The Editors on the Census and the U.S. Bishops' Response to the Health Care Bill

In this week's issue, the editors weigh in on the U.S. bishops' conerns about and reactions to the recently passed health care reform bill:

...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.)

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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?

Read "How Compelling?"

In addition, we discuss some of the controversy surrounding the U.S. Census and why widespread participation is key to the success of this national survey (a topic the New York Times also happened to discuss today).

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.

Read "Smile for the Camera."

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Gerelyn Hollingsworth
7 years 8 months ago
''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.''

-

As the old censuses on Ancestry.com make clear, a lot more was asked in the good old days, and the information is fascinating.

The 1920 census asked: Name, Relation (to head of household), Owner or renter, Sex, Color or Race, Age, Single/Married/Widowed, Year of Immigration/Naturalization, Attended School in Last Year, Able to Read/Write, Place of Birth and Mother Tongue of Individual and Parents, Occupation, Industry.
Brian Thompson
7 years 8 months ago
This is not the hill to die on. Indeed, it is not even a hill to fight on.
I don't know why some conservatives are upset by the census, they are usually the ones who care about and want to obey the Constitution! Now, I can understand that this might be an outgrowth of the utter lack of subsidarity by the Federal government in the last few decades, but nevertheless, the census is in the constitution and it is useful and is indeed a legitimate use of federal power.
As for the questions, I think 10 is too short! I like the censuses of the past, asking for all sorts of demographic information. How is our government to serve us if they don't know who we are?
John Raymer
7 years 8 months ago
The second paragraph says it all about abortion:

1. "[The]argument ... seems to have been built on a tissue of hypotheticals that was far from conclusive." [A fetus itself is the tissue of a hypothetical human that is far from conclusive.]

2. "How could such a hard and fast position have been founded on such contestable foundations?" [The degree to which a fetus is fully human is highly constestable and is at least as much a matter of theology as science.]

3. "How did the bishops come to depend so heavily on debatable, technical questions of law?" [Instead of focusing on an unborn child as the manifestation of our hope for future, our Bishops have instead tried to frame the argument in the context of "natural law" and highly debatable science.]

4. "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." [I guess our bishops are following their tried and true pattern.]

By the way, I am quite pro-life and regard abortion as a terrible sin. But the way our Church is managing the problem ensures that hearts will stay hardened and no progress will be made.
Tom Maher
7 years 8 months ago
Is the author of this editorial even a Catholic? Who appointed the author to be the moral arbiter of church's position on health care? Who is this person that advise the Bishops that they have no moral basis for not supporting health care? What is the point of wantonly belittling the Bishops judgement after the fact that health care bill has been enatcted over the Bishop's objection?

Who are these people who write such disrepectful and destructive editorials challenging the Bishop's judgement and moral authority? Does the editorial writer's strong policical biases supercede all other people's opinion on health care including the Bishop's? How indecently arrogant this editorial is.

The Bishops evaluated the health care bill on moral grounds only and found it wanting. This is what the Bishops are supposed to do. Others who appear to speak on behalf of the church have conflicts of interests such as political agendas for health care or fiancial interests in health related buinesses and lack ojectivity in speaking for the church on moral issues. The Bishop's moral judgements should be respected but is not. But who else has moral credibility to speak for the church? This editorial goes way too far in bad taste and without principle.
7 years 8 months ago
''A fetus itself is the tissue of a hypothetical human that is far from conclusive''
 
This statement is certainly not scientific (the fetus is human from a scientific point of view) and it is clearly not pro-life (rather this is the ''pro-choice'' mantra).
 

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