By Peter J. Smith

MADISON, Wisconsin, March 26, 2010 ( – Neither Catholic nuns nor Nancy Pelosi speaks for the Catholic Church, says the Catholic Bishop of Madison, who had choice words in his latest column for the Catholic Health Association for spreading confusion about the Church’s position on health care reform and right to life issues.

“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,” said Bishop Robert Morlino in a Thursday column for the Madison Diocese’s Catholic Herald.

“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.’”

But the bishops, Morlino said, were “clear” that the Senate healthcare bill passed by the House – even with the Executive Order – failed both Catholics and those who adhere to the natural law. He explained that God only tasked bishops – not female religious or even priests – with the responsibility to “teach, sanctify, and govern” the Church.

He mentioned that in addition to the right-to-life violations in the Senate bill, the bishops had a serious problem with its lack of stringent conscience protections, and its restrictions on immigrants seeking to buy health insurance. The law mandates that legal immigrants wait five years before they can purchase insurance, and also forbids illegal immigrants from purchasing insurance even with their own money – a situation the bishops said was profoundly unjust.

“In so many cases, in this legislation, individual freedom goes right down the tubes,” said the Wisconsin prelate. “The legislation is very inadequate with regard to abortion, it is very inadequate with regard to conscience protection, and it’s very inadequate with regard to care for immigrants. That is why Catholic legislators and others of good will, who understood this bill, were bound to oppose it.”

“The bishops were very clear on this and it seemed that there were some Catholics, including some Catholic Democrats who were going to stand up — even in the face of almost unbearable pressure — for the Truth, for the protection of every human being. Clearly, that did not turn out to be the case,” wrote Morlino.

He added that at this critical juncture an attempt was made to confuse by “some Catholics and some people who seemed to be of good will,” but whom he said were confused in thinking that the Executive Order from President Obama would actually protect the right to life. He also added ominously, however, that these same groups may have been “hoping that the fog of confusion would conceal their real intent.”

“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,” said Morlino.

“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,” Morlino declared.

The open defiance of Catholic groups against the teaching authority of the US bishops, Morlino added, did “very serious harm” to the Church, because such groups made people wonder who actually has the authority to speak for Christ’s Church, and made the bishops’ teaching role seem like just like another opinion.

“If we go down this road, the teaching authority of the bishops will be further eroded and with it, the authority of Christ’s Church.”

Read Bishop Robert C. Morlino’s column in full here.

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