Bishop Dismisses FOCA Threat to Catholic Hospitals

Deal W. Hudson
February 2, 2009

A Catholic News Service (CNS) article on January 27 reported a comment by Bishop Robert Lynch of St. Petersburg, Florida, on the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA). Asked by CNS reporter Nancy Frazier O’Brien about FOCA, Bishop Lynch spoke against it but then tried to dismiss Catholic concerns about the impact of the bill on Catholic hospitals: “But there is no plan to shut down any hospital if it passes. There’s no sense of ominous danger threatening health care institutions.”

Sr. Carol Keehan, president of the Catholic Health Association, took the identical position when interviewed by O’Brien. Keehan caused some controversy weeks ago when she defended President Barack Obama against criticism from pro-lifers and praised his choices of pro-abortion Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Daschle and deputy health care director Jeanne Lambrew.

Since the election of President Obama, Catholics have been deeply concerned that the physicians and staff of Catholic hospitals will be required to perform abortions if FOCA becomes law. But according to O’Brien’s CNS piece, those fears are only Internet “rumors.” Indeed, she begins her article by saying, “Internet rumors to the contrary, no Catholic hospital is in danger of closing because of the Freedom of Choice Act.”

It’s strange that O’Brien would attribute Catholic fears to “misleading e-mails flying around the Internet,” when the USCCB’s Office of General Counsel itself released an analysis of FOCA last August.

The bishops’ own legal counsel wrote:

The combined impact of these various provisions is the likely invalidation of a broad range of state laws if challenged under FOCA, including… government programs and facilities that pay for, provide, or insure childbirth or health care services generally, but not abortion; laws protecting the conscience rights of doctors, nurses and hospitals, if those laws create even minimal delay or inconvenience in obtaining an abortion or treat abortion differently than other medical procedures… (emphasis added).

Both Bishop Lynch and Sister Keehan directly contradict the opinion of the USCCB, while O’Brien attributes the concerns over FOCA articulated by the bishops’ own legal counsel to “misleading e-mails.”

But that’s not all: The Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities released a statement last September titled, “The Freedom of Choice Act: Most Radical Abortion Legislation in U.S. History.” It argued that the impact of FOCA would go “far beyond even Roe.” Among other things, it stated that “FOCA will bar laws protecting a right of conscientious objection to abortion,” which means the consciences of doctors and nurses in Catholic hospitals.

Furthermore, a week before the inauguration, Francis Cardinal George wrote a letter to Obama laying out the bishops’ concerns about life issues. One of the items was Catholic hospitals: “Suggestions that government involvement in healthcare will be aimed at denying conscience or excluding Catholic and other health care providers from participation in serving the public good, could threaten much-needed health care reform at the outset.”

Finally, the USCCB’s own national postcard campaign to “Fight FOCA” says in its instructional statement, “For the first time, abortion would become an entitlement the government must fund and promote.” Making abortions an “entitlement” would require Catholic hospitals to offer them.

All of these public statements on FOCA from Cardinal George and the USCCB make O’Brien’s article surprising. Surely CNS is not characterizing the USCCB as a rumor mill; no doubt they fully respect the analysis of the USCCB Office of General Counsel, the Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities, and Cardinal George himself. Maybe O’Brien was somehow unaware of the range of issues being addressed by the bishops’ national postcard campaign?

Unfortunately, Bishop Lynch and Sister Keehan clearly part here with the USCCB and Cardinal George. The statements contained in the CNS article will now be used to undermine the expressions of Catholic concern about FOCA. The CNS article provides Catholic supporters of FOCA the opportunity to blame the anxiety about the fate of Catholic hospitals on “right-wing bloggers.”

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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