Blog Post

Is the Catholic Health Association Still Catholic?

Commentary by Susan Brinkmann, OCDS

Sr. Carol Keehan Sr. Carol Keehan

A national petition campaign has been launched by the Catholic faithful who have grown weary with Sister Carol Keehan of the Catholic Health Association (CHA) who has once again defied Church authority by siding with the Obama Administration and accepting the final version of the controversial birth control mandate.

Pat Archbold of the National Catholic Register is reporting that Sr. Keehan has issued a statement in which she approves of the final version, stating that the "HHS has now established an accommodation that will allow our ministries to continue offering health insurance plans for their employees as they have always done."

A few paragraphs later, she admits: "We also recognize that this resolution has not been what some organizations, including the Bishops' Conference, asked for on behalf of a wider group. Our contribution to the process has been to work for the protection of religious organizations, especially our members. We recognize the broader issues will continue to be debated and litigated by others."

Keehan's statement is in direct contradiction to the opinion of the bishops who found the final version of the rule to contain the same problems as earlier versions, namely the "religious employer" exemption in itself; problems with the "accommodation" for employers deemed not "religious enough" for the exemption; and the lack of any exemption or "accommodation" for individuals and for-profit businesses.

" . . . (W)e are concerned as pastors with the freedom of the Church as a whole—not just for the full range of its institutional forms, but also for the faithful in their daily lives—to carry out the mission and ministry of Jesus Christ....At this point,...our study has not discovered any new change that eliminates the need to continue defending our rights in Congress and the courts," wrote Cardinal Timothy Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

This is hardly the first time Sr. Keehan has publicly sided against the Church and caused confusion among the faithful. Perhaps her most onerous rebellion came during the final weeks of the debate over the Affordable Care Act when she defied the bishops and came out in favor of the bill. This gave the White House an opportunity to parade her before the public as a kind of spokeswoman for the Church which may have lead many Catholics to believe it was okay to support the law.

Unfortunately, she is now giving the White House another opportunity to do the same.

As Archbold explains, "They intend, in defense of the matter, to contend that the CHA is the competent authority to interpret Church teaching on the mandate. The CHA endorsement, which encompasses the large majority of Catholic health institutions, clearly shows that the Catholic Church is supportive of the mandate. Any remaining objection does not really represent the Church, they will argue."

While it is true that the bishops have been working for a long time with the CHA to bring them into line and encourage them to be more respectful and diligent in protecting Church teaching in health matters, they have not succeeded.

This is why the faithful have decided to act by launching a petition drive to implore the bishops to remove the name "Catholic" from the organization so it can no longer be mistaken as a vehicle of the Church.

"The CHA, in this crucial moment for religious freedom in this country, is on the other side. The Catholic Health Association is the enemy," Archbold writes.

"The Bishops must use all their power to push the enemy back. The Bishops must kill the CHA. First, the competent ecclesial authorities must remove permission for the CHA to use the word Catholic in their name. This must be done immediately. The CHA is not Catholic and they must not be allowed to use the name when they are in open opposition to the Bishops and Church teaching. This is most especially true with all the pending litigation against the mandate by Catholic institutions. The Bishops cannot allow the Church to seem divided on this question."

Click here if you're interested in signing this petition.

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