Archbishop Chaput has been all over the Internet giving his opinion about the recently passed health care reform bill. In many of these missives he draws very sharp lines regarding who is 'Catholic' and who is Catholic. The following excerpt is taken from his weekly article in the Denver Catholic Register.
Third, the combination of pressure and disinformation used to break the prolife witness on this bill among Democratic members of Congress – despite the strong resistance to this legislation that continues among American voters – should put an end to any talk by Washington leaders about serving the common good or seeking common ground. Words need actions to give them flesh. At many points over the past seven months, congressional leaders could have resolved the serious moral issues inherent in this legislation. They did not. No shower of reassuring words now can wash away that fact. (I didn't notice Republicans or the USCCB looking for common ground--unless it was their ground. Come to think of it, I never really did know what the Republican ground was except it wouldn't be the Democrats.)
Fourth, self-described “Catholic” groups have done a serious disservice to justice, to the Church, and to the ethical needs of the American people by undercutting the leadership and witness of their own bishops. For groups like Catholics United, this is unsurprising. In their effect, if not in formal intent, such groups exist to advance the interests of a particular political spectrum. Nor is it newsworthy from an organization like Network, which – whatever the nature of its good work -- has rarely shown much enthusiasm for a definition of “social justice” that includes the rights of the unborn child. (Oh my, someone does not like losing. Someone is also ignoring the fact they themselves have thoroughly undercut their own leadership and witness, especially when it comes to children.)
But the actions of the Catholic Health Association (CHA) in providing a deliberate public counter-message to the bishops were both surprising and profoundly disappointing; and also genuinely damaging. In the crucial final days of debate on health-care legislation, CHA lobbyists worked directly against the efforts of the American bishops in their approach to members of Congress. The bad law we now likely face, we owe in part to the efforts of the Catholic Health Association and similar “Catholic” organizations. (Maybe they had the more authentic voice or better argument. After all they are in the actual business of providing "Catholic" health care.)
Here in Colorado, many thousands of ordinary, faithful Catholics, from both political parties, have worked hard over the past seven months to advance sensible, legitimate health-care reform; the kind that serves the poor and protects the rights of the unborn child, and immigrants, and the freedom of conscience rights of health-care professionals and institutions. If that effort seems to have failed, faithful Catholics don’t bear the blame. That responsibility lies elsewhere. I’m grateful to everyone in the archdiocese who has worked so hard on this issue out of love for God’s people and fidelity to their Catholic faith. Come good or bad, that kind of effort is never wasted. (Which means their total blind obedience to their local bishop.)
Archbishop Chaput has not been the only member of the USCCB who is not taking this loss particularly well. Cardinal O'Malley was not happy, but more sanguine in his criticism, suggesting certain groups and people should give more attention to USCCB opinions. AB Chaput takes things to the extreme, suggesting faithful Catholics will stop thinking for themselves the minute a bishop opens their mouth, well at least in his diocese.
It maybe time other members of the USCCB put some pressure on Archbishop Chaput to at least temper his language. He is not doing any of them many favors. He is coming across more and more like the issues aren't his real agenda, just his definition of his own omniscient authority. That's not a particularly wise path to take at this particular time. Too many Catholics and self defined "Catholics" are beginning to comprehend that it was exactly that kind of thinking that led to the massive sexual abuse cover up. Many lay Catholics are beginning to see that accepting that kind of thinking led directly to them colluding with and enabling said cover up.
The dispute between the USCCB and the CHA seems to me to be one of chicken vs. egg. The CHA takes the position that providing for a healthy uterine environment keeps the egg developing and fosters the choice to sustain life in the mother. The USCCB takes the side that the existence of the egg takes precedent over the environment in which it must develop. They fail to see that nature itself aborts a large number of pregnancies as a direct consequence of poor fetal environment. In this respect they are refusing to acknowledge what is plainly evident in nature and what is statistically proven in countries with universal health care.
In their myopic stance about Roe v Wade they failed to see that in recommending a no vote on the senate health care bill they were arguing for more spontaneous abortion, still births, and maternal deaths. It could be that the arguments of the CHA, which came from the 'chicken' side made more sense to legislators than the 'egg' arguments of the USCCB and their political allies.
A fetus has no effective right to life in an environment which can't sustain life. This not only applies to the legal and social environment, it also applies to the biological environment. It's too bad the USCCB staked their authority on the legal egg side of the equation because it's the weaker side of the argument. Maybe that's why AB Chaput is so obviously trying to make obedience the issue. His argument just doesn't stand up to real scrutiny so he has to fall back on his authority. That is not an approach which is going to fly with many "Catholics" in today's Church climate.