The National Catholic Review
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How Compelling?

The administrative committee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops gave a half-hearted welcome to news of the passage of the Obama administration’s health care reform bill. “We applaud,” wrote Cardinal Francis George, the conference president, “the effort to expand health care to all.” “Many elements of the health care reform measure signed into law by the president,” he noted, “...help to fulfill the duty we have to each other for the common good.”

Praise was muted, however. The bishops had opposed passage of the centerpiece Senate bill that failed to meet all their expectations. They cited in particular provisions for protection of the conscience of health professionals, the coverage of undocumented immigrants and possible funding for abortions. All merit further legislative and legal action as health care reform is implemented. The law’s imperfections are many, but with the reform in place these priorities provide a platform to address its shortcomings in the months and years ahead.

The great stumbling block to endorsing the bill was the fear that under the terms of the core Senate bill, financing might seep out through community health clinics to fund abortions. The evidence, the bishops argue, was “compelling.” Certainly compelling for the bishops, and for some others who have made extraordinary efforts to examine the legislative language and weigh legal scenarios for possible future court suits, but not compelling for many other legal analysts. Tenuous legal arguments somehow hardened into matters of principle. (While the conference’s general counsel later disclosed his legal reasoning, the bishops’ reasons for drawing their conclusion were not available for others to probe during the debate on the bill.)

The desire to make the prohibition on abortion funding airtight is admirable, but the argument for doing so seems to have been built on a tissue of hypotheticals that was far from conclusive. How could such a hard and fast position have been founded on such contestable foundations? How did the bishops come to depend so heavily on debatable, technical questions of law? How did they banish doubt when opinions differed so? If there ever was a prudential judgment that might have been left to the practical reason of legislators, the possible backdoor funding of abortion is surely such a case.

How, in the end, did very fine points of abortion-denial come to weigh more heavily than guaranteeing health care to all?

Smile for the Camera

This year’s U.S. Census form is the shortest in history, with just 10 questions, but that has not stopped it from stirring up controversy. The constitutionally mandated survey has occurred every 10 years since 1790, but the type of information it gathers has evolved, much to the chagrin of some conservative pundits and politicians. The census counts the population of the United States, but it also contains questions about race and gender. The radio and television host Glenn Beck has stated that he and others “don’t want to give the government all this kind of information.” A fellow objector, Representative Michele Bachmann, Republican of Minnesota, urged a boycott.

But U.S. residents have many reasons to complete the census—aside from the fact that failing to do so is illegal. The information it collects will be used to determine how $400 billion in federal aid is distributed. This population count also ensures that each district is accurately represented in the House of Representatives, in state legislatures and at county seats. Representative Bachmann should take note: A Minnesota newspaper pointed out that if her state loses a Congressional seat because of a low response to the census, her district would likely be the one carved up. Privacy is protected. The Census Bureau is legally bound to refrain from divulging any personal information gathered, so neither Beck nor undocumented immigrants need worry about completing the form.

Accurate information about a neighborhood’s population and demographics helps government and nonprofit organizations determine which areas are in need of such resources as additional roads, schools or hospitals. But participation is key to the census’ success.

The Census Bureau has increased its efforts to reach out to all residents, especially minority populations, which often are underrepresented, and even aired an ad during this year’s Super Bowl. Although the cost of the ad was criticized, such expenditures have proved worthwhile. The first-ever paid campaign, in 2000, turned around a three-decade decline in mail response rates.

Neglecting to return the census form also comes at a cost to taxpayers. Census takers must visit the nonresponsive households, a more costly way of collecting information than by mail. The $100-million campaign in 2000 resulted in a $205-million net saving. Take part in this year’s Snapshot of America. This is one picture in which every resident should appear.

Comments

CATHERIN DRISCOLL | 4/17/2010 - 8:14pm

 Those who are pro-abortion seem convinced the Health Care Bill has money in it for elective abortions, their preferred method of reducing births to pregnant teens.  What leads America Magazine editors to imply, or to think, otherwise?

