2010 Election

Closing Ranks on Canon 915

Deal W. Hudson

Gov. Kathleen Sebelius received some good news last week when abortionist Dr. George Tiller was found not guilty of breaking state laws regulating late-term abortion. The relationship between Tiller and Sebelius would surely have played a role in her upcoming confirmation hearings had he been found guilty.

But Governor Sebelius got some bad news as well — something not noticed much in Catholic media or the secular press. The bishops of Washington, D.C., and Arlington, Virginia, confirmed publicly they would uphold the declaration of her ordinary, Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, stating that Governor Sebelius should not present herself for communion.

A spokeswoman for the Washington Archdiocese, Susan Gibbs, said Archbishop Donald Wuerl would expect Sebelius to follow Bishop Naumann’s request while in Washington. Joelle Santolla, spokeswoman for the Arlington Diocese, announced that Bishop Paul Loverde would expect the same while she was in Northern Virginia.

That Archbishop Wuerl and Bishop Loverde would back up Bishop Naumann in regard to the future Secretary of Health and Human Services is a significant development in the effort of some bishops to enforce Canon 915: “Those upon whom the penalty of excommunication or interdict has been imposed or declared, and others who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin, are not to be admitted to holy communion.”

This will send the message to other bishops that if they choose to pronounce members of Congress from their dioceses unfit for communion, their authority will be respected in D.C. and across the Potomac in Virginia. The ramifications are enormous: For example, if Sean Cardinal O’Malley of Boston stated publicly that Sen. John Kerry was in violation of Canon 915, he would not have been able to receive communion at Pope Benedict XVI’s Mass in Washington, D.C., a year ago. Rep. Nancy Pelosi would not have been able to celebrate her elevation to speaker of the House with a special Mass at Trinity College,
if Archbishop Neiderhauer had found her wanting according to the standard of Canon 915.

Some will argue that neither Archbishop Wuerl nor Bishop Loverde will attempt, through their priests, to deny Governor Sebelius communion. But this misses the point, and the significance, of how the combined statements of Bishops Naumann, Wuerl, and Loverde have created a new and more vulnerable situation for the pro-abortion Catholic members of Congress. As Archbishop Raymond Burke has explained, Bishop Naumann did not impose a “sanction” on Governor Sebelius; Bishop Naumann asked Sebelius, not the clergy, to apply Canon 915 to herself.

But if Sebelius were to receive communion in D.C. or Northern Virginia, it would likely generate a news story that would mushroom quickly, involving the priest who administered communion and his bishop. This is not news coverage that Sebelius, or the Obama administration, would want to deal with.

No doubt there are priests in both dioceses who would have little compunction about giving communion to pro-abortion Catholic politicians, but whether they want to get into a media-generated spat with their bishop over a high-profile politician is another matter.
A final point: Archbishop Wuerl and Bishop Loverde’s collegial response to Bishop Naumann destabilizes the relationship between pro-abortion Catholic politicians and their bishops back home. The question will arise as to why Governor Sebelius should be the only politician in Washington who has been called to account under Canon 915. What about the dozens of others in Congress who have a 100 percent pro-abortion voting record? What about Vice-President Joe Biden himself?

Will other bishops seize this opportunity to apply Canon 915 to politicians in their dioceses, knowing that Archbishop Wuerl and Bishop Loverde will back them up? Given the determination of the Obama administration and the Congress to roll back all restrictions on abortion, I wouldn’t be surprised.

Published in Crisis Magazine, March 30, 2009

Why It’s Absurd to Deny Obama’s Healthcare Bill Contains Abortion Funding

Deal W. Hudson

October 18, 2010

With the decision of the Ohio Elections Commission to allow a hearing to decide whether the Susan B. Anthony List has falsely represented the voting record of Rep. Steve Driehaus (D-OH), the question is again raised: Was abortion funding authorized by the health care legislation signed into law by President Barack Obama?

The complaint arose from the SBA List’s use of billboards declaring that Representative Driehaus of Ohio’s 1st Congressional District had voted for taxpayer-funded abortions by voting for the health care bill. If Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of SBA, is found guilty, she could go to jail. Supporting Driehaus’s effort to imprison Dannenfelser are James Salt, policy director of Catholics United, and Kristen Day, president of Democrats for Life of America.

