Commentary by JUDIE BROWN of American Life League
Over the years I have tried on many occasions to understand the apparent disconnect between the bureaucrats at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the fundamental teaching of the Roman Catholic magisterium that the act of abortion is a heinous crime, frequently defined by the popes as murder.
We know, for example, that during the debate regarding health care reform, the USCCB coined the term “abortion neutral,” and most recently, according to the New York Times, explained their current dilemma in a rather odd way.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops which has lobbied for decades to persuade the government to provide universal health insurance, says it opposes the bill unless it bans the use of subsidies for plans that cover abortion.
“We have said to the White House and various Senate offices that we could be the best friends to this bill if our concerns are met,” Richard M. Doerflinger, a spokesman for the bishops on abortion issues, said in an interview. “But the concerns are kind of intractable.”
This statement present the same challenges that many USCCB statements have over the years. The first is the suggestion that if a version of Obama’s health care reform proposal “bans the use of subsidies for plans that cover abortion,” the USCCB will be so happy it will apparently cozy up to the Obama forces and be “friends.” If that has not troubled your ulcer, perhaps this will.
What exactly does it mean to refer to a public policy in preborn child killing as “kind of intractable?” Is that in the same category as “a little bit pregnant?”
Merriam-Webster tells us that “intractable” is defined as “not easily governed, managed or directed.” So can we presume that the USCCB is “kind of” stubborn about this matter of abortion? Is the USCCB attempting to help the Obama administration understand that when it comes to aborting a child, they just want to make sure that taxpayers don’t have to pay for them, or at least not all of them.
Don’t forget, the USCCB is on record with an “abortion neutral” statement, explaining that it supports Hyde-type language, which means that in the cases of rape, incest and the life of the mother, abortion would be covered by tax dollars.
Where exactly is that permitted in Catholic teaching? Or are we witnessing a pattern of behavior that equates USCCB positions with political principles rather than Catholic principles? Albeit a “realistic” approach for a political organization, how can it be so for the organization that allegedly represents more than 200 men, ordained into the Catholic priesthood, and following in the footsteps of the Apostles?
A good friend and fellow Catholic, Tom Longua, a pro-life pioneer and apologist, sent an e-mail in which he provided his perspective. It is certainly worth repeating: “It’s possible that Doerflinger himself may be ‘absolute’ about the principle of not accepting the funding of baby-killing, but having dealt with so many American bishops for so many years, he knows only too well that many of them are not absolute [on] any principle, so he inserted the words ‘kind of’ to hedge his bet here.”
Either way, it occurs to me that the USCCB spokesman and the ordained priests, each of whom has now been elevated to the office of bishop, archbishop or cardinal, should not be lobbying one way or the other for this sort of health care reform. The USCCB should be using its influence and platform in the public square to teach the principles of Catholic doctrine. Period. The preborn, the elderly and the infirm don’t need the same old, same old rhetoric that we have grown so accustomed to from the USCCB.
I must say though, before leaving this subject, that Mr. Doerflinger is no stranger to the controversy caused by strange comments made by the Catholic bishops he serves in his post as associate director of the USCCB Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities. Many of these comments are a bit off-key, if one listens to the harmonious teachings of the Catholic church versus the USCCB’s bishops and their individual rendition of those teachings.
Take, for example, the question of human personhood, a fundamental philosophical position of the Catholic Church that is also provable by science and logic. As Pope John Paul II explained in 1996 when speaking of the rights of human embryos, “a problem which directly concerns the discussion between biologists, moralists and jurists is that of the basic rights of the person, which must be recognized in every human subject throughout his life and, in particular, from his moment of origin.”
This is not a lofty ideal, but rather a fundamental truth regarding existence from the moment of his or her biological beginning. And yet, the bishops disagree, at least when devising statements to address the human personhood initiatives in the various states.
The Conference, which serves as the official public policy voice of the Florida bishops, released an email alert Friday afternoon, alerting supporters that, “although the bishops of Florida clearly share the desire for our state laws to recognize all life from its very beginning to natural end, after careful consideration and deliberation with legal counsel, the bishops do not support this current amendment effort.”
The same e-mail noted that signature collection would not take place in any parish or diocesan entity in the state.
The same correspondence included a link to a more thorough statement by the bishops, which may be accessed on the Conference web site. The statement, dated September 19, affirms the bishops’ collective commitment to “the full legal recognition of the right to life of every unborn child and the defense of human life in all its stages, from conception to natural death.”
However, the statement continues, “it is our opinion, and that of the legal experts with whom we have consulted, that passage of this amendment would not achieve the goal of overturning Roe v. Wade.”
The bishops first note the unlikelihood of such an amendment passing, given Florida law’s stipulation that constitutional amendments be approved by at least 60% of voters. Furthermore, the federal courts would almost certainly strike down such an amendment as unconstitutional, and the bishops express fear that, should the case be heard by the United States Supreme Court (which is presently dominated by pro-Roe justices) it might well “lead to a reaffirmation of Roe.”
The bishops go on to reaffirm their view “that it will be more prudent to pursue incremental measures that add to existing protections in law and help change hearts and minds.”
