I cannot pass over the actions of the Catholic Health Association and an organization called Network, a lobby of American religious Sisters, who said, quite publicly, that what the bishops have taught is false. They said that the legislation does provide an adequate framework for a Catholic to follow his or her conscience about abortion. So, we had a trade organization — the Catholic Health Association — which calls itself “Catholic” and we had religious Sisters who call themselves Catholic, saying, “Sorry, bishops, you got it wrong, here is the teaching of the Church.”
The Lord Jesus Christ, unworthy though the bishops are, called the bishops to lead the people in faith; He did not call anybody in the Catholic Health Association and he did not call any of the Sisters in Network. To boot, those Sisters who signed the Network document said that they speak for 59,000 American Sisters — that would be every last Sister in the U.S. Yet, another grouping of Sisters came out publicly expressing their disagreement with Network. Unfortunately, the claim that these Sisters in Network represent all Sisters is actually what is false, not the teaching of the bishops.
And, of course, people like Speaker Pelosi could not do enough to wave the letter from the Catholic Health Association and the letter from Network to provide cover for Democratic legislators who wanted to waffle in protecting innocent human life. Speaker Pelosi is not called by Jesus Christ to lead the Catholic faithful, any more than the religious Sisters in Network are, any more than the leadership of the Catholic Health Association is.
The bishops are called to teach, sanctify, and govern. But, as I said before, with regard to the Holy Father, if people will not recognize authority, then they cannot lay responsibility at the feet of those to whom they are disobedient. The pope and the bishops are only responsible when their authority is accepted. The then-Cardinal Ratzinger himself has said, in our contemporary world, the word “obedience” has disappeared from our vocabulary and the reality of obedience has been anathematized.
In this way, very serious harm is being done to the Church because people in the Church wonder, “Who speaks for Christ? Does the Catholic Health Association speak for Christ? Does Network, an organization of religious Sisters, speak for Christ? Do they teach with the authority of the bishops? Is the bishops’ teaching just another opinion?”[reference]
While I agree with quite a lot of what the good bishop is saying, I think the issue is not as clear as he makes out. Can a faithful Catholic in good conscience disagree with a statement by the Bishop’s Conference on legislations for good reason. I would say the answer is yes. When the bishops in union with the Pope teach on something such as abortion, contraception, etc then certainly they are acting in their capacity as the official teachers of the faith. When a Bishops Conference talks about the prudence of a piece of legislations, it is usually another matter. The prudential question in this case was whether or not this bill funded abortion – I certainly thought the evidence was quite strong that in fact it did. The bishops in this case had advisors and other help to make a very informed decision on this and so were well capable to give solid prudential advice on this matter that should have been accepted. Though I still think it was possible for someone to weigh all the evidence and come to another conclusion without sinning. I certainly don’t think this is what the CHA and the LCWR did – they were never really bothered by the possibility of Federally funded abortions and let socialized medicine trump any possibility of them being wrong. Ideology came before really looking at the bill and seeing this as a real possibility. No doubt in the future on the issue of immigration the Bishops will support a bill that includes amnesty. If so than many progressive Catholics will be demanding that other Catholics follow the bishops in this regard. As regards immigration there are certainly many prudential questions that Catholics may disagree on and other areas where they may not disagree. I bring this up because I think the bishops versus sisters meme has gone a bit far without the necessary caveats. As Father Z mentioned before “Keep in mind that, in the matter of the vote on the health legislation, we are in the nebulous cloud of contingent, prudential judgments. Therefore, real clarity of the facts of the legislation is vital.”
That being said I think the whole health care bill fiasco proves that dissent kills. The actions of the CHA and LCWR were highly publicized and more than likely helped to bring about passage of the bill. Pro-abortion types certainly paraded their actions about including the President. I it hard to know how this affected individual Catholic congressman and their votes – but it certainly didn’t help and in fact provided a cover for a yes vote. A house divided can not stand and when religious publicly act in this way we certainly see the results.
