By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
An organization of women’s religious orders that is currently under investigation by the Vatican is among two groups that openly defied the U.S. Bishop’s official position on health care reform this week.
The Catholic Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), an organization known for its promotion of the ordination of women and homosexuality, and for its dissent regarding the unique role of Christ in salvation, sent a letter to members of Congress this week asking them to “cast a life affirming ‘yes’ vote” on the pro-abortion Senate health care bill when it comes to the floor this weekend. The letter openly defies the official position of the U.S. Church in opposition of the bill, as stated by the U.S. Bishops.
Their letter also grossly overstates their size and claims to represent 59,000 U.S. Catholic nuns. As Sr. Mary Ann Walsh, Director of Medial Relations for the U.S. Bishops pointed out in a presse release, the group doesn’t come anywhere near representing 59,000 American sisters.
“The letter had 55 signatories, some individuals, some groups of three to five persons. One endorser signed twice,” Sr. Mary Ann explained. “There are 793 religious communities in the United States. The math is clear. Network is far off the mark.”
Another dissenting nun, Sr. Carol Keehan, president of the Catholic Health Association (CHA) also drew criticism when she led the CHA in endorsing the Senate version of the health-care bill in a statement that some experts are calling “deceptive.”
As Cathy Ruse, former chief spokesperson on life issues for the U.S. Bishops writes in National Review Online, Sr. Keehan’s letter implies that because a person has to write a separate check for the cost of a government insurance policy that funds abortion, this cures the abortion-funding problem in the bill.
“Nothing could be further from the truth,” Ruse writes. “What Keehan ignores, intentionally or otherwise, is section 1303, which provides federal subsidies for health plans that cover abortions and requires everyone to pay for others’ abortions through taxes and the abortion surcharge; section 1334, which authorizes the government-run multi-state plans to cover elective abortions; and section 10503, which provides millions of dollars to community health-care centers who will be free to use those dollars for elective abortions. The president’s proposal to amend the Senate bill leaves these sections in place.”
The deliberate misrepresentation of the Church’s position on health care reform by errant nuns disturbed even the Vatican. On Tuesday, the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano published an official rebuke, pointing out that that only the U.S. Bishops speak for the Church in the U.S. “The CHA’s position does not reflect in any way the convictions of the United States Bishops Conference,” it said.
The Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious, an order of more traditional nuns, issued a statement in support of the position of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
In order to make sure there was no doubt as to where the Church stood on health care reform, the Bishops blanketed the Washington media this week with ads appearing in Washington Post, The Hill, Roll Call, Congressional Quarterly, and Congress Daily that demand the removal of abortion funding from the bills.
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