I note with disgust that numerous Catholic organizations have launched lawsuits against the Obama administration's health care policies, alleging that the latter violate the former's First Amendment rights.
This is one of the most egregiously hypocritical acts I've ever seen from the US Catholic Church, and it makes me very angry.
Consider the following facts:
- Many Catholic organizations actively campaigned in support of Obamacare. They included the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Catholic Charities and the Catholic Health Association. All three are subject to the supervision and control of US Catholic bishops. However, only a few bishops objected to their stance; the rest either tolerated it, or actively supported and encouraged it. Indeed, lobbyists for the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and other Catholic organizations are reported to have been key players in editing the final version of Obamacare to ensure it would be passed by Congress.
- The Catholic Health Association of the United States (CHAUSA) is still lobbying to influence public opinion in favor of Obamacare. It produced a video supporting Obamacare in 2009 to help pass the legislation, and its YouTube channel (labeled 'HealthReformWorks') has a number of more recent video clips supporting it. Its Web site has a section on its front page headed 'Popular Health Reform Resources', including (among other materials) a document titled 'Key Benefits of the Affordable Care Act: Messages to Communicate How the ACA Helps People Across America' (link is to an Adobe Acrobat document in .PDF format). Again, the CHAUSA has not been called to account by the USCCB as a whole for its stance - something the latter organization has not only the right, but the duty to do. So much for duty, eh?
- As I've pointed out before, Catholic organizations and individuals (including more than a few individual bishops) have long supported health care reform. The indispensable Karl Denninger has highlighted this in two reports.
- Rev. John Zuhlsdorf, a Catholic priest, reminds us: "The bishops supported Obamacare in principle. They thought they wanted to support an Obamacare without things that the Church objects to. They thought they wanted a top down healthcare much as what Vatican City State and Roman Curia employees get. The problem with buying into top down health care is that, once you permit it to take over, you won’t be able to stop whatever its administrators want to impose ... None of this means that we should stop fighting the Obama Administration’s attack on the 1st Amendment ... But let’s not be naive about how we got here in the first place." (Bold print is my emphasis.)
Perhaps the most insightful commentary on this whole imbroglio comes from Paul A. Rahe, who titles his article 'American Catholicism's Pact With the Devil'. It's so good that I'm going to quote from it at length.
At the prospect that institutions associated with the Catholic Church would be required to offer to their employees health insurance covering contraception and abortifacients, the bishops, priests, and nuns scream bloody murder. But they raise no objection at all to the fact that Catholic employers and corporations, large and small, owned wholly or partially by Roman Catholics will be required to do the same. The freedom of the church as an institution to distance itself from that which its doctrines decry as morally wrong is considered sacrosanct. The liberty of its members – not to mention the liberty belonging to the adherents of other Christian sects, to Jews, Muslims, and non-believers – to do the same they are perfectly willing to sacrifice.
. . .
In the 1930s, the majority of the bishops, priests, and nuns sold their souls to the devil, and they did so with the best of intentions. In their concern for the suffering of those out of work and destitute, they wholeheartedly embraced the New Deal. They gloried in the fact that Franklin Delano Roosevelt made Frances Perkins – a devout Anglo-Catholic laywoman who belonged to the Episcopalian Church but retreated on occasion to a Catholic convent – Secretary of Labor and the first member of her sex to be awarded a cabinet post. And they welcomed Social Security – which was her handiwork. They did not stop to ponder whether public provision in this regard would subvert the moral principle that children are responsible for the well-being of their parents. They did not stop to consider whether this measure would reduce the incentives for procreation and nourish the temptation to think of sexual intercourse as an indoor sport. They did not stop to think.
In the process, the leaders of the American Catholic Church fell prey to a conceit that had long before ensnared a great many mainstream Protestants in the United States – the notion that public provision is somehow akin to charity – and so they fostered state paternalism and undermined what they professed to teach: that charity is an individual responsibility and that it is appropriate that the laity join together under the leadership of the Church to alleviate the suffering of the poor. In its place, they helped establish the Machiavellian principle that underpins modern liberalism – the notion that it is our Christian duty to confiscate other people’s money and redistribute it.
At every turn in American politics since that time, you will find the hierarchy assisting the Democratic Party and promoting the growth of the administrative entitlements state. At no point have its members evidenced any concern for sustaining limited government and protecting the rights of individuals. It did not cross the minds of these prelates that the liberty of conscience which they had grown to cherish is part of a larger package – that the paternalistic state, which recognizes no legitimate limits on its power and scope, that they had embraced would someday turn on the Church and seek to dictate whom it chose to teach its doctrines and how, more generally, it would conduct its affairs.
I would submit that the bishops, nuns, and priests now screaming bloody murder have gotten what they asked for. The weapon that Barack Obama has directed at the Church was fashioned to a considerable degree by Catholic churchmen. They welcomed Obamacare. They encouraged Senators and Congressmen who professed to be Catholics to vote for it.
. . .
In my lifetime, to my increasing regret, the Roman Catholic Church in the United States has lost much of its moral authority. It has done so largely because it has subordinated its teaching of Catholic moral doctrine to its ambitions regarding an expansion of the administrative entitlements state.
. . .
Those who seek to create heaven on earth and who, to this end, subvert the liberty of others and embrace the administrative entitlements state will sooner or later become its victims.
. . .
Perhaps, however, Barack Obama has shaken some members of the hierarchy from their dogmatic slumber. Perhaps, a few of them – or among younger priests some of their likely successors – have begun to recognize the logic inherent in the development of the administrative entitlements state. The proponents of Obamacare, with some consistency, pointed to Canada and to France as models. As anyone who has attended mass in Montreal or Paris can testify, the Church in both of these places is filled with empty pews. There is, in fact, not a single country in the social democratic sphere where either the Catholic Church or a Protestant Church is anything but moribund. This is by no means fortuitous. When entitlements stand in for charity and the Social Gospel is preached in place of the Word of God, heaven on earth becomes the end, and Christianity goes by the boards.
It took a terrible scandal and a host of lawsuits to get the American Church to rid itself of the pederast priests and clean up its seminaries. Perhaps the tyrannical ambitions of Barack Obama will occasion a rethinking of the social-justice agenda.
There's much more at the link. I endorse Mr. Rahe's views, and recommend his article very highly indeed.
Catholic lawsuits against Obamacare on First Amendment grounds are therefore, as I said earlier, hypocritical in the extreme. I lost faith in US Catholic bishops some years ago over their abysmally incompetent, mendacious and duplicitous handling of the clergy sex abuse scandal, as regular readers of this blog will know (see the sidebar for my articles on that subject). This latest development merely confirms my earlier opinion. There are undoubtedly at least some good (even, perhaps, saintly) individual Bishops; but I cannot do otherwise but conclude that collectively, US Catholic bishops are no longer worthy of either trust or respect.