Catholic Key Strikes Again

Readers will recall the name Jack Smith, editor of the Catholic Key, the diocesan newspaper in Kansas City-St. Joseph, who launched a vile, unsubstantiated, and personal attack on Sister Carol Keehan, suggesting that her support for health care reform was motivated by money-grubbing acquisitiveness, an odd charge to lay against a woman whose salary goes not to her but to her order. It was the vilest thing I have read in the Catholic blogosphere all year. It is also worth noting that Sister Carol’s position on health care reform has been much closer to that of the bishops than have some of the writings to appear in Mr. Smith’s pages, but never mind.

So, I was unsurprised that a man whose writings betray no sense of hesitancy before the sin of slander should now display an astonishing degree of ignorance by quibbling with a small line in an article I wrote. My sentence was this: "The Hyde Amendment is nearly as settled law as is Roe." Smith argues that Roe can only be overturned by a constitutional amendment or by appointing more anti-Roe justices to the Supreme Court, which he thinks unlikely given the current make-up of Congress and current President’s pro-choice position. He notes that the Hyde Amendment is an annual legislative act that can be undone anytime, that Hyde is "about as ethereal as a law can be."

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Let us start with Smith’s claims about what it would take to overturn Roe. Suffice it to say that since that decision was rendered, Republican presidents have controlled the White House for 24 years while the Democrats are only in their thirteenth year of being able to appoint justices to the Court. The reason Roe has not been overturned is, sadly, because the American people don’t want it overturned, Republican political leaders have been content to pay lip service to the pro-life cause and pro-life leaders have done a fine imitation of Pavlov’s dogs in praising the GOP and denigrating Democrats. The only way to overturn Roe is to change American culture.

Smith’s inability to grasp this leads to the real problem with his article which is its almost total ignorance of American politics. He says that the Hyde Amendment is ethereal. Well, let’s see. It has been re-approved every year since 1977 by an act of Congress, and this despite the on-going efforts of pro-choice forces to get it overturned. Hyde has been passed by Democratic Congresses and Republican Congresses. It has been a part of laws signed by Democratic presidents and Republican presidents. When the Hyde Amendment first passed, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia sent only Democratic Senators to Washington. In 1977, Ronald Reagan was an ex-movie actor, ex-Governor and a former and failed presidential candidate. In 1977, the Colts were still in Baltimore. In 1977, Karol Wojtyla was the Archbishop of Krakow. In 1977, Leonid Breshnev was still alive and ruling the Kremlin. In 1977, Barney Frank was still in the closet and not yet in the Congress. You get the idea. Year in and year out, for all the other changes that have occurred, the Hyde Amendment has been passed by Congresses of both parties. Ethereal? Maybe not so much.

So, why go on and on about the prospect of something happening, the Hyde Amendment being overturned, that is about as likely as pigs flying? To scare people. Indeed, my original article was in response to a piece by Deal Hudson in which he was scaring people about the public option funding abortion. Now, Mr. Hudson has replied also, and claims he is not a "deceitful bogeyman" but he misses the point too. The problem is not that Hudson himself is a deceitful bogeyman. The problem is that he creates deceitful bogeymen to scare others. I think Hudson’s sin is far worse than merely lying. But, Hudson, like Smith, provide evidence of an ancient truism: Those who cannot invoke facts will rely on fear to make their case. But, it is a shameful thing to do.

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8 years 2 months ago
Michael, I'm not sure they are deliberately deceitful.  I actually think they believe what they are saying, as it confirms their biases, and that they are sadly misinformed about the facts of these issues.  They believe they are being obedient to the Church by not educating themselves and by not speaking reasonably.  I would like to think that those in the pro-life camp are not deliberately selling snake oil by insisting on the overturn of Roe when they know it is not possible.  That would make them evil, rather than misinformed, since the only reason to do so is to take the money of people who don't know better and to rally votes for the Republican cause in the name of an issue that will never be resolved.
 
