Are the Bishops ‘Advancing the Republican Agenda’?

Deal W. Hudson
April 5, 2010

Regular readers may be taken aback by the question, but I ask it seriously. In fact, I am repeating a question put to Francis Cardinal George by a reporter for the Catholic News Service.

March 23 story from CNS, written by Nancy Frazier O’Brien, featured an exchange with Cardinal George, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), in the aftermath of the health-care bill’s passage in the House. Cardinal George registered his concern about the abortion funding in the bill and the inadequacy of an executive order to remove that funding.

O’Brien, who proposed a question to the cardinal about the USCCB’s motives with regards to the health-care debate, wrote, “Cardinal George also rejected claims by some that the USCCB had allied itself in the health reform debate with groups that were primarily interested in advancing the Republican agenda.”

No parallel suggestion was made regarding the possibility that the USCCB was trying to advance a Democratic Party agenda – this despite the USCCB’s strong support for universal coverage.

Indeed, given the visibility of the bishops’ overall support for the bill, I can only conclude that those who accuse the USCCB of advancing a “Republican agenda” must have only the abortion issue in mind. Why? Because the only parts of the bill the bishops objected to were those allowing abortion funding and the lack of conscience protection for medical workers.

I also find it ironic that the implication here is that the pro-life cause is being led by the Republican Party rather than the Catholic bishops.

I shouldn’t have been surprised by the question. During the 2008 election, a number of bishops who questioned the pro-life claims made by President Barack Obama and his Catholic surrogates were accused of being “partisan” or Republican.

This points to one aspect of the tragedy of Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI). Stupak could have carved out a proud place in the history of American politics as the man who broke the abortion advocates’ stranglehold on the Democratic Party. America could have once again had a two-party system, from a pro-life point of view.

Returning to Cardinal George and whether or not the USCCB supports the GOP’s agenda on healthcare: “I really don’t think that’s true,” he said. “The principles are twofold – everybody’s taken care of, nobody killed. And I think that moral voice, while it doesn’t correspond politically to either party, has been consistent.”

True, the principles don’t correspond to either political party, but the two principles are not equal in moral weight. The aim of universal health care does carry with it a non-negotiable obligation for Catholics – the protection of innocent life. Both Cardinal George and the USCCB have been pointing to this throughout the health-care debate.

But, as the CNS article demonstrates, the pro-life principle has become so identified with the Republican Party that many people regard the bishops’ own pro-life effort as partisan, rather than simply Christian.

The sad state of affairs seems to be this: When Catholics object to abortion funding in health-care reform, they are accused of being Republican shills. But when Catholics ignore the presence of abortion funding in health-care reform, they are applauded for their commitment to universal coverage.

By Deal Hudson

Deal W. Hudson was born November 20, 1949 in Denver, CO, to Emmie and Jack Hudson, both native Texans. Dr. Hudson had an older sister Ruth, and eventually, a younger sister, Elizabeth. Emmie Hudson, Ruth Hudson and Elizabeth Hudson now live in Houston, TX; Jack Hudson passed away some years ago. The late Jack Hudson was a captain for Braniff Airlines in Denver at the time of Dr. Hudson’s birth. Later the family moved to Kansas City when his father joined the Federal Aviation Agency. From Kansas City, the Hudson family moved to Minneapolis, then to Massapequa, NY, and finally to Alexandria, VA, where they first occupied a home overlooking the Potomac River adjacent to the Mount Vernon estate. After a year, the family moved to a home on Tarpon Lane a few houses up the street from the Yacht Haven boat docks. Dr. Hudson attended Mt. Vernon Elementary School from grades 4 to 6 and has a special gratitude for the teaching of Mr. Hoppe who first told him was a ‘smart lad.’ Having moved with his family to Fort Worth, TX in 1960, Dr. Hudson attended William Monnig Junior High and Arlington Heights HS. In high school, Dr. Hudson was captain of the golf team, editor of the literary magazine (Guerdon), and performed the role of Peter in the ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ during his senior year. Dr. Hudson graduated cum laude with a major in philosophy from the University of Texas-Austin in 1971 where his undergraduate advisor was Prof. John Silber. His teachers at the University of Texas included Prof. Louis Mackey and Prof. Larry Caroline. Dr. Hudson minored in both classics and English literature. Dr. Hudson lived in Atlanta from 1974-1989, where he attended Emory University, receiving a Phd from the Graduate Institute for the LIberal Arts. He also taught philosophy at Mercer University in Atlanta from 1980-89. In 1989 Dr. Hudson and his family left Atlanta when he was hired to teach philosophy at Fordham University in the Bronx. Dr. Hudson taught at Fordham, and also part-time at New York University, from 1989 to 1994. Dr. Hudson first came to Atlanta in after graduation from Princeton Theological Seminary (PTS) with an M.Div. While at PTS, Dr. Hudson managed the Baptist Student Union at Princeton University and became its first director. Dr. Hudson also was licensed at a minister in the Southern Baptist Convention at Madison Baptist Church in Madison, NJ. Dr. Hudson’s primary area of study at PTS was the history of Christian doctrine which he pursued with Dr. Karlfried Froelich. In 1984 Dr. Hudson was received in the Catholic Church by Msgr. Richard Lopez, with the special permission of Archbishop Thomas A. Donnellan, at the chapel of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Cancer Home in Atlanta. Dr. Hudson has been married twenty-five years to Theresa Carver Hudson and they have two children, Hannah Clare, 23, and Cyprian Joseph (Chip), 15, adopted from Romania when he was three years old. The Hudson family has lived in Fairfax, VA for more than fifteen years, after having lived five years in Bronxville, NY and a year in Atlanta, GA, where Theresa and Deal were married.

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