Catholic Bishops Must Change Health Care Strategy

Deal W. Hudson
March 11, 2010

The lobbying strategy of the Catholic bishops in the health-care debate thus far has been one of qualified support. We support the health-care reform bill, the bishops argue, as long as it does not contain abortion funding and provides conscience protection for health-care workers.

The only help the bishops have received in their effort is from Catholic Democrat Bart Stupak, whose coalition of pro-life House Democrats is the only hope of either killing the bill or eliminating its abortion funding.

The bishops have made no headway with the Democratic leadership in Congress, including the Catholic Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, and Catholic Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius – both of whom lied about the presence of abortion funding in the Senate version of the bill.

It should be clear to the bishops and their staff at the USCCB that there is no good will in either the Congress or the White House toward their concerns about abortion funding and conscience protections.

It’s time for a change of strategy before it’s too late. None of the Democratic leadership in control of this legislation has the least interest in keeping abortion funding out of the bill. Instead, they hope that by keeping the bishops in the posture of qualified support, the prospect of an outcry from grassroots Catholics will be postponed until after the bill is pushed through by some sort of legislative sleight of hand.

By the time the bishops can restart another national postcard campaign, health-care reform with abortion funding will be a fait accompli.

As I have consistently argued, even if (by some miracle) the health-care bill was passed without abortion funding, the increased government control over health-care services would lead, inevitably, to mandated abortion funding, as abortion advocates would then take the matter to the courts to finish the job. That the bishops don’t seem to recognize this inevitability – publicly, anyway – is disappointing.

The support that the bishops and the staff of the USCCB have shown to Stupak and his pro-life coalition is commendable, perhaps even historic. But it is a slender thread upon which to hang their hopes for an abortion-less health-care bill.

If there are those among the Catholic leadership who think the bishops’ risky strategy is justified by the immense problem of uninsured American citizens and immigrants, both documented and not, then they should be reminded of the danger of proportionalism. To put it bluntly, trading universal coverage for federal abortion funding is not morally justifiable.

When Speaker Pelosi and Secretary Sebelius lied about the presence of abortion funding in the health-care bill, it made national headlines. The corrective came from Richard Doerflinger of the USCCB’s Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities and other pro-life leaders whose comments were published in a few Catholic news services. When the Catholic speaker of the House and secretary of HHS mislead the nation on such a crucial issue as abortion funding, then they should be answered by their peers: the bishops.

The strategy of qualified support is risky because it means that Congress and the White House are not hearing the fury that is building at the grassroots level among Catholics. I suspect they are also not hearing about the growing distrust and impatience of many bishops toward this process.


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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