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Ah, True Remonstrance!

Originally posted at Talk to Action.

In previous posts I have called for mainstream Catholics to offer remonstrance – an earnest presentation of reasons for opposition or grievance against the reactionaries now fomenting schism within the Church; and against a U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops that increasingly sound more like its most theocratic ally inclined members. And there is no better example than the bishops’ opportunistic efforts to hold health insurance reform hostage to their antiabortion agenda.

However, in a courageous move of true remonstrance much of the leadership of Catholic nuns have defied the bishops and urged passage the health insurance reform bill now pending before Congress.

The AP Report says it all:

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama’s much-challenged health care overhaul gained traction Wednesday as a liberal lawmaker became the first to switch his opposition and Roman Catholic nuns declared their support in an unusual public break with their bishops.

As well as:

Meanwhile, in an unusual public disagreement that will reverberate among America’s 70 million Roman Catholics, leaders of religious orders representing 59,000 nuns sent lawmakers a letter urging they pass the Senate’s version of the health care bill. The measure contains abortion funding restrictions that the bishops say do not go far enough.

“Despite false claims to the contrary, the Senate bill will not provide taxpayer funding for elective abortions,” said the letter signed by 60 leaders of women’s religious orders. “It will uphold longstanding conscience protections and it will make historic new investments … in support of pregnant women. This is the real
pro-life stance, and we as Catholics are all for it.”

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the National Right to Life Committee have denounced the bill as a backdoor subsidy for abortion. But the nuns and the Catholic Health Association – representing some 600 hospitals – say restrictions in the Senate bill would still prevent taxpayer funding for abortion, although the legal mechanism for doing so is different from what the bishops prefer.

I previously noted that some American nuns have been a role model of remonstrance. But the National Catholic Reporter has fully exposed the Bishops’ canard regarding abortion funding:

In any event, what is being debated is not the morality of abortion but the politics of abortion, and there is plenty of room for honest and respectful disagreement among Catholics about politics.

That said, the bishops have to be clear that some of their talking points might lead honest observers to question their competence – or worse. In the past week or so, much has been made of the bill’s provision of $7 billion dollars to community health centers. The National Right to Life Committee chimed in that this money could go to pay for abortions at clinics run by Planned Parenthood. Back to Logic 101: All Planned Parenthood clinics may be clinics, but not all health care clinics are Planned Parenthood clinics. The community health centers in question do not, never have, and have no intention of performing abortions, and they are prohibited by statute from doing so. This is a red herring and it was profoundly disappointing to see the USCCB Web site give credence to it.

Bottom line: The current legislation is not “pro-abortion,” and there is no, repeat no, federal funding of abortion in the bill.

But why are the bishops so adamant in their opposition to health care reform, even willing to dissemble the facts?  They are not saying, of course — but there is much circumstantial evidence to suggest they increasingly accept a more laissez-faire economic outlook of the sort espoused by Catholic neoconservatives.

I previously explained how Catholic GOP operatives such as Deal Hudson are twisting Catholic theology to oppose health care reform, often employing hard-core anti-abortion opponents such as Kansas City, Kansas Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann and Kansas City – St. Joseph Bishop Robert W. Finn in doing so. I then speculated:

When it comes to a layman such as Deal Hudson, I believe it is a case of a movement conservative disguising a very secular economic agenda in religious garb. Sean Winters’ description of Hudson “…busy worshipping at the pagan altar of the market…” pretty much says it all.

But what of the bishops? Obviously I cannot read their minds. Yet at the same time I suspect something of a quid-pro-quo may be going on. Bishops such as Finn and Naumann – and they are not the only ones — are so obsessed with issues such as abortion and euthanasia that they have lost all sense of perspective. I fear that these Catholic Right prelates recognize that their strongest supporters reside within the GOP and to that end they will all-too-gladly sell out forty-six million uninsured Americans to provide political payback. And to do so, they will twist Church doctrine into pretzel knots.

Fortunately, the nuns would have none of this mendacity and have shown that they have the courage to stand up to the bishops to advance reform and the ideal of the common both within Catholicism and the greater American community.

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