Standing with the Bishops

One hundred fifty-one and counting… That is the number of Bishops who, at the time of this writing, have issued public condemnations of the Obama administration’s confirmation of its radical and unjust “contraceptive mandate.” Led by USCCB president and Cardinal-elect Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, our shepherds are stepping out in front of their flocks and challenging the administration in no uncertain terms.

The unprecedented move by this administration has been met in turn by an unprecedented display of outspoken and public unity in the Church. Even liberal Catholic supporters of the administration, and entities that brazenly supported the passage of the healthcare reform bill over the objections of the bishops, have begun to voice their concerns publicly. They seem to be expressing surprise that they would be used by the administration and then kicked to the curb when their cover was no longer needed.

While this unusual display of support from the left wing of the Church is welcome, the question must be asked about how we got to this point. It is left to our imagination to wonder what would have happened if, during their many meetings with the administration leading up to the passage of ObamaCare, the leadership of the Catholic Health Association (CHA) would have told the administration in no uncertain terms that they would immediately withdraw their effusive public support for the bill unless there was clear and strong language within the bill itself protecting conscience rights in absolute terms. We must also wonder what would have happened if, months before the CHA leadership received a “signing pen” from the president – a trophy given only to those few who were absolutely essential to the bill’s passage – they told him that, given President Obama’s past record in promoting abortion at every possible turn, they would need him to adopt the Stupak language (which even its sponsor abandoned in the final stretch, citing CHA as an authority, and which also was not as strong as many preferred) to ensure that abortion coverage would not be expanded by the bill.

I do not say this to condemn CHA’s leadership or anyone else. That isn’t my job, and like any Catholic who understands his faith, I trust those responsible to address issues of authority in this matter. Our faith demands forgiveness be given – 70 times 7 times – and if CHA’s leadership were to at this point help lead the opposition to this assault by the administration on our Faith, I would, like many I’m sure, welcome them to the front. Up to a point, I believe engagement with the administration was at least potentially valuable, if the terms were clear and truthful, and people were acting in good faith.

But that assumes that all parties are acting in good faith, an assumption that very few now believe. If we are going to learn from this painful episode, then we need to – in Charity and in Truth – look at how we got here. Charity is not, and never has been, about “niceness;” and we should learn our lesson about dealing with this administration, and the others that will follow it, if we are not to be fooled again.

President Obama promised Planned Parenthood before the election that he saw “reproductive care” (which, according to the president and Planned Parenthood essentially includes abortion and contraception) as being “at the center and at the heart” of his health care reform plan. Why so many refused to take him at his word for this is baffling to me.

Before this, he voted four times in the Illinois State Senate, and even advocated in a speech on the Senate floor, against a bill that would have required that life-saving treatment be given to children who were born following botched abortions. Even the unequivocally pro-abortion Barbara Boxer voted for an almost identical bill at the federal level, so careful was its crafting so as not to impinge on the so-called “freedom of choice.” In opposing this bill, the president placed himself squarely in the tiniest minority of the most radical of anti-life politicians.

As a U.S. senator, Mr. Obama had a 100% rating from the pro-abortion group NARAL. I could go on for hours, but you get the point – the president is no agent of compromise when it comes to abortion or contraception, and he never has been. And with his appointment of the baptised-Catholic Kathleen Sebelius to the position of Secretary of HHS, he ensured that his health care policy would be carried out to the letter by the entity that, by the design of the legislation that is now nicknamed after him, would have total control over all aspects of health care practice and coverage by the time it was fully implemented.

This is exactly what ObamaCare was designed to do.

How this enormous power grab by people – people who could not have done more to telegraph their intentions – received even the slightest amount of support from Catholic “experts” in health care is a question I can’t begin to understand. Catholics are now being told we that we have no choice but to pay for things that we know will kill children and harm women, or to go out of business. The experts knew that this power was being given to the government, but somehow they bought into unwritten backroom assurances that freedom of conscience and religion would be respected?

Of course Catholics believe in basic, essential health care for everyone! That’s why we have built and run hundreds of hospitals that serve people of every faith and background. It’s a part of our mandate as Christians to serve the poor and heal the sick out of our love of Christ, whom we see especially in the weakest and most vulnerable. This is how we live solidarity, a key principle of Catholic Social Doctrine.

But we also believe in something called subsidiarity, which is another basic principle of our doctrine that essentially says that we shouldn’t cede control of any services to larger entities when we can do them better ourselves at the local level. Catholic hospitals treat patients as persons – persons made in the image and likeness of our Creator, and who thus have inviolable dignity from the moment of conception until the moment that their Creator decides to take them home. This understanding of the human person has consequences in how we perform health care. The people who now, or within the next year if nothing is done, have almost complete control of every aspect of healthcare radically disagree with Catholics about the nature of the human person – the patients being served. And their beliefs also have consequences with how they think health care should work, and their view is summarized in the now-president’s statement that abortion and contraception are at the heart of such care.

A bill now being discussed that intends to defend freedom of conscience in law is good, and deserves support. But again, this administration has not only laid bare its disdain for the Catholic faith, but also for the rule of law. Five words: The Defense of Marriage Act. This administration cares not a whit about any inconvenient legal impediment to realizing its goals – their only law is the law of power, which they currently have. A bill will not stop or even slow them down in their expressed goal to “fundamentally change” our nation.

And it is our nation. ObamaCare must be repealed in its entirety, and all of its bureaucratic tentacles that are now being constructed must be dismantled one by one. In its place we argue for a system that respects not only life and freedom of religion and conscience, but the right of local communities to take care of their own; and one that has a great humility in implementing intermediate levels of control when necessary, due to inadequacy at the local level.

Hallelujah! The Church is awake! Let’s welcome back those who were misled into supporting this legislation and who want to set things right. Remember, we are forgiven our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. But let us not be fooled again into thinking that “dialogue” with this administration is currently possible on a truthful basis.

Let’s support our bishops in prayer and in action as they lead the charge against this assault on the Church, and toward a health care system – and a society – that is truly more just.

Subscribe to CE
(It's free)

Go to Catholic Exchange homepage