A "Loud Silence"
At GetReligion, Terry Mattingly notes a conspicuously missing (or at least quiet) voice in media coverage of the current health-care debate:
... there has been a strange silence in the mainstream coverage of the health-care wars here on Capital Hill.My Comments:
Let me ask this question: What religious body, in recent years or even decades, has been the most outspoken when it comes to demanding — as a basic issue of social justice — some kind of universal health-care coverage for all Americans? While it’s possible to debate whether or not there is a definitive answer to that question, I think the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops would have to be right at the top of any list.
No one should doubt the commitment of the bishops to universal health-care coverage, of some kind. The problem, of course, is the clash between a secular approach to issues of birth, life and death and 2000 years worth of basic, core Christian doctrines. Abortion is the obvious point of conflict, but recent debates about health-care rationing, euthanasia (active or passive) and “conscience clauses” for medical professionals have shown that other crucial issues are in play.
Where is the voice of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in these stories?
I know that there are resources on various websites. I plan on quoting some of them myself. I know about the articulate letter (.pdf) to Congress by Bishop William F. Murphy of the Domestic Justice and Human Development committee.
But I do have a basic question here: Are the journalists ignoring the bishops or are the bishops (and their gatekeepers) ignoring the journalists? This is one of the biggest religion-news stories of the year, especially in terms of its potential impact on Catholic health-care facilities and the people who work there. The church’s views on health-care reform are consistent and articulate and, I might add, rather centrist. If the White House wants health-care reform, the U.S. Catholic bishops are a strategic force.
Did you hear that silence? What was that?
I've wondered about this, myself. My guess is that the Bishops are conflicted over what is most important to emphasize: "universal coverage" or the important pro-life protections (i.e. provisions providing for conscience protection and excluding abortion, euthanasia, and rationing) that must be included in any plan in order for it to be acceptable.
If that's the case, then the Bishops may have found it preferable to remain silent, having perhaps learned the hard lessons from their experience with how “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship” was used to water down opposition to abortion as an issue in the 2008 elections. They likely know that issuing a statement (as Bishop Murphy did) that calls for "universal coverage", while also condemning public funding for abortion, health-care rationing, and the lack of conscience protection for Catholic hospitals and health-care workers, will only result in the proponents of government-provided health care lauding the call for universal coverage as an endorsement of their particular vision of health-care reform, while completely ignoring the criticisms (or dismissing them as "distractions" from the more important goal of achieving universal coverage).
Previous Pro Ecclesia posts on this subject:
Obama's Nun: Ignore "Insignificant Details", Pass Health Care Bill Now
Bishops Speak Out on ObamaCare