Posted by: mutantpoodle | March 30, 2010

Breaking up is hard to do

All through the debate on health insurance reform, I felt that the US Council of Catholic Bishops was – how do we say this – a dishonest broker in the process. (Not to mention that, as a group, their moral credibility had been severely eroded by their behavior related to the sexual abuse of children in so many of their parishes.)

And yet, up until 4PM on the Sunday that the House passed the Senate health reform bill, Bart Stupak was relying on the position of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and specifically a man named Richard Doerflinger, in claiming that the Senate version of health reform was some kind of abortion-palooza, contrary to virtually every sane analysis of the bill (many of which concluded that it would essentially eliminate abortion coverage for policies sold in the insurance exchanges) and several other Catholic groups, including American nuns.

(As an aside, if I could give the Catholic church somne advice in these trying times, I’d suggest that they let the nuns clean house and run things for a while. Ordain women. And let priests of either gender marry. But I digress.)

Now, according to Mother Jones, it seems that Stupak and the Bishops are, if not broken up, at least seeing other people:

In the days since Stupak voted for the bill, relations between his bloc and the bishops have soured. “The church does have some work to do in dealing with frayed nerves and divisions on policy questions,” Doerflinger told Catholic News Service.  Last week, Stupak attacked the bishops and other anti-abortion groups for “great hypocrisy” in opposing Obama’s executive order after having supported former President George W. Bush’s executive order banning stem cell research in 2007. He told the Daily Caller he believed the bishops and the groups they were allied with were “just using the life issue to try to bring down health-care reform.” In other words, he suspected he was wrong to trust that his former allies were acting in good faith.

I remember, vaguely, that a young Catholic Senator from Massachusetts, running for President in 1960, had to give a speech affirming his loyalty to the constitution, not the Pope.

I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute–where no Catholic prelate would tell the President (should he be Catholic) how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote…

If the US Council of Catholic Bishops loses a bit of their outsized – and, frankly, inappropriate – political influence over this, so much the better. They’ve lost Bart Stupack, which is somewhat like the Iraq war losing Bill Kristol. That said, the Bishops represent a liturgy of life, love, faith, and social justice. Here’s hoping that they keep those last three in mind, too, as they move forward following their misadventures in health reform.

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