Roe will never be overturned judicially - not because of the hearts of the people but because it should not be.  It can be overturned legislatively, since Congress has the inherent and explicit powers to say who and who does not have legal protection as a person (under the enforcement powers of the 14th Amendment).  Because this power is reserved to Congress and not the states, overturning Roe judicially and going back to 1972 is a pipe dream, although this dream plays into the Republican states rights meme very well so it is hard to eradicate.  Until it is eradicated, the pro-life movement will remain in fantasy land and innocent life will continue to be taken.  The other thing keeping abortion mills going is the link between the pro-life movement and economic conservativism.  As long as this continues, poor women and the families of teenage daughters will resort to abortion - regardless of its legality.  Like the problem of illegal immigration, this problem persists largely due to conflicting desires in authoritarian conservatism itself, which is stubborn and unwillilng to face new facts.  It is not the hearts of the American people at large which must change, but those who insist on solutions that will not work.
8 years 2 months ago
Mr. Winters, your article to which Smith and Hudson object was simply incorrect but not for the reason you or they are addressing.  You argued that it is wrong to say courts will require Obamacare to cover abortion because they have never overturned Hyde.  But pro-lifers aren't saying courts will mandate abortion in Obamacare despite a Hyde-like provision in Obamacare.  Pro-lifers are saying that courts will mandate abortion in Obamacare because there ain't no Hyde-like provision in Obamacare, and Hyde itself doesn't apply to it either.  That action by the courts is indisputable, because prior to Hyde it's exactly what the courts did-it's why Hyde was needed. It's why abortion would be covered in Medicaid without Hyde. The pro-life argument as the courts go is that without something like Hyde, abortion will be in Obamacare.  It is not what you were rebutting (that courts will mandate abortion despite a Hyde-like provision in Obamacare).  The whole pro-life effort is to put a Hyde-like provision in, because it would then be safe from courts.    
8 years 2 months ago
I can't help but agree. As a Catholic-and a seminarian-I am increasingly shocked at the level of ignorance (and, in a very real sense, utter mindlessness) that so many in the Church are exhibiting on this issue, and how that extends to almost every area of our perceptions (individually and collectively) about basic social teaching and ministry. On an almost hourly basis, I hear people express a sickening type of vitriol toward the president, healthcare reform, anything associated with a Democrat, even though most people I talk to about this can't actually explain really any aspect of their concerns (much less tell me what Roe actually is or where the president-and most Democrats-actually stands on it). And as for the big goal? Yes, I think we all can agree that the proctection of all life under law is essential, but can we really simply aim for this alone and expect to accomplish an end to abortion? Really now, have any of us stopped to consider what would happen if we simply overturn Roe? Would that really end abortion? Would it really make people respect life more? Could we really call that a victory? There is so much more to say here, but in the interest of this post...simply put, I'm very sorry to say that, in this Catholic's opinion, we are not meeting the intellectual and-truly-moral imperative on this issue, and I think we will continue in this folly as long as people like Mr. Smith maintain positions of such influence in our communities, and as long as we can reduce the complexity of this issue to the logic of a bumper sticker. Especially with respect to healthcare reform, it's time for us to step up to the plate; if we truly believe what we say we do, people's lives depend on us doing so.
8 years 2 months ago
Let me add one more thing on this issue of abortion, judges and the Administration.  Much energy went into campaigning against Obama because of the Justices he would appoint.  Yet, when given the chance, he appointed a Catholic who was not "pro-abortion no matter what" when she ruled on the Court of Appeals to allow the Mexico City policy to go forward.  A pro-abortion idealogue would not have ruled that way.  I suspect she falls in the Roberts, Alito, Kennedy zone on this issue, meaning that if Congress acted to restrict abortion in the second and third trimesters under their power under the 14th Amendment (which would partially overturn Roe), these four would likely affirm such an act.  Such an act, by the way, was hinted at by Obama in the third debate (at least for the third trimester).  Both of these facts point to the biased and muddled thinking of those who reflexively oppose this President.  They should try working with him a bit more closely instead of villifying him.
8 years 2 months ago
Mr. Bowman, we don't know what will be in the final bill, however as I understand it the language in the Senate bill will make it abortion neutral.  What I find disturbing is that the latest USCCB is buying into a campaign of deception to go beyond Hyde.  While going beyond Hyde may not be a bad idea, the failure to do so should be called a lost opportunity rather than a retreat.  Lying about an attempt to overreach is never a good idea.  The USCCB needs to fire some zealots, as it is not getting honest advice.
8 years 2 months ago
Does abortion neutral mean that people can use their own money to pay for abortion or does it mean that they can use my money (tax money) to pay for an abortion.
8 years 2 months ago
 
