Should Catholic Bishops Determine U.S.Health Policy?

Why do these two sentences, in a report by New York Times health writers Robert Pear and David M. Herszenhorn which appears in today’s San Francisco Chronicle, send chills down my spine?

Nelson (Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Nebraska) and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops , said Thursday that they could not accept Casey’s (Sen Bob Casey, D-Pa) initial proposal, in part because they saw money from the government and premiums as fungible.

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, the archbishop of Galveston-Houston and chairman of the bishops’ anti-abortion committee said, ‘We continue to oppose, and urge others to oppose, the Senate bill unless and until this fundamental failure is remedied.’

A more recent report on says Nelson will now support the bill, since it includes tighter restrictions on abortion coverage. I assume if it’s okay with Senator Nelson it’s okay with USCCB.

In the mid-1970s I had a friend I will call Sara, a 19-year-old single mom working hard to raise an infant daughter, who found herself pregnant with a probably defective potential baby. She saw no way to care for her existing child without a job — the pregnancy would cost her her job — let alone care for an unplanned and unwanted new child with special needs. Her church gave her no choice. She managed to have an abortion in fairly sterile circumstances, but because she was part of a small Catholic congregation she remained terrified for years afterward that she would be found out and condemned to hell. I remember thinking how sad it was that she could not seek comfort and support from her close-knit faith community.

I am fine with Sara’s beliefs and honor her for that struggle. I am not fine with having the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops determine health policy for all of us. And I wonder how many Saras will be denied proper care because the USCCB believes that some embryonic cells are more important than the right of a woman to control her own body. It remains to be seen if the bill passes, and what sliver of abortion coverage survives, but the tragedies of back-alley abortions, which I know from personal experiences and which the bishops cannot even begin to fathom, are quite likely to return.

What happened to that quaint notion of separation of church and state?


  1. Thanks, dtafs. Most of my Catholic friends (probably excluding several priests whom I greatly love and respect and who occasionally say, “Ummm, Fran… I read your blog today…”)agree with you. As a committed (protestant) Christian I strongly believe in the right of clergy to lead their people and to speak out for peace and justice, but I draw a firm line at dictation of public policy. And I know too much about the horrors of abortion made illegal or unfunded.

    1. Thanks Fran. I’ve read some of your posts, one of which I believe was about the horrors of abortion in the not-too-distant-past.

      I wish more people took a level-headed approach to the issue.

      In my mind, the question has always been does anyone have the right to tell a woman what she can/cannot do to her body. And to that end, I believe the answer is no, not in the slightest.

      Besides, if i tried to tell my mother, sisters or any woman i have dated in the past what they could, or could not do, I would be thoroughly beaten down, verbally, mentally and probably at some point, physically. 🙂

      I just hate the fact that the catholic church is so inter-twined in the politics of this debate. It paints Catholics in a bad light.

      Plus, quite frankly, I stopped listening to the church years ago, when i realized how hypocritical they really are.

  2. As a catholic, my stance is no, they shouldn’t.

    In fact, they are the last people on the planet we should be talking to in terms of anything related to the fundamental workings of our country.

    They should have no place/say in any matter regarding the greater good.

    The catholic church is about, the catholic church. That much has been proven time and time again.

  3. I wonder why religious organizations don’t see government money as fungible when it’s coming to them? Oh yeah – it’s because they’re idiotic hypocrites whose sky-god cult is more important than the good of the nation. If the USCCB put as much effort into seeing to the health of their flock as they do into trying to control the rest society, millions of children could have been spared the horrors of being raped.

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