Wanted to flag this post by Michael Sean Winters on the continuing fallout of the healthcare debate in the Catholic community, because he raises an extremely important yet seldom-raised point:
Bishops, of course, have unique authority when they teach on faith or morals. But, they have no such authority regarding the interpretation of civil legislation or their best guesses as to how market forces will respond to that legislation. … the USCCB also has no divinely guaranteed authority when it comes to intelligently awarding grants through the Catholic Campaign for Human Development. We Catholics are not automatons. We can disagree with bishops about such matters. Our differences may be stupid, they may be short-sighted, they may be based on a difference in perspective, but they are not grounds for a charge of disloyalty (emphasis added).
What Sr. Carol Keehan and other Catholic supporters of the health care bill did was exercise their best judgment on how to apply Catholic moral principles (like opposition to abortion) to complex legislation. Based on expert legal analysis, they came to a different factual, not moral, conclusion than the USCCB — that the health care bill did not, in fact, fund abortion.
This, however, does not stop people like former Republican operative Deal Hudson from attacking Keehan. Hudson alleges Keehan had no other option than to fall in line with not just the USCCB’s moral claims, but also their legal claims about the healthcare bill.
All this is a bit rich coming from Hudson, who is quick to ignore the USCCB himself when it suits him. He recently called for Catholics to “tea party” the USCCB, and has himself made Winters’ point about the differences between the bishops’ authority in moral vs legislative matters:
Catholics need to realize there is no “Church view” on the present health-care bill, but there is a position being taken by the bishops’ conference. The Church teaching Catholics are obliged to consider comes in the form of moral principles that must be applied prudentially to the legislation under consideration.
I guess in Hudson’s mind, the USCCB has no authority on healthcare reform, unless that authority could help the GOP.
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In a story FPL helped generate, Jeanne Cummings reported in Politico yesterday that an “emergency delegation” of faith leaders is coming to Capitol Hill Thursday to persuade John McCain to support immediate action on comprehensive immigration reform – a policy he championed the last time Congress took it up in 2007. Bishop Minerva CarcaÃ±o of the Desert Southwest Conference of the United Methodist Church, a member of the delegation and a leading public voice for immigration reform, told Jeanne:
I understand the politics of his race. But the bigger picture is the legacy he can leave. He understands the border, the needs for comprehensive immigration reform, and he understands how to make it happen.
In addition to meeting with Sen. McCain, the delegation will meet with the White House and several Representatives from Arizona to explain how Arizona’s new anti-immigrant law makes federal action on comprehensive immigration reform more urgent than ever. As prominent leaders with large constituencies and direct experience with their Arizona immigration crisis, these leaders – including protestant and Catholic bishops, a rabbi, a megachurch pastor and a statewide ecumenical leader — are compelling messengers with unique political sway. The full roster of the delegation is after the jump.
Bishop Gerald Frederick Kicanas, Tucson Diocese of the Roman Catholic Church
Bishop Minerva G. CarcaÃ±o, Desert Southwest Conference of The United Methodist Church
Rev. Monsignor Richard William O’Keefe, Episcopal Vicar, Yuma – La Paz Vicariate Immaculate Conception Parish
Rev. Dr. Gary D. Kinnaman, Pastor at Large, Phoenix-area City of Grace Church, and Chairman, AZ Governor’s Council on Faith and Community Initiatives, 2008
Rev. Jan Olav Flaaten, Executive Director, Arizona Ecumenical Council
Rabbi John Andrew Linder, Temple Solel, Scottsdale, Arizona
Joseph David Rubio, Lead Organizer for Arizona, Industrial Areas Foundation
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The New York Times reported this weekend that the Ugandan Parliament’s bill making homosexuality punishable by life imprisonment or even death has stalled:
A special committee organized by the president of Uganda has recommended that a harsh antihomosexuality bill that has drawn the ire of Western governments be withdrawn from Parliament, a senior government official said Saturday.
Uganda’s president, Yoweri Museveni, has publicly shown concern about the legislation and formed the review committee in February in response to international scrutiny. Though the panel’s ruling is not the final word, analysts saw it as a strong sign that the bill would eventually be dropped.