The above post is a prime example of the pathological anti-conservative bias that infects MSW's blogging. He claims that Jack Smith accused Sister Keehan of “money-grubbing acquisitiveness”, when in fact Smith expressly noted that she donates her salary to her order. Here is Smith’s quote: “Sister Carol does not keep her salary. It goes to her order. It's noted here to demonstrate that her compensation at CHA is much more in line with a trade association lobbyist than the head of a charity.” If (unlike MSW) you take the time to actually read the article, you will see that Mr Smith makes no personal attacks of any kind, vile or otherwise, against Sister Keehan. In fact, his article is a well-reasoned defense of Sister Keehan against pro-life critics who misunderstand her role as the head of the CHA, and erroneously ascribe theological implications to a secular trade association’s profit-driven decision to support healthcare reform. MSW was apparently so intent on ripping into Smith that he failed to notice that the article was actually sympathetic to Keehan.
 
That same reflexive antipathy to Mr Smith probably explains why MSW wants to double-down on his absurd comments regarding Roe and the Hyde Amendment. As Mr Smith pointed out, there are in fact only two ways to undo Roe – by constitutional amendment or by a majority vote on the Supreme Court to overrule it. MSW can confirm this by re-reading his junior high school civics text, but I suppose he finds more comfort in willful ignorance of basic jurisprudence. Mr Smith is also indisputably correct about the relative vulnerability of the Hyde Amendment, which can be compromised or eliminated at any time by a congress that is controlled by militant pro-abortion Democrats.
 