Dan Hannula | 4/13/2010 - 7:55am

Mr. Maher-Can you give us some germane examples of what, specifically, is wrong with the health care law? (Apart from the fact that there is a huge PR campaign gaining traction against it from its opponents.  And, apart from the fact that it is so complex that the average citizen has little working knowledge of most if its details.)

By the way; It's a clever phrase-but what does "the consent of the governed" mean to you?  It doesn't seem that you are using the term as John Locke, the Founding Fathers, et al., used it. Does it mean, to you, that the citizens agree by majority opinion in some sort of poll to the enactment of specific legislation? How do you know? When was your unique interpretation ever agreed upon (by the governed) as the test of what our citizen "expectations" should be to be properly governed?  I think you have every right to give us some cogent reasons (if you have them) why the law should be repealed, but, please do not mutilate our political vocabulary in the process. 

Tom Maher | 4/12/2010 - 5:33pm
Oppssition to the new health care law continues to grow stronger. The latest weekly Rasmussen poll tracking the health care law repeal effort, now in its third week, shows as of Monday, April 12, 2010, 58% in favor of repeal to 38% supporting the health care law. - a hugh 20% margin in oppossition to the new law. Other polls confirm this trend.

Political analyst are now beginning to regard the health care enactment into law as a pyrrhic victory. The 2,500 page text of this law was not released to the public until after the law was enacted. Now that the public can finally read the details of the new law in print, people are shocked by the details of the law.

Without prior disclosure of the law's text one can fairly say that the law was enacted without the consent of the (governed)the public. How can one consent when the details of what you need to consent to are not known to you mostly becasue as a political decision the details are deliberately withheld from you? People resent this fundamental breach of the American expectations of a law to have the "consent of the governed".

A growing majority of voters are discoverying for the first time that the new law contains a great many things of all types that they strongly oppose. One can say there is a growing revulsion to the law now that law's provisions are becomming fully disclosed for the first time.

Oppossition to the new health care law is beginning to take on a life of its own. The editors and the nuns have nothing to celebrate about. It is becomming apparent, the way the law was enacted and the provisions of the law itself will be remebered very unfavorably long into the future.
C Walter Mattingly | 4/10/2010 - 9:12pm

Your welcome, Mr Hannula. But I would be remiss to leave you to make any ethical judgements when the facts on which you base those judgements are distorted or bogus. One instance, your statement, that we have a long sad history of not providing health care for all. I took issue with that based on the law of the land and my experience. Fact is, every emergency room in every city is required to accept patients pro bono and have for decades. What you may have meant is health insurance? And again, I limited my statement to my experience, which included a great deal of contact with poor inner city young adults, and they all got health care when they or their children needed it. And indeed I asked if in your city they refuse such needy indigent patients? Perhaps you didn't notice that.  As far as the Iraq and Afghanistan war goes, the great majority of both houses voted in favor of it.  My point was (very clearly to an objective reader) that they knew in doing so there would be civilian casualties yet voted that way anyway, in the case of Afghanistan almost unanimously. And it was a war of choice, as you point out, as almost all wars are. Certainly Korea was, certainly Bosnia was (they were not shooting at our planes as Saddam was, though the Serbs were conmitting genocide as Saddam was, etc).  Nowhere did I claim these wars were just or unjust, those are your words. My point again was there are far fewer civilian casualties in these wars than the massive, intentional tens of thousands Franklin Roosevelt inflicted on the people of Dresden and Tokyo (partly Truman following Roosevelt's lead). Bush and Obama have been far better in minimizing such casualties.