Two-Thirds of Catholics in the Congress voted for this bill. It could not have been passed without Catholic help. Poorly catechized Catholic politicians is nothing new and like the poor they will always be with us. What bothers me is the lack of an appropriate response to dissident Catholics. I think the USCCB did a fairly good job in opposing this legislation, but they could have responded better to the CHA/LCWR situation and making it clear that they had no legitimate voice in supporting the bill. Catholics such as Nancy Pelosi can talk about being devout Catholics in good standing while making a mockery of the faith in support of murdering the unborn. She has indeed spoken with her bishop and then went on obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin with not a word about it. She went on to ask St. Joseph to intercede with a bill that funds abortion. I guess she got St. Joseph and Moloch confused. Would be nice to see Catholic politicians ask intercessions for something that does not include intrinsic evils.
The problem of the LCWR is nothing new. The Vatican’s Apostolic Visitation happened because the evident problems were not being addressed here in the United States. It should never have reached this state – but ever since dissent to contraception, dissent has pretty much been ignored hoping ti will go away. The CHA has taken previous stands in disregard of Catholic truth before and yet they are still allowed to use Catholic in their name – something they need permission for canonically. They are not a trade organization, but a “betrade” organization. How many innocents have died due to chemical abortion caused by abortafacients such as the pill? I wonder how many marriages and families have been destroyed by the false promise of contraception? How many people do dissidents have to kill, before some action is taken to bring them back into the folds of the Church?
There are certainly some Bishops such as Bishop Vasa who have effectively fought against dissidents in their diocese and have brought some back to the truth, while making it clear that their positions are not acceptable. Clarity is so important and when dissidents range free they do untold damage. No doubt most bishops are correctly upset by the actions of CHA/LCWR and others, I just hope they realize this situation came out of nowhere. The L.A. Religious conference with it’s many dissident speakers occurred during the end of the health care debate. Many diocese send there people there so I guess generating more dissidents is the priority.
There will always be dissidents and people who teach a false Gospel. Faithful Catholics should make sure that such are discredited and that the sweet truth of the Catholic faith is evident over poor imitations.
Which Catholic bishops have said that voting on this legislation was a prudential matter? (Plainly, Father Z is not a bishop.)
The question about this particular health legislation was: Does this legislation support abortion? (I.e. does it support state-funded murder of millions.) If the answer is definitely “yes”, then a vote for it is obviously not permissible. If the answer is definitely “no”, then voting for the legislation is a prudential matter. But what if the answer is “maybe it could”? It’s exactly at that point that genuine prudence kicks in, and insists that we don’t vote for the legislation.
Dear Jeff, Am happy you point to the issue that is likely the next BIG push: immigration. Just in brief (for now) there is one part of the teaching of the Church that seems not to make it’s way into the teaching/policy positions we’ve heard from a certain “conference.”
This is from the Catechism: “The more prosperous nations are obliged, to the extent they are able, to welcome the foreigner in search of the security and the means of livelihood which he cannot find in his country of origin.”
Since the “bold” didn’t come out, here is the part of the CCC that many Catholics are not hearing about but have legitimate concerns: “TO THE EXTENT THEY ARE ABLE.”
This should also be part of the national debate.
Even if the bill does include money towards abortion, I could imagine someone trying to justify it as remote material co-operation with evil – and therefore not sinning.
As for the bishops and priests failure to faithfully proclaim church teaching on contraception, Janet Smith points out that: in one diocese about one hundred priests signed a dissenting petition, the bishop responded by suspending them all, and the vatican responded to the bishop’s response by overturning it.
Speculation is that the Vatican was trying to avoid dissent turning into schism. It is possible that whatever ill effects we suffer from the bishop’s toleration of dissent, are a lesser evil than that we might have suffered had they taken the hard line that so many of us wish for.
I’d wager money that God has some “foolish” (as in wiser than all of us put together) plan to have the laity lead the charge against the contraception beast.
The USCCB dropped the ball by focusing narrowly on the bill’s abortifacient potential; there are other aspects that are highly questionable. This vile thing hands more power to an already overreaching state, with uncertain but predictably malign consequences. And it shamelessly adds to the already titanic debt to be born by future generations. The bishops did not address any of these matters, to their shame. It is apparent that by trying to avoid the appearance of partisanship, they abdicated a critical and thus truly prophetic stance. The health care bill is shaping up to be a vast experiment in the Law of Unintended Consequences. And the Bishops contributed virtually nothing to the discussion.
