Thursday, November 27, 2008

Does FOCA mean an end to Catholic health care?

Melinda Henneberger looks at the threat the Freedom of Choice Act poses to Catholic health-care centers that want no part of abortion, and concludes that the legislation would probably strip them of their opt-out for conscience. Henneberger believes that the bishops mean exactly what they say when warning that they will close the doors on every facility rather than be forced to perform abortions — and wonders how the Obama administration plans to replace a third of all hospitals in the nation? (via The Corner):

And the most ludicrous line out of them, surely, was about how, under Obama, Catholic hospitals that provide obstetric and gynecological services might soon be forced to perform abortions or close their doors. Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Chicago warned of “devastating consequences” to the health care system, insisting Obama could force the closure of all Catholic hospitals in the country. That’s a third of all hospitals, providing care in many neighborhoods that are not exactly otherwise overprovided for. It couldn’t happen, could it?

You wouldn’t think so. Only, I am increasingly convinced that it could. If the Freedom of Choice Act passes Congress, and that’s a big if, Obama has promised to sign it the second it hits his desk. (Here he is at a Planned Parenthood Action Fund event in 2007, vowing, “The first thing I’d do as president is, is sign the Freedom of Choice Act. That’s the first thing I’d do.”) Though it’s often referred to as a mere codification of Roe, FOCA, as currently drafted, actually goes well beyond that: According to the Senate sponsor of the bill, Barbara Boxer, in a statement on her Web site, FOCA would nullify all existing laws and regulations that limit abortion in any way, up to the time of fetal viability. Laws requiring parental notification and informed consent would be tossed out. While there is strenuous debate among legal experts on the matter, many believe the act would invalidate the freedom-of-conscience laws on the books in 46 states. These are the laws that allow Catholic hospitals and health providers that receive public funds through Medicaid and Medicare to opt out of performing abortions. Without public funds, these health centers couldn’t stay open; if forced to do abortions, they would sooner close their doors. Even the prospect of selling the institutions to other providers wouldn’t be an option, the bishops have said, because that would constitute “material cooperation with an intrinsic evil.”

The bishops are not bluffing when they say they’d turn out the lights rather than comply. Nor is Auxiliary Bishop Robert Hermann of St. Louis exaggerating, I don’t think, in vowing that “any one of us would consider it a privilege to die tomorrow—to die tomorrow—to bring about the end of abortion.”

Whatever your view on the legality and morality of abortion, there is another important question to be considered here: Could we even begin to reform our already overburdened health care system without these Catholic institutions? I don’t see how.

As Henneberger notes, these facilities aren’t in overserved areas, either. Catholic facilities tend to be in places other for-profit clinics and hospitals avoid. The sudden disappearance of these clinics and hospitals would leave millions of people with much fewer choices in medical attention, or none at all.

Would Congress pass FOCA? If the Republicans hold onto their seats in Minnesota and Georgia, they’ll have enough Senators to filibuster it, but Henneberger wonders if Obama would have enough votes to pass the bill on straight majorities. Once the bill’s sweeping nature becomes known, she believes that only the hard-Left Representatives and Senators would back the bill, leaving FOCA to die quietly as it has in every session of Congress for the last 15 years it’s been proposed.

Obama pledged to make FOCA his highest priority, though, and his appointment of Emily’s List spokesperson Ellen Moran as his communications director sent a message that he intends to pursue it. Henneberger believes that any attempt to force FOCA through Congress will “reignite the culture war he so deftly sidestepped throughout this campaign,” as well as make fools out of pro-Obama Catholics like Douglas Kmiec. I don’t see Obama backing away from his pledge to make Planned Parenthood’s dreams come true, and I hope that Henneberger’s correct about Congress stopping those plans.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Cardinal Rigali warns that FOCA makes abortion on demand a ‘national entitlement’

Cardinal Justin Rigali

.- Cardinal Justin Rigali, the chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, has written a letter to the U.S. Congress to alert them that the Freedom of Choice Act would undermine bipartisan efforts to reduce abortions and make abortion on demand a "national entitlement."

Writing to all members of Congress on September 19, Cardinal Rigali warned that the enactment of the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) would “deprive the American people in all 50 states of the freedom they now have to enact modest restraints and regulations on the abortion industry.”

“Despite its deceptive title,” he wrote, “FOCA would coerce all Americans into subsidizing and promoting abortion with their tax dollars. And FOCA would counteract any and all sincere efforts by government to reduce abortions in our country.”

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), who introduced the bill, saw the legislation differently, describing it as being about “the absolute right to choose” prior to fetal “viability." Some supporters of the bill additionally argue that it would simply codify the Supreme Court’s 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade.

However, Cardinal Rigali noted that other backers of FOCA say it “would sweep away hundreds of anti-abortion laws [and] policies.” These include bans on public funding of abortions as well as “modest and widely supported state laws” protecting women’s safety, informed consent and parental rights, he stressed.

Further, the cardinal from Philadelphia claimed that under FOCA “abortion on demand would be a national entitlement that government must condone and promote in all public programs affecting pregnant women.”

FOCA, the cardinal said, would militate against the work of members of both parties who have “sought to reach a consensus on ways to reduce abortions in our society.”

