Cul-de-Sac Catholicism

Why did the U.S. bishops fight the health care bill until the end, even when President Obama signed an executive order prohibiting the use of federal funds for abortion? The bill may now be law, but questions still linger. In this Web-only article, Nicholas P. Cafardi of Duquesne University School of Law writes with sadness of the crebility the bishops have lost as a result of the battle over health care:

So the bishops found themselves opposed to a law that would provide health care insurance to 30 million uninsured Americans, vastly improve health care insurance coverage for the rest of us, and prevent annually an estimated 45,000 deaths from a lack of adequate health care. And why? For the amorphous anxiety that the health care reform bill might perhaps somewhere, somehow, someday underwrite someone’s abortion? How, in any rational sense of justice, does that uncertainty outweigh the pro-life certainties of this law?

I am saddened that our sacred pastors, men whom I truly admire, allowed themselves to be led into a partisan cul-de-sac that they found impossible to exit. I know that they are wise enough to work their way out of this dead-end eventually, but meanwhile the damage to their credibility in being truly pro-life, and not merely pro-life for partisan purposes, is immense.


Read "Cul-de-Sac Catholicism."

Tim Reidy


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8 years 9 months ago
I see no easy way out of the Cul de sac for them  Bishops are being wedged back into the back of the Cul-de-sac  by the pushing crowds/mob of what I call Tea Party Catholics that have picked up the cry 'stop Obama'..It takes a couragous bishop to push his way out of that crowd and I see none up to the task. The bishops denigrate Obamas' Executive Order as 'a wothless piece of paper' but their minions are scururring around the Vatican looking for some paper that would save the reputation of PiusXII and BXVI. Wouldn't they like to find some 'worthless piece of paper' there.????
Peter Lakeonovich
8 years 9 months ago
Once again America, this Catholic-in-name-only magazine/website, proves itself a bishop basher.

The article claims that the bishops have succumbed to a temptation to political power. Really? Please discuss what political power the bishops have obtained or could possibly obtain. The answer is none. This is bishop bashing Number 1.

The article claims that the bishops fought the health care bill for reasons that were hard to decipher. Really? This is utterly false. The bishops stated there reasons in well drafted letters prior to and after the passage of the bill. The reason is easy to decipher for any serious-minded person (especially a serious-minded Catholic): the bishops cannot and will not, nor should any Catholic, support any bill that results in the death of even one person, which the funding for abortion in this bill permits. It is easy to lose sight of this when numbers "30 million uninsured Americans" are thrown about. The bishops did not succumb to the second temptation, they persevered againt the first: namely, the temptation to turn the stones into bread at the expense of sacraficial love. This is bishop bashing Number 2.

The article claims that the bishops, in pursuit of political power, found themselves aligned with so-called right wing groups who gave only their interpretation of the health care bill. This is bishop bashing Number 3. Again what political power are the bishops after? Are we to assume the bishops have no mind of their own? This is utterly false, and one need look no further than such great minds as Archbishop Dolan and Archbishop Chaput.

The article claims the bishops should stay out of complext POLITICAL issues and leave the POLITICAL answers to the laity. This is bishop bashing Number 4. The issue of life is a moral issue, and no matter how much the government has intruded into this arena (i.e., moral issues) as an unwelcomed force, it will always be the duty of the bishops to lead the flock and speak out against the evils they see in the name of the One who sent them. See the Acts of the Apostles if you think this far fetched.

