One would hope the statement “Late have I learned” would be spoken by at least one Catholic bishop, but don’t hold your breath. Recent events surrounding the devastating aspects of the newly passed health care package make that painfully clear.
Many wonderful, totally pro-personhood Catholics have contacted me over the past couple of weeks with their concerns regarding this legislation and the actions of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
As a matter of fact, what motivated me to share my thoughts with you at this time is the overwhelming disconnect that seems to have occurred between the truth about health care reform versus the many mixed signals now coming from various members of the hierarchy. It seems that only after a decisive vote that put the health care reform bill firmly in place did the alarm bells begin to ring. This is not the way it should have worked.
But don’t take my word for it. Here is what I have heard from faithful Catholic priests in the wake of that vote.
One wrote this while in Washington D.C. on Sunday evening, March 21:
Just got back from the U.S. Capitol Building. Felt compelled to go there this evening to be there while the vote was being cast.
Went to pray mostly, but found myself walking around offering a word of encouragement to many of the folks there. There were probably about 200 or so when I arrived at 9:00 p.m. on the south side of the building.
From what I can tell, I was the only cleric there. People were appreciative to see me. Many protesting the bill pointed out that there were “Catholics” supporting the bill, holding signs saying "Catholics for Health Care Reform!"
I found it most revealing that this priest was the “only cleric there.” Sadly, this is yet another sign of the problems we Catholics are facing in this nation today. It occurred to me, when I read it, that at that crucial moment, with so much time and energy invested by the USCCB in making sure tax dollars would not be used to pay for child killing, at least one bishop would have been there along with many priests, leading the Rosary, seeking the intercession of the Blessed Mother.
Or would that be too much to expect from a USCCB-orchestrated lobbying effort focused on eliminating some taxpayer-funded abortions while never mentioning the other anti-life aspects of the proposal that is now the law of the land? After all, no amount of apologetics can distract us from the realization that the bill does permit taxpayer dollars to be spent on abortions in at least three cases and maybe more.
Without being unduly harsh, might I suggest that this is why clerics were so obviously absent on that Sunday evening? One has to wonder and be heavy of heart, for surely ordained priests know full well the history of the power of the Rosary. It seems that reflecting on the results of just one battle—the battle of Lepanto in 1571 and its miraculous outcome—would have provided sufficient motivation for hundreds of Roman collars to be evident that night. The Rosary secured victory in the battle of Lepanto, but it appears that Catholic leadership in America did not see a reason to use this remarkable tool in the struggle to stop a health care reform measure that will, by all accounts, assure big bucks for Planned Parenthood, abortion beyond our imagination and euthanasia as a cost-cutting measure. Perhaps the health care reform war against human beings did not warrant the same level of concern as those at the battle of Lepanto felt in their guts. That is not a judgment I am capable of making.
But something is terribly wrong.
The day after the vote took place, Archbishop Charles Chaput opined in a column for the Denver Catholic Register entitled “A bad bill and how we got it,” that groups like Network, Catholics United and the Catholic Health Association provided a “deliberate counter-message to the bishops.” The archbishop went on to say that the bishops and many faithful Catholics worked hard “to advance sensible, legitimate health care reform; the kind that serves the poor and protects the rights of the unborn child, and immigrants, and the freedom of conscience rights of health-care professionals and institutions.”
What the articulate archbishop did not explain is that the flawed legislation about which he is commenting also contains deadly provisions that will result in more money for the very programs that will culminate in even higher rates of abortion and sexually transmitted diseases. The legislation contains tax dollars for more human embryonic stem cell research and, of course, death for the infirm.
Where was the legislative alert from the USCCB warning about these tragic consequences? Where was the bishops’ collective outrage during the debate on these matters?
These are questions the USCCB never addressed in the seven-month health care reform debate. They did not discuss the problematic nature of these aspects of the legislation at any time and still do not address them. Why not? That is a question that nobody seems prepared to answer, even now when the dirty deed is complete.
Is it any wonder that one priest wrote, “The USCCB, fully aware that Obamacare would be designed by Obama, Pelosi, Ezekiel Emanuel, Cass Sunstein, David Axelrod, the Tides Foundation, the Apollo Project, etc., and managed by Obama appointees like Kathleen Sebelius, supported the whole monster, expressing reservations about nothing except the absence of some meaningless abortion language that—even had it been included in the bill—would have been nullified by the first federal court that got a whack at it.”
Father is correct, of course, and it is painful to have to say so. But sometimes the truth hurts when it illuminates our errors of the past. It also helps us grow in strength and fortitude so that we do what is right the next time we have a chance. But that may not be the way the bishops or their bureaucrats at the USCCB see things at all. I agree with the priest who wrote that he sincerely hoped “the U.S. bishops are seriously rethinking their lobbying and ‘marketing’ strategies. … It seems they allowed themselves to be used and that they did so with ease.” While it is never a good idea to criticize anyone for having made a mistake that is now history, it is also not a good idea to ignore the obvious. There is indeed something critically wrong with the way in which the USCCB operates in the political realm.
Perhaps the answer is that the bishops need to get back to their calling as spiritual leaders and teachers, dismantle the USCCB and welcome the actions of sincere, dedicated Catholic lay people who would die before suggesting that nobody need mention evils such as increased funding for Planned Parenthood, human embryonic stem cell research and death panels.
May the merciful Lord of all grant each of us the wisdom to follow Him, without counting the cost. Anything less will lead to just another debacle. And few of our most vulnerable brothers and sisters can live with that.