The Catholic Health Association Defies the Bishops
Sunday, March 14, 2010
At least they are consistent. On Saturday, Sr. Carol Keehan, head of the Catholic Health Association which represents hundreds of Catholic hospitals announced her organization's clear support for President Obama's health care reform plan. In her endorsement, posted on the CHA website, Sr. Keehan even makes the case that the bill is morally acceptable because it segregates funds to pay for abortions.

The Bishops of the US don't believe that. They are urging Catholics to reject the bill unless language prohibiting abortion funding, like the Stupak amendment, is attached. In a letter of March 4th, the Bishops Conference said that the bill being considered "appropriates $7 billion dollars"in federal funds that "can be used for elective abortions." They claim the bill uses "federal funds to subsidize plans that cover abortions" and that it would "use federal power to force people to pay for other people's abortions." The entire piece is here: http://www.usccb.org/healthcare/030410facts.pdf

Last year, when Sr. Carol Keehan appeared on our program she assured the audience that she was in constant contact with the Bishops Conference and in complete concert with them on the issue of life. That doesn't appear to be the case. The AP reported this weekend: "Major anti-abortion groups, including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the National Right to Life Committee, are adamantly opposed to the legislation, preferring stricter restrictions passed last November by the House. Keehan said in an interview that she believes the approach now in the bill would work just as well to keep federal dollars from being used to pay for abortion. 'On the moral issue of abortion, there is no disagreement,' Keehan said. 'On the technical issue of whether this bill prevents federal funding of abortions, we differ with Right to Life.'

Actually she differs with the Bishops, but it was a nice dodge.

This places the Conference in a rather odd spot. They must now decide whether to allow Sr. Carol to continue distorting the Church's position on this health care bill or correct her, publicly. The political angle is obvious. Sr. Carol and the CHA are giving cover to the House leadership that is privately strong arming Pro-life, Catholic Democrats who plan on voting against the bill. This, they hope, will erode the moral position that Stupak and his supporters have staked out.

If the final health care bill lacks limits on abortion funding, it won't be Stupak's fault--but the fault of those who purposely muddied the Church teaching on life and those who remained silent while they did so.

UPDATE: Archbishop Chaput just released this column today. It speaks directly to the issue raised in the blog:

CATHOLICS, HEALTH CARE AND THE SENATES BAD BILL

By Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap. Archbishop of Denver

The Senate version of health-care reform currently being forced ahead by congressional leaders and the White House is a bad bill that will result in bad law. It does not deserve, nor does it have, the support of the Catholic bishops of our country. Nor does the American public want it. As I write this column on March 14, the Senate bill remains gravely flawed. It does not meet minimum moral standards in at least three important areas: the exclusion of abortion funding and services; adequate conscience protections for health-care professionals and institutions; and the inclusion of immigrants.

Groups, trade associations and publications describing themselves as Catholic or prolife that endorse the Senate version whatever their intentions are doing a serious disservice to the nation and to the Church, undermining the witness of the Catholic community; and ensuring the failure of genuine, ethical health-care reform. By their public actions, they create confusion at exactly the moment Catholics need to think clearly about the remaining issues in the health-care debate. They also provide the illusion of moral cover for an unethical piece of legislation.

As we enter a critical week in the national health-care debate, Catholics across northern Colorado need to remember a few simple facts.

First, the Catholic bishops of the United States have pressed for real national health-care reform in this country for more than half a century. They began long before either political party or the public media found it convenient. That commitment hasnt changed. Nor will it.

Second, the bishops have tried earnestly for more than seven months to work with elected officials to craft reform that would serve all Americans in a manner respecting minimum moral standards. The failure of their effort has one source. It comes entirely from the stubbornness and evasions of certain key congressional leaders, and the unwillingness of the White House to honor promises made by the president last September.

Third, the health-care reform debate has never been merely a matter of party politics. Nor is it now. Democratic Congressman Bart Stupak and a number of his Democratic colleagues have shown extraordinary character in pushing for good health-care reform while resisting attempts to poison it with abortion-related entitlements and other bad ideas that have nothing to do with real health care. Many Republicans share the goal of decent health-care reform, even if their solutions would differ dramatically. To put it another way, few persons seriously oppose making adequate health services available for all Americans. But God, or the devil, is in the details -- and by that measure, the current Senate version of health-care reform is not merely defective, but also a dangerous mistake.

The long, unpleasant and too often dishonest national health-care debate is now in its last days. Its most painful feature has been those Catholic groups that by their eagerness for some kind of deal undercut the witness of the Catholic community and help advance a bad bill into a bad law. Their flawed judgment could now have damaging consequences for all of us.

Do not be misled. The Senate version of health-care reform currently being pushed ahead by congressional leaders and the White House -- despite public resistance and numerous moral concerns -- is bad law; and not simply bad, but dangerous. It does not deserve, nor does it have, the support of the Catholic bishops in our country, who speak for the believing Catholic community. In its current content, the Senate version of health-care legislation is not reform. Catholics and other persons of good will concerned about the foundations of human dignity should oppose it.

Let me know what you think at raymond@raymondarroyo.com




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