Here was a verrry interesting Associated Press story yesterday on just how involved the US Conference of Catholic Bishops - God bless 'em - were in getting the Stupak/Pitts Amendment into the healthcare bill. Pretty wild...
The call came in from Rome, just as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her top lieutenants were scrambling to round up scarce votes to pass their sweeping health overhaul.
Cardinal Theodore McCarrick [pictured right], the former archbishop of Washington, was on the line for Pelosi, calling to discuss adding strict abortion restrictions to the House bill.
It was just 1 element of an intensive lobbying effort orchestrated by the nation's Catholic bishops, who have emerged as a formidable force in the health care negotiations. They used their clout with millions of Catholics and worked behind the scenes in Congress to make sure the abortion curbs were included in the legislation - and are now pressing to keep them there....
They don't spend a dime on what is legally defined as lobbying, but lawmakers and insiders recognize that the bishops' voices matter - and they move votes. Representatives for the bishops were in Pelosi's Capitol suite negotiating with top officials for 3 hours last Friday evening as they reached final terms of the agreement. That was just hours after Pelosi, a Catholic abortion rights supporter, took the call from McCarrick.
Boston's Cardinal Sean O'Malley personally appealed to President Barack Obama about the issue near the church altar at the early September funeral for Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-MA. Bishops quietly called their congressmen and senators to weigh in.
"The Catholic Church used their power - their clout, if you will - to influence this issue. They had to. It's a basic teaching of the religion," said Rep. Bart Stupak, D-MI, a leading abortion foe and architect of the health measure's restrictions.
It was Stupak who told Pelosi last Friday that if she wanted a deal on the health bill, she'd be well advised to invite the bishops' staff, who were already in his office, to her table. "I said, 'Well, they're here, and they're one of the key groups you want to have on your side, so why don't we just bring them in and work this out," Stupak said.
Pelosi did, and the result was a final measure that - much to the outrage of abortion rights supporters - bars a new government-run insurance plan from covering abortions, except in cases or rape, incest or the life of the mother being in danger, and prohibits any health plan that receives federal subsidies in a new insurance marketplace from offering abortion coverage. If women wanted to purchase abortion coverage through such plans, they'd have to buy it separately, as a so-called rider on their insurance policies.
The outcome has put Obama and Democratic leaders - already struggling for consensus on the complex and politically tricky health measure - in a tough spot. Democratic abortion foes in the Senate vow they won't support health legislation that omits the strict restrictions approved by the House, while abortion rights champions say they can't possibly vote for a bill that contains them.
Obama suggested Monday that he wants to strike a balance that doesn't allow backdoor federal funding of abortions but preserves women's insurance choices. For now, however, no such middle ground has been identified, and the bishops have served their notice that they will be a player - perhaps the dominant one - in the final outcome.
The US Conference of Catholic Bishops, the church's Washington-based advocacy organization, which is staffed by more than 350 lay people, derives its power in large part from the sheer number of Catholics in this country - 68 million - but also from the special moral and religious standing of its members. Many of them are in regular contact with lawmakers, weighing in on issues from immigration policy to benefits for low-income people.
The conference distributed fliers to every parish in the nation asking people to pray for abortion restrictions and to call their congressmen and senators asking them to "fix these bills with pro-life amendments."
Some have publicly pressured Catholic elected officials to fall in line with the church's position on abortion. Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence and Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-RI, abruptly canceled a meeting they had planned for Thursday to calm a simmering feud over the issue. Kennedy has criticized the church for threatening to block the health measure over abortion curbs, and Tobin has questioned whether Kennedy can call himself a Catholic given that he has opposed the strict abortion limits bishops were seeking to add.
Kathy Saile of the conference said Democratic leaders were willing to listen to the group because it has been in favor of the party's broader push for a health overhaul.
"We stayed in the conversation until the end, because the bishops have always been adamant about the need for genuine health care reform and want to see health care reform happen," Saile said.