This is great news for the people of Uganda, and also for people worldwide who stood up to the extreme injustice the bill would have perpetrated. When the legislation was announced late last year, a broad array of American faith leaders denounced it unequivocally and mobilized to defeat it. Among the condemnations of the anti-gay bill was a statement from more than 70 ideologically, racially and theologically diverse Christian leaders, stating in part:
Our Christian faith recognizes violence, harassment and unjust treatment of any human being as a betrayal of Jesus’ commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves. As followers of the teachings of Christ, we must express profound dismay at a bill currently before the Parliament in Uganda. The “Anti-Homosexuality Act of 2009″ would enforce lifetime prison sentences and in some cases the death penalty for homosexual behavior, as well as punish citizens for not reporting their gay and lesbian neighbors to the authorities.
As Americans, some may wonder why we are raising our voices to oppose a measure proposed in a nation so far away from home. We do so to bear witness to our Christian values, and to express our condemnation of an injustice in which groups and leaders within the American Christian community are being implicated. We appeal to all Christian leaders in our own country to speak out against this unjust legislation.
This effort helped not only to raise awareness of Uganda’s anti-gay bill in the faith community, but also to encourage previously reluctant leaders such as Rick Warren – who wields great influence in Uganda — to speak out against it.
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In the conversation around health reform legislation and abortion, many pro-life religious and political leaders urged passage of what they called the “life-affirming” legislation. Washington Post correspondent and author T.R. Reid wrote a compelling piece in March 2010 about how the evidence from other industrialized nations makes a strong case that universal health care coverage will lead to fewer abortions. He quotes a former Roman Catholic prelate of England and Wales, Cardinal Hume:
“If that frightened, unemployed 19-year-old knows that she and her child will have access to medical care whenever it’s needed, …she’s more likely to carry the baby to term. Isn’t it obvious?”
That very idea– that many of the women in the U.S. feel abortion is the only, or the right, choice because of limited or non-existent access to health care and other economic obstacles– is what drives many pro-life religious leaders to advocate for expanded assistance for vulnerable pregnant women and mothers. In fact, significant funding for programs that support pregnant women and new mothers made its way into the final health care legislation, thanks to the unflagging work of Sen. Bob Casey.
And now, new findings from the Guttmacher Institute indicate these pro-life leaders were right in their thinking– there is a correlation between poverty and abortion, and the situation is becoming more severe. Guttmacher found that in 2008 “some 42% of women having abortions were poor, a substantially greater proportion than were poor in 2000 (27%).”
Hopefully with the historic passage of health reform legislation, women who wish to carry their pregnancy to term will feel better able to do so because of societal support provided by this legislation. This is something self-identified pro-choice and pro-life people of faith, as well as those across the spectrum, can come together around– supporting women and helping them to make the right decision for them, without being driven by fears about lack of proper medical care or financial security.
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In case you missed it, Catholic Hospital Association President Sister Carol Keehan was named one of the 2010 Time 100 — Time Magazine’s annual recognition of the 100 individuals they deem the most influential in the world. The tribute, penned by Vicky Kennedy, said in part:
Courageous and purposeful, Sister Carol Keehan, 66, is a deeply religious Catholic woman dedicated to carrying out the healing ministry of Jesus Christ on earth. Her leadership of the Catholic Health Association of the United States (CHA) has been defined by advocacy for the poor and an unwavering respect for human dignity. Her fight to reform health care was an extension of her concern for the most vulnerable in our society and was as integral to the mission of CHA as providing medical services. Undeterred by her critics, she refused to back down as she fought for reforms that would include prenatal and maternity care and coverage for uninsured children. She fought for those who couldn’t fight for themselves.
The CHA’s statement of support for health care reform came at a critical moment in the debate, when controversy about abortion funding threatened to derail the entire effort. As a Catholic Sister and the President of the nation’s largest not-for-profit network of health care facilities, providers and hospitals, Sister Carol rose above the partisan din by speaking from experience about the needed services health care reform would help deliver for the uninsured, and by speaking from expertise about the fact that the Senate bill would not fund abortion. Looking back, it’s clear that she played a key role in shepherding the legislation through its most difficult moment.
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