A Disappointing Choice of Words

As everyone who is paying any attention to such issues knows by now, on Friday, January 24th, President Obama signed an executive order reversing the ban that prohibited funding to international family planning groups that provide abortions. The ban got its name when it was introduced by the administration of Ronald Reagan in 1984 in Mexico City. It had been overturned by President Clinton in 1993 and restored by President Bush at the beginning of his administration in 2001.

Abortion proponents had been looking forward to this for a long time.  They call the Mexico City Policy the “Global Gag Rule” since it prevents them from offering women the alternative of abortion as a “family planning” option and it keeps organizations that receive federal funding from attempting to influence the laws and policies of foreign governments to allow greater access to abortion.

Pro-lifers saw the policy as preventing the unwarranted intrusion of American abortion proponents in other countries, often in a manner that disrespects their cultures’ attitudes toward life, family matters, and childbirth. Since pro-lifers were marching in Washington on Thursday, January 23th, President Obama waited until Friday to sign the order.  Ostensibly this was to show that he did not want to be “confrontational” with pro-lifers who were somehow supposed to be mollified over their tax dollars being spent to fund the international baby-killing cartel due to the respect and consideration shown to them by not signing the order on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade.  This is to be expected.  Symbolic “non-confrontation” with pro-lifers is now married to substantive, aggressive, pro-abortion actions. If this plays fast and loose with any real conception of what “non-confrontational” actually means, that is to be expected also, because distorting the clear meaning of words has been part and parcel of the culture of death since, well… since the Garden of Eden.

None of this was unexpected.  The overturning of the Mexico City Policy was an established part of the Obama administration’s transition agenda, just as it was part of Candidate Obama’s stated intentions long before he was elected.

What was unexpected though was this statement from the USCCB:

It is very disappointing that President Obama has reversed the Mexico City Policy, which prevents U.S. funding of organizations that perform and promote abortion as a family planning method in developing nations. An Administration that wants to reduce abortions should not divert U.S. funds to groups that promote abortions — Cardinal Justin Rigali, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities.


To be disappointed is to expect one thing and get another: if someone accepts your invitation to come for dinner and he misses the appointment, then you are dis-appointed, because something that you had every reason to expect did not occur.  But, when something that you have every reason to expect does occur, that is not a disappointment.

From the use of “disappointing” we could infer that the bishops may have been expecting something different.  If that is the case, they owe the faithful an explanation of why they were entertaining that expectation. Otherwise it means nothing like what “disappointing” means in the ordinary usage of honest, plain-spoken people.

There have been many times when Cardinal Rigali has spoken clearly.  In his message for Respect Life Month last October, he referred to FOCA as something “we cannot allow [to] happen” and that “[w]e cannot tolerate.”

During the Vigil for Life at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC, on Wednesday, January 21, 2009, he offered rousing encouragement to the throngs getting ready to participate in the March for Life:

Political pundits have said that the pro-life movement is now history. Actually, they say this every few years, back to 1973. They imply that pro-lifers should just pack up and go home. Yet you do not look to me as though you are heading home. You look to me like a multitude of witnesses, a great multitude of pro-life witnesses, ready to uplift the world from the despair of the culture of death to enthrone in it the hope of a culture of life.

There are a lot of words that could have been used to describe the overturning of the Mexico City Policy.  There are a lot of good, strong English words whose clear meaning would unequivocally convey the opinion of the bishops that this is a despicable act of aggression against the poor of the world — if that is their opinion.  Or that it is a heinous assault against the consciences of the majority of Americans who do not share the agenda of unlimited abortion license being promoted abroad using their hard-earned tax dollars — if that is their opinion.

As for the statement that was made, it can only be described as… disappointing.

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  • Claire

    Very true, Mary. The bishops continue to “disappoint” me. I was particularly disappointed to hear that our own bishop went to Obama’s inauguration.

  • DonHudzinski

    I totally agree, it is about time we set out of our shell, God will protect us, why are our Cardinals and Bishops so worried and affraid of our country.

  • DonHudzinski

    Let me answer the why, it is because they have made this country a God and now fear the God they have created.

  • fatherjo

    I had the same feeling. “Disappointing” was weak, maybe purposely so, as the Bishops may be still hopeful of achieving some sort of dialog with the Obama administration.

  • fatherjo

    We need to do all in our power to try to make this only a one-term presidency. It’s called “damage control”.

  • elkabrikir

    I’m totally shocked by the bishops pointed/definative choice of verbage/garbage.

    This from the men who brought us the–still unacknowledged homosexual–sex abuse scandal. This from the men who have winked and nodded at abuses of Humanae Vitae. This from the men who allocted mere pennies toward NFP marriage preparation.

    How courageous, how righteous! What spiritual leaders for our times!