Another factor that undoubtedly helped: Democrats are keenly aware of the power of Catholic voters, more than 50%t of whom embraced Obama in the 2008 election. That was a substantial swing after Catholics had eschewed the 2004 Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. John Kerry of MA, who is Catholic.
The outcome left abortion-rights supporters, who couldn't muster enough votes in the House to head off Catholic abortion foes' intervention, fuming. The bishops "essentially got signoff. They dictated this, and it's totally inappropriate - it's blatant interference between church and state," said Eleanor Smeal of the Feminist Majority. "The women's movement and the pro-choice forces feel like they were had."
Rep. Diana DeGette, D-CO, a prominent abortion rights supporter who has gathered the signatures of more than 40 representatives who refuse to back a health bill that contains the restrictions, said the bishops had been allowed to overstep their bounds.
"No one group should get to dictate the outcome of legislation in Congress," DeGette said. "Every group should be listened to, but I don't think one group should be given veto authority over what we do."
[HT: Dougy; photo via AP]
Is this a great day to be alive or what!?
Way to go Bishops!!!
"The Catholic Church used their power - their clout, if you will - to influence this issue. They had to. It's a basic teaching of the religion," said Rep. Bart Stupak, D-MI
Amen and amen. It's called being the salt of the earth and the light of the world.
The bishops "essentially got signoff. They dictated this, and it's totally inappropriate - it's blatant interference between church and state," said Eleanor Smeal of the Feminist Majority.
Sorry Eleanor, it's totally appropriate. The Church of the Lord Jesus Christ is supposed to influence the society, especially a corrupt government that has already legalized child-killing and now has some factions that want to use my hard-earned tax dollars to pay for it.
We gotta keep the pedal to the metal 'til we achieve total victory. We've got a long ways to go, but it's ours if we fight for it.
"No one group should get to dictate the outcome of legislation in Congress"
"Except for MY group!"
Hypocrits.Posted by: Alex at November 12, 2009 5:48 PM
They're a bunch of whiners!Posted by: Ed at November 12, 2009 5:57 PM
Electing a professing Catholic to public office is a choice that voters willingly made. If the Catholic politician is indeed a Catholic, then they are Catholic at all times. It is obvious how they will always vote on certain issues.
If they disagree with Catholic truth about certain issues, then they had the right to NOT vote for the Catholic representative. However, many Americans did vote for Catholic representatives, often just because they are Catholics. They should expect nothing but Catholic behavior from them in ALL respects, at ALL times, in ALL situations. Catholicism is an all or nothing religion.Posted by: Ted at November 12, 2009 6:01 PM
The First Amendment (in the Bill of Rights) states: "Congress shall make no law . . .or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
People do not lose this Constitutional right to petition the Government simply because they have become bishops.Posted by: TeaPot at November 12, 2009 6:10 PM
Let's not forget that abortion isn't the only reason to vote against the bill. We can't afford it. It could bring financial ruin to our country. Forcing people to buy something they don't want is wrong, but that's what the bill will do. Can't start over and take baby steps instead of passing this monster of a bill?
Congress has forgotten that they work for us, not the other way around.
New title for the post, Jill.
Bishops Rock the House.Posted by: carder at November 13, 2009 9:51 AM
Don't believe the hype: The USCCB have LONG
been in covert collusion with Political and
Economic powers, and this latest "revelation"
is merely a smoke-screen.
BELIEVE: THE Battle, is being WON,
and GOD, is GREATER!
Psalm 110 is NOW,
Micah 7;15 is NOW,
Amos 9;11 is NOW,
Daniel 12;1 is HERE...ALL, for The Greater
Glory of GOD!
I fail to see how this amendment is in line with Catholic teaching. Catholic teaching is that abortion is never justified but this amendment allows payment of abortions "in case of rape, incest and health of the mother being in danger". That is not in line with Catholic teaching. Futhermore, "health of the mother is very broad and will allow any and all abortions, all they need is a doctor to say the mother is in danger. Excuse me if I am not thrilled at the Bishops and Catholics who cheer this amendment.Posted by: irene at November 13, 2009 3:01 PM
I see your point - this isn't ideal and I'm not exactly cheering, it's too early. I think the Bishops accomplished two things by intervening. One, they increased the dialog about abortion by forcing politicians to address it. Two, at this point, abortion restrictions haven't been loosened.
