Some onlookers might find it problematic or even scandalous that a group of nuns supported the current health care reform bill whereas the U.S. Catholic bishops opposed it in pursuit of stronger protections against the possibility of abortion coverage and worried about costs. Some news reports seemed to position the nuns over against the bishops, as though there was some sort of internal rift going on or a battle over authority, neither of which is the case.

Surely it is obvious that on health care, these nuns have special expertise, having founded and operated some 600 U.S. Catholic hospitals and entire hospital systems for decades. Both the nuns and the bishops speak with authority on these prudential issues. My own view is that the highly public airing of the two different positions is a healthy development. I assume that both groups not only oppose abortion, but also acted on their principles and followed their consciences. That’s the kind of thing we Catholics have come to expect from our faith leaders, which the nuns and the bishops are. What is both positive and valuable is that their actions demonstrated in full public view, and with civil, reasoned explanations of their particular positions, that Catholicism is no monolith in the public square.

Being a Catholic (a very good Catholic) does not necessarily result in political uniformity. And it does not, even when the legislation proposed is a matter of life and death, which health care, abortion, and paying for care ultimately are. Rep. Bart Stupak, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and many other Catholic lawmakers have worked hard to ensure that the legislation does not contradict their own principles. Their efforts are yet another version of modeling before the public how faith is applied on the job. You see, faith cannot truly be legislated. But free and judicious exercise of faith can improve the legislative process.

Karen Sue Smith

 

Comments

DEBORAH TRUITT MS | 3/29/2010 - 6:15pm
It seems that those who suggest good Catholics who differ with either the Vatican or the Bishops have never heard of the Primacy of Conscience.  Methinks they need to look it up, as it is a tenant of our faith.  Maybe then they would have a grasp on what the rest of us are talking about.  They might also want to read St. Paul's letters to the Galatians.
Mike Ashland | 3/25/2010 - 8:42pm
Planned Parenthood is the number one provider of women's health services (not including abortion services) in the Unites States.  I have taught abstinence classes alongside their instructors in high school courses.  They are not "of the devil" but provide abortion services that are 100% legal in our country.
Once again the only litmus test becomes abortion when support and advocacy for contraceptives (including condoms), pre-natal and teenage pregnancy healthcare and adoptions services all would be more effective at reducing the incidence of abortion. That's the disconnect our church has with the 21st century.  Between the narrowness of their abortion presence and their decades-long entanglement in and enablement of child abuse, it is no wonder that Holy Mother Church is closing churches, losing vocations and losing relevance in the world.
Peace, hunger, economic justice, environment...are these ALL trumped by association with Planned Parenthood?  And if so, WHY?
Mike Ashland | 3/25/2010 - 8:46pm
Planned Parenthood is the number one provider of women's health services (not including abortion services) in the Unites States.  I have taught abstinence classes alongside their instructors in high school courses.  They are not "of the devil" but provide abortion services that are 100% legal in our country.
Once again the only litmus test becomes abortion when support and advocacy for contraceptives (including condoms), pre-natal and teenage pregnancy healthcare and adoptions services all would be more effective at reducing the incidence of abortion. That's the disconnect our church has with the 21st century.  Between the narrowness of their abortion presence and their decades-long entanglement in and enablement of child abuse, it is no wonder that Holy Mother Church is closing churches, losing vocations and losing relevance in the world.
Peace, hunger, economic justice, environment...are these ALL trumped by association with Planned Parenthood?  And if so, WHY?
Anonymous | 3/24/2010 - 10:07am
The 13th Amendment ended slavery, Mr. Gleason, & we don't have segregation anymore because of Supreme Court decisions applying the 13, 14, & 15 Amendments to the Constitution.  
 
