Catholic Organizations’ Support for Health Care Reform Follows the Money Trail

A clash between Catholic pro-life groups and major Catholic organizations on whether Congress should enact immediate health care reform has drastically muddled the Catholic response to the debate raging on Capitol Hill. But as one Catholic editor has noted, the conflicting messages on whether to push health care reform could be traced to at least one organization’s monetary interest in such reform.

The struggle came to a head last week with news of an “action alert” released by Catholic Charities USA, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, and the Catholic Health Association (CHA) calling on constituents to contact Congressmen urging the passage of health care reform “now.”

Noting that the Obama-sponsored legislation is underway, the group wrote only that there are many “details” in the bills that “still need to be developed” and that nonetheless “we must maintain momentum for health care reform efforts with calls and emails supporting health care reform immediately.”

Pro-life leaders are vigorously fighting the bills which, as confirmed by an Associated Press report, would now explicitly expand abortion. The groups denied that they intended to support the current legislation, but were merely fighting the general “pressure to keep the status quo” in the American health care system.

If so, pro-life Catholics questioned, why did the groups step up the pressure at the very same moment President Obama was attempting to ram the troublesome bill through Congress?

Jack Smith, editor of the Kansas City-St. Joseph diocesan newspaper The Catholic Key, says part of the problem lies in “confusion over the nature of the Catholic Health Association and [CHA president] Sister Carol [Keehan]’s role.”

The Catholic Health Association, he explains, is actually a for-profit trade association, unlike other Catholic entities driven solely by altrustic goals.

The Catholic Key reported on Aug. 6 that Sister Carol’s “compensation at Catholic Health Association is $856,093. This in an organization whose expenses are only $17,660,797. Three other employees at CHA each make more than $300,000.”

“CHA is not a repository of Catholic social teaching with regard to health care or an association of moral theologians or a charity in service of the poor,” wrote Smith. “It is a trade association.”

While “there is nothing wrong with a trade association,” he added, “too many reporters, including members of the Catholic press, have sought comment from CHA without recognizing they are primarily an organization with a vested financial interest in the outcome of the health care debate.”

Though CHA has redoubled its affirmations that it only supports reform consistent with “the dignity of life,” the organization threw its weight behind Obama’s plan for health care reform early on. On a July 8 visit to the White House, Sister Carol Keehan represented CHA among a group of hospital associations that had committed $155 billion in Medicare and Medicaid savings over several years to help cover the cost of health care reform.

The American Life League (ALL) has raised concerns over the Obama administration’s ties to both CHA and Catholic Charities USA, which also joined the recent push for health care reform.

On July 20, Catholic Charities USA (CCUSA) announced that it has received a contract for $100 million for aid relief from the federal Department of Health and Human Services. CCUSA president Fr. Snyder, who is a member of President Obama’s Council for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, hailed the contract as “a very strong endorsement of who we are and what we do, and powerful recognition of the donors who support us and who we will now need to count on more than ever.”

According to the CCUSA press release, it is the first-ever federal contract granted to the 100-year-old organization.

Evidence from a investigation points to CCUSA playing a central role in gathering support among Catholic organizations for immediate health care reform, despite the current bill’s abortion mandate and other serious problems.

When pro-life groups began questioning CCUSA’s push for immediate health care reform, Father Snyder responded by denigrating the credibility and motivation of the groups. He called the criticism “politically motivated by opponents of health care reform.”

“They are distortions of the truth and disingenuous,” said Snyder. “Catholic Charities USA will continue to work to reform health care in a way that is consistent with the teachings of our faith.”

Judie Brown, president of the American Life League, said the groups’ involvement with the Obama administration, coupled with their apparent complacency over the health legislation’s abortion mandate, paints a troubling picture.

“All of this leads one to wonder what exactly Obama has been stirring up,” said Brown.

“His administration has been persuading various so-called Catholic leaders that-regardless of Catholic magisterial teaching-there is a seat at the table for Catholics who will set aside the tragedy of abortion for the supposedly greater cause of ‘reforming’ health care, via Obama’s virtual fiat.”

Catholic commentator Phil Lawler published a list of critical data points on the Obama administration and health care reform.

To express concern:

Catholic Charities USA
66 Canal Center Plaza
Suite 600
Alexandria, Virginia 22314
Phone: (703) 549-1390
Fax: (703) 549-1656
[email protected]

Sister Carol Keehan, President and CEO
The Catholic Health Association
1875 Eye Street NW, Suite 1000
Washington, DC 20006-5440
phone: (202) 296-3993
[email protected]

Society of Saint Vincent de Paul
58 Progress Parkway
St. Louis, Missouri 63043-3706
phone: 314-576-3993
fax: 576-6755
[email protected]

See related articles:

AP Confirms Health Bill Radically Opens Federal Funds to Abortion

Major Catholic Organizations Push for Healthcare Overhaul Despite Abortion Mandate

Prominent Nun Ridicules Healthcare Vote Delay over “Insignificant Details”

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