As far as my reflection that the poor in this nation have contributed to their own fate, I only implied that their life choices contributed to higher risk infants, the subject of one of your comments. I also mentioned some things beyond their control that harm them, the terrible inner-city public schools, for instance. (They are not responsible for that; you and I are.) But if you asked Michele Obama, she would probably go further than that. We are the most obese nation in the world, and according to Michelle the inner city minority citizens have the worst problems with diet. And yes it does contribute to higher rates of diabetes, certain cancers, high blood pressure, and earlier deaths for all of us, but especially in this population, according to our Surgeon General who worked with with the minority poor for years. It also contributes to higher infant mortality reates. But if you had read my paragraph above with an open mind, you would have noticed that the one point I was making was that these facts of drug addiction, particularly crack (1-2 million addicted to crack alone in the US each year, according to government numbers, with an estimated 320,000 babies born annually to mothers who had large exposure to ilicit drugs or alchohol), contribute a disproportionate number of addicted babies as well as premature and underweight infants who have a higher mortality percentage than others in this country and other nations.  Therefore this part of the infant mortality problem relates primarily not to health care but to a larger percentage of children weakened by addicted, often obese or underweight and undernourished, unhealthy parents as a result of their life choices. All this is well-known.

All I referred to above however was the impact on infant mortality. Your fanciful sentence of balancing health care with messy lives is nowhere stated or implied in my words. It is simply your fabrication.

You will be in a much better position to rebut my ethical thinking, and yours, and anyone else's as well, if you respect rather than distort the words of others and value truth and facts more hightly, such as the fact that nascent human life is real, not "pure and abstract," and that trying to save even a few thousand from extermination is a worthy goal.

Best, Walter Mattingly

Dan Hannula | 4/10/2010 - 11:04am

Actually, Mr Mattingly the distinction you were making the first time was clear enough (mine was a rhetorical question) and certainly crystal clear now.  It was your ethical analysis I could not comprehend.  That is, your sense of ethics; "recognizing civilian casualties will occur" in an unjust war in Iraq that seemed so incongruous compared to your deep concern for the mere possibility that nascent human life will be ended by abortion at tax-payer expense-a concern so deep that we should prevent even an imperfect attempt to bring health care to millions of Americans unless it comes with an absolute iron-clad guarantee that tax-payer money will not fund one abortion.

By the way,don't forget the dead soldiers (on both sides)-they are just as dead and just as much a consequence of this war of choice.

Your ethical distinctions become clearer as we learn from your own experience and testimony that the poor in this rich nation have contributed to their own fate. Your testimony that "inner-city mothers" are "often drug addicted" by itself is compelling. And, it is gratifying to know that you think not "one American child was not provided health care."  Again, that "clarifies a bit the [ethical] distinctions [you are] trying to make."  I.e., our attempts to bring health care to poor and and otherwise uninsured Americans must be balanced by the fact that they have messy lives and in many respects have themselves to blame for their fate.  Compared to these difficult to deal with Americans, nascent human life is pure and abstract and thus deserves an unwavering and uncompromising commitment. I certainly could not rebut such ethical thinking. Thank you. 

C Walter Mattingly | 4/10/2010 - 7:41am

Actually, Mr. Hannula, I can't think of one American child who was not provided health care. (Maybe it's different in your city?) It is crazy for sure-one of my cooks in my inner city restaurant had a cold and went to the emergency room, which was free for him and would have cost me $400, and was told to take aspirin, drink liquids, and rest, all at public expense. But it was free, so he quite logically took advantage of the opportunity. We do now have a health bill which everyone from Mike Moore ("a bad joke") to Glen Beck and most sane people in between agree is a bad bill that accomplishes some good things in a manner we can't afford.  But that's another very involved topic.

If you consider the health and the life habits of a poor inner-city mother, 40 pounds overweight, no exercise, poor diet, often drug addicted (and terribly underweight), and an unfortunate product of our  very costly and horridly underperforming inner city public schools, with no opportunity to escape to the parochial schools as President Obama, Sonya Sotomayor, Clarence Thomas, and Surgeon General Livingston did as economically limited minority children, you can see why their underweight and premature babies, often addicted to crack at birth, come into life with higher mortality risk than others.  Adjust for these and the US infant mortality rate is among the best. (I have a son who is a pediatrician. One of the saddest things he observes is the shaking of an underweight, crack-addicted premie experiencing withdrawal symptoms.)

