Bishop Blair: "Health Care and a House Divided"
Because I was out of town when this came out, I'm a couple of weeks late to this.
In the most recent issue of The Catholic Chronicle, Bishop of Toledo Leonard Blair explains the USCCB's opposition to Obamacare, praises pro-life politicians who took a stand, and calls out - by name - a group of sisters in the Toledo Diocese who signed the Network statement in favor of Obamacare:
Health care and a house divided(emphasis added)
Written by BISHOP LEONARD P. BLAIR
... Almost everyone agrees that we need health care reform. For years the U.S. bishops have appealed to moral principles as a basis of reform, including a special concern for the poor and most defenseless. As pastors and teachers we welcome the effort to make health care available and affordable to all. Whether the new legislation is the right way to go about it is subject to a legitimate diversity of opinion. It is certainly not an article of Catholic faith.
The defense of unborn human life, however, is an article of faith. When it comes to abortion we cannot remain silent if the government intends to fund and/or facilitate abortion and health plans that cover abortion.
There is certainly a grave moral blindness in this: that the murder of the voiceless and nameless unborn should be reduced to one “social issue” among others, a “political position” of relative importance to other social benefits. Imagine if the political price for the passage of health care reform were the reintroduction of racial segregation in southern schools. This would rightly lead to moral indignation and block passage of the bill. However, the murder of 50 million unborn children in our country is seen as a legitimate “choice” and is tossed about like a football in the political field.
Whether or not the new health care legislation maintains the legal status quo of the last 30 years prohibiting government funding for abortion is a matter of debate. Most pro-life Democrats are convinced that what they managed to wring out of the White House and their party leadership at the 11th hour does indeed preserve the status quo. The best legal advice our Bishops’ Conference has received is that these pro-life Democrats are wrong. Perhaps only time will tell, but in the meantime we must do everything possible to ensure that federal law does not fund, promote or facilitate abortions or impose abortion on consciences.
As if the political and cultural challenges were not grave enough, we also see illustrated in the church the words of our Lord: “A house divided cannot stand.” Both the Catholic Health Association (CHA) and Network (a lobbying group claiming to represent 59,000 Catholic sisters) simply dismissed as false and unfounded the grave concerns not only of the bishops but also of pro-life members of Congress regarding abortion in the proposed legislation. The head of Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion provider in the country, has called what the sisters did a “brave and important move” worthy of the organization’s “gratitude and support.”
A Network spokesperson was quoted as saying: “This is politics; this isn’t a question of faith and morals.” Let us look more closely at this claim.
At the very moment that pro-life legislators, subjected to great pressure and even vilification, were working valiantly to change the health care bill so that it would uphold the status quo of federal protections against abortion, these “Catholic” groups were pulling the rug out from under them, as everyone immediately recognized. There is no doubt that this was a calculated political act, but certainly not one in keeping with Pope John Paul’s words that even the “right to health … is false and illusory if the right to life … is not defended with maximum determination” (Christifideles laici, n. 38).
Last year, Pope Benedict reiterated the need for “a mature and committed laity” who are not merely “collaborators of the clergy” but “co-responsible for the Church’s being and action.” Co-responsibility, however, is founded on the obedience of faith by clergy and people alike to the deposit of faith. Nor does co-responsibility mean equality without distinctions. With the flock we bishops too are Christ’s sheep, but we have also been called by Christ and ordained to sanctify, to teach and to govern His people.
Canon Law, reflecting the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, says that the Christian faithful have a right and even a duty to make known their opinion, but “without prejudice to the integrity of faith and morals, with reverence towards their pastors, and attentive to common advantage and the dignity of persons” (CIC, 212). None of these conditions was met by the action of the Catholic Health Association and Network.
Finally, and very sadly, I must point out that in our own diocese the Sisters of St. Francis, Tiffin, were among the signers of the Network statement. Support for health care reform is commendable, but not at the expense of efforts by the bishops and committed pro-life members of congress to protect both the unborn and consciences.
I call upon the Tiffin Franciscans and all the other communities of sisters who signed the Network statement to rededicate themselves to the Catholic teaching reaffirmed by the Second Vatican Council that “abortion and infanticide are abominable crimes” (Gaudium et spes, 51), and to defending with “maximum determination,” as Pope John Paul said, “the right to life, the most basic and fundamental right and the condition for all other personal rights,” including the right to health. I also invite the sisters to join me and the tremendously dedicated pro-life people of our diocese in attending the annual “Right to Life March” in Washington and participating in events like “Forty Days for Life,” prayer vigils, and other visible signs of moral and spiritual support for an end to the scourge of abortion in our country.
[Read the whole thing]
Thank you, Bishop Blair, for your unflinching CATHOLIC leadership of this diocese. God bless you.
By the way, does anyone think Bishop Blair might keep the actions of the sisters who signed the Network statement - in direct opposition to the Bishops - in mind as he continues his investigation ... sorry, "doctrinal assessment" ... of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious?