Tuesday, March 23, 2010

As for the Bishops . . .

In an op-ed at PoliticsDaily.com, David Gibson, author of The Coming Catholic Church: How the Faithful are Shaping a New American Catholicism, writes:

. . . The passage of health care reform could . . . quite easily be read as a serious setback for the many lobbies that oppose abortion. If their apocalyptic warnings come true -- which appears more unlikely than ever -- then they have lost the greatest battle in the abortion wars since Roe v. Wade. In addition, they could begin to see the Democrats take some of the pro-life mantle from the Republican Party, which could potentially lead to a significant electoral shift.

But groups like the Family Research Council, National Right to Life Committee and Americans United for Life have often worked most effectively when they were in the minority, much like their Republican allies. And even in the run-up to the historic bill's passage, these groups were capitalizing on fears about the legislation to raise money. They are sure to pursue that strategy with even greater fervor as the fall campaign approaches.

As for the Catholic bishops, the other central player in this drama, there appear to be few redeeming elements.

Their run as political dealmakers was cut short by their own miscalculations, and within the church they did little to burnish their already strained credibility. Politically conservative Catholics were already angry that the bishops supported such a repellent idea as universal health care in the first place, and many blame them for not succeeding in killing the bill altogether. The more liberal members, including pro-life elements, of the church, on the other hand, saw the greater (and common) good of health care reform as so obvious that they just shrugged the bishops off.

"Catholic members of Congress showed that they will not bow to the bishops when it comes to something that is outside their area of expertise -- namely the interpretation of legislative language," said Father Thomas Reese, a Jesuit priest and longtime observer of politics both inside the church and the Beltway.

And in the background, of course, is the other dominant Catholic story line of the last decade, that of the sexual abuse of children by clergy, which is emerging again in Europe and even the Vatican, doing the reputation of the hierarchy no favors.

Then again, at the end of the day Congress took a major step toward universal, affordable health care that will not finance abortions and will likely go a long way toward reducing abortions by supporting pregnant women and financing adoptions.

So the bishops won in the end, even if they don't know it. The problem is, no one else does either.

- David Gibson
How the Bishops Lost, Even as Their Cause Prevailed
March 2010

Recommended Off-site Link:
The Bishops and the Catholic Health Association: On Different Sides of An Age Old Question - Colleen Koghivar-Baker (Enlightened Catholicism, March 23, 2010).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
American Catholics and Obama
The Bishops and Obama (Part 1)
The Bishops and Obama (Part 2)
Why the Bishops Are Being Ignored


Mareczku said...

Excellent article. Thanks for sharing it.

kevin57 said...

Nobody, and I reiterate, nobody knows for sure what this reform will mean for individuals or for the common good. Bottom line: unless we get medical expenses more in line with Europe's 6 or 7% of GDP rather than our 16 or 17%, it's game over. Ideology won't mean a damn thing.