Anyone who votes in favor of war, particularly an insurgent one where the enemy is attempting to provoke and increase civilian casualties as part of his strategy, does so recognizing civilian casualties will occur. The questions he must answer involve are the alternatives worse, and will there be a sustained attempt to minimize civilian casualties?Clearly, this was not the case when Franklin Roosevelt authorized the firebombing of Dresden and Tokyo, and US troops routinely took uniformed Japanese soldiers into the jungle and shot them (see testimony of Ken Burns documentaries).  Our president and we as a nation were guilty of disregarding civilian casualties and war crime rules.   Fortunately we are doing much better in Iraq and now Afghanistan, though with room for improvement.

But why would you think I would not have concern for innocent civilian casualties? Even if I were so morally obtuse as to pass over the extermination of a million innocent babies a year, I would still recognize, as Petraeus and Obama do, that unintentional killing of innocent civilians plays into the hands of our terrorist enemies and severely undermines our objectives.

Hope this clarifies a bit the distinctions I am trying to make.

Dan Hannula | 4/9/2010 - 11:23pm

Walter Mattingly; "Can you name one one child guilty of anything" who deserved an early death because of our long sad history of failure to provide health care for all? Among other medical care embarrassments, the United States has an infant mortality rate behind most of the developed world-even Cuba is better.  Is such an immoral scandal toward our fellow citizens in the richest nation in the world enough to overcome an unproven concern over public funded abortions? Some Americans, you among them, have apparently overcome concerns about innocent dead Iraqis who inconveniently got in the way of our efficient war machine?  I'm sorry, I cannot see the distinction you are attempting to make?      

C Walter Mattingly | 4/9/2010 - 8:43pm

The analogy doesn't hold. Saddam was a genocidal murderer who poison gassed his own countrymen's village. 83% of Iraqis wanted him overthrown, as they were tired of being tortured, murdered, imprisoned, etc. Can you name one unborn child guilty of anything?

Also the bishops had a real chance to get health care and avoid taxpayer-financed extermination of the innocent unborn. When the sisters undercut their effort and Stupak acquiesced, that chance was lost.  The signing pen sister received was the pen that signed for some real good, also a pen that signed the death warrant for thousands of innocents.

Although I am a member of neither party, if I were a liberal democrat the last thing I would want is to identify my opponent as being the party to protect the life of the most innocent unborn, and myself as a member of the party which favored the opportunity to exterminate them as a matter of routine. 

8366698 | 4/9/2010 - 1:13pm

Did the bishops protest using tax dollars to fund the war In Iraq which Pope John Paul II condemned as immoral?  If some tax dollars are used to pay for some abortions does that justify denying affordable health care to millions of Americans?  The theologically conservative bishops seem to be also politically a branch of the Republican party.

Tom Maher | 4/9/2010 - 11:59am
Representative Bart Stupak announce today, Friday, April 9, 2010, he will not run again for congress this Novemberer.

Stupak's sudden vote switch and role reversal on health care just a few weeks ago enraged the people of his district but especially his districts substantial pro-life community. Unlike the nuns and editors, the people of Stupak's district did not accept Stupak's last-minute rationale.

Stupak faced a revolt in his own districts where he continuosuly served for 18 years. Unlike the nuns the voters of his district strong dsapproved of Stupak's switch. Immeadiate intense campaigns and rallies for his defeat in Novermber elections sprang up everywhere in his district.

The question that needs to be asked of the nuns is "Can you fool all of the people all of the time"? The Bishops knew better what the answer to that question is. Accordingly the health care law faces newer and stonger opposition than ever betore. In the long run how wise was it for the nuns to promote a health care law that lacked majority public support? Did the nuns think that public support did not matter?

The future of this health care law is still to be decided this November. The nuns and editors have nothing to gloat about or criticize the Bishops for. The new health care law is is very big trouble.
Tom Maher | 4/7/2010 - 1:25am
Rasmussen health care weekly tracking poll for Monday, April 6, 2010 continues to show 54% in favor of repeal of the new health care law. Seniors in particular are for repeal 2:1. Republicans are 80% for repeal. Independents are 58% for repeal. And 1 out of 3 Democrats favor repeal.

