An Embarrassing History Lesson

When asked to comment on the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ rejection of the so-called HHS “accommodation,” White House Press Secretary, Jay Carney, said, “I would simply note with regard to the bishops that they never supported healthcare reform to begin with.”

Apparently, either Mr. Carney’s memory is failing or his trousers are ablaze.

In any case, it seems that a bit of history is in order to set the record straight as to how we arrived at this lamentable point in time where the Obama Administration is wielding unprecedented control over the nation’s healthcare system. For as Edmund Burke said, “Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it.”

One upon a time, in 1993, when the Clinton Administration was plotting to nationalize healthcare in the U.S. (which in spite of any need of improvement was still arguably the finest in the world), the USCCB made it known that it stood in agreement with those political progressives who insisted that the entire system was “inequitable,” “unjust” and in need of not just tweaking; but “fundamental reform.”

Sixteen years later, little had changed.

During the early days of the healthcare reform debate in 2009, the USCCB almost certainly put Obama and his cohorts at ease by reminding them, lest they could have possibly forgotten, that their statist ambitions dovetailed rather nicely with the Conference’s own long-held aspirations save for scaling one solitary hurdle: the life issue.

“Our goal has been really for decades to have universal health care reform. We’re very much in favor of that; we were in favor of that many decades before it was fashionable,” said USCCB Associate Pro-Life Director, Richard Doerflinger, effectively boasting the bishops’ leftwing credentials while doing very little to put the Administration on notice concerning the Church’s moral authority.

Doerflinger does deserve credit for at least attempting, albeit ineffectively, to tie the Conference’s position to Catholic doctrine by claiming recourse toPacem in Terris, the social encyclical of Pope John XIII, for the notion that “basic health coverage” is a “matter of justice.”

Just one problem though; Pacem in Terris doesn’t mention the insipid term “basic health coverage” (much less “health insurance”) even once; rather it insists upon every human being’s “right to be looked after in the event of ill health.”

Clearly, there’s a substantial difference between an ill-defined, open-ended entitlement to “coverage” and a right to receive needed medical care in the event of a bona fide malady. In fact, based on the bitter experience of current events, most people now realize that it’s rather like the difference between guaranteeing access to heart bypass surgery and handing out free contraceptives like candy corn on Halloween.

To be very clear, Richard Doerflinger was just one of many spokespersons who did the Conference’s bidding. He personally doesn’t shoulder substantial blame for the fact that Catholics in the United States are now faced with the unjust mandates of Obama’s immoral dictatorship; rather, it is his exalted employer that bears the brunt of that responsibility.

In fairness, this history lesson wouldn’t be complete without acknowledging that in addition to granting its de facto blessing to the Administration’s hostile takeover of the nation’s healthcare system (with nary a peep about the principle of subsidiarity), the Conference did call on legislators to include measures that would, in principle even if not in reality, protect human life.

For instance, the USCCB sent a letter to the U.S. Senate saying, “Health care reform legislation should reflect longstanding and widely supported current policies on abortion funding, mandates and conscience protections,” referring in part to the Hyde Amendment which ostensibly prohibits tax dollars from being used for abortion.

Clarifying the USCCB’s position, Sr. Maryanne Walsh wrote in a Washington Post editorial during the heat of the debate, “What the bishops have said is that for healthcare reform [read: the Obama takeover] they would live with the status quo where the government does not pay for abortions or abortion-containing health plans [via the Hyde Amendment], but people who want abortion coverage can purchase it with other funds.”

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Louie Verrecchio is a Catholic speaker and the author of Harvesting the Fruit of Vatican II; an internationally acclaimed adult faith formation tool, endorsed by George Cardinal Pell, that explores the documents of the Second Vatican Council. For more information please visit: You can follow him on Facebook at

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