    When Christ finishes sifting, the Saints will reveal themselves. And the power of God will be manifested in its full glory. Until then, what can you expect from white washed sepulchres?

    By their fruits you will know them.

  • elkabrikir

    Fight with me! Fight with me! Fight for the Kingdom!

    “Take courage, it is I”, Jesus said to Peter as he feared treading upon the water.

    “We have nothing to fear but fear itself!” (FDR)

    Stand strong holy Bishops. Put on the Armor of God. The victory is won. We must fight the battles in Time!

    Pray for an increase in Faith, Hope, and Love. Then Wisdom and Prudence will guide and strengthen your words. Speak the truth in season and out of season. Words matter. Therefore take heed of Jesus’, “Do not fear little flock………. I have overcome the world.”

  • DonHudzinski

    Cardinals and Bishops have off load their responsibilities in the past to the state thus violating the principle of Separation of Church and state, and to that end, the true meaning of the phrase.

    The Lord laughs at our Cardinals and Bishops because they have named something on earth they deem more important than His Kingdom, for they are only to fear God. To fear this country is to announce that it is a God to them.

    You will speak boldly, if your country is not to be feared.

    The martyrs did not fear the Romans or the Jews, but with their eyes fixed upon Saint Joseph, they were able to overcome their fears.

  • tarasz

    Pray for the Bishops. They are Christ’s Vicars and they need our prayers and support, not our attacks.

    Next weekend, Cardinal Rigali is sending FOCA-prevention postcards to every Philadelphia Archdiocesan parish. Parishoners need only bring a pen to Mass and sign the cards; the Archdiocese will be mailing them. I am thrilled that Card. Rigali is fighting FOCA on such a level, making it clear to his flock and to the world where the Church stands on such issues.

    Yes, you will know them by their fruits. Until then, we are called to submit to our Bishops, just as all the saints have done before us.

  • elkabrikir

    Submit to them in sin?

    Those FOCA post cards are a sick, perverse joke!!!!!!!!!! Catholics elected Obama, remember?

    You don’t shut the barn door after the horse escapes.

    Don, you’re right, many in the church leadership fear the State…..and their precious tax exempt status. Others, may have been poisoned by modernism. Pope Pius X said the church would be poisoned from the tap root.

    Archbishop Chaput has detailed how to be Catholic in the public realm. And,as a further example, CE is running a story today about the Cardinal of Santo Domingo’s handling of abortion politics. http://catholicexchange.com/2009/01/26/115231/

  • goral

    I looked at the title of your article Mary, and thought – disappointing? What a bad choice of words! That was all set right in the meat of the article. I myself would have made the last word – feckless.
    There are some who frequent this website who are disappointed as well, much like the disappointment of a gambler when the winnings don’t come.
    To all the wishful thinkers and wishy-washy thinkers, consider this:
    He owes his supporters just this kind of an executive stroke.
    He doesn’t want his daughters to be punished with a baby.
    He has a pro-abortion wife.
    He has a pro-abortion VP.
    I would guess that his cabinet is solidly pro-abortion.
    The secretary of state will not mince words or actions in supporting abortion anywhere in the world.
    Is it a slap in the face of pro-lifers that he did not come out to say a word? No!
    Is it spitefulness on his part to use his executive fiat immediately the day after? Not at all, that’s what he said he would do.
    All to be expected from the leopard who will not change his spots and disappoint all those who made him the driver of the bus.
    Everything is going exactly as expected, including the occasional surprised head out of the sand of our Shepherds.

  • khughey

    I’m afraid we are reaping what we sowed. Too many Bishops were “lukewarm” during the election cycle and they continue to be “lukewarm” now. Look what Jesus say about being lukewarm….it’s pretty terse and to the point.

    To the Biships : Grow a spine before millions more are slaughtered.

    Something that haunts me to this day is a question posed by the founder of Operation Rescue, many years ago. He simply asked, “If you believe that abortion is really murder, do you act like it?” As a catholic, you cannot call the slaughter of the innocent anything other than murder. The church and it’s leadership is not (in my opinion) acting like they should. It’s kind of like the concentration camps in Nazi Germany…. ignore them and then make excuses on why you didn’t do more.

    We’re reaping alright and we’ve really worked ourselves into a scary situation.

  • Bruce Roeder

    You may knkow that Josef Stalin attended Russian Orthodox seminary early in his life. But in Stalin’s rise to power in the USSR, he spoke out strongly against religion. While in power he had already sent many to the gulag when a seminary classmate of his was elevated to bishop and Stalin requested to see him. Nervous about the encounter, the bishop dressed in civilian clothes and made the appointment.

    When the bishop entered the room, Stalin laughed loudly, pointed at his civilian clothes and said, “You are more afraid of me than you are of God!”

    Let’s pray our bishops will be stronger.

