A Memo to the Bishops

Just posted to our site: a memo to the bishops from Vincent Miller of the University of Dayton:

As the bishops meet in Baltimore this week, the political climate and economic crisis demand they consider the effectiveness of their teaching the full range of Catholic social doctrine.

Advertisement

Every Catholic and every American citizen knows the church’s teaching on abortion and marriage. The same cannot be said for the rest of Catholic social teaching. This has consequences for both American public life and for the church.

Few Americans citizens or politicians, including Catholics, are aware of the church’s teaching that government is necessary to serve the common good; the importance of solidarity with all of the vulnerable, not just the ones we consider innocent or worthy; and, most importantly at this hour, the fact that subsidiarity cuts both ways, limiting government intervention and demanding it when necessary.

These Catholic teachings are under fire: Glen Beck warns millions of faithful listeners to run from any church that preaches social justice. Anti-immigrant extremists like Sherriff Joseph Arpaio are folk heroes (a textbook case of the Catholic definition of causing “scandal”). Tea Party denunciations of socialism and tyranny form public opinion on the legitimacy and scope of government. A new Republican majority in the house, led by a Catholic Speaker, plans to respond to the economic crisis by extending tax cuts for the rich and defunding health care reform—which means those portions that subsidize insurance for the working poor. These profound rejections of Catholic teaching and corrosion of the common good demand an effective episcopal response, yet too often, no response at all is given.

Read the rest here.

Tim Reidy

 

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
7 years 8 months ago
''Peter - Beware.  the ''Holy Church'' once taught that the Earth and not the Sun is the center of the universe.  In fact it excommunicated Gallileo for refusing to conform his belief.''


The best science of the day said that the earth was the center.  First Copernicus, then Kepler and finally Galileo challenged that.  But none of these scientists could solve the parallax problem or the wind problem and many of Galileo's ideas turned out to be nonsense.  And Tycho Brahe ideas were better predictors in the early 1600's.  All was eventually resolved in the 1820's, two hundred years after Galileo but by that time most of the world had accepted the heliocentric theory though it had some difficulities.   I do not believe the Church excommunicated Galileo.  It did sentence him to house arrest but this had more to do with an attempt to remove the pope by the Habsburgs than with science or religion.
7 years 8 months ago
Ms. Peters,


The recently passed health care bill has some desirable provisions and some undesirable provisions.  I know both sides want to solve the pre existent condition difficulties.  But to take this one piece and announce that the entire bill is ''socially just'' is not appropriate.  One could argue that this piece of legislation along with other legislation that has passed has inhibited job creation.  And that is socially unjust.  If you were one of the now chronically unemployed, your story might be quite different.


Instead of eliminating the massive number of regulations in the recently passed legislation which would go a long way to job creation, the Fed is on a dangerous course that could inflate the economy and cause potential nightmares for businesses who employ people.  But that is what they are resorting to since the extreme uncertainty of these legislations has paralyzed business and is keeping large number of people unemployed.   So we have the charade of Bernake taking this very risky approach because the Democrats have made hiring of new employees very expensive for business.  Business has responded by asking people to work longer, outsourcing jobs to independent contractors and exporting jobs over seas.  They will not hire someone if that person is going to cost more than any potential profit it would make with that person.


So while some may celebrate the health care legislation as a noble achievement, others are being kept from working because of its ramifications.  And it is not entirely sure if it will produce better health care let alone lower the cost which was the main concern going in.
Marie Rehbein
7 years 8 months ago
There's more than one way to skin a cat, as they say.  The health insurance reform that resulted from the effort at health care reform is a big step in the right direction.  That direction should take us to the conclusion that elective medical procedures like abortion are not health care and that health care costs should be based on ability to pay, not on how desperately they are needed and how difficult they are to get.
Colleen Baker
7 years 8 months ago
Pete, You ignored my point that the USCCB has never called for people to drop their job related health insurance coverage if it includes abortion services. The rest of your post is coherent in it's application.  The USCCB is not and that was my point.

Barbara, I hear you because my daughter is in the same boat. Unfortunately, the Pete Lakes of the world fully believe that it is better for my daughter to die uninsured so that I can save my soul. On a personal level, I'm not sure I find that notion either palatable or reasonable. On a policy level the USCCB is asking me to sacrifice a living child for the sake of potential harm to another class of human life. But I guess in the interests of following this absolute teaching authority I shouldn't be asking those kinds of questions.
7 years 8 months ago
'Barbara, I hear you because my daughter is in the same boat. Unfortunately, the Pete Lakes of the world fully believe that it is better for my daughter to die uninsured so that I can save my soul."

