In an extraordinary call to Catholics to prevent health care reform from being derailed by the abortion lobby, the United Sates Conference of Catholic Bishops has sent bulletin inserts to almost 19,000 parishes across the country.
"Health care reform should be about saving lives, not destroying them," the insert states. It urges readers to contact Senate leaders so they support efforts to "incorporate longstanding policies against abortion funding and in favor of conscience rights" in health reform legislation.
"If these serious concerns are not addressed, the final bill should be opposed," it adds.
Extraordinary? I'm delighted that the USCCB is finally speaking up on this issue, but really, shouldn't speaking out against public funding of abortion be an ordinary thing for Catholic bishops to do as opposed to an extraordinary thing? Well, given the history of the USCCB, this is extraordinary, and the fact that it's extraordinary is reprehensible.
This history is much deeper than the silence of the majority of American bishops a year ago when the most pro-abortion politician to ever run for the office was campaigning for the President of the United States. That was just one episode in a long line of deafening silences going back to the very inception of the bishops' conference in the United States under the leadership of Joseph Cardinal Bernardine. From the very beginning the bishops' conference failed to proclaim clearly the Church's strong anti-abortion doctrine, burying the abortion issue in Bernardine's seamless garment garbage, elevating "social justice" issues that were inferior in scope, less deadly to the life of souls and society, and morally negligible in comparison to the thousands of murders that are committed daily as the direct result of abortion.
For four decades, since Roe vs. Wade, the bishops of the United States have dithered in committee and have refused to speak clearly as a collective body. What's more, the bishops' conference has hampered the efforts of individual bishops by alienating those who have perceived hard-line positions in regards to pro-abortion Catholic politicians.
This inactivity has only strengthened the pro-abortion sentiments that have taken root in the American Church, and one has to wonder, that after so long, is this now too little, too late. Will the pro-abortion Catholic in the pew, who has never been adequately challenged by his bishop be persuaded by a bulletin insert now? When the bishops, the men who have been entrusted with the teaching office of the Church, allowed the Doug Kmeics of the American Church to go unchallenged for so long, they essentially rendered this USCCB bulletin insert nothing more than just another voice in the confusing cacophony that passes for health care reform debate.
Can this bulletin insert turn the tide? I don't think it will. For the bishops to be any thing other than just one more voice in the cacophony they will have to be united, not by the USCCB, but by their common Catholic faith. First and foremost, the bishops have to be united in faith, and they have to take being united in faith seriously. Faith isn't a policy statement. In fact, policy statements can often obscure the faith.
Being united in faith will take more than just issuing another USCCB document (that carries absolutely no authority) or propagating a bulletin insert, extraordinary or not. The bishops can start with courageously facing up to the failures and infidelities of the USCCB. Will this bulletin insert be followed by support of individual bishops who favor excommunication for Catholic politicians who support the legalization and public funding of abortion? Will this insert be followed by the vetting of all recipients of USCCB monies to ensure they are not involved with pro-abortion or left wing extremist activities? Will this effort be followed by meaningful reforms of the bureaucratic monstrosity that the bishops' conference has become? Excuse me if I'm skeptical given the history of this organization.
Nevertheless, I hope this effort on the part of the USCCB is a turning point. Maybe the real possibility of publicly funded abortion on demand has woken up enough bishops to the ineptitude of this vacillating, frivolous organization that has done very little in the fight against abortion.
However, we are due more than just this one effort. Catholics in this country are due an apology from this body for having obscured the Church's teachings over the years, and that apology ought then be followed by a voluntary dissolution and reconstitution based on traditional Catholic principles, fiscal common sense, the absence of useless and often leftist bureaucracy, without an intent to set policy, but only as a fraternal association meant to support the juridical autonomy of the bishop in his own diocese.
It's not a pipe dream to believe that Catholic bishops can be united in Catholic faith. St. Athanasius believed it, otherwise he would never have raged against the storms of his own times.