Apparently the nuns and the editors are not good at counting voters. Never mind that the Bishops did not support the health care law, a majority of the public want the health care law repealed. The nuns and the editors are in rare company. The support for the law are highly concentrated in the few typically liberal states. But even in liberal Massachusetts there is known strong opposition to this law. Don't forget that Scott Brown was elected by solid majority to the "Ted Kennedy seat" just two months ago.

The law like the nuns and the editors lacks creditbility on the subject who and how health care is paid. Sure they are great moralizers. But who would really knows better than a family or individual can pay for? The public knows that health care will become vastly more expensive under this new law.

Nuns and editors as economic advisers to individuals, families and nations have little crediblity. Liberal nuns and editors as politicals adviser have no credibility at all.
C Walter Mattingly | 4/6/2010 - 11:13am

Dear Mr. Alvarez:

It is a rare individual who can read a presentation of a few facts and conclude that those facts are not facts, but rather "republican ideological propaganda." And even more remarkable is the ability to recognize an "unconscienable effort to oppose taxes at any cost" when there is not a single reference to taxes collected, only a mention of the useage of taxes collected to support abortions. (I would rather use those taxes to support and educate the child, not to exterminate him and pay for his funeral-if he is fortunate enough to have one). A Tiresias of the first order, for sure.

I can provide you with a few facts. I have never in my life been a republican. In the past 10 elections, I have voted for the democratic candidate 3 times. I wonder how many times you have voted republican in the presidential elections?  I supported John McCain in the last election because I thought he was more well-rounded and honest. This was reinforced when Senator Obama said he would accept only alloted public funds for his campaign to avoid money being the decisive facter, but then reversed himself when he saw he could get the most money from private donations and purchase an advantage, suggesting one who operates on expediency rather than principle  (Also to watch what he does, not what he says.)

But for the life of me, I don't really fully understand why pro-life is associated with conservatives and pro-choice liberals.  Why would an individual who understandably wishes to extend mercy rather than justice to a murderer guilty in cold blood of the most awful crime, and yet find perfectly acceptable exterminating the most purely innocent human beings among us? Our culture does not wish to face teleology, the end of gestation any more than the end of life.  Ontology is our god. We have moved from the monk's outlook of the middle ages, contemptus mundi, to contemptus mentis.  We don't want to face the conclusions of our own thoughts and experiences.  We avoid thinking and deriving conclusions.

Mr. Alvarez, there was a striking photo of a prenatal operation performed by a surgeon on a 20 week old infant to correct a spina bifida condition.  The baby was lifted from the mother's womb and the operation was a success.  In the picture, the "part of the mother's body" had gripped and was squeezing the surgeon's thumb.  If that surgeon had at that point dismembered the child and tossed the parts in the biowaste bin, what do you believe would have occured? Exactly what occurs over a million times a year in America.

I see above the praise for Sr. Keehan breaking with the bishops and supporting the health bill as it was written, words which will permit public funding of abortion in reproductive health centers. Like the bishops she and these sisters saw the many benefits to the underserved. But unfortunately this provided Planned Parenthood and prochoice democrats with a great deal of the cover they needed to allow the language which would provide for publicly funded abortions. The moment and the opportunity was lost. Mikee above says 60,000 sisters can't be wrong, but as there are only 59,000 sisters in the US, and as there are about 700 different organizations of orders and sisters, and only 55 had signed the documents, we can see how these numbers were bogus. (Democratic propaganda?) But the fiction got the job done: Planned Parenthood will quietly go forward providing taxpayer-funded abortions, expanding on this culture of death.

