Health-care bill will fund abortions (or it won’t)

Despite having read hundreds — thousands? — of articles about health-care reform, I still can’t say that I have a real handle on the bill that the House may soon vote on.

I understand pieces of it, but have more questions than answers. I’m sure a lot of folks are in the same boat.

When it comes to the white-hot question of whether the bill will enable the public funding of abortions, it comes down in large part to who you listen to.

Cardinal Francis George, president of the U.S. Catholic Bishops Conference, writes that the bishops — who strongly support health-care reform in general — cannot support the bill:


imagesWhat do the bishops find so deeply disturbing about the Senate bill? The points at issue can be summarized briefly.  The status quo in federal abortion policy, as reflected in the Hyde Amendment, excludes abortion from all health insurance plans receiving federal subsidies. In the Senate bill, there is the provision that only one of the proposed multi-state plans will not cover elective abortions – all other plans (including other multi-state plans) can do so, and receive federal tax credits. This means that individuals or families in complex medical circumstances will likely be forced to choose and contribute to an insurance plan that funds abortions in order to meet their particular health needs.


Americans United for Life sent out a mass email today asking for donations and warning that:


We’re teetering on the precipice of the greatest tragedy since Roe v. Wade.

In the next few days, under the guise of “health care” reform, President Obama, Speaker Pelosi, and Senator Reid – with the help of Planned Parenthood – could pass the largest expansion of abortion since Roe v. Wade … and your tax dollars could be paying for it.

If they win, 2010 will be remembered as another 1973 – another milestone in their battle to promote abortion on every street corner in America.


But the AP is reporting today that leaders of religious orders who represent 59,000 Catholic nuns have come out in favor of the bill. Their letter includes this:


Despite false claims to the contrary, the Senate bill will not provide taxpayer funding for elective abortions. 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.



banner_profileThe AP also reports that Rep. Dale Kildee of Michigan, a Democrat who opposes abortion and supported tough restrictions in other health-care proposals, said he concluded that the Senate bill would bar federal funding for abortion.

“Voting for this bill in no way diminishes my pro-life voting record or undermines my beliefs,” he said. “I am a staunch pro-life member of Congress, both for the born and the unborn.”

It’s been widely reported that the Catholic Health Association, which represents Catholic hospitals, is also in favor of the bill. The group’s president writes:


CHA has a major concern on life issues. We said there could not be any federal funding for abortions and there had to be strong funding for maternity care, especially for vulnerable women. The bill now being considered allows people buying insurance through an exchange to use federal dollars in the form of tax credits and their own dollars to buy a policy that covers their health care. If they choose a policy with abortion coverage, then they must write a separate personal check for the cost of that coverage.

There is a requirement that the insurance companies be audited annually to assure that the payment for abortion coverage fully covers the administrative and clinical costs, that the payment is held in a separate account from other premiums, and that there are no federal dollars used.


So there you go.

UPDATE: The Bishops Conference has sent out this statement about supposed support for the bill from a group of nuns (as reported by the AP and repeated by everyone else):


Washington – A recent letter from Network, a social justice lobby of sisters, grossly overstated whom they represent in a letter to Congress that was also released to media.

Network’s letter, about health care reform, was signed by a few dozen people, and despite what Network said, they do not come anywhere near representing 59,000 American sisters.

The letter had 55 signatories, some individuals, some groups of three to five persons. One endorser signed twice.

There are 793 religious communities in the United States.

The math is clear. Network is far off the mark.

Catholic-Anglican, Catholic-Jewish updates

A couple of quick updates:

1. I tried to make some sense yesterday of the Vatican’s plans for welcoming disaffected Anglicans. Seveal readers thought it’s a bigger deal than I did — and they may be right.

tjndc5-5b1zfjkl3wh1kt3dbk3i_layoutI got a pithy reaction from Bishop Catherine Roskam, the assistant bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New York, which I share here:


We appreciate the welcome the pope extended to those in the Anglican communion who are disaffected. We for our part continue to welcome our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters, both lay and ordained, conservative and liberal, who wish to belong to a church that treasures diversity of thought.


John Allen has a comprehensive analysis of “What the Vatican’s Welcome of Anglicans means” HERE.

2. I wrote at the start of the week about Archbishop Dolan planning to take part in a program about Catholic-Jewish relations with the chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary in NYC.

It turns out that Dolan will be focusing quite a bit about Catholic relations with the Jewish community — and not just in New York.

tjndc5-5p0fc6hpy5iqbjxb6h4_thumbnailHe’s been named Moderator of Jewish Affairs for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, a pretty significant role. He’s replacing Cardinal William H. Keeler, the retired Archbishop of Baltimore, who has been a key international figure in Catholic-Jewish relations.

The appointment is effective Nov. 11 and is good for five years.

Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, president of the Bishops  Conference, says:


Since the Second Vatican Council, important strides in this relationship have been made through dialogue and collaboration in countering racism, anti-Semitism and other offenses against human dignity. Our Episcopal Conference, through the leadership of your predecessors in New York, and especially through the tireless and generous service of Cardinal William Keeler, has sought to contribute to the work of reconciliation between the Church and the Jewish people after centuries of mutual estrangement. While we look back with gratitude on nearly a half century of progress in these efforts at healing and renewal, we also know that important and pressing challenges lie ahead for us.