- Again, how does this comply with the comments policy, America?  I have seen others called on the carpet for such!

"You ignored my point that the USCCB has never called for people to drop their job related health insurance coverage if it includes abortion services."
- I would think the Bishops (and most reasonable people) recognize a moral distinction between what election individuals may CHOOSE to have versus a required provision in government mandated health insurance programs in the so-called exchanges.  Apples and organes.  One is being mandated by government and funded by government, the other is an individual's own choice.

"On a policy level the USCCB is asking me to sacrifice a living child for the sake of potential harm to another class of human life."
- can you point to a legal or theological document of either the US or the Catholic Church wherein the term "class of human life" is used in any acceptable manner?  I thought the US Constitution prohibited discrimination based on "classes" and no moral theology text that I am aware of has ever classified human life into "classes".

Peter Lakeonovich
7 years 8 months ago
Colleen.

I didn't think your point was unfair, and, in fact, is quite rational and would make perfect sense in world without God (i.e., a world without Love).

But we know that is not the case.

Certainly, I would not want to see your daughter die because she is uninsured.  She is my (our) neighbor who I am (we are) commanded to love.  We cannot say we truely love God, if we do not love our neighbor.  See Deus Caritas Est. 

Nonetheless, you are correct that if given a choice, it is always better to save our souls.  [Please note, I do not think that is the choice Obamacare places before us, as the others commenting here have well noted.]  I mean this in the Ignatian sense which, disappointingly you won't find in these parts.

St. Ignatius's Principle and Foundation states:


"Man is created to praise, reverence, and serve God our Lord, and by this means to save his soul.  And the other things on the face of the earth are created for man and that they may help him in prosecuting the end for which he is created.  From this it follows that man is to use them as much as they help him on to his end, and ought to rid himself of them so far as they hinder him as to it.  For this it is necessary to make ourselves indifferent to all created things in all that is allowed to the choice of our free will and is not prohibited to it; so that, on our part, we want not health rather than sickness, riches rather than poverty, honor rather than dishonor, long rather than short life, and so in all the rest; desiring and choosing only what is most conducive for us to the end for which we are created."

So, I repeat, we should not put our souls at risk by conceding to what is being marketed as little evil for a greater good.  That is not the Christian Way.


Jack Barry
7 years 8 months ago
Your powerful memo outlines the fulness of Catholic doctrine that needs to be communicated in American public life.   Many would agree with you on the breadth and depth of that doctrine.   You assume the bishops agree but are neglectful in not speaking out.   Based on all you present, an equally logical explanation is that the bishops do not agree and therefore do not speak.   It would be illuminating to see information on what they actually do believe, based on what they say, do, and ignore, in those neglected areas.   Divergence would not be unprecedented.   The Spanish example from the 1900s has been recalled in the news this month.  
William Kurtz
7 years 8 months ago
This was excellent, especially the observation that "young people who have come of age in the past two decades identify Christianity with the conservative side of the culture war and nothing more. A minority finds this appealing. The rest do not."
That is exactly the message many of our bishops seem to want to deliver, with themselves as little James Dobsons. They envy the sheeplike obedience of Dobson's followers.
How long before the USCCB starts to send a representative to join the NRA, tax-cutting groups, and others at Grover Norquist's weekly roundtable of conservative activists? 
Peter Lakeonovich
7 years 8 months ago
"A new Republican majority in the house, led by a Catholic Speaker, plans to respond to the economic crisis by extending tax cuts for the rich and defunding health care reform—which means those portions that subsidize insurance for the working poor. These profound rejections of Catholic teaching and corrosion of the common good demand an effective episcopal response, yet too often, no response at all is given."

I believe Cardinal George has already indicated that defunding Obamacare, which does not pass moral muster, would be a good thing, and not a so-called "rejection of Catholic teaching," as you contend.

Also, let's please grow up a little here.  To say that "young people who have come of age in the past two decades identify Christianity with the conservative side of the culture war and nothing more," is to say that such young people do not understand Christianity at all.  To the extent any of those young people are serious (to even the slightest extent), they will know that Christianity is not that and nothing more.

