Saturday, October 19, 2013

The role of Catholics in the U.S.'s recent financial brinksmanship

It is unusual for me to have two articles back-to-back in the same day but I’m getting ready to travel for several weeks in the U.S., Asia and Europe including my upcoming visit to the Vatican.  I am unsure when I will have time to write again until perhaps the end of November though I might have the privilege to meet some readers in person at the Call to Action conference November 1-3.  Regardless of the rigors of my upcoming travel schedule, there is another topic of great importance I think worthy of pondering.

This past week, the United States Congress put much of the world through unwarranted angst about my country’s willingness (not ability) to pay its financial obligations.  Globally, markets and businesses sat in great anxiety anticipating whether the U.S. legislature would “do the right thing” so that it could be a good global citizen repaying its debts.  Economists predicted the U.S. defaulting upon its financial obligations would make the 2008 bank crisis pale in comparison to the global economic impact it would wrought.  This would have been felt especially by people already on society's financial margins but also likely would have thrown many more people into that category by manufacturing more unemployment and poverty.

How did U.S. Catholics play in all this?

The U.S. Senate has 100 members and 28 of them are Catholic.  429 members of the U.S. House of Representatives voted on the debt ceiling this past week and of them, 135 or 31% are Catholic.  I commend the 24 Catholic U.S. Senators and 101 Catholic U.S. Representatives who supported the moral decision of paying this country’s financial obligations.  They include my own Representative, Mr. David Camp of Michigan.

I am sorry to report that there were any Catholics who voted that the U.S. renege on its financial commitments to the world and likely manufacture additional global unemployment, economic instability and poverty.  However, there were 4 such Catholic Senators and 34 such Catholic Representatives.  They are:

U.S. Senators voting for the U.S. NOT to honor its financial obligations:
James Risch of Idaho
Marco Rubio of Florida
Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania
David Vitter of Louisianna

Members of the U.S. House of Representatives voting for the U.S. NOT to honor its financial obligations:
Kerry Bentivolio of Michigan
Kevin Brady of Texas
Steve Chabot of Ohio
Chris Collins of New York
Ron DeSantis of Florida
Sean Duffy of Wisconsin
Renee Ellmers of North Carolina
Chuck Fleischmann of Tennessee
Virginia Foxx of North Carolina
Phil Gingrey of Georgia
Paul Gosar of Arizona
Andy Harris of Maryland
Tim Huelskamp of Kansas
Walter Jones of North Carolina
Steve King of Iowa
Bob Latta of Ohio
Blaine Luetkemeyer of Missouri
Thomas Marino of Pennsylvannia
Michael McCaul of Texas
Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina
Steven Palazzo of Mississippi
Trey Radel of Florida
Tom Reed of New York
Jim Renacci of Ohio
Todd Rokita of Indiana
Tom Rooney of Florida
Keith Rothfus of Pennsylvania
Ed Royce of California
Paul Ryan of Wisconsin
Steve Scalise of Louisianna
David Schweikert of Arizona
Ann Wagner of Missouri
Brad Wenstrup of Ohio
Ted Yoho of Florida

You might ask what could have possibly motivated any Catholic to vote to throw the entire world into severe financial turmoil.  The answer might lie in a letter sent from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) to members of Congress.  In this letter, the bishops position as a non-negotiable matter in the debt-ceiling discussions their desire that Catholics in the healthcare profession be able to impose their religious beliefs upon others, allowing people like doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and hospital workers to deny things of patients such as filling a prescription for Sprintec – a medication which solves many female reproductive health issues but which also is a contraceptive. 

Specifically in the letter dated September 26, 2013 Cardinal Sean O’Malley and Archbishop William Lori wrote on behalf of the entire U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops the following statement, “We have already urged you to enact the Health Care Conscience Rights Act (H.R. 940/S. 1204). As Congress considers a Continuing Resolution and debt ceiling bill in the days to come, we reaffirm the vital importance of incorporating the policy of this bill into such “must-pass” legislation.”

You see, my dear friends around the world, the U.S. Catholic bishops, led by a U.S. Cardinal hand-selected by Pope Francis to be in his special gang of eight advisors, wanted the entire world to suffer additional poverty and unrest unless they could have their way continuing their crusade against women, women’s rights and women’s health.  Quite simply the bishops said the U.S. should not honor its financial commitments to the world unless Congress makes it more difficult for women to obtain certain medical services and medications.

What is the proper response to the bishops and members of the U.S. Congress who were willing to do this?  I urge you, no matter where in the world you live, to communicate your opinions on the morality of their stance and decisions to these politicians – both the ordained and elected ones.  It might be worth expressing to Pope Francis any concerns you have about his judgment in selecting as a top advisor Cardinal Sean O’Malley – a ringleader in trying to bring about global financial devastation unless he got his way.

As a side note, Catholic hospitals in the U.S. are a growing force as they acquire formerly secular hospitals.  They operate by a set of USCCB directives which already deny numerous types of care based on claiming a moral high ground.  What is the proper response to this trend also?

1 comment:

  1. I wish to address your side-note. It worries me that the bishops are imposing their religious outlook on more and more women who may or may not be Catholic. Why should the bishops' collective conscience have more impact on her health care than her own conscience? It gets to the point that I think health care should be delivered from entities that simply are not organized under any religious authority. But, this is clearly going to be too much for me to hope to see come to pass.

    I recall several discussions I listened in on between my mother and a neighbor woman who was also an RN and Catholic. I was 10-12 years old when these conversations took place and had not yet gotten to a place where I could see organizational issues. The issue at hand was end-of-life health care and what is euthanasia and what was permissible in terms of withdrawing care if a person was terminally ill and unable to speak for himself. In the specific case under discussion was a priest who had been shot and sustained severe brain trauma at a time when the definition of death was pretty much limited to 'the heart has stopped beating'. The medical technology did not at that time allow for any real hope of recovery [1970-73]. He was on life-support and it was assumed he could be kept that way indefinitely. All the arguments that came to be in the Terri Schaivo case came about in this one several decades earlier. Only that time, the local priests and bishops seemed to be OK with the withdrawal of life support. In the talks between my mother and the neighbor, the neighbor mentioned that she would advise any pregnant woman to stay away from 'Catholic hospitals' for OB care/delivery. I found that rather odd at the time as she already had 8 children of her own [all of whom went to the parish school where the priest had been shot]. But I kept the memory.

    It seems to me that the bishops would like to deny some types of care but they also prefer to IMPOSE other types - such as end-of-life life support. Is this principled or is it money-grubbing given that they can control more money via the Catholic affiliations of the ever expanding Catholic health care delivery system? That prolonged end-of-life care gets expensive.

    As far as my response to the bishops: While I do not rub their noses in the fact, all of my time, talent and treasure budgeted for charitable purposes goes to non-Catholic, secular organizations. I don't feel I have to compromise my conscience this way.