I almost feel sorry for Deal Hudson. His world is crashing down, or at least that is the impression one garners from reading his post of a few days back about the presence of two princes of the Church at the obsequies for Sen. Kennedy and the almost simultaneous resignation of Scranton’s Bishop Joseph Martino.
I have not commented on the resignation of Bishop Martino. I sympathize with anyone whose health deteriorates and I do so at a visceral level, having watched my mother’s body and mind decline from the ravages of Parkinson’s. Mr. Hudson claims to have knowledge he can’t reveal that suggests the Bishop was "pushed out." I have no such information although I did find it odd that they did not appoint a coadjutor or an apostolic administrator sede plena or some such solution that might have permitted Bishop Martino a more graceful exit.
My good friend and colleague Amy Sullivan at Time ran a piece on the resignation in Scranton. The piece was great but the headline was unfortunate. (To those not in the press, writers do not usually pick their own headlines, editors do that.) It read: "Was an Anti-Abortion Bishop Too Outspoken?" If Bishop Martino was fired, it was not because of his opposition to abortion, out-spoken or otherwise. It may have been because he applied the moral certainty the Church has on the procurement of an abortion to the more murky question of how to legislate about the procedure. It more likely may have been because he spoke disparagingly of the work of his brother bishops working through the USCCB. As I mentioned yesterday, the polarization within the Bishops’ Conference is a real and pressing problem. We do not want to be like the Episcopalians, facing schism over an issue like homosexuality. The Lord’s prayer that "All May Be One" trumps virtually any and all particular moral issues, and certainly trumps any and all political strategies for implementing the Church’s views on those moral issues.
Mr. Hudson approvingly cites Judie Brown’s writings about the situation in Boston which she likened to spitting on Christ, and denounced Cardinal O’Malley for his indifference to the spit. ‘Nuff said.
But, Mr. Hudson has never been one to let a little issue like apostolic succession get in his way when he is driving home a political agenda. His post gets to that agenda with acute precision: "Why don't the bishops understand? Whether or not abortion is explictly included in the bill, when and if it is passed, if the government runs health care abortion will inevitably be part of its coverage." (emphasis in original) Setting aside that the current proposals do not, in fact, amount to government-run health insurance only a government-run option, on what basis does he raise this alarm? There are currently three large government-run health care programs: Medicare, Medicaid and the Veterans’ Administration. The Hyde Amendment has prohibited the use of federal funds for abortion services since 1977. It may not come up with Medicare, but Medicaid serves the poor, where the incidence of abortion is high, and for more than thirty years this government-run program has not funded abortions. In fact, you would think the best way to proceed would be to have strong public option that prohibits abortion coverage. Certainly, through our legislators, we will have more control over a federal option than over private insurance companies.
No one has ever accused Hudson of being stupid. He knows that the plans emerging from Congress do not entail the government "running" health care. And he knows that the government-run health care we do have, and have had for decades, does not cover abortion. If he was not so busy worshipping at the pagan altar of the market he would notice that the nation has done a fine job preventing government funded abortions, in Democratic and Republican Congresses, with Democrats or Republicans in the White House. In the event, Hudson’s charge is a scare tactic pure and simple.
Hudson finished his post commending the pastoral letter on health care issued by Archbishop Naumann and Bishop Finn, which I discussed yesterday. Hudson writes: "Let's hope over the next few months this line of thinking [that of Naumann and Finn] is taken up by more bishops and Catholic leaders -- this government-run monopoly of national health care needs to be rejected, totally and completely." There it is. Complete rejectionism on an issue that the Catholic bishops have been advocating for decades. Complete indifference to the suffering of those who lack health insurance because the market – self-evidently – has not found ways to cover them. Mr. Hudson is not "Inside Catholic" on this issue, he is far out of the mainstream and he should have the decency to acknowledge it.