And Bush used "EOs" to put into place many of the war on terror policies that so many of us objected to.  I didn't see liberals rushing to the defense of Bush when he used this technique.
Anonymous | 3/23/2010 - 4:06pm
Ms. Daily,  please provide proof wherein I have claimed to be the "final authority" on things with the ability of "seeing into people's souls".  What I can do is compare Speaker Pelosi's objective acts (voting record) and public statements (the Catholic Church doesn't teach that human life begins at conception) with the Church's teaching (life does begin at conception).  From there I think I'm entitled to draw conclusions and share opinions.  I think that's called free debate, which liberals at least profess to be in favor of. If you don't like the conclusions I draw, please feel free to provide counter-facts or arguments.  It is telling to me, however, that more Catholics thus far in these comments have objected or castigated the bishops (who are, after all, the teachers of the faith constituted as such by Christ, or "Catholicism 101" as Mr. Kash calls it) than has supported them.  Its always telling to me that some who support greater "Freedoms" & "choice" so vehemently object to some choosing to side with the bishops.
Anonymous | 3/23/2010 - 3:47pm
Linda,
It seems obvious that Jeff Landry does not tell the bishops what to do. He seems to want to follow what the bishops teach. If you are Catholic, don't you? Is there a hierarchy in the Catholic Church? Does this hierarchy have authority concerning faith and morals?

Maybe America Magazine needs to spend some time with Catholicism 101 since there seems to be much confusion on this blog.
Livia Fiordelisi | 3/23/2010 - 3:25pm

Jeff Landry,
As your many comments indicate, you seem to be the final authority on everything?, with a special gift of seeing into people's souls. Maybe the bishops should consult with you before issuing a statement.

Peter Lakeonovich | 3/23/2010 - 2:27pm
"Being a Catholic (a very good Catholic) does not necessarily result in political uniformity." What is the value judgment here? That you can be a very good Catholic and disagree with the Bishops? "Rep. Bart Stupak, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and many other Catholic lawmakers have worked hard to ensure that the legislation does not contradict their own principals (sic.)" What is the value judgment here? That you can disagree with Catholic teaching on abortion if your own principles say it is OK? How can a Catholic in good conscience believe such nonsense? It has to mean something to be truly Catholic. Otherwise we secularize our faith to the point that it becomes unrecognizalbe or is reduced to simply a worldview instead of the one, true faith founded on Truth. The Bishops spoke before this bill was passed and no one listened. Certainly, neither this blog nor this website rallied behind our Bishops. Catholic legislators who voted 'yes' on this bill, and their Catholic supporters, will have to answer to our Lord. Jesus said, "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." This bill will expand health care (maybe), but it is not worthy of God, as hundreds of thousands of unborn children will now share in our Lord's cross before even taking a single breath on earth.
Anonymous | 3/24/2010 - 6:10pm
I hope some of you older liberals were as harsh in your condemnations of the Communists during the Cold War as you are of the bishops, the majority of whom today, by the way, were not in office during the worst abuse cases.
 
For example, people condemn Card. Law.  Did you ever read/hear/see what he did while he was priest in Jackson MS for Civil Rights?  It might complicate the easy approbation so many cast on their heads.  He literally risked his life for a cause so many on here profess to follow.  I think unfortunately, a malicious intent is cast on some of these people who may not have had the best information.  That is NOT IN ANY WAY to excuse what happened, but I think we should let "the chaff grow with the wheat" and leave the sorting to Another.
Anonymous | 3/24/2010 - 2:36pm
I am all for EO's. That still would not justify voting for an immoral bill!
Vince Killoran | 3/24/2010 - 1:14pm
Executive Orders are powerful legal tools, but it operates differently than a law (just as a law is different than, say, a Supreme Court decision).  Truman's use of it is was particularly important.
 
I think many people criticized Bush's use of it because they didn't agree with its content.  In this case they agree with the content.  The other difference: BO is using it as a backstop to a law and existing measures that already address the issue.
 
BTW, we don't have segregation anymore for a number of reasons, chief among them was the Civil Rights Movement.
Anonymous | 3/24/2010 - 12:23am
Do you guys really believe that the bishops 'teaching' that the EOs have no power to stop to funding abortions is some kind of Catholic teaching??? The bishops say they  are basing their opinion on 'expert ' legal advice. Now does the Holy Spirit work thru the USCCD hired attorneys??, Are these the same attorneys who advised them on the  'abuse cover-up?.
Lincoln and Truman used EOs to stop slavery and desgregate the military. Do you see slaves and a segragated military??? did the bishops 'teaching' exist then? Stop making the faith look foolish. 
Anonymous | 3/23/2010 - 3:19pm
The words "principles" "pro-life" & "Nancy Pelosi" together are a total joke.  Please do not pretend that Speaker Pelosi supports anything other than abortion on demand.  Arguing otherwise is what leads somewhat sympathetic readers like me questioning the true commitment on the part of the left to end abortion.
 