  • Andrew James

    My family attended mass at a different parish yesterday. The mass opened with a few words about FOCA delivered by an indifferent woman, and almost seemed scripted. The priest then gave a homily that in part praised the inauguration of Obama.

    We are at the time in our culture when the sheep are being separated from the goats. Those who choose the evil of abortion have an “appointment” and will not be “disappointed” at their time of judgement.

  • DonHudzinski

    Let us pray that thier eyes be opened to the Kingdom of God, instead of trying to create the Kingdom themselves, repent and turn back to God only He knows how to build His Kingdom.

    We pray that they turn to prayer to learn how you want to build Your Kingdom.

  • jmtfh

    The moral issue of this outrageous, egocentric, imperialistic, henious act of reversing the Mexico City Policy aside…it does not make economical sense to be exporting $400 million yearly to other countries when our oown economy is in shambles!!!

    Where is the outrage!!!!

  • kent4jmj

    Is there a defeciency in the Bishops of the U.S.? Of course there is. Just as there is a defeciency in the Priesthood, Religous Orders and of course the Laity. (That be me.)

    Should we be “shocked,” “outraged,” “disappointed,” Etc???. On one level yes. But is there a deeper level? Is this story any different from what we read in Scripture? Lukewarmness, betrayal, error, unfaithfulness are our patrimony aren’t they? This ‘story’ certainly is close to home.

    So what do we do?
    Take on the reform of USCCB singlehandedly? Sit quietly in the pew and pray? Write provacative letters to the Bishops or to the editorial pages of any newspaper that will print them? Rant and rave with all the anger we can possibly muster?

    I’d like to suggest we research what Scripture and the Church teach concerning the appropriate action in times of serious crimes against God.

    Prophets stand out because they speak the truth concerning God’s ways and His will. Do we look for prophets or leaders? Or are the prophets the leaders? Small distinction? I’m not so sure.

    What is God’s Plan for our times?

    I suppose Jesus would be the most likely place to find God’s Plan. Of course that runs the danger of having different, conflicting opinions as to what we think that is. Is there an objective way of discerning? I would suggest we start with what God says and with what has been “Handed Down.”

    I would love to answer my own questions because of course I have the ‘answers’ :o) but that would not really help would it? The questions, if they are the right ones and I’m not sure they are, are what is needed.

  • toolboard

    Good call on the hypocrasy of some of our Bishops and leading thinkers. Why are they disappointed at what they helped bring about? Are we going to hear that Obama was the best choice available?

    In one swift act, and others to follow, Obama is going to negate all the euphoria and historic significance of his election and join the long sad line of figure head and pathetic Presidents. He’s only just starting to run for re-election which is what “his” people want. It’s “his” people, a bunch of anti-God, compulsive liberals that got him elected and are going to run the show. He’ll make Queen Elizabeth look like a single minded great leader when it’s all said and done.

    Remember fellow Catholics, if the hollywood and entertainment crowd and the women’s rights groups et. al. love a candidate; run as far away as you can. Whoever they endorse, look for the opponent.

  • elkabrikir

    Here’s some decent verbiage (as opposed to verbage)

    A senior Vatican official on Saturday attacked US President Barack Obama for “arrogance” for overturning a ban on state funding for family-planning groups that carry out or facilitate abortions overseas.
    It is “the arrogance of someone who believes they are right, in signing a decree which will open the door to abortion and thus to the destruction of human life,” Archbishop Rino Fisichella was quoted as saying by the Corriere della Sera daily.

    Fisichella is president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, one of a number of so-called pontifical academies which are formed by or under the direction of the Holy See.

    “What is important is to know how to listen… without locking oneself into ideological visions with the arrogance of a person who, having the power, thinks they can decide on life and death,” he added.

    Obama signed the executive order cancelling the eight-year-old restrictions on Friday, the third full day of his presidency.

    The so-called “global gag rule” cut off US funding to overseas family planning clinics which provide any abortion services whatsoever, from the operation itself to counselling, referrals or post-abortion services.

    “If this is one of the first acts of President Obama, with all due respect, it seems to me that the path towards disappointment will have been very short,” Fisichella said.

    “I do not believe that those who voted for him took into consideration ethical themes, which were astutely left aside during the election debate. The majority of the American population does not take the same position as the president and his team,” he added.

    The order won Obama praise from Democratic lawmakers, family planning and women’s rights groups but drew angry condemnation from pro-life organisations and Republicans.

    More than 250 health and human rights organisations from around the world sent Obama a letter, thanking him for ending a policy “which has contributed to the deaths and injuries of countless women and girls.”

  • Daughter of the King

    Isn’t it the same thing, Mary, the bishops being disappointed with the President for something that was totally expected and you disappointed with the Bishops when their actions are expected too? At least we’re all living up to others’ expectations.