…John Paul II, continuing the constant teaching of the Church, has reiterated many times that those who are directly involved in lawmaking bodies have a «grave and clear obligation to oppose» any law that attacks human life. (Evangelium Vitae) For them, as for every Catholic, it is impossible to promote such laws or to vote for them.
The above is an excerpt from the 2002 CDF document DOCTRINAL NOTE on some questions regarding The Participation of Catholics in Political Life. Catholic Legislators have a grave and clear obligation, and Catholic non-legislators cannot possibly promote such laws. Funding abortions is material cooperation in attacking life, so the issue that should have been hammered down was: if the health-care bill funded abortions. If there is any ambiguity, then it should NOT be acceptable.
Apparently, the sistahs-without-mistahs believe the ‘positives’ outweigh the untoward democrat party prime directive.
That is: positively destroying the racist, unjust private economy outweighs murdering 45,000,000 unborn babies.
That quote would be pertinent if it was clear that the bill actually would fund abortions. However, what Jeff is trying to point out (and I thank him for it) is that reasonable people could come to different conclusions on that factual question. There was in fact a lot of good legal analysis suggesting that the bill did not fund abortions. The abortion related provisions are complex, but not ambiguous. All insurance coverage for abortion would have to be purchased with private money and kept separate from government money. And the new funds appropriated to Community Health Clinics are going to be put into HHS accounts filled with Hyde-restricted dollars; once that happens there will be no way to distinguish it from the Hyde-restricted money and therefore it can’t be used for abortion. The only remaining question was whether the Obama administration would try to change policies and regulations after the fact to open up some abortion loopholes (e.g. creationg separate accounts and funding streams for the CHC’s and then approve them to begin performing abortion). Obama’s executive order and his clear statements about how his administartion would implement the law answered that question. He will not permit any of the money from the bill to fund abortions beyond what is allowed under the Hyde ammendment. Now, I understand that many people on the right don’t trust the president. However, I hardly think you can make refusal to trust the promisess of the president a requirement for all faithful Catholics.
The Hyde Amendment must be voted on each year, so what’s to say it could be defeated? Also, I have read several reviews of this legislation and abortion can be funded through backdoor methods regardless of the Hyde Amendment. If anything, this was very, very vague. Why did Stupak and others hold out and stand fast against the Senate version for so long? This is in fact complex but it is also ambiguous. Too many issues are left to the descretion of the Secretary of Health. Do you trust her? The executive order means nothing as it cannot change a law that has been passed by Congress and signed by the president. This is not a right or left issue, it is an issue of our Catholic faith. Do we condone or do we take action. The good Sisters have apparently sold out, the veil is clouding their vision. Hopefully, the veil will be lifted soon before the division that the powers and principalities of the evil one cause more doubt of our faith and our religious leaders.
Stop the press! Let’s get the facts straight on Catholic nuns’ support of the health care bill. Many – the media, Nancy Pelosi, and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference – are claiming they are grateful for the support of 60 orders of nuns in helping get health care legislation passed. Time to peel back the onion.
In fact, the nuns’ letter of support, produced by Network – a social justice lobby of sisters – had 55 signatories, some individuals, some groups of three to five persons. One endorser signed twice. Since there are 793 religious communities in the United States, then the “60 orders of nuns” would represent only 7.6% of them, or with approximately 65,000 nuns in the U.S., .08% would have voiced their support for the bill.
Recent statements from groups like Network, the Catholic Health Association, and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) directly oppose the Roman Catholic Church’s position on critical issues of health care reform. That’s called dissent and the media loves engaging them for sound bites.
People who claim to be Catholic and then publicly undercut the teaching and leadership of their bishops spread confusion, cause grave damage to the believing community, and give the illusion of moral cover to a version of health care “reform” that is not simply bad, but dangerous.
The Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious, the second conference representing American nuns, found the provisions of the bill included expansion of abortion funding and failed to include conscience protection. It felt the bill needed to include the Hyde Amendment as passed by the House in November.
Protection of life and freedom of conscience are central to morally responsible judgment.
Christopher M. Shea
Neptune Beach, FL 32266