I am not competent to speak to health care policy. I can tell you the pitfalls of the current system and its strengths from personal experience only; I can talk about economic incentives and disincentives to behavior in the system as it exists and in the system as it will soon exist from my extremely limited grasp of economics; and I can talk about the process of shopping health insurance for an individual or for a small business. But on the merits of the system as it currently stands against the bill that was passed in the Senate months ago and the House last night, I'm unashamedly out of my depth. I leave that to the wiser people who write here.
I can talk about the Catholic Church and its profound failure yesterday.
It is not an understatement to say that the American Catholic Church lost the abortion wars for three decades, and only began to dig in and hold ground starting with the election of the extremely Protestant George W. Bush.
That loss can be attributed to hundreds of factors - among them, the cultural shifts the Baby Boom's coming of age set in motion, the liberalization of the Church following Vatican II, and William Brennan (the nominal Catholic on the Supreme Court for decades) being one of the leading hands in crafting the nearly immutable law that contradicts one of his alleged Church's oldest teachings - but some blame belongs with the deliberate decision of the Church hierarchy to remain allied with the national Democratic Party, long after the majority of its flock had left behind the old urban enclaves.
There is a clear line that runs from treating the Kennedy clan as Catholic royalty for six decades, through ignoring the legions of nominal American Catholic politicians who treat the abortion license with more reverence than they do a consecrated host, to today's de facto (and, really, de jure) destruction of the decades-old consensus that taxpayer dollars would not directly subsidize abortion (other than the funding Planned Parenthood takes from the government, and the limited Medicaid abortion exceptions).
The reasons for this cataclysmic pastoral failure are as varied as there are and were bishops since Roe v. Wade was handed down: Habit (Catholics had been Democrats for decades, and their priests and bishops frequently more so); reflexive agreement with so much else in the Democratic Party's platform; a bizarre belief that those wayward Catholic politicians were speaking from a misguided application of their consciences; simple political naivete (surely something like this couldn't happen); to a thousand other reasons and combinations thereof.
At the most basic possible level, the Catholic Bishops - the men I hold as a matter of faith to be in the direct line of Apostolic Succession - have enabled scandal, and it has finally flowered in full. A bishop has plenary discretion in the manner in which he brings his wayward sheep back into the fold, but by any measure, to put this politely, the American bishops' exercise of their discretion has been a total embarrassment. Scandal is the act of teaching, from a position of authority, by word or deed, that what is evil is actually good. For essentially my entire lifetime, the Democratic Party has made as one of its governing planks that women have an inherent right to murder their children. Catholic Democrats have not, with a tiny handful of exceptions, bothered to even murmur a protest; the most prominent among them have taken up that position as their own - some without even bothering to run for the Presidency first.
The roster of names is so long that its recitation would be a total rebuke to the authority of any American Catholic bishop now living and many dead. Kennedy, Leahy, Kucinich, Drinan, Durbin, Pelosi, Casey (Jr.), Mitchell, Sebelius, Cuomo, I could go on. These are men and women who have made it the goal of their careers to advocate the abortion license, to preserve it and expand it. The leaders in the fight to keep public funding of abortion were overwhelmingly self-professed Catholics. Last night, they succeeded.
They teach by word and act that abortion is, at worst, an unfortunately necessary convenience, and is more often a good. They create scandal. They do so as Catholics.
Who among them has been publicly remonstrated by his bishop? Who among them has had to stand in public and choose between an honest recitation of the Nicene Creed and Planned Parenthood v. Casey? Who among them has been reminded of Christ's injunction about scandal and millstones where their audiences and constituencies can hear?
Why would anyone expect Bart Stupak - otherwise a consummate Democrat - to hold up a health care reform bill against his Party and his Party's President when even the men who are supposed to stand against evil every waking moment of their lives appear more concerned about the environment, about immigrant rights, about the death penalty? What Catholic sitting in the pews or watching on TV would think there's anything wrong with abortion when Mario Cuomo's dishonest justification has stood without censure or excommunication for over a quarter of a century?
The blood of millions will now be shed by the public coffers. That blood lies on the hands of the men with mitres.
By Christopher Badeaux:
Reprinted with permission from The New Ledger.