Perhaps you think it an injustice that the poor may not be able to obtain the abortion services that the great majority of us can obtain. I recall when Truman Capote came to my college and took questions. One student asked whether he thought Patty Hearst, whom at that time had been captured, beaten, and raped by her captors and made to participate in a robbery, should be found guilty and jailed. Capote's answer was, if she is, it is only because she is rich and famous. No jury would find a poor child guilty under similar circumstances. Similarly, if a child is denied extermination because her mother could not get the abortion paid for, at least that child has one immense advantage the child of the wealthier mother did not have: the right to, the gift of, life.  Let's not deny him that right.

Finally, I am in favor of paying off some of this unbelieveable debt (I admit I would prefer avoiding much of it) not only by taxing the cadillac health insurance plans as Obama proposed, but also avoiding the soak the rich game, which simply isn't going to work. It won't provide enough.  We must also raise taxes for those making in the 100-250K annual range. Also the estate tax (the "death" tax idea is simply bogus-you bequeath a gift, not a death), but including estates valued at half a million and up. Again, the class warfare approach may get votes, but it won't get the job done.

Yours in Christ, and love, and life,

Walter Mattingly

John Giovanni | 4/5/2010 - 11:25pm

Jim, I certainly am not in agreement with Mr. Mattingly, no, not at all. But I can't, for the life of me, see how you have read so much into his comment. Can't we just disagree without doing it with personal attacks? You, myself and Mr. Mattingly, we are all part of the mystical body of Christ. Let's rejoice and give thanks to God for that.

Peace and prayers.

lazaro alvarez, jr. esq. | 4/5/2010 - 11:17pm
dear mr. mattingly:
your comment is not really about christianity or abortion, but merely about republican ideological propaganda and an unconscianable effort to oppose taxes at any cost. aren't you ashame to mask your true intent behind a pious mask of concern for the unborn? shamefull!
la
James Thomas | 4/5/2010 - 9:25pm

There was a comment written by a reader in Easter Sunday's NY Times in response to Maureen Dowd's op-ed column on the spiraling sexual absue scandal in ehich the writer stated (I'm paraphrashing here) that the US Bishops were attempting to protect the unborn children and destroy the young children in their lack of response to face up to their duties. They've attempted to throw  the baby out with the bath water in their crtique of the healthcare bill. What happened to incremental improvements which are essential in a democracy like ours. Maybe the bishops need to heed young children and relearn the basic tenents of the Gospels ... and forget trying to gain temporal power. 

Mike Evans | 4/5/2010 - 2:56pm

60,000 nuns can't be wrong! Maybe this throng of female voices in touch with reality can be consulted on other issues facing the bishops?

C Walter Mattingly | 4/3/2010 - 7:28pm

With the language in this health care bill, community reproductive centers can spend money on any "reproductive" services they deem fit.  Abortion was not excluded as the bishops demanded. That is why the bishops opposed this one aspect of the bill, while supporting it in all other respects.  Now taxpayers, you and I, will fund elective abortions.  The million plus abortions that occur in our country every year, the greatest social justice issue of our epoch, the extermination of the innocent, will now be furthered by your tax dollars. Why else do you think Planned Parenthood was delighted with the outcome? And do you really believe this president, who was the only senator to support withholding health services from viable infant survivors of late-term abortions, moving past abortion to infanticide, is going to do more than sign a piece of paper? He has already proven his word is not reliable on health care by reneging on open Cspan debate and to Chicago-style closed-door politics.

Let's give our bishops, who have so notably failed in the abuse scandal, our support for standing up for innocent human life.  It is, finally, a genuine, bold, and principled step in the right direction, displaying backbone in the cause of life and social justice for the unborn.  They did not succeed-yet-but as Mother Teresa has said, we are not responsible for success, only honestly trying.


James Bukowski | 4/1/2010 - 7:44pm
I agree completely with your editorial. I am appalled by the US Catholic bishops' opposition to healthcare reform! Where is their conscience and moral leadership for our nation? Their logic and behavior resembles the Pharisees of Jesus' time.

The healthcare package provided no federal funding for abortions. Sister Carol Keehan, President and CEO of the Catholic Health Association, supported the reform and received one of Pres. Obama's signing pens. She is the authentic Catholic hero for me!

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