Why There Is No Church Teaching on the Health Care Bill

U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., talks about the American Health Care Act, the Republican bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, during a March 8 news conference in Washington. (CNS photo/Joshua Roberts, Reuters) See WASHINGTON-LETTER-ACA-REPEAL March 10, 2017.

Deal W. Hudson
March 8, 2010

Even I was surprised a few weeks ago at the strength of the positive response to my column asking, “Is It Time for a Catholic Tea Party?” There’s considerable unrest among faithful Catholics who differ with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) on some of its major policy positions, as well as its mistakes in funding pro-abortion groups through the Catholic Campaign for Human Development.

Part of the turmoil stems from a basic misunderstanding on the part of the Catholic laity concerning the lobbying efforts of the USCCB. Many Catholics assume they’re obliged to support the specific legislative recommendations of the USCCB, whether they agree with them or not.

Many Catholics do not realize that these recommendations – with the exception of those on non-negotiable life issues – require respectful consideration rather than obedient acceptance. Frustration follows for Catholics who don’t realize they are free to differ and to say so.

Unfortunately, there is clergy who not only contribute to the misunderstanding but also treat respectful disagreement with condescension. The following e-mail was passed along to me by an acquaintance who wrote to his parish priest to question the wisdom of placing the nation’s health-care system in the hands of the federal government. (I’ve edited the e-mail to protect the identity of its author.) The priest’s response:

It is so unfortunate that you have such a myopic vision and have made the conscious decision to NOT learn anything about Social Justice, that you would rather listen and believe the words of Hannity and Limbaugh rather than [local bishop’s name] or any Roman Catholic authority on the teachings of the Catholic Church especially in the area of Social Justice and the Social gospel.

I was contacted by Bishop _____ and [another bishop’s] Secretary. They both were disappointed in your mindset and your refusal to learn what the Catholic Church actually teaches. I pray that someday you will spend the time and effort to learn, understand and comprehend the Church’s view on Health Care Reform, Immigration Reform, and the understanding that the Body of Christ isn’t made up of only those people you believe to be given the recognition. With that being said, I do not want you to send me any E-Mails or forward any articles that are contrary to the teachings of the Church. I pray that God may have mercy on you (emphasis added).

The lack of pastoral courtesy requires little comment, except to say that this sort of demeaning clerical tone pushes the suppliant further away and exacerbates the discontent.

More disturbing is the false claim that there is a “Church’s view on health care [and] immigration reform.” To substitute “Church” for the USCCB is to infuse legislative priorities with the aura of episcopal authority about the teaching of faith and morals.

Catholics need to realize there is no “Church view” on the present health-care bill, but there is a position being taken by the bishops’ conference. The Church teaching Catholics are obliged to consider comes in the form of moral principles that must be applied prudentially to the legislation under consideration.

Catholic leadership at all levels could help stem the mounting concern over the USCCB by clarifying the mission of the conference and the ecclesial rationale of its role as a Catholic lobby to the U.S. Congress.

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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