Bart Stupak is a pro-life hero.  The Stupak Amendment set the standard for what could have been a very good pro-life compromise.  When it became obvious that Stupak offended the non-negotiable pro-choice position of the Democratic party, otherwise allies of Stupak abandoned him en masse for the sake of getting a bill they could live on the hopes of what amounts to a promise from Pres. Obama that no federal funds will provide access to abortion.  This could have been avoided if the Dems have passed Stupak; alas they had not the political courage to do so.
leonard Nugent | 3/25/2010 - 11:42am
Nancy Pelosie's former chief of staff is currently the national director of planned parenthood. Which principles are we talking about?
Vince Killoran | 3/24/2010 - 11:07pm
Jeff:
 
You're on very shaky ground here. Reporting child abuse and holding those who commit it (and cover it up) is not being "judgemental."
Anonymous | 3/24/2010 - 11:01pm
I remain puzzled that most liberals profess to be in favor of less "judgment" in favor of a search for understanding.  Some of the comments here evidence a dogmatism unrivaled by anyone I've met an anti-abortion rally.
Vince Killoran | 3/24/2010 - 9:05pm
Re. Jeff's suggestion that we "leave the sorting to Another" when it comes to dealing with the hierarchy's coverup and failure to protect our children: That's against the law-of God and man.
 
Karen Sue Smith contribution is very good, especially the last paragraph. It's too bad our local parishes don't address this issue in a sustained way (besides handing out the bishop's "instructions" before elections).
Mike Ashland | 3/24/2010 - 7:43pm
Mr. Landry.  Shame on those darned communists.  That should balance things out nicely.  In regards Cardinal Law and the irony of his civil rights activism early in his career in Mississippi, it makes it only more appalling that he willingly abandoned that fervor for social justice by his deep involvement with covering up the molestation of thousands of children.  And then, when found out, was coward to run to Rome for cover where he continues to hide out.  A poor, poor choice, Mr. Landry, of hierarchical models.  Exploring even the pontiff's role vis a vis covering up abuse leaves us a church poor in moral leadership.
Mike Ashland | 3/24/2010 - 7:31pm
Sadly, the trees of the forest block abortion interests.  Women who have access to healthcare are more likely, not less likely, to carry a child to term.  The healthcare legislation increases funding for teen pregnancy care and adoption.  The clinics and the insurance coverage of teens also guarantees availability of contraceptives.
Federal funding of abortion remains the law of the land.  Unless you make the argument that ANY savings provided by any federal legislation must be opposed because it makes more cash available for abortion services, you just can't find anything other than a very strict adherence to the Hyde amendment.
On the authority of bishops and the church hierarchy?  Squandered and useless, as Jesus found the Pharisees and Sanhedrin.  As He modeled, so should we live...unwilling to compromise principles and social justice for blind adherence to "the law."
JIM MCCREA | 3/24/2010 - 5:53pm
"Is there a hierarchy in the Catholic Church? Does this hierarchy have authority concerning faith and morals?"
 
Shall we ask this highly exalted hierarchy about the value of their "authority" in light of how they have failed the lowerarchy of this church so badly in virtually every continent of the world when it comes to protecting their own at the great expense of children, good little believing Catholic sheep, and the like?
 
Authority, indeed!  To quote Molly Ivins:  "What you need is sustained outrage...there's far too much unthinking respect given to authorit.y"
 
"It is not so much the authority one questions in the Roman Catholic church as the lack of the qualities of good leadership, including respect for the persons involved, the efforts at persuasion, and the explanations to which associates and subordinates are entitled - in fact, the lack of ordinary good manners."
Abigail McCarthy, Mending Catholic Manners/Of Several Minds (article), Commonweal, January 11, 1991.