  • Mary Kochan

    No it is the opposite. We HAD NO reason to expect that Obama would do other than what he did. We DO HAVE good reason to expect clarity in speaking the truth by our bishops. (Not to mention that we have reason to expect them to use the English language correctly.) To stop expecting good things from our bishops — including inspired and inspiring leadership — would be to stop expecting God to come through on His promises.

  • Bruce Roeder

    Exactly, Mary.

    The difference is huge. I expect the pro-abortion politician to act as he promised he would and I expect the bishops to preach the Gospel in season and out.

    I am outraged at the President.

    I am disappointed in the bishops.

  • bluestorm

    Please stop the Bishop bashing. Before all, our Bishops need our prayers and our support, not further division by us being upset at them and disrespecting them.

  • Daughter of the King

    Maybe some of the bishops did try to do something that the people are unaware of and their efforts failed. Maybe they prayed and fasted and all and still the result was not what they hoped for. Maybe their final hope was in the Lord and they were ‘disappointed’ with what happened.

    As for it being different, from the way folks on this site talk about the bishops and how much they’re falling down on the job and all I guess I didn’t really see any difference in expectations. Has the USCCB really given us that much hope that they’d have more backbone? From the sounds of most of the comments, no!

  • elkabrikir

    I think using the term “bishop bashing” is inflammatory. I think it is prudent and an act of charity to hold bishops accountable to the grace they have received in Holy Orders. With charity, fraternal correction is appropriate when needed. So, is mercy.

    History tells us that about 90% of the bishops supported the Arian Heresy in the 4th century! Great Saints, like St Athanasius were exiled for a time. However, Athanasius became a Saint by holding firm to the truth and vociferously defending the divinity of Christ. Because of Saints like him, we have a Trinitarian Christian faith as professed in the Nicene Creed.

    We are in danger of becoming a Church lead by bishops who follow the Gnostic Heresy, in my opinion. They would separate the soul from the body and allow evil to be done by/to the body without it affecting the soul. Pope John Paul II refuted this heresy in Theology of the Body. He is the prototype of a bishop and Saint for our times, as he imitated Christ in all things.

    We must recognize that word choice reveals the thoughts of the man. Heresy is insidious. No bishop would willfully succumb. However, without fraternal correction infused with love, bishops may be blinded to the darkness before them.

    Thanks Mary, for this article which, hopefully, helps us see ourselves as we are too.

  • saintstephen

    As Catholic the laity are advised to represent credibility in their own lives before exhorting others to truth. I am adding Pope Benedict XVI’s statement for all to read in the hope that Catholic will first demonstrate the values of faith in silent witness so that those values are not obscured by irrational Catholic behavior especially in the Press and in writing:


    VATICAN CITY, 27 JAN 2009 (VIS) – Benedict XVI has sent a message to participants in the national congress of the Italian Catholic Press Union (UCSI). The congress, held last week, commemorated the institution’s fiftieth anniversary.

    “Half a century after the foundation of the UCSI many things have changed”, writes the Holy Father. This change has been “more visible in areas ranging from science to technology, from the economy to geopolitics; less perceptible but deeper, and more worrying, in the field of modern culture, in which respect for the dignity of the individual seems to have notably diminished, along with a sense of such values as justice, freedom and solidarity, which are so essential for the survival of a society”.

    The work of Catholic journalists, says the Pope, “anchored in a heritage of principles that have their roots in the Gospel, … is even more arduous today. To your characteristic sense of responsibility and spirit of service, you must add an ever great professionalism, and a capacity for dialogue with the ‘lay’ world in the search for shared values”.

    After telling the journalists that “you will be listened to more readily when the testimony of your own lives is coherent”, the Holy Father assures them that “no small number of your ‘lay’ colleagues expect from you the silent witness – not only in appearance but in substance – of a life inspired by the values of faith”.

    Benedict XVI writes of his awareness that they are committed to “an ever more demanding task, one in which spaces for freedom are often under threat, and economic and political interests often take precedence over the spirit of service and the criterion of the common good.

    “I encourage you”, he adds in conclusion, “not to make compromises in such important values but to have the courage of coherence, even at the cost of personal sacrifice. Serenity of conscience is a priceless quality”.


  • khughey

    “Bishop Bashing”? Give me a break.

    A lot of the problems we have today are enhanced simply because Good People do nothing and evil is allowed to prevail. Pointing this out and questioning the response from our church leaders is woefully lacking these days. It’s apathy and political correctness that’s strangling the “Good”.

    On a more positive note… just read a GREAT article from Bishop Robert J. Hermann …. http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2009/jan/09012707.html

  • http://privilegedwhitemales.blogspot.com/ jackster

    Revelation 22:11
    Let the wicked still act wickedly, and the filthy still be filthy. The righteous must still do right, and the holy still be holy.