Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Bishops' Abdication of Responsibility

I've promised myself that I would not spend much time on this, as I have another calling that demands my time in this same moral fight. I've been going back and forth with a popular Catholic radio show host and long-time friend about the HHS Contraception Mandate and Healthcare. He disagrees with Paul Rahe and Rush Limbaugh (who passionately read on-air most of Paul Rahe's essay "American Catholicism's Pact with the Devil"), who claim that the bishops have brought this troubling infringement of the government on themselves by being so supportive of government sponsored and mandated healthcare... as long as it didn't include abortion, contraception, et al.

The following blurb confirms that the bishops have long been a supporter of universal healthcare INITIATED AND CONTROLLED BY THE GOVERNMENT (with a few moral limits). Let's first put that stake in the ground, and then examine the consequences of the bishop's actions.

This came last night from

====== QUOTE======
The following came from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops on February 14

WASHINGTON—The White House press secretary, Jay Carney, said in a press briefing at the White House on February 13, “...I would simply note with regard to the bishops that they never supported health care reform to begin with...”
“This is not the case,” said Bishop Stephen Blaire, chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

“Since 1919, the United States Catholic bishops have supported decent health care for all and government and private action to advance this essential goal,” Bishop Blaire said.“Long before the current battles, the Catholic Church was persistently and consistently advocating for this overdue national priority.”

In the recent health care debate the bishops called universal and affordable health care “an urgent national priority and moral imperative.” The U.S. Conference’s criteria insisted reform should be truly universal, protect human life and conscience and not discriminate against immigrants. “The [conference] opposed the final legislation because it failed this test, a judgment sadly but clearly borne out by the failure of the law and the recent regulation to protect conscience and religious liberty,” explained Bishop Blaire.

“I hope those who made or repeated this false statement will correct the record and report the bishops’ long and consistent record of  support for health care which protects the life, dignity and consciences of all, especially the poor and vulnerable.”

====== END QUOTE======

My radio friend points out that the bishops' support of Obamacare (sans the morally repugnant coverages for things like contraception and abortion) is consistent with the Church's teachings that seek the solidarity of humanity, the distribution of the earth's goods from those who have abundance to those in need, and the principle of subsidiarity.

I too agree with what the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) teaches us in regards to these principles, without hesitation. I understand how they are in accordance with Natural Law. I don't believe them blindly, but know I can defend them easily.

But I believe that the bishops err when they transfer responsibility for the fulfillment of those concepts from the venue of the individual, the family, and small organizations controlled by individuals (all with the oversight of the Church), into the hands of a government that is not prepared to be the moral arbiter of all things human, which healthcare nearly encompasses.

And my reading of the CCC backs up that view. Nowhere does the Church remove itself or the family from the responsibility of these things, and nowhere does the CCC give that responsibility into the hands of the civil authorities

My friend asks me if I think I know more about the teachings of the Church that the bishops? Of course not. But I'm not arguing "knowledge" but rather "practice" and the wisdom and discernment that accompany the implementing of that knowledge. Many lay persons were slow to hold the bishops accountable for their wisdom and discernment of how they dealt with sexually abusive priests.  Knowledge in that scandal was not the issue. Wisdom was. I have a letter from one particular bishop that declares to me that protecting the collegiality of the bishops is more important than publicly taking a pro life stance. Cardinal Ratzinger declares that shepherds who let poison spread in order to avoid conflict are like "mute dogs" and he finds their actions "repulsive. " So, I'm not real quick to embrace the bishops individual or collective actions without some common sense comparisons to Church doctrine and principles. You don't need to be a theologian to realize that a government that legalizes abortion, contraception, and fosters all sort of other immoral practices is not prepared to legislate and rule the morally delicate territory of healthcare. And in such an environment the bishop's embrace of government mandated healthcare is mind-boggling. Indeed it goes beyond mind-boggling. It's irrational.

So, why then are the bishops so anxious for the government to do such a thing? I think it's because they have inadvertently given up their God given responsibility to be moral leaders. They see themselves as impotent and unable to persuade their sheep to follow them. Their laxness in publicly excommunicating various politicians like Nancy Pelosi is an example of their avoidance of conflict, hoping to foster respect by tolerating evil.  They believe that government coercion will work better than Christ's love as exampled in the Church. (Admittedly, with recent scandals, which the bishops have been partly responsible for furthering, they are right that people do not universally see the Church as a great example of Christ's love.)

But the solution isn't to abdicate their responsibility to the government, which is what they have done, and why Rush Limbaugh and Paul Rahe say the bishops have sold their souls to the devil. The solution is for the bishop's to humbly re-embrace their leadership role as society's moral leaders and actively and publicly guide the work of solidarity and the distribution of goods. How should that be done? Certainly not through government taxation and coercion, which violates the principles of true charity and marginalizes an individual's accountability to live out the Golden Rule. But rather the bishops should lobby vigorously for laws that encourage individual responsibility, and that facilitate individual generosity and accountability. And then the bishops need to motivate the laity to live out the beauty of Christ's teachings to care for those in need around us. I think many people do this naturally. Certainly, many of the very rich in this country actively give away more of their wealth than they keep. It is the individual generosity of those who have abundance that builds educational institutions, and funds non-profits that do, literally, a world of good. Exempting such generosity from taxation (both of the giver and the receiver) is just one way that government fulfills the Church's request for human solidarity and distribution of goods. It is the individual, and small organizations led by individuals where bureaucracy is at a minimum, that the Church's principles that bring dignity to the human endeavor are most efficient and effective.

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