Young people, like me and those even younger than me, know that Christianity is about encountering Christ, and anything that separates us from Christ must be eliminated.  That is why these young people want practical healthcare for all, but they want none of it - zero - if it means the taking of even one innocent life in the womb - for what good does it do us if we gain the whole world but lose our souls?
Colleen Baker
7 years 8 months ago
Pete so what do you young folks think about consigning elder Americans to no health for the sake of the pre born-pre born who in some cases will also die without health care.  Some of us not so young and healthy people find this kind of reasoning absurd in a secular society.  Perhaps that's why our bishops do not demand that Catholics drop their private insurance when it provides abortion coverage.  I've always found that particular non action of the USCCB very interesting.  Apparently the USCCB believes only the poor and uninsured should sacrifice health care for the sake of a principle. 
7 years 8 months ago
"consigning elder Americans to no health"
- this is a joke, right? "Elder Americans' are the most (over)subsidized interest group in American politics today! 
Roy Van Brunt
7 years 8 months ago
The voice(s) of the bishops will be welcome on the subject of respect for ALL life - in the womb, on death row, too poor to afford healthcare, in homes for the elderly, and on the many battlefields that portend to be in defense of liberty, etc.  If life is really life, dwelling on just one aspect of it is a flawed approach.
Peter Lakeonovich
7 years 8 months ago
Colleen,

I would refer you to the post on Cardinal George's comments on this website for a more eloquent explanation, but no health care legislation which imposes, permits, or facilitates the procurement of abortions will ever pass moral muster.  So I would say to you that no health care is better than health care which publicly funds the killing of innocent human life.  If you are Christian, you must understand this.  Lack of health care cannot harm your soul, but being complicit in a plan that furthers the procurement of abortion could cause you to lose your soul.

"And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.  Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father's knowledge.  Even all the hairs of your head are counted.  So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows."

Yes, we are called to be martyrs for the Truth.  Of course, we are afraid to admit this, for our insecurity in being called hypocrites or out of fear that we may be unable to honor this calling.  I mean, even St. Peter denied Jesus three times before being led where he did not want to go.  But we need not be afraid, but rather speak the truth with conviction and turn to our Lord's Divine Mercy when we come up a bit short.
Roy Van Brunt
7 years 8 months ago
Peter - I will pray for you, and for the Holy Spirit to bring you both Knowledge and Understanding.  It must be nice to know all and be smug about it.
ed gleason
7 years 8 months ago
 King Juan Carlos of Spain signed the very pro-abortion bill into law last spring.... no signiture no law,. He knew the Pope was coming and he did sign anyway. Pope, King &  Everyone had had a 'nice' meeting a few weeks ago. Spanish bishops said '' King had to sign'... Pope's silence was his agreement . 
I'm pro-life and I would not have signed.. I would have resigned but I guwss that's why I'm a small r republican.  
Peter Lakeonovich
7 years 8 months ago
Roy,

In a sense, it is nice, but not because of any claim to to know all, but because of the theological virtue of faith.  It is not necessary to know all, though we can in fact know much.

"Faith is the theological virtue by which we believe in God and believe all that he has said and revealed to us, and that Holy Church proposes for our belief, because he is truth itself. By faith "man freely commits his entire self to God."  For this reason the believer seeks to know and do God's will. "The righteous shall live by faith." Living faith "work[s] through charity."  The disciple of Christ must not only keep the faith and live on it, but also profess it, confidently bear witness to it, and spread it: "All however must be prepared to confess Christ before men and to follow him along the way of the Cross, amidst the persecutions which the Church never lacks."  Service of and witness to the faith are necessary for salvation: "So every one who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven; but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven."

See, I don't know all - not even close - but I believe in all that Holy Church teaches.  Precisely because I don't know all, do I know it would be foolish to go it alone with my own ideas or some other individual's or group of individuals' ideas.  See Lumen Gentium and Dei Verbum if you want authority on this.
7 years 8 months ago
The memo by Vincent Miller is remarkable in its vagueness and bad reasoning.  It seems he wants to take cheap shots where he can as opposed to having an honest debate.


