, they even deny that absolute obeisance is required to be a member of the faith, er… party.
Yet there stands the Catholic Church, in meek and peaceful opposition to the secular Leftist/fake Catholic zeitgeist. That antiquated, hegemonic, paternalistic… Church(!) dares to continue to reach out to and reason with those who only seek its acquiescence or destruction.
As the mainstream media declares yet again, and in ever more strident and frustrated tones, the irrelevance of the Catholic Church, they accidentally affirm its true relevance. The Church’s teaching authority, both loathed and envied by the Left, is essential to its unity, and is the natural legacy of the Church founded by Christ upon the Rock that was Peter.
To be sure, this does not mean that the Church is somehow more at home on the political Right. Any agreement between the Church and the modern American Right is accidental, as is any apparent agreement with the Left. The Church rightly dictates no political program, even if it is often dishonestly portrayed as doing so. Further, not every position of the Left is anti-Catholic. Cap-and-Trade, for example, is terrible economics justified by specious “science,” but it isn’t necessarily anti-Catholic. The difference, however, between the Church’s relationship with Left and Right is that there is not currently any major organized force on the Right trying to divide and conquer the Church, as there is on the Left. History tells us this could change at any moment.
Still, one might ask why the Catholic Church is singled out for such aggressive attention. Why not Christianity as a whole, or even certain Protestant denominations? After all, aren’t conservative evangelicals also a thorn in the side of those who want “gay marriage,” valueless sex education, and other radical policies to be realized?
The faithful Catholics I know are proud to fight next to their Protestant brethren in the culture wars, and enjoy the occasions of unity and dialogue that these battles afford. We tend to have much greater respect for those who love and live their faith consistently, even if we disagree about important things, than we have for those who only claim their faith when it is politically expedient.
But why should Obama and company seek to divide denominations that were themselves born of division? If a church is conceived in protest, then it will, as we have seen throughout the centuries, continue to divide itself. That battle has already been won by the one who wants to see Christ’s children divided and fighting among themselves. If you want unity, you have to return to the source; and if you want to cause division, you attack the source.
This is why Obama enlists the help of fake Catholics, and of universities who seek communion with secular powers more than they do with the Church that created them. He does so precisely because of their claim to the Catholic Faith.
This is also why the current ambiguity of Catholic identity in the public square is, to use an overused term, unsustainable. Obama’s Notre Dame speech, Pelosi’s multiple idiotic affronts to Catholic teaching, the health care debacle—these and other troubling events indicate that the moment when Catholics will actually have to make a choice about where they stand is rapidly approaching.
Many more Catholics each day realize that the next Great Divorce in the Church is inevitable—the divorce between those who think their faith is essentially a “go-along-to-get-along” proposition, and those who know that, even after a period of affluence and apparent harmony, the Faith never had anything to do with merely getting along. As Deal Hudson and other Catholic writers are increasingly arguing, the state is poised to force this decision upon the massive Catholic middle who haven’t yet chosen a side.
Students of Catholic history know that great expansions of the Church always follow its great oppressions, as it is purified by fire—sometimes literally. This is a time of both great instability and great hope. It’s a great time to be Catholic.
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: 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.