 
8 years 2 months ago
Abortion neutral means that abortion is no more subsized in the final bill than it is in current law, which subsizes abortion through the tax code.  The public option is paid for by premiums, not tax dollars.  Additionally, subsidies go to individuals to buy coverage.  None of this guts the spirit or intent of Hyde.  Restricting abortion funding further would be an over-reach.
8 years 2 months ago
Mr. Bindner,
Thanks for clearing that up for me.  That is what I thought.  Abortion neutral means that taxpayor  money will be used to fund abortions.
I guess I cannot support the healthcare bill in good faith.
I guess Mr. Winters will have to leave the Democrats.
Think Catholic
8 years 2 months ago
If you can call it neutral whem we change from no federal funding of abortion plans to federal funding of abortion in all public plans so that all women will get abortion for free and people will be forced to subsidize it, then the word neutral is meaningless, as is the idea that Obama is an abortion-reducer.
James Lindsay
8 years 2 months ago
Thepoint is, we subsidize it now and the subsidy will be of the same kind, even with a public option.
8 years 2 months ago
Mr. Bindner,
Your point is clear.  Under Obamacare, abortion will be subsidize with tax money on a grand scale.
The Democrats can now change their platform to keeping abortion safe, legal and free!
I hope you and Mr. Winters can sleep easy with your Democratic Pary bed mates.
James Lindsay
8 years 2 months ago
Joe, under current law abortion is subsidized.  Of course, not most abortions.  Most abortions are paid for with cash, since it is not an expensive procedure, which is why I maintain that passage of such things as health care and an expanded child tax cut will lessen abortion more than any possible funding of it will increase abortion.
Think Catholic
8 years 1 month ago
Mr. Bindner things don't become true just because you assert them.  Studies show that tens of tousands of abortions don't occur because women don't have insurance that covers their abortions, and those women will all have free abortions under the health reform plans.  Federal health plans do not now cover elective abortion, either Medicaid or federal employees plans, despite your claim that abortion is now "covered."  The federal public option will break this precedent by covering abortion unlike any federal health plan, despite your claim that current subsidies are the "same." No abortionist gets a check from the federal government for his elective abortions now, and tens of thousands of abortions will be covered this way under the health reform plans.  A tax deduction to an employer who can opt whether to cover abortion is not "the same kind" as the government's own public plan covering abortion and federal funding for health plans where one in each region must cover abortion and a federal mandate that all insured must pay an abortion fee to pay for those abortions.
Joe Garcia
8 years 1 month ago
There is a grave, and easily demonstrable, flaw with the assertion Roe v Wade is not overturned because the people of the US don't want it overturned; and with its underpinning, that the GOP - having controlled the White House fox X years while the Democrats have controlled it for Y years - pay only lip service to the pro-life cause.
Allow me to demonstrate.
During those 24 years the GOP held the White House, how many times did the GOP also hold the Senate? (12 years, for those who are scoring at home.) Those years were 1981-87, and 2001-2007. Next...how many judicial vacancies came to pass during those twelve years? Four. By whom were those vacancies filled? SCCJ Roberts, SCJ Scalia, and SCJ Alito and retired SCJ O'Connor. You will note that all of these, ALL, have voted in a generally pro-life way; and, setting aside O'Connor, that pro-life voting percentage rises to "always."
Furthermore, let's examine what happens when a Republican President is saddled with a Democrat Congress.
One of two scenarios invariably happens:
1) A "stealth" nominee is proposed, whereby the President gambles on his nominee's nearly nonexistent record of writings, decisions, etc. to assuage his Democratic opponents into voting for the nomination. This brings us the Souters and Stevenses of the world.
or
2) The President decides to slug it out with his Democrat opponents. Said opponents, you will note, generally engage in uncivil, ad hominem attacks on the nominee (cf. Sen. Kennedy's "In Robert Bork's America..." speech.) Sometimes you win (Thomas) and sometimes you lose (Bork).
So, RvW will be overturned when we have a GOP President, GOP Senate AND enough SCOTUS vacancies.
8 years 2 months ago
Mr. Bindner, all the bills use federal money for abortion.  In the public option, which is highly likely to be included, abortion will be covered, period. Mr. Winters himself has declared that the Capps amendment is still federal funding for abortion.  If you use federal money for abortion, and then say "I hereby declare that the federal money I am using for abortion is not really federal money," you haven't done anything.  Abortionists will send a bill to the federal government and get a check from the US Treasury for the abortion.  Insured payers will be forced to pay a distinct premium to cover all those abortions, and the poor will have their abortion premiums publicly paid.  Every area of the country will be forced to have at least one insurance plan that covers abortion.  So every woman in the country, not currently with abortion coverage, will be covered-a known formula for increasing abortion.  See Peter Nixon's summary of the situation over at Commonweal.  Even in the Baucus option, Senator Hatch proposed an amendment that explicitly authorized private insurers to offer abortion insurance separate from federal plans-which by definition is abortion neutral regarding all those women with private abortion coverage.  But of course the amendment was rejected forcefully, like all amendments restricting abortion funding.  It's silly for you to blame USCCB staff "zealots" for a letter signed not just by Cardinal Rigali but also by Bishop Murphy and Bishop Wester, declaring that all the existing bills (including Capps and Baucus) federally fund abortion and therefore must be "vigorously" opposed.  It's naive to suggest that even though all the bills fund abortion this way, and even though the White House has declared that when it says no federal funding it really just means Capps and also that Hyde applies (though everyone knows Hyde doesn't apply), well gosh we just don't know what that final bill will do so it's zealotry to criticize it.

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