"Bishops Rock the House."
Posted by: carder at November 13, 2009 9:51 AM
Very good! :)
".... and on this rock I will build my Church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it." (Mt 16)
Praise God!Posted by: Janet at November 13, 2009 3:58 PM
I think it is great that the Church has dropped any pretense of being a religious or charitable institution and has become strictly a political advocacy organization. When the Church loses its tax free status, the property taxes alone will balance many state and local budgets.Posted by: Bystander at November 13, 2009 7:15 PM
"Dropped pretense"? How so?
Property taxes? Most church buildings sit on very small pieces of property and only the largest Cathedrals are worth much. Don't think there's a lot of cash sitting around. Balance budgets? Right.Posted by: Janet at November 13, 2009 7:48 PM
Well, Janet, the Church has indicated that it will cease any charitable work in DC if they approve gay marriage. That indicates that their political postion-hatred of gay people, prevails over any charitable purpose they may have had.Posted by: Bystander at November 13, 2009 9:42 PM
I fail to see how this amendment is in line with Catholic teaching. Catholic teaching is that abortion is never justified but this amendment allows payment of abortions "in case of rape, incest and health of the mother being in danger". That is not in line with Catholic teaching. Futhermore, "health of the mother is very broad and will allow any and all abortions, all they need is a doctor to say the mother is in danger. Excuse me if I am not thrilled at the Bishops and Catholics who cheer this amendment.
You need to read more carefully. There's an exception for threats to the mother's life, not "health."Posted by: HuckFinn at November 13, 2009 9:47 PM
Did you know that your hero, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the former archbishop of Washington, is gay and was accused by many male co-workers of sexual harassment? They guy is scum and I'm a Catholic saying so.Posted by: Shelley at November 14, 2009 1:36 PM
Abortion for rape and incest has never gotten women anything other than MORE rape and incest.
Killing and cutting up a baby in utero is also not a procedure which is useful in preserving the life of the mother.
The ABORTION exceptions are useless to women as well as being against Catholic teaching.
When a woman's life is in danger from a pregnancy, it is medically appropriate to deliver early and attempt to save both lives. The abortion surgery is unnecessary risk to the mother.
I raised objections on the intrusion of the USCCB regarding the Stupak-Pitts amendment with my local Catholic Conference after they had boasted about the great pro-life victory. My argument was that I was convinced it was done to give " cover " to pro-life congressmen so they could then vote in favor of the Bill. I felt sure that had the amendment not been inserted the Bill would have failed ( a much better outcome in my opinion). I knew that the USCCB had been in favor of broad based health reform and so had Caritas and many other Catholic groups. By the way the Bishops and Caritas seem to also be supporting " Climate " change legislation on a large scale. I think the Bishops feel that if the Stupak-Pitts amendment is thrown out in Conference and the Bill becomes law they can assuage their consciences by saying they gave it the " old college try."
There are many things wrong with the position of the Bishops. The first thing is that they did not demand amendment protection for other pro-life issues ( i.e. stem cell research, invitro fertilization, family planning, protection of consciences for medical personnel and pharmacists, school based health clinics, etc.). Secondly, they totally disregarded the principle of subsidiarity. This principle clearly weighs against placing the nations health care entirely into the hands of government bureaucrats. Thirdly, this Bill clearly violates many individual, corporate, and State constitutional rights, including exposing our most private health care details to an army of bureaucrats and opening our bank accounts to the same army. Finally, the Bill will be a severe financial hard ship to the nation, will greatly increase taxes, and will add to the national debt at a time when the the Bishops and every Pastor in the country are begging for more money!!!
I think, to put a polite face on it, that the Bishops got snookered and they did their flocks a disservice by greatly advancing the cause of Socialism by supporting socialized medicine.