One criticism that can be leveled against our bishops in the health care debate is that they have failed take into account our current cultural environment. They have indicated certain minimum guidelines that the policy must contain, such as no funding for abortion and a conscience protection for pro-life health care workers. This approach is dangerous and could be self-defeating in the long-run. Given the direction our civilization is moving, it will be dangerous to pass a national health care plan in any form. The problem with the bishop’s approach is that the pro-life provisions accepted today will likely be dismissed tomorrow. The bishop’s strategy is short-sighted because it creates an opportunity for the federal government to advance abortion rights beyond what is possible at present. Through their good intentions, our bishops may have strengthened the culture of death.
By their short-sighted approach, our bishops may have inadvertently made it possible for the national health care bill to be passed without the elements that protect life and conscience. Once the Stupak amendment was included, the bishops gave their approval to the House version of the bill. A critical threshold was met through this support that allowed the bill to clear the first hurdle and move to the second stage where it will be transformed by the Senate. It is very unlikely that this version will contain the pro-life provision. The danger is that after the Senate changes the bill, the House may reconsider it without the pro-life amendment. While the outcome is unknown, it is possible that the bishop’s initial support may come back to haunt them. They permitted the bill to advance and this may eventually allow it to pass without pro-life amendments. If this happens, the bishops may have given their blessing to a bill that may advance the culture of death.
Our bishops' actions suggest a profound political naiveté. When the bill was being considered in the House, the bishops advised cooperation with political adversaries that do not recognize the intrinsic worth of every human life. We cooperated with those who would temporarily use us and then dismiss our concerns at a later time. We can honestly say that our bishops may have hurt the cause for life by failing to recognize our cultural and political reality. Their failure allowed the House to pass the first draft with the Churches blessing and this gave momentum to a bill that may ultimately become law without the provisions that protect life. In retrospect, you should never make a deal with those advocating a culture of death in hopes of defending life. This seems obvious and let’s hope it is not too late… If so, we must give our bishops the credit they have unfortunately earned. Their good intentions may make abortion easier and for this they deserve criticism.