Are the doctrines on abortion and marriage as murky as what is ''socially just?''  I realize that we can debate a lot of side issues in both abortion and marriage but there is a lot more definitive there than the ''social'' teachings which seems more like quicksand than hard ground. With a poor track record over the last 50 years, any government action has got to be questioned as to whether it achieves any social justice or not.  One could argue very persuasively that the recent health care legislation is not socially just so the moral position is to oppose it in any way you can.  That is, the House Republicans are acting in a socially just manner.


The debate that should be had is not occurring here so maybe others could point out where the social justice of the health care legislation or immigration policy or tax policy is being thoughtfully debated by Catholics.  It all seems to be based on ones political views rather than on informed debate.
Gail Grazie
7 years 8 months ago
A 23 year old unemployed college graduate I know just had a malingnat tumor removed from her pancreas. She was able to stay on her parents medical insurance plan thanks to Obamacare. If the Bishops had gotten their way she would have been undiagnosed and the tumor would still be in her eating its way through her body and killing her or her parents would have been become bankrupt in trying to pay the medical costs of fighting this disease. As it is now the co pay and deductibles are high so her mother who works full time is going without meals to pay the bills.
So where is the social justice in the Bishop's misguided and wrong position on this healh care bill? Where is Jesus in that? Have the our Bishops hearts become so hard that they have lost the eyes to see and the ears to hear?
 
7 years 8 months ago
"If the Bishops had gotten their way she would have been undiagnosed and the tumor would still be in her eating its way through her body and killing her or her parents would have been become bankrupt in trying to pay the medical costs of fighting this disease."

This is completely irrational and slanderous. 

The bishops are for health care reform that addresses issues of cost and coverage, but also advert the massive funding of abortion that was hidden in the fine print (attempts to bypass the Hyde Amendment).

Here is a quick, very informative video on the truth of Obama "care", lest we forget:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lW1DuhBRoUw


 
ed gleason
7 years 8 months ago
Brett what abortions were paid for by new Federal govt funds. ???... Obamamcare as you call it. When, where,???maybe they are like the WMD in Iraq..
Craig McKee
7 years 8 months ago
Re: #2's question -
''How long before the USCCB starts to send a representative to join the NRA...''

I guess you've never seen this picture before:

http://www.bored.com/photos/nunswithguns.html
Roy Van Brunt
7 years 8 months ago
Peter - Beware.  the "Holy Church" once taught that the Earth and not the Sun is the center of the universe.  In fact it excommunicated Gallileo for refusing to conform his belief.  Would you have believed that teaching of "the Church"? "The Church" who "teaches", is not in fact a church, but merely the fallible humans who try to guide it.  And, being people, they are subject to personal agendas and they do in fact err.  None of what you "believe" is taught as infallible doctrine, and therefore all is open to study, discussion, prayer, - and reversal.  When you get to heaven, as I pray you will, you may be surprised to find Sister Carol Keenan there to greet you - and it won't matter!
Gail Grazie
7 years 8 months ago
Mr Joyce you asked for a social justice debate on the health care issues so there it is - in the story of one 23 year old and her family. After her graduation from college her parents were told that she could not stay on their health plan because the insurance company made the rules. Unfortunately the only temporary teaching job she could get did not include health care benefits. However because of "Obamacare" the health insurance companies had to change their rules and she was able to go back on her parents health care. Some months later during a doctor's visit - which would likely not have happened if she was uninsured - tests were done that led to the discovery of the tumor that was taken out in procedures covered by her health insurance.  The procedures were very expensive and would have put the family in enormous debt. 
On the other  hand, the Bishops have not been able to point to a single instance where this new health care bill funds abortion.
That is the reality of the health care law the Bishops fought hard to defeat.

Advertisement

The latest from america

Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington, is pictured in a 2017 photo (CNS photo/Bob Roller) 
The case shows the mystifying complexity of the human person—or at least this human person.
James Martin, S.J.July 16, 2018
A front-page article published July 16 detailed the alleged abuse of two seminarians in the Diocese of Metuchen, New Jersey, by then-Bishop Theodore E. McCarrick.
Elsie Fisher (photo: A24)
Bo Burnham’s new movie is a joyous reminder that 13 is not, in fact, the best year of your life.
John AndersonJuly 16, 2018
A couple gets married in Stockholm, Sweden, in this 2013 file photo. (CNS photo/Fredrik Sandberg, EPA) 
“The right of Catholics to express disagreement with their leaders is a right as old as Peter and Paul.”
The EditorsJuly 16, 2018