What sort of prudence is it that opposes an effort to teach citizens the humanity of the preborn? Catholic bishops have publicly opposed state personhood efforts in state after state for what I perceive to be purely political reasons. As American Life League Executive Director Shaun Kenney suggested, is such a statement a type of “false prudence?” Or is it that the political agenda of the USCCB, in concert with the various state Catholic conferences, is not well served by finally standing up and saying that Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton are evil decisions, in direct violation of the natural law and therefore invalid? Should the USCCB and its state equivalents make such a bold statement, only God knows what might happen, but it certainly would not be the fulfillment of a political agenda that appears to be leaving human personhood behind.
When I examine the facts, comparing the devastating blow various bishops have delivered to state personhood efforts with a national spokesman of the USCCB’s sort of, kind of, maybe policy on health care, I am left with a sick feeling in my extremely conservative Catholic heart. It is with the greatest sorrow that I witness this ongoing debacle being perpetrated by the Catholic apostles of our day. I fear that, perhaps, human respect has overtaken many of them. I worry that pollsters, lawyers and politicians may have distracted them from Christ’s ever timely reminder, uttered to His first apostles (Matthew 10:32-33):
Everyone who acknowledges me before others, I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father. But whoever denies me before others, I will deny before my heavenly Father.
In this year of the priest, I believe it is time for each of us to pray for the current day apostles of Christ, our Catholic bishops, and to entrust them to the patron saint of priests, Saint John Vianney, who once so very wisely wrote,
Do you know what the devil’s first temptation is to the person who wants to serve God with dedication? It is human respect.
Commentary by Gary L. Morella
It is SCANDALOUS beyond belief, in my estimation, for purported Bishops to REFUSE to support a State ‘Human Life’ Constitutional Amendment for the specious reason that a federal amendment would be better. Instead of listening to their legal advisers, who DO NOT HAVE A CATHOLIC CLUE about the matter, how about listening to GOD ALMIGHTY via the INFALLIBLE Teaching Magisterium of Holy Mother Church on faith and morals? “THOU SHALT NOT KILL!” Just how many more innocents have to die before our bishops get this right?
Why would ANY CATHOLIC, much less a bishop or a priest, NOT SUPPORT ANY effort to stop baby killing on ANY level, federal, state, or local, IMMEDIATELY? How Catholic bishops can take such an unprincipled public stand in discouraging a state from stopping baby killing makes a mockery of the aforementioned Catholic moral teaching, i.e., it cries out to Heaven for vengeance!
What the heck are these bishops waiting for? They have state representatives who are more Catholic than they are by orders-of-magnitude, and they will give them NO SUPPORT WHATSOEVER! That is a MORTAL SIN, since this is known grave matter via consistent Church teaching, the world knows it is grave matter, and yet our fraudulent bishops do the devil’s work by DISCOURAGING those who are trying to do God’s work. IT JUST DOES NOT GET ANY MORE SERIOUS THAN THIS, which is a prime example of why the institutional Church is NO LONGER CATHOLIC, and HAS NOT BEEN since the allowed built-in ambiguities of Vatican II, by those who would destroy the Church from within, did their nefarious work!
It is common knowledge that even if Roe v. Wade was overturned, that would not stop baby killing on the state level, which means that any state initiative to do the right thing on ANY MORAL ISSUE, e.g., abortion, homosexuality, euthanasia, stem cell research, et al, such as reported below in Georgia, DESERVES THE UNRESERVED SUPPORT of Catholic clergy and laity in this country!
Fraudulent pro-life candidates and some prominent judges tell us that the states should decide this serious issue in a democratic fashion via some type of popular vote, no doubt! It is NOT Catholic teaching that God’s laws are subject to MOB RULE ON ANY LEVEL! When are Catholics, who are NOT supposed to check their faith at the door upon entering public life but rather to WITNESS to it for salvation’s sake, per the end of Matthew’s Gospel, going to get that right, especially Catholic clergy?
Man’s laws are subsidiary to God’s in the moral order, PERIOD! And if that seminal truth is not in federal and state constitutions, then it darn well should be; else, they are not worth interpreting!
I find it sad that, when God works through state legislators, high-ranking clergy, who should be excommunicated for their public sins, discourage His work.
Even Scalia cannot get the seminal Catholic truth right that the state deserves no say whatsoever on whether abortion is OK. The state is obliged to obey God’s Law for promotion of the common good in leading ultimately to a supernatural good in accord with God’s Divine Plan for His Creation. In the traditional Catholic view, the state derives its authority from God (although the people may from time to time decide who exercises that authority), and the state is subject to the law of God including the Natural Law. In the Enlightenment view, the state derives its authority horizontally, from the people. It is the people, rather than the Law of God, which defines in what way, if any, the power of the state will be limited. And, if the people give rights, the people can take them away. Just who or what is appealed to in the absence of universal moral absolutes as a function of God’s Law? What do you do when your neighbor’s personally created “universe of rights,” as a function of his “autonomous unencumbered self” conflicts with yours? Easy answer – anarchy results!