Even though the Catholic Church disagrees with programs that help reduce abortion by means of contraception, Cardinal Rigali stated in his letter that, “there is one thing absolutely everyone should be able to agree on: We can’t reduce abortions by promoting abortion…. No one who sponsors or supports legislation like FOCA can credibly claim to be part of a good-faith discussion on how to reduce abortions.”

FOCA finds Sen. Barack Obama in the midst of a major contradiction. While the Act lists him as a co-sponsor, this is directly contradicted by his presently stated position of desiring to reduce abortions.

Obama’s support for the bill is not just legislative either. On July 17, 2007, Obama told the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, “The first thing I’d do as president is sign the Freedom of Choice Act. That’s the first thing that I’d do.”

Sen. John McCain has not taken a position on FOCA, but both Deal Hudson and Fr. Frank Pavone have told CNA that they strongly believe McCain would veto the bill.

Cardinal Rigali closed his open letter by urging all members of Congress “to pledge their opposition to FOCA and other legislation designed to promote abortion,” so that “we can begin a serious and sincere discussion on how to reduce the tragic incidence of abortion in our society.”

Friday, November 21, 2008

Italian Jews Back Out of Dialogue Day

Cite Concern Over Good Friday Prayer for Extraordinary Rite

ROME, NOV. 20, 2008 ( A representative of the Church in Italy is expressing his sadness that the Jewish community will not join in Jan. 17's day of dialogue between Jews and Catholics.

Giuseppe Laras, president of the Italian Rabbinic Assembly, announced the community's cancellation. The rabbi explained that the decision was based on concern over the Good Friday prayer in use after Benedict XVI's 2007 letter issued "motu proprio" opened the way to a broader use of the 1962 Missal. The Pope subsequently made changes to the Good Friday prayer for the Jews for that form of the liturgy. Those changes were released in February.

The new formula, used only by those communities celebrating Mass according to the 1962 Missal, "speaks of Jesus as the Christ and the salvation of all men, therefore, also of the Jews," Cardinal Walter Kasper said shortly after the changes were released. Cardinal Kasper oversees the Vatican's relations with Jews.

"Many have interpreted this affirmation as new, and not friendly in relation to the Jews. But it is based on the New Testament as a whole -- cf. 1 Timothy 2:4 -- and indicates the fundamental difference, which everyone knows, that exists between Christians and Jews," the cardinal explained on that occasion.

Bishop Vincenzo Paglia of Terni-Narni-Amelia, president of the Italian bishops' Commission for Ecumenism and Dialogue, confessed that the Jewish decision to not participate in the January dialogue day "has pained us."

The prelate told Vatican Radio that he had been in contact with Laras for months to try to overcome misunderstandings.

Though the bishop said the issue was resolved from his point of view, he said he could "understand the perplexity. This decision [not to participate] is sorrowful, but we will not give it more importance than necessary. The rabbi, in fact, in the note expresses the desire that obviously dialogue restarts and continues.

"We will continue celebrating this day of Judeo-Christian reflection on Jan. 17. It is a day that this year has been rather wounded, but we hope this wound serves to better deepen the indispensable relationship between Christians and Jews."

The prelate acknowledged that worrying pockets of anti-Semitism still arise, and "this requires attentive vigilance: We have to make our relationship more intense to nip in the bud any seed that could favor these attitudes."

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Viet police stand by as mob ransacks Hanoi chapel

Hanoi, Nov. 17, 2008 ( - A Redemptorist monastery in Hanoi that has been the focus of a struggle between Catholic activists and government officials was attacked by a mob on Saturday night, November 15. Rather than trying to protect the monastery, police did their best to impede rescue efforts.

Hundreds of people, backed by the People's Committee of Quang Trung precinct, attacked the chapel. The violence began after representatives of the People's Committee had asked the Redemptorist priests for an urgent meeting. Father Joseph Nguyen Van That, as spokesman for the Redemptorist community, said that he was convinced the meeting had been scheduled as a diversionary tactic to clear the way for the mob violence. "It was an organized attack at nighttine," he said.

Summoned by priests who rang the monastery's bells, hundreds of local Catholics rushed to save the church. But as the mob ransacked the chapel, police concentrated their efforts on keeping the Catholic rescuers away from the building.

This was the second time the St. Gerardo chapel had been attacked by thugs. On September 21, the chapel was vandalized, with statues destroyed and books torn off shelves and thrown on the floor. The invaders “yelled, smashed everything on their way, threw stones into our monastery, and shattered the gate of Saint Gerardo Chapel,” wrote Father Matthew Vu Khoi Phung, the Redemptorist superior. In addition, “the gang yelled out slogans threatening to kill priests, religious, faithful and even our archbishop,” he added.

After morning Sunday Masses on November 16, a great number of Catholics from churches in Hanoi, hearing about the destruction that had taken place the previous evening, traveled to the Thai Ha district to show their solidarity with the Redemptorists. “It’s an obvious persecution against Catholics by the government,” said one Catholic parishioner.

“It was significant that the government stroke Thai Ha parish right on the day Catholics in Vietnam celebrated the Feast of Vietnamese Martyrs,” Father Joseph Nguyen reported from Hanoi. “This attack reminds people that since its very first outset, the seed of Faith in Vietnam soil was mixed with the abundant blood of the martyrs from all walks of life."