Driehaus, by the way, had made essentially the same characterization of the health care legislation as made by Dannenfelser. On March 19, Driehaus was an original co-sponsor of H. Con. Res. 254, an “enrollment correction,” introduced by Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI). That resolution would have removed abortion funding from the Senate version of the health care bill.

The language of the final health care bill – “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act” (PPACA) – had not changed when both Stupak and Driehaus voted for it and Obama signed it into law. Now, Driehaus is trying to send Marjorie Dannenfelser to jail for precisely the same view of the health care bill as expressed in his support for H. Con. Res 254 – that it authorizes federal tax dollars to be spent on abortion.

Three members of the Ohio Elections Commission voted 2-1 to find “probable cause” to send the Driehaus complaint to a full hearing of the seven commissioners. The date has not yet been set.

The evidence supporting the SBA List is undeniable. In addition to the witness of Driehaus himself (and Stupak), there are the multiple provisions of the legislation itself that authorize the funding of abortions. The best summary is found in the affidavit submitted for last week’s meeting of the Ohio Elections Commission by Douglas Johnson, legislative director of National Right to Life.

As Johnson points out in his affidavit, the provisions of the Senate version of the bill, ultimately signed into law, contained many of the same abortion funding mechanisms that the Stupak-Pitts amendment of the House bill removed. (There were new, additional problems in the Senate bill.) Stupak, Driehaus, and all those who supported the Stupak-Pitts amendment in the House had full knowledge that those provisions had not been removed. Driehaus and Stupak also knew of a similar amendment, offered by Sens. Ben Nelson (D-NE) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT), which was defeated soundly in the Senate. Interestingly enough, when the Senate bill passed (without removing the abortion authorizations), Stupak and Driehaus, along with Kristen Day, fought hard against its passage in the House. They worked diligently from the time Congress returned in January until March 19th when their objections suddenly, and inexplicably, vanished.

Here, Johnson provides an overview of the abortion funding in the 906 pages of PPACA:

It contained multiple provisions that authorize new programs or expand authorizations for existing programs that are authorized to cover abortion, either explicitly or implicitly. Some of these provisions are entirely untouched by any limitation on abortion in existing law or in the PPACA itself, and others are subject only to limitations that are temporary or contingent.
Those who deny this characterization must have been surprised when three states – Pennsylvania, New Mexico, and Maryland – began the implementation of Section 1101 (42 U.S.C. § 18001) creating the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP), also known as the “high-risk pool” program. Abortion coverage was explicitly included by these three states in this $5 billion program that provides coverage for up to 400,000 people.

After National Right to Life publicized the abortion coverage, it was determined that the coverage was not excluded either by the president’s executive order or the Hyde Amendment. On July 14, the Department of Health and Human Services released a statement:

Abortions will not be covered in the Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP) except in the cases of rape or incest, or where the life of the woman would be endangered.
Nothing in the HHS statement suggested that abortion funding contradicted anything in the executive order, the PPACA, or any pre-existing law, including the Hyde Amendment. In other words, the implementation of PCIP by these three states to include abortion funding had been authorized.

Johnson’s affidavit provides three other examples of abortion authorization in the PPACA, and even these are not exhaustive. In addition to the program of pre-existing conditions, there are federal subsidies for private health plans that cover elective abortions, authorization for abortion funding through Community Health Centers, and authorization for inclusion of abortion coverage in health plans administered by the federal Office of Personnel Management.

Defenders of the bill say that under the premium subsidy program only private money will be utilized to pay for abortions. This is merely an accounting trick that still violates the Hyde Amendment. But there is a much bigger problem: The bill states that on the same day the Hyde Amendment is no longer attached to HHS appropriations, federal dollars may be used to fund abortions. This is an explicit authorization of abortion funding, which creates a huge incentive for Congress to put an end to the Hyde Amendment.

Johnson argues that any one of these four examples is sufficient to prove the SBA List was not falsely representing Driehaus’s voting record.

The biggest issue with the legislation, according to Johnson, is not the individual provisions authorizing taxpayer funded abortions, but “the absence of any bill-wide restriction on federal funding of abortion.” In other words, what’s missing is the very amendment offered to the House bill by Stupak, and co-sponsored by Driehaus – the amendment that never became a part of the final legislation.

