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November 2009 Archives

November 8, 2009

How Catholic Democrats (and one Catholic Republican) voted on the health care reform bill

House Democrats late Saturday night overcame a mountain of insurance industry opposition to pass the first substantive healthcare reform legislation since Medicare passed more than 40 years ago. Some conservatives sought to use the abortion issue as a foil to defeat life-saving coverage for all Americans, but Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Rep Bart Stupak proved the duplicity of the conservatives by amending the legislation with prohibitions on federal supplements for any plans that pay for abortion--despite the historic concessions on the abortion issue, only one Republican had the courage to vote in favor of the bill. Rep Anh "Joe" Cao of Louisiana, himself a Catholic and a former Jesuit priest, added the lone bipartisan stroke of affirmation.


Conservatives had increasingly sought in recent years to portray the Democrats as a "pro-abortion" party, but sixty-four Democrats voted in favor of Stupak's amendment. Democrats who opposed the amendment generally indicated that they felt the legislation itself had provided adequate assurance that the status quo on abortion funding would be maintained. The original bill had included language maintaining current restrictions on federal funding for abortion and guaranteeing conscience rights for doctors.

The US Conference of Catholic Bishops, in pastoral letters issued in 1981 and 1993, had called for universal healthcare coverage. In bulletin inserts distributed across the country, the bishops asserted the importance of opposing federal funding for abortion in the new healthcare legislation. The final bill incorporated language addressing all the bishops concerns about that issue, and advanced a key Catholic public policy priority--to stop the suffering and death that had accelerated in recent years among Americans who could not afford health insurance.

"This is a day for celebration among Catholics and all Americans who believe that life's greatest test is how deeply we care for one another," said Dr Patrick Whelan, president of Catholic Democrats. "Those who attempted to use the abortion issue to defeat health reform put their dishonesty on full display Saturday by opposing this life-saving legislation despite the extraordinary precautions that were included to address the expressed concerns," he said.

39 Democrats voted against the legislation, including ten Catholics. Among them was Rep Dennis Kucinich from Cleveland. In contrast to many others, Kucinich indicated that his opposition was a result of the fact that the legislation did not go far enough to address the needs of people without insurance. "An amendment which would have protected the rights of states to pursue single-payer health care was stripped from the bill at the request of the Administration. Looking ahead, we cringe at the prospect of even greater favors for insurance companies."

Rep Eric Massa, from a large district in Western New York, also complained about what he saw as the shortcomings of the legislation, saying, "This bill will enshrine in law the monopolistic powers of the private health insurance industry, period. There's really no other way to look at it. I believe the private health insurance industry is part of the problem."

The other Catholic Democratic members of Congress opposing the legislation were Jason Altmire (PA-4), Gene Taylor (MS-4), Jim Marshall (GA-8), Charlie Melancon (LA-3), Betsy Markey (CO-4), Michael E. McMahon (NY-13), Tim Holden (PA-17), John Boccieri (OH-16), and Jason Altmire (PA-4).

Their reasons for opposing the measure were varied. Another Cleveland area representative, John Boccieri, said he supported providing coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, but was concerned about the cost. He had joined other House Democrats earlier in the day on a procedural vote to permit debate on the health care bill to begin. Staten Island Rep McMahon issued a statement that applauded many of the goals of the legislation, but explained his 'no' vote by saying, "I do not believe that the House bill goes far enough in containing the cost curve in which healthcare spending takes up a larger and larger share of our GDP."

Attention now moves to the Senate, where Republicans have vowed to block insurance reform. "We urge the Catholic members of Congress to support this landmark legislation, and the progress it represents in helping to realize the Gospel imperative of making health and healing available to all Americans," said Dr Whelan.

November 26, 2009

Fr McCarthy's reflections on "The Manhattan Declaration"

Several Catholic bishops, led by Cardinal Justin Rigali, signed on to a September 2009 statement by a New Jersey lawyer, Robert George, that trumpets the Republican social agenda. Few in the conservative movement realize what a toxic effect George had on the public debate this past year, particularly in his writing during the presidential campaign. His oratorical flourishes scaled new summits of scorn in ideologically blistering indictments of then candidate Obama that were cloaked in Catholic language. Rev Charles McCarthy, a co-founder of Pax Christi USA, responds to this conservative manifesto that was co-signed by Tony Perkins, James Dobson, George Weigel and Bill Donohue.

The Manhattan Declaration is a PR trick. It is condemning in a public forum what Jesus certainly would have rejected, while approving--via public and private silence and active support in daily operation for decades--what Jesus equally and unequivocally rejects. All the signatories, I know, are old hands at doing this nationally and locally: taking the moral high ground on denouncing what is inconsistent with the Way of Jesus on some issues, while saying nothing on or overtly endorsing other matters that are equally contrary to the Will and Way of God as revealed by Jesus.

Natural human reason is their universal loophole to justify overriding the self-evident teachings of Jesus on Nonviolent Love of friends and enemies and thereby follow Him by killing and maiming millions in war. But, remember, Jesus is the Logos (Word) of God, the Source and ultimate norm of what they call natural human reason (which is itself, in our view, the gift of a beneficent God), and in the very nature of the human person. A Jesus, that is Logos, de-nuded understanding of natural human reason [See my "Christian Just War Theory: Spiritual Quicksand" essay in my book Christian Natural Law Just War Theory:The Logic of Deceit ] is how they all attempt to by-pass those logical network of implications and applications of the teaching of Jesus that they find inconsistent with their interests to be faithful and obedient to.

God is not illogical, says Pope Benedict XVI in his Regensburg University address. His exact words are Not to act reasonably (with logos) is contrary to the nature of God...(T)he truly divine God is the God who has revealed himself as logos and, as logos, has acted and continues to act lovingly on our behalf...Consequently, Christian worship is "logic latreĆ­a" -- worship in harmony with the eternal Word and with our reason...Not to act "with logos" is contrary to God's nature.

However, Jesus is the Logos, who is the incarnation of God, God, and who is the source and creator of natural law and therefore cannot communicate one truth as God's Will and Way in the Sermon on the Mount and the Sermon on Golgotha and the logical opposite of that truth as also truth via natural law, i.e, via the proper use of natural human reason in the very nature of the human person--that the Logos created. Natural human reason itself logically tells us with transparent clarity that if a use of Logos-given and Logos-imbued natural human reason arrives at a moral conclusion logically contrary to what the Logos incarnate, Jesus, taught, when He dwelt among us, a man like us in all things but sin, then it is self-evident we have to be employing our Logos-given and Logos-imbued understanding of the Logos-created natural law incorrectly.

The Manhattan Declaration is but the latest strategy in the ancient game of moral charades which Constantinian Christians and Churches--that have bonded with the economic and political powers of one of the kingdoms of this world--have played for 1700 years. The Manhattan Declaration is an arch-misrepresentation of what Jesus taught and meant by "Follow me." It intentionally mis-directs people away from other equally serious and grave logical applications of the teachings of Jesus on the sanctity of life and the Will and Way of God, e.g. war. Therefore, it is an exercise in deceit--and hence a contemporary instrument and blatant example of intentional half-truth-false-witness.

Rev Charles E McCarthy

Saturday, February 24, 2018

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"Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America: They will be met.

"On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.

"On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics."

First Inaugural Address, President Barack Obama

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