Monday May 24, 2010

Bishops Decry ‘Wound to Catholic Unity’ Dealt by Pro-Obamacare ‘Catholic’ Groups

By James Tillman

WASHINGTON, D.C., May 24, 2010 ( — In a statement issued Friday, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) aimed “to set the record straight on some important issues raised during and after” debate over health care reform legislation.

And in “Setting the Record Straight,” as the document is titled, they affirm their teaching authority and say that dissent from episcopal teaching among Catholics, such as the endorsement of the health care reform by the Catholic Health Association, resulted “in confusion and a wound to Catholic unity.”

The Catholic Health Association (CHA) came out in support of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) during the heated debate over the bill, despite the USCCB’s criticism of the measure for its funding of abortion, lack of conscience protection, and other serious flaws. (’s breakdown of the flaws of the bill may be found here.)

At the time, although the CHA admitted that the legislation was not “perfect,” it nevertheless called it a “major first step” towards the goal of universal health care. It was later revealed that President Obama personally wooed CHA and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, a left-leaning lobby group of Catholic nuns, to flout bishops’ authority and back the health care legislation.

The new USCCB statement reinforces its stern opposition to any position that compromises fundamental human rights for the sake of some supposedly greater good.

The bishops note that some “hoped or feared that, for the ‘greater good’ of making progress on health care, we would neglect or deny the rights of the most vulnerable members of our society, including unborn children who have no voice and of immigrants.” But, they affirmed, “We will never conclude that we must accept what is intrinsically evil so that some good may be achieved.”

“Specifically we reject the argument made to us by some Catholics that expanding health care coverage justified setting aside our longstanding opposition to government participation in elective abortions or weakening rights to life and freedom of conscience,” they wrote.

The bishops noted that they were “disturbed and disappointed by reactions inside and outside the Church that have sought to marginalize or dismiss legitimate concerns that were presented in a serious manner by us.”

“Our right to speak in the public forum has been questioned,” stated the bishops. “Our teaching role within the Catholic Church and even our responsibility to lead the Church have come under criticism.”

Yet Catholic bishops, they emphasize, exercise a fundamental role guiding their flock: “Making such moral judgments, and providing guidance to Catholics on whether an action by government is moral or immoral, is first of all the task of the bishops, not of any other group or individual,” they wrote.

And thus, they continued, it is not true that “the divergence between the Catholic Conference and Catholic organizations, including the Catholic Health Association, represents merely a difference of analysis or strategy.”

“Rather, for whatever good will was intended, it represented a fundamental disagreement, not just with our staff as some maintain, but with the Bishops themselves,” they stated. “As such it has resulted in confusion and a wound to Catholic unity.”

As Archbishop Chaput wrote shortly after health care reform passed, the actions of “self-described ‘Catholic’ groups” can do a “serious disservice to justice, to the Church, and to the ethical needs of the American people by undercutting the leadership and witness of their own bishops.”

The statement was underwritten by Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, Chairman of the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities; Bishop William Murphy, Chairman of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice, Peace and Human Development, and Bishop John Wester, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Immigration.