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.