Monday March 15, 2010

Catholic Health Assoc. Health Bill Support ‘Utterly Un-Catholic’: HLI President

By Kathleen Gilbert

Updated 4:47 pm EST

WASHINGTON, DC, March 15, 2010 ( – As the U.S. bishops step up their opposition to the abortion-expanding Senate health bill this month, the Catholic Health Association (CHA) has again damaged the pro-life Catholic response by issuing warm support for the bill – despite its not being “perfect” on the abortion issue. The president of Human Life International responded by condemning CHA’s support for the bill as “utterly un-Catholic” and “a grave insult” to Catholics.

In remarks posted on the CHA website, president and CEO Sr. Carol Keehan wrote: “As I watched our president present his plan to pass the health reform legislation, it was clear this is an historic opportunity to make great improvements in the lives of so many Americans.

“Is it perfect? No. Does it cover everyone? No. But is it a major first step? Yes.”

Claiming that “CHA has a major concern on life issues,” Keehan notes that “we said there could not be any federal funding for abortions” and states, without further comment, that the bill would require taxpayer-subsidy recipients to “write a separate personal check” for abortion-covering insurance.

Keehan urged lawmakers in a March 11 letter to “move quickly to enact health reform by passing the Senate-approved legislation in conjunction with a second ‘corrections’ bill providing for necessary legislative fixes that will improve the overall package.”

Keehan provides a list of changes she says should be included in the “fixes” bill – with an abortion funding ban at the bottom of the list.

“We hope that you will step up to the challenge before us to make reform a reality, and we pledge to support you and all those in favor of reform in this effort,” wrote the CHA president.

The hospital group’s latest statements continues a trend of optimism towards the president’s health reform that has brought a hail of criticism upon the organization in past months. In July of last year, Keehan appeared at the White House to represent CHA, along with other hospitals that had committed $155 billion in Medicare and Medicaid savings over ten years to help cover health care cost reform.

A CHA video entitled “I Can’t Wait…for Health Reform” was posted last June on YouTube, featuring a clip of President Obama declaring to applause: “Let there be no doubt: health care reform cannot wait, it must not wait, and it will not wait another year.” The CHA website’s front page currently features prominently a President Obama “interview” hosted by YouTube, in which the president defends the health care bill against questions from viewers.

The Associated Press’ Ricardo Alonso-Zalvidar points out that House Democrat leaders are hoping to use CHA’s dissenting view to their advantage as they push the bill forward.

Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput, a leading commentator on social issues among Catholic bishops, on Monday slammed Catholic organizations who are backing the bill for providing moral cover for a deeply problematic measure.

In an On The Square blog post, Chaput wrote that, “Groups, trade associations, and publications describing themselves as ‘Catholic’ or ‘prolife’ that endorse the Senate version—whatever their intentions—are doing a serious disservice to the nation and to the Church, undermining the witness of the Catholic community and ensuring the failure of genuine, ethical health care reform.”

“By their public actions, they create confusion at exactly the moment Catholics need to think clearly about the remaining issues in the health care debate. They also provide the illusion of moral cover for an unethical piece of legislation,” wrote Chaput.

The archbishop called such support the “most painful feature” of the “long, unpleasant and too often dishonest national health care debate.” By their “eagerness for some kind of deal” for health reform, said Chaput, the groups “undercut the witness of the Catholic community and help advance a bad bill into a bad law.”

“Their flawed judgment could now have damaging consequences for all of us,” he wrote.

Fr. Thomas Euteneuer, president of Human Life International, told that while he could not say whether Keehan is “really acting on bad faith” or “just deeply confused” about the radically pro-abortion health care bill, “Her organization stands to gain a great deal by its passage, and they regulary collaborate with the proponents of this legislation, so her credibility on this issue is, to put it mildly, less than rock solid.”

“It is a grave insult to Sister’s fellow Catholics that she would stoop to lend what some will see as a Catholic stamp of approval to this destructive and, if enacted, irreversible assault on life,” he continued. “Nothing in this bill merits for it the support of any thinking, faithful Catholic. Period.

“To pretend otherwise not only places one in opposition to the bishops, but requires that one disregard the right to life of the the weakest and most vulnerable among us. This is utterly un-Catholic.”

See related coverage:

Major Catholic Organizations Push for Healthcare Overhaul Despite Abortion Mandate

Catholic Organizations’ Support for Health Care Reform Follows the Money Trail