Those who point to the protections of the Hyde Amendment or the president’s executive order, as does Driehaus, ignore the fact that they were already found inapplicable to abortion coverage in the PCIP. Hyde protections, which must be renewed annually by Congress, are limited to funds appropriated to HHS by the annual appropriations bill, and the health-care legislation contains many new authorizations and direct appropriations entirely unrelated to the restrictions of the Hyde Amendment.

Let’s be clear: Those who look at the evidence of abortion funding in the healthcare bill and still demur need to ask themselves if they want to remain guilty of the same political partisanship they so often attribute to others.

Is It Time for a Catholic Tea Party?

Deal W. Hudson
Published February 11, 2010

Over 750 “tea parties” were held on April 15 of last year, protesting the excesses of the Obama administration – in particular, the pork-stuffed stimulus bill. Initially, the mainstream media tried to ignore the movement. They downplayed its size and influence, until the steady slide of President Obama’s popularity, the growing opposition to Congress’s health-care reform proposals, and Republican victories in New Jersey, Virginia, and Massachusetts forced them to acknowledge its influence.

Since then, the media strategy has been to portray the tea party as a gathering of disgruntled extremists, in spite of the fact that the limits on government spending they advocate would have been considered common sense in both political parties only a decade ago.

For American Catholics, the equivalent of centralized federal power is the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). The USCCB, the kind of episcopal conference authorized by Vatican II, has no canonical authority of its own. But its voice is considered authoritative by the media, and it is treated as such by those who applaud its lobbying efforts in Congress and the White House.

Criticism of the USCCB among lay Catholics, as well as many priests and bishops, has been a constant since its march to the political left in the years after its creation in 1966. Pastoral letters, including the ones on the economy (1986) and war and peace (1983), created a clear line of demarcation between the liberal politics of the conference (aligned with the Democratic Party) and the Catholics, both lay and religious, who interpreted the Church’s social teaching differently (in a way inclining them toward conservatism and the GOP.)

The pro-life advocacy of the conference, along with its opposition to same-sex marriage, has always set it apart from other politically liberal institutions. Unfortunately, the USCCB’s choice of coalition partners and memberships often threaten to undermine the clarity of its witness.

Nowhere is this better illustrated than in the series of reports from the Reform CCHD Now Coalition. These reports show two things clearly:

Bishops have given Catholic money to organizations advocating abortion and same-sex marriage (two such organizations were defunded last November).

The bishops have joined coalitions, like the Leadership Conference for Civil and Human Rights, that also advocate abortion and same-sex marriage.
These reports differ from previous attempts to address the politics of the USCCB in two ways: First, their Internet links allow anyone to read the various smoking guns unearthed by the research. The second factor is timing – the reports come after both the 2008 presidential election and the furor surrounding Notre Dame’s decision to bestow an honor on a pro-abortion president.

The Notre Dame incident brought home to thousands of Catholics, in a way they had never understood before, that many venerable mainstream Catholic institutions were strongholds of dissent.

Yet the Notre Dame story might not have gone so far if many Catholics were not already furious with the role a bishops’ document played in the election of Barack Obama in the first place.

The 2007 version of the bishops’ “Faithful Citizenship” document, prepared in advance for distribution for the 2008 election, contained several passages that, if taken out of context, gave the green light to Catholic voters to ignore Obama’s aggressively pro-abortion stance. (Obama won the self-identified Catholic vote over Sen. John McCain 54 percent to 44 percent, though among religiously active Catholics he lost by 1 percentage point.)

That document did not emerge from the USCCB without a fight – a number of bishops opposed it; I am told that Archbishop Raymond Burke, then still in St. Louis, was literally shouted down when he tried to explain his opposition to the problematic passages. The best any bishop has been able to say to me regarding “Faithful Citizenship” is that “it was difficult, it was a compromise.”

But such compromises are brewing a tempest for a potential tea party revolution among the faithful. In some ways, the very notion of a tea party goes against the grain for Catholics, with their inbred sense of deference to authority. Those same Catholics, however, are beginning to realize that there are some matters where they can speak out without acting in disobedience to the authority of their bishop.

In response to my recent story on the USCCB’s membership in a pro-abortion civil rights organization, a Notre Dame alumnus from the class of 1965 sent me this message: “Is it time for us to start throwing tea bags at the USCCB?” This is a man who, ten years ago, would not tolerate a word uttered against either Notre Dame or the bishops. The times may be changing.