A Reality Check from the Discipleship Front

What the hell don’t you understand about the term separation of Church and State. Keep your evil hands off of our Health Care Bill. Mind your own business. We don’t care about your beliefs, and if you want to meddle in our affairs, we will be coming for you. If that’s how you want to play, we will come for your pedophile priests, your ill-gotten money you stole for decades. The Catholic church is just another organized crime syndicate that should be put out of business. Get the f–k away from Congress, or you will regret it … .

That’s a real e-mail from a real person.  The man who sent it last week was either very candid or very foolish about his anger: he added his real name and e-mail address.  I’ve withheld them here because I like to hope that most people, or at least many of them, are better than the poisonous things they sometimes write. But this e-mail does teach a useful lesson, because it’s not just a case of a random bigot getting in touch with his inner bully.  Instead, it’s a snapshot of the anti-Catholic bitterness that drives some of the loudest voices in the current health-care debate.

Let’s remember that the Founders encouraged an active role for religion in the nation’s public life.  Let’s recall that freedom of speech for Catholics, their leaders and their Church is constitutionally protected, just as it is for all citizens.  Let’s also finally remember that Catholic-baiting is one of America’s oldest and most favored forms of hatred.  The irony is that some of today’s ugliest bigots posture themselves as socially “progressive” and work in politics or the mass media, or both.

Catholics entered this year’s national health-care discussion with good will and a long track record of public service.  Catholic medical care is a national network.  Most Catholics, as part of their Christian faith, see decent health care for all persons as a social obligation.  They’re eager for some form of good health-industry reform.  But “reform” isn’t a magic word.  It isn’t an end in itself.  The content of the reform matters vitally.

For months Catholic leaders have worked vigorously with congressional and White House staff to craft sound health-care reform legislation.  Service to the poor, the sick and the suffering is part of the Church’s Gospel vocation.  The bill passed by the House on Nov. 7 was a step toward a goal that is shared, in principle, by most Catholics.  Like most bills, it was a mixed success.  Critics argue that it lacks adequate conscience protections; that its penalties are extreme and largely unknown to the public; that it’s too complex; that it violates the Catholic principle of subsidiarity; and that it’s financially damaging and unsustainable.

These concerns are serious; they demand our reflection.  There is nothing “mandatory” for faithful Catholics about supporting or opposing this legislation in its current form.  That’s a matter for personal decision.  But the House bill does seek to address the health-care crisis in a comprehensive manner; and it does —at least, so far—meet a minimum moral standard that makes Catholic support possible.

Those two words, “so far,” bring us back to the point of this column.  The House health-care bill—the Senate will now develop its own version—meets the minimum threshold for Catholic support for one simple reason:  Catholic pressure forced abortion and abortion funding out of the legislation.  Abortion has nothing to do with advancing human health.  Abortion and public funding for abortion, no matter how discreetly it’s hidden, have no place in any genuine health-care reform.  This has been a key moral principle for Catholics every step of the way in the health-care discussion.  With Roe v. Wade likely to be secure under this president, excluding abortion and its funding from reform legislation would be a modest, sensible compromise for “pro-choicers.”  It might prove that something like common ground on abortion policy really is achievable in a Washington that describes itself as post-partisan.

Instead, the opposite has happened.  The abortion-driven anger dumped on Catholic beliefs, leaders and the Church at large since Nov. 7 would make the Know-Nothing bigots of the last century proud.  We’ve seen it from members of Congress, the news media, the abortion industry, and sad, deluded people stuck in their rage like the man quoted at the beginning of these remarks.

Here’s the moral of the story:  Catholic witness has a cost.  When we’re willing to pay it, we prove who we are as disciples—and the nation benefits.  When we’re not, life’s a lot more comfortable.  But that was never the point of the Gospel.

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput


Charles Joseph Chaput, O.F.M. Cap. is the ninth and current Archbishop of Philadelphia, serving since his installation on September 8, 2011

Subscribe to CE
(It's free)

Go to Catholic Exchange homepage

  • Mary S.

    I really admire & respect Bishop Chaput. I wonder, though, if the House Health Care bill meets the minimum requirements for Catholic support because it does not contain ( to my knowledge) adequate conscience clause protection. That is a very serious issue which I have not seen addressed much. To think that this health care bill won’t promote contraception & some kind of movement toward euthanasia is probably naive. And, then there is that basic social prinicple of subsidiarity which means that actions/ decisions should be made closest to the appropriate social unit. For instance, the family should take care of it’s responsibilities & not surrender them to the state. Here we have the federal government taking over all kinds of familial, church, & local government decisions! That is a complete contradiction of the Catholic social teaching on subsidiarity. Would someone please stand up for the Church’s teaching on subsidiarity?

  • gmstevens

    It saddens me to hear that my Bishop (I’M from SD) has been treated in such a manner. This article warns us all that we MUST surround these good men and women who are working to end abortion in our nation. They need this shield of protection now more then ever!

  • mamreilly

    Remember, O Most Gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thine intercession, was left unaided. Inspired by this confidence, I fly unto thee, O Virgin of virgins, my Mother. To thee do I come, before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy, hear and answer me. Amen.
    My Lady, protect our bishops and help them to be strong and faithful shepherds of the flocks intrusted to them.

    Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
    Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:10-12)

    God doesn’t require us to succeed; he only requires that we try. (Mother Teresa)

    People are often unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered;
    Forgive them anyway.
    If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;
    Be kind anyway.
    If you are successful you will win some false friends and true enemies;
    Succeed anyway.
    If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;
    Be honest and frank anyway.
    What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight;
    Build anyway.
    If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous;
    Be happy anyway.
    The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;
    Do good anyway.
    Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough;
    Give the world the best you’ve got anyway
    You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God; it was never between you and them anyway. (Mother Terese)

    God bless you, Archbishop Chaput!