George also said that the Jewish community will find Dolan to be “a friend who communicates the joy of his own faith, while at the same time conveying profound respect for the spiritual gifts of the other.”

Dolan will join Keeler on November 11 for the semi-annual USCCB’s consultation with the National Council of Synagogues — with Dolan taking over as co-chair.

Vatican: Williamson must recant

The Vatican said today that Bishop Richard Williamson — the traditionalist who said that no Jews were gassed by Nazi Germany — must disavow his statements before he can function as a bishop.

A statement said: “The positions of Bishop Williamson on the Holocaust are absolutely unacceptable and are strongly rejected by the Holy Father.”

Williamson is one of four bishops belonging to the Society of St. Pius X whose excommunications were recently lifted by the pope.

As I wrote in last week’s FaithBeat column, the society’s U.S. website has all kinds of strange statements about the Jews. Take a look at this article, “The mystery of the Jewish people in history.”

It includes this nugget:

Ever since Christ was lifted up on Mount Calvary, the world has been subjected to two truly opposite forces: the Jewish force and the Christian.

In the world as it is, there can be only two truly basic modes, two poles of attraction: the Christian and the Jewish. Only two religions: Christian and Jewish. All that is not of Christ and for Christ is done in favor of Judaism. It follows from that, that the de-Christianizing of the world runs parallel to its Judaizing.

Jewish leaders are applauding the Vatican’s move today. Here’s one statement:

The International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations applauds the Vatican for clarifying that Holocaust denier Richard Williamson is not welcome in the Catholic Church until he recants his deplorable statements concerning the Shoah. In addition IJCIC welcomes the clear insistence of the Vatican that the members of the SSPX accept the teaching of the Second Vatican Council in general and those pertaining to Jews and Judaiasm in particular.

“We hope that this clarification can put this unfortunate episode behind us and enable us to continue progressing along the remarkable and historic path along which Catholic-Jewish relations have advanced in the last half century” said Rabbi David Rosen, IJCIC Chairman.

If you missed it, Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, released a statement about the whole affair, which includes:

As is now widely known, one of the four bishops, Richard Williamson, has recently made some deeply offensive and utterly false statements about the Holocaust of the Second World War. Bishop Williamson has denied historical facts about the Shoah, in which six million Jews were cruelly annihilated, innocent victims of blind racial and religious hatred. These comments have evoked understandable outrage from within the Jewish community and also from among our own Catholic people. No Catholic, whether lay person, priest or bishop can ever negate the memory of the Shoah, just as no Catholic should ever tolerate expressions of anti-Semitism and religious bigotry.

Cardinal Egan: Say it with ‘punch’

This quotation from Cardinal Egan is flying around the blogosphere today:

“We have a very important thing to say. I think we should say it clearly and with a punch.”


Egan was referring to a statement that the U.S. Catholic Bishops Conference — now meeting in Baltimore — is preparing that will ask/tell/warn President-elect Obama not to expand abortion rights. Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, president of the conference, is working on it.

Some of the statements coming out of Baltimore are increasingly aggressive.

Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City said this of Catholic politicians who support abortion rights (including Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius): “They cannot call themselves Catholic when they violate such a core belief as the dignity of the unborn.”

The bishops must be a bit anxious over the fact that 54% of Catholics voted for Obama, according to exit polls. But I get the feeling they are more perturbed over their inability to construct a clear message on politics and abortion.

Not that it’s easy.

But they probably want to do better than: “Catholics are not single-issue voters, but abortion is really the only issue that matters, so Catholic politicians can’t support abortion rights, but we’re not sure what to say to those who do, and most of us won’t say anything about withholding Communion, and we’d much prefer that Catholic Democrats not run for president or vice president or really any public office at all!”

Cardinal Egan, by the way, continues to draw praise from anti-abortion activists for his recent column that compares the “deceit” of abortion to the deceit of Hitler and Stalin. But he is also taking heat from many bloggers for hanging with Obama at the Al Smith Dinner and thereby sending mixed messages on abortion.

A day with Cardinal George

How does an archbishop spend his day?

cardinalgeorge_200_07.jpgThe Chicago Tribune spent a day with Cardinal Francis George, the new president of the U.S. Bishops Conference and the cardinal/archbishop who is generally considered the first among equals these days.

It’s a fun read that starts like this:

The cardinal archbishop of Chicago is confused. The subject is jelly.

It goes deeper, don’t worry.

The Tribune’s , describing the start of the day, writes:

Starting at one corner of the room and making a sweeping gesture with his hand, the cardinal explains that his books are grouped into sections. The literature section includes works as diverse as T.S. Eliot’s poems and C.S. Lewis’ space fantasies, a remnant of what was once a larger collection of science-fiction books.

Later in the day, George is similarly gracious as he rides a freight elevator at the archdiocesan offices on Superior Street with Sister Mary Paul McCaughey of the Dominican Sisters of Springfield. They chat amiably on their way to a first-floor news conference at which the cardinal is to introduce her as the new Catholic schools superintendent.

Once the cardinal walks in front of the cameras, though, his smile disappears. Here he carries the full weight of his lofty position as head of the local Catholic church. He is the representative of millions of church members and for a 2,000-year-old faith.