Where is the Ignatian charism for love and reverence of God and the Church in the salvation of souls in the apostolate that is supposed to be America magazine? What a shame.
William Kurtz
8 years 9 months ago
Thank God somebody is willing to say when bishops (individually or collectively) are full of beans. Bishops are NOT mini-popes, Morlino to the contrary. We can only wish that various bishops whose negligence years ago has caused all Catholics such embarrassment could have been called on that at the proper time. As for the question of "what political power are the bishops after," that's easy. Certain bishops want to be kingmakers, in the mold of James Dobson. Finally, regarding Pete Lake's description of bishops' opposition to health care as "sacrificial love,' it's easy for men whose own health care needs are covered to urge others to sacrifice it over legal hair-splitting.
James Lindsay
8 years 9 months ago
Thank you Mr. Cafardi for your excellent analysis of these events. I suspect that the only way for the Bishops to get out of the embrace of the Republican Party is to cease contact with the National Right to Life Committee, which is, as you say, a Republican organ. Staff changes, both in terms of committee membership by the bishops, the eventual retirement of the Archbishop of Philadelphia, Cardinal Rigali, and a much needed staff purge at the USCCB, will be necessary for this to occur. The issue of immigration reform, which the bishops have a much better position on, may lead to the marginalization of the Republican Party such that its siren song is no longer attractive to the more authoritarian bishops who embrace it so readily.
James Lindsay
8 years 9 months ago
Peter, when one loves the Church, one often has to criticize its leaders. Sometimes, indeed, it is a requirement. To say otherwise is to spit on Christ, who criticized the religious authorities of his day. Bravo to America for publishing this piece and being a voice for truth over misplaced personal loyalty.
Mike Ashland
8 years 9 months ago
Mr. Gleason-
You do not make any reference to the actual legislation passed, to what section of the law provides funding for abortion?  There is none.  THAT is the crux of the matter. Nothing else.  I will watch this space for reference to the actual legislation where abortion is funded with federal dollars.
And if you fall prey to the logic that any savings in one area may be used to fund an expense in another, well then will need to demonstrate how ANY budget savings isn't, then, a back door funding of abortion...or torture...or a Mars expedition...or anything else cooked up by your Cul-de-sac brethren.
The numbers quoted by the writer are actual.  45,000 deaths from lack of insurance.  30 million plus covered by health insurance.   Please offer a similar level of scholarship.
8 years 9 months ago
Peter Lake, there is no fed funding for elective abortions now or nor will there be in the future. Start railling if funds are proposed .. the railling now just shows partisan bias. . I will contribute some monies to fight any change to fund Community Health Centers with abortion money. The insurance companies that now offer the  two check system to cover abortion have not sold any policies with a two check system. Don't you even wonder why?? Answer; only 13% of women with insurance coverage that includes abortion payments  now use the insurance to pay for abortion; so as to not have a 'record'. The bishop's job now is to bury the dead cow..The bishops dug a hole, fell in, and now only supporters like you are still squawrking. Bishops know enough not to keep yelling any more about their mistake,    
Mike Ashland
8 years 9 months ago
My apologies for addressing my previous post to Mr. Gleason when it should have been addressed to Mr. Lake.
Think Catholic
8 years 9 months ago
Prof. Cafardi has his own "credibility" problems.  He says the bill "did make Hyde’s restrictions applicable."  This is plainly false.  Hyde says no federal funds for insurance that covers abortion.  The Act funds insurance that covers abortion.  Cafardi agrees with this, because he thinks it's OK to fund insurance that covers abortion, as long as you pretend to segregate the funds for the actual abortions.  Even if that were OK, it wouldn't be Hyde.  His statement that Hyde applies is patently false.
Prof. Cafardi then states another falsehood: community health centers "are prohibited from performing abortions by federal regulation, and the Hyde Amendment."  They are absolutely not.  They are prohibited from spending only appropriations bill money on abortions.  They aren't prohibited from doing abortions.  And the Act doesn't prohibit them from spending new Act funding on abortions.  It is false to say Hyde's prohibition applies to CHC funds under the act, or to say Hyde or the regulations ban CHCs from doing abortions.   Prof. Cafardi then says abortion, an evil, is like religion, a good, so if it's OK to indirectly fund religion it should be OK to indirectly fund abortion.  This is highly illuminating of his attitude towards baby killing.
Cafardi's irony is thick.  The Bishops have succumbed to Satan for political power?  This, coming from a man who himself and with his colleagues have signed on lock, stock, and barrel to the election and promotion of radical pro-abortion policy advocates in the US and abroad, for such as Malta.  The US Bishops have succumbed to partisan pro-life organizations?  This from a man who works with Soros-funded organizations like Catholics United and Catholics in Alliance which themselves do nothing but shill for pro-abortion candidates in the name of Catholicism.  Cafardi would exchange the collaboration of the Bishops and pro-life organizations with the collaboration of the Bishops and pro-abortion organizations, full stop.  That's Cafardi's modest proposal.
Peter Lakeonovich
8 years 9 months ago
If this bill that passed did NOT intend to fund abortion on demand, then why was the Stupak amendment not made a part of the bill? All it did was include the Hyde language? This should be clear to everyone, as it was to our bishops.

Here's the link to the bishop's statements on the actual bill:

In Matthew's gospel, we read that the chief priests with the scribes and elders mocked Jesus and said, "Let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him." But if Jesus came down from the cross, how would we would we know how much he loves us (enough to literally die and rise again)?

Today, we can read between the lines here, "if only the bishops would support this bill for universal health care (even if a little [or a lot of] abortion gets funded along the way), then we will believe they care about the poor and disadvantaged." Let us pray that our bishops do not take this bait or "come off the cross" of criticism they are bearing because they will not compromise one even one innocent life being killed. This is how they will show their love for the Founder of our Church.

By the way, America magazine/website, where is your coverage of great news coming from Nebraska regarding new restricitions on abortion? Can we get some good news here, rather than the steady dose of bishop and church bashing?