To fallaciously argue, as Scalia does, in a strictly positive law sense, that the federal government has no constitutional right to allow abortion while there is no problem at all with deferring the killing of innocents to the individual states, i.e., let the people democratically decide, is pure a simply a violation of the fundamental philosophical principle of non-contradiction in that “Something cannot ‘be’ and ‘not be’ at the same time in the same respect.” Killing innocents in their mothers’ wombs is an abomination regardless of whether it is done on the federal, state, or local level, PERIOD!
To “Render to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s” does not exempt Caesar from rendering to God to Whom Caesar owes his existence! Someone needs to ask Scalia “How is the common good served by seeing no problem with baby killing on the state level if the mob decides that such barbaric behavior is acceptable? And just where, in the Constitution of this Country, Mr. Justice Scalia, does it say that we must check our faith at the door upon entering
public life? Moreover, where, Mr. Justice Scalia, does Catholic teaching call us to do so when God trumps everything for the sake of man’s eternity, i.e., where does the Church teach that unjust laws that are contradictory to God’s in the moral order must be obeyed? Sed contra, Mr. Justice Scalia, we are called to witness to the eternal truths of the Catholic faith for the sake of the common good leading ultimately to the supernatural end intended for man by God, not the devil! For shame, Mr. Justice Scalia, that you cannot see the seminal Truth Who is a Someone, not a something!
Commentary by Judie Brown
Thank you. Your insights are spot on.
Commentary by Kasandra Barker
The actions of the Florida Bishops is so disheartening. It seems the Bishops are taking on too much responsibility for any “political fallout.” This is not food-stamp policy; it is about life itself. How else do we see the overturn of Roe, unless Personhood amendments are adopted, “incrementally” state by state?
Commentary by Judie Brown
As tragic as the decision by the Florida Catholic Conference is, I want you to know that an organization known as CATHOLICS FOR PERSONHOOD is now up and running in Florida. So we praise God for that!
You know that I agree with you and find the entire situation with so many Bishops simply awful. But God is in charge, praise HIM!
Commentary by Ray
Maybe you need to educate me here a bit. I’ve been reading up on the subject of the Health Care debate. I know that the USCCB would be interested in helping out the medical system where as Catholic hospitals are a large part of all the hospitals in the U.S. All non-for -profit hospitals are hurting finanially. As Catholics we want to fulfill or obligation to help the poor and sick.
I don’t understand how you can take the word of the New York Times as the truth. I haven’t read anything from the USCCB that indicates that they are abortion-neutral. I didn’t even find those words in the Times article.
I believe we are living in a time of misinformation and this doesn’t help matters out.
Cardinal Ragili, Bishop Chaput, Bishop Murphy and the Bishop of Kansas City have been bold in their support for “Life”. I you really want to know what the Bishops believe go to their website. Recently I heard Bishop Joseph F. Naumann and Bishop Robert Fin in an interview with Raymond Aryoa on EWTN. You need to listen to this interview, these men are real heroes for the cause of ‘Life’. We need to left up our Bishops they are under a lot of stress and many close to the faith understand that they are a strong witness to Hope!
I have always believed in the work ALL but I’m hurt by your attach on the USCCB. I don’t see how the blanket statement against all bishops is warranted.
Commentary by Joe
I am sorry to say these personhood amendments are just not going to work. Sure, the bishops should support them but not much time and energy should be put into them.
We are trying to achieve the hardest possible goal, total protection of all unborn children, not just after implantation but all the way back to conception. Then we propose to do it in the hardest way possible through a public referendum. We lost by a huge margin in Colorado (73-27) and will lose everywhere else we try this.
In Florida moreover, you need not 50% as in Colorado but 60% to pass a constitutional amendment. We will probably get 30% of the vote. Even a superhuman effort in that state will lead to defeat by a very wide margin. This strategy just will not stop the killing of unborn children.
We need to organize to elect a pro-life, pro-human President and a pro-life, pro-human House and Senate. We do not have this right now. After achieving this, we could then make pro-life, pro-human appointments to the Supreme Court, overturn Roe vs Wade and get a ruling that the rights of the unborn are protected by the 14th Amendment.
While waiting for Roe vs Wade to be eliminated, we should urge state governments to simply ignore the ruling and shut down the abortion crime industry in their states. There is an argument that states that Roe vs Wade is only a judicial opinion and is not binding on anyone but the parties to the case.
Commentary by Judie Brown
The USCCB has presented their “abortion neutral” position on their website, not in the NEW YORK TIMES. I am happy to educate you. Here is the link: http://www.usccb.org/sdwp/national/2009-07-17-bg-healthcare-abortion.pdf
Ray, I am not questioning the sincerity of the Catholic Bishops but rather challenging the record. What was reported in the New York Times has been reported elsewhere including the USCCB itself, so please don’t hold it against American Life League for going to the source.
This is one of many such questions fraught with confusion because of the USCCB’s statements. I am a huge fan of Bishops Naumann and Finn who contradict much of what the USCCB bureaucrats are spilling forth from their offices.
I would suggest you do some research; the USCCB statements are not FROM the Bishops but ON BEHALF of them and many times they are not consistent with what orthodox Bishops are saying.
For the more comments: http://www.all.org/newsroom_judieblog.php?id=2787#