Austin Hill: Breaking news: Some of the American Catholic bishops are in disagreement with President Barack Obama and the Democratic-controlled Congress over their proposals for health care legislation. Not surprisingly, the bishops are concerned because the proposals allow for taxpayer-funded abortions.
Breaking news: Some of the American Catholic bishops are in disagreement with President Barack Obama and the Democratic-controlled Congress over their proposals for health care legislation. Not surprisingly, the bishops are concerned because the proposals allow for taxpayer-funded abortions.
But is this the only thing that the Catholic bishops — and other intelligent, rational people of faith — should find appalling with “Obamacare” as it is currently being formulated? In other words, if abortion funding were to be eliminated from the Obamacare plans, would the American Catholic bishops then decide that Obamacare is great?
Recently, U.S. Catholic Bishops William Murphy and John Wester, along with Cardinal Justin Rigali, published an open letter urging Congress to “improve” the current health care legislation. The clergy insisted no one should be forced to pay for or participate in an abortion, that health care should be affordable and available to the poor and vulnerable, and that “the needs of legal immigrants are met.”
Taken individually, each of these “criteria” is fine, so far as it goes. But the party in charge in Washington these days — the Democratic Party — is not about to alter its position on abortion advocacy. And government control of the health-care industry is not about to contain health-care costs.
While the Catholic Church (as well as most other Christian churches) officially states its belief in the “sanctity of the unborn” and opposes the slaughter of children, the American Catholic clergy are, nonetheless, quite inconsistent when it comes to upholding their stated “pro-life” worldview.
For this reason, the clergy sounding off about health care legislation — however well intended they may be — lack credibility.
Recall the flap that erupted last May when Obama delivered Notre Dame University’s commencement address. Given that Obama is arguably the most ardent abortion-supporting president of record, the university fell under harsh criticism for inviting him to speak.
Yet in defending himself against the criticism, the Rev. John Jenkins, president of the University of Notre Dame, claimed Obama had been invited to the university not because of his stance on abortion rights, but because he is an inspiring leader who has “overcome a racial barrier.”
That’s a fair assessment of Obama, so far as it goes; indeed, Obama has overcome a very significant racial barrier, and one could say that he is “inspiring” in this regard. Yet Jenkins’ implicit message is confounding. His response to the Obama outrage implied that abortion is not a pre-eminent concern, but rather, that it is merely one of several issues in the realm of political leadership and public policy that Catholics are supposed to care about, and not necessarily the most important issue.
If abortion is “one of several” public policy concerns for Catholics, then that’s fine. Yet now some of the bishops seem to be back to the “abortion is pre-eminent” position. My point here is that the American Catholic clergy are frequently “all over the road” on the abortion issue, and this inconsistency weakens their efforts at influencing any public policy at all.
The clergy also seem to ignore some profound economic realities.
While hoping for health care that is affordable and available to the poor, they seem to ignore the fact that, by federal law, health care is already made available to anyone who enters a hospital in America and requests treatment, regardless of their ability to pay. This, in turn, is part of the reason that health care costs continue to rise — working Americans who pay their way in society are shouldering the costs of those who cannot, or choose not to pay their way.
While ignoring these economic realities, the clergy are ignoring the wisdom of Pope John Paul II, who eloquently taught that all of life is connected to economics. And this applies to health care.
The bishops’ own concerns speak to this truth about economics.
They are fretting over Americans being coerced by government to pay for abortions — that’s an issue regarding the “sanctity of life,” yes, but it’s also an issue of economics. The two are inextricably attached, just as all of life is attached to economic concerns.
If the clergy took more seriously their church’s own teaching on economics, they would likely see that the coerciveness of government health care reaches far beyond abortion concerns.
Hopefully, the American Catholic laity are seeing this, even if the clergy are not.
Austin Hill’s commentaries appear every Sunday. He hosts talk radio around the country, including Arizona’s Newstalk KTAR (92.3 FM). To join Austin as he talks with Arizona’s newsmakers, and has a fun time doing it, watch “The Austin Hill Web TV Show” on Arizona Web TV.