Ashley Green
8 years 9 months ago
We can't have it both ways. If it is ok for lay Catholics to disagree with the bishops as to the merits of particular legislation (as I believe it is), then it is wrong for lay Catholics to attribute sinister motives to the bishops when their support for or opposition to a bill doesn't mesh with that person's point of view. Also, it is equally wrong to deliberately mischaracteize someone's position in order to be able to rail against the person who holds it. In this instance the bishops opposed the health care bill because they believed that the executive order against federal funding of abortion was a weak substitute for having such a provision included in the actual legislation. It was not an attempt to form an alignment with some vaguely defined Republican / Tea Party / Right Wing power structure, nor does anyone truly believe that it was who is not blinded by his or her own political agenda. We can disagree with the Bishops on matters of public policy, etc. all we want, but the reflexive casting of stones and character assasination of our bishops need to end.
8 years 9 months ago
If Mitt Romney gets the Republican nomination, will the bishops support him even though he flipped on both abortion and Gov health care in Mass. , Did the bishops condemn Reagan and BushI before they flipped on abortion..[ Reagan signed up laws  for abortion in the 60s before Roe/Wade.] Are pandering Republicans really your heros? Pro-life Dems have made a substantial gains in raising the pro-life cause in both the party and the nation... and it has been never acknowledged by even one bishop. The silence of 280 bishops is a disgrace..  
Tom Maher
8 years 9 months ago
Thank God for the Bishops' firm stand against facilitating the expansion of abortions in America. How could the Bishops have done otherwise? For four decades the church has preached that abortion is wrong, that society should protect the unborn, and that the number of abortions in America must be limited as far as possible. How could the Bishops now back away from the church's well known position on abortion? What could the Bishops now say to uncommit themselves from their own moral teachings? ''We were only kidding.'' or ''We really did not mean all that stuff about life being sacred.''? What an absurd proposition that the Bishops are wrong to have acted on moral principle.

Thank God that the Bishops recognized the issue of life requires very careful wording of any health care law. No moral reason exists why a health care law can not wait until the law has in its text definitive language excluding all abortions. What does exist are powerful political forces that would make abortion on demand a health care right. Any law that does not have language expressly stating the laws intent is to exclude abortion funding and facilitation is only one lawsuit away from greatly expanding the number of abortions in America. Laws are circumvented or re-defined by lawsuits all the time. The lack of definitive language preventing the facilitation of abortions is unacceptable to everyone concerned about the defense of the unborn. The Bishops had to speak up and they did.

The Bishop's credibility has never been strong than when they took their firm stand on principle. On their health care stand, the Bishops have the full support of the church's faithful.
Winifred Holloway
8 years 9 months ago
Forgive me if I stated this on some previous post at this site.  But: most private insurance plans cover abortion.  How is it that our bishops have not insisted that Catholics leave their insurance plans if they cover abortion?  The assertion that the current health reform bill would use federal funds to cover abortion is quite a stretch.  The possibly, maybe, sometime- in- the -future is just not a believable position. 
Helena Loflin
8 years 9 months ago
Like all other Republicans, first and foremost, the Republican bishops want Obama to fail.  Party first.  They were never going to support healthcare insurance reform.
Rudy Rau
8 years 9 months ago
"On their health care stand, the Bishops have the full support of the church's faithful."
The bishops aren't always 'right' on everything. I hear no loud support from them, yet, on the Nebraska anti-abortion law. In my state, the bishops publicly denied support for a personhood amendment that declares that life begins at conception. There are 'better ways' to reverse Roe was their statement. Really?  The faithful do not have to support everything the bishops declare any more than we had to 'agree with John Paul' when he declared the invasion of Iraq immoral.
The faithful receive as much guidance from the Holy Spirit as the bishops do, in may matters and often do a better job of listening.
James Lindsay
8 years 9 months ago
When immigration reform happens later this year, there will be less people in the shadows on this issue, so bans on their coverage will be moot.

Community Health Centers don't do abortions because they don't do surgery. They are the equivalent of a doctors office or are a free clinic (not a fully staffed and equipped abortion clinic/gyno practice). By the way, most people probably don't know that many people who use Planned Parenthood and other women's health services do so for child birth because they can't afford other care, since they are without insurance. Insurance reform will mean that they can go somewhere else for care - which means less margin for women's health clinics and therefore fewer such clinics.
Jim McCrea
8 years 9 months ago
Ah, yes, our poor defenseless humble bishops are being bashed!  You want bashed? -
The floor of hell is paved with the skulls of bishops.  St. John Chrysostom
A  bishop never more resembles Jesus Christ than when he has his mouth shut.  Attributed to St. Ignatius of Antioch.


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