InsideCatholic 2010

The USCCB and Cultural Diversity

Deal W. Hudson
September 8, 2010

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has set five goals to pursue until the end of 2011. They are:

  1. Strengthening marriage
  2. Faith formation focused on sacramental practice
  3. Priestly and religious vocations
  4. Life and dignity of the human person
  5. Recognition of cultural diversity
The USCCB Web site contains a link to a timeline for some of the "programs, events, and items coming from the five priority initiatives."

As I read through the goals, I was struck by how much the last – "recognition of cultural diversity" – differed from the first four. Cultural diversity seemed jarringly out of place when set beside the issues of marriage, faith formation, vocations, and respect for human life.

It was as if the guiding genera of Catholic faith and practice had decided to adopt a species from a completely different paradigm, one more rooted in modern politics and the debate over multiculturalism than the Catholic tradition.

So I decided to look through the material supplied at the USCCB Web site to find out just what made the "recognition of cultural diversity" so important as to be singled out as one of the five goals.

When I clicked on the link regarding future programs implementing these goals, I found a qualifier attached to the recognition of cultural diversity: "with special emphasis on Hispanic ministry in the spirit of Encuentro 2000."

Encuentro 2000 was a historic conference held in Los Angeles in the summer of 2000 "to celebrate the rich cultural diversity of the Church in the United States." Attended by 5,300 Catholic leaders from the United States and 162 nations, the conference was held with the hope that "by bringing together people from different cultural, ethnic, and linguistic groups in the United States as one Church, Encuentro 2000 [would be] a prophetic sign of unity."

With that principle in mind, I looked at the first of the programs slated to be implemented in 2010: "Cultural Competency Guidelines for building cultural competency for clergy and laity together with in-service programs on Models and Resources."

"Cultural competency guidelines" were completely new to me, so I searched the phrase on the Internet and found that programs under this name are being administered by groups such as the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services and Minnesota Department of Human Services.

The Minnesota DHS states, "An organization cannot be clinically or programmatically competent unless it is culturally competent." The Office of Minority Health at the Department of HHS has a detailed explanation of what is meant by "cultural competence" along with fourteen national standards for applying this competence to health care organizations.

It appears that something like a cultural competency standard is now being applied to the various ministries of the Church. In fact, for the past two years, there has been a Secretariat of Cultural Diversity at the USCCB with five subcommittees: Hispanic; African American; Native American; Asian Pacific; and Pastoral Care of Migrants, Refugees, and Travelers. This secretariat is already working on developing the cultural competency guidelines. It held a conference this past May at the University of Notre Dame, called the "Catholic Cultural Diversity Network Convocation," with more than 300 leaders to start formulating the document.

The USCCB press release for the Notre Dame conference contained a comment from the executive director of the Secretariat of Cultural Diversity, Rev. Allan F. Deck, S.J., that helped me to understand the reason behind this effort. Father Deck called the development of these guidelines vital, since "new leadership mostly of non-European descent is arising in the Church of the United States…. That leadership, however, is still largely focused on its own people and only vaguely aware of its role in relationship to the whole Church."

Father Deck's comment accurately describes the growing Hispanic presence in the U.S. Church, but it also adds a different dimension to the work of the secretariat. He talks about the importance of Hispanic leaders recognizing their relationship to the "whole Church," but the goal of recognizing cultural diversity is aimed at non-Hispanic and (presumably) now-assimilated U.S. Catholics, many from various European backgrounds.

The work of the secretariat appears to be implementing the cultural diversity goal by working in several directions at once. Hispanic leaders are to be brought into the mainstream of the Church, providing "Anglo" Catholics an understanding of their culture and practices that will form the basis of sharing a common community of worship and faith.

When the multicultural program was applied to this nation's educational system, the result was disastrous. The program was employed as a weapon to bash traditional curriculum and the teaching of basic skills. Having looked more closely at what the USCCB means by the "recognition of cultural diversity," I have come to conclude two things: First, the goal is poorly phrased because it looks like rank ideology. And second, it seems to have no purpose beyond teaching the commonsense lesson of "welcoming the stranger."

Why It’s Absurd to Deny Obama’s Healthcare Bill Contains Abortion Funding

Deal W. Hudson

October 18, 2010

With the decision of the Ohio Elections Commission to allow a hearing to decide whether the Susan B. Anthony List has falsely represented the voting record of Rep. Steve Driehaus (D-OH), the question is again raised: Was abortion funding authorized by the health care legislation signed into law by President Barack Obama?

The complaint arose from the SBA List’s use of billboards declaring that Representative Driehaus of Ohio’s 1st Congressional District had voted for taxpayer-funded abortions by voting for the health care bill. If Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of SBA, is found guilty, she could go to jail. Supporting Driehaus’s effort to imprison Dannenfelser are James Salt, policy director of Catholics United, and Kristen Day, president of Democrats for Life of America.

Driehaus, by the way, had made essentially the same characterization of the health care legislation as made by Dannenfelser. On March 19, Driehaus was an original co-sponsor of H. Con. Res. 254, an “enrollment correction,” introduced by Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI). That resolution would have removed abortion funding from the Senate version of the health care bill.

The language of the final health care bill – “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act” (PPACA) – had not changed when both Stupak and Driehaus voted for it and Obama signed it into law. Now, Driehaus is trying to send Marjorie Dannenfelser to jail for precisely the same view of the health care bill as expressed in his support for H. Con. Res 254 – that it authorizes federal tax dollars to be spent on abortion.

Three members of the Ohio Elections Commission voted 2-1 to find “probable cause” to send the Driehaus complaint to a full hearing of the seven commissioners. The date has not yet been set.

The evidence supporting the SBA List is undeniable. In addition to the witness of Driehaus himself (and Stupak), there are the multiple provisions of the legislation itself that authorize the funding of abortions. The best summary is found in the affidavit submitted for last week’s meeting of the Ohio Elections Commission by Douglas Johnson, legislative director of National Right to Life.

As Johnson points out in his affidavit, the provisions of the Senate version of the bill, ultimately signed into law, contained many of the same abortion funding mechanisms that the Stupak-Pitts amendment of the House bill removed. (There were new, additional problems in the Senate bill.) Stupak, Driehaus, and all those who supported the Stupak-Pitts amendment in the House had full knowledge that those provisions had not been removed. Driehaus and Stupak also knew of a similar amendment, offered by Sens. Ben Nelson (D-NE) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT), which was defeated soundly in the Senate. Interestingly enough, when the Senate bill passed (without removing the abortion authorizations), Stupak and Driehaus, along with Kristen Day, fought hard against its passage in the House. They worked diligently from the time Congress returned in January until March 19th when their objections suddenly, and inexplicably, vanished.

Here, Johnson provides an overview of the abortion funding in the 906 pages of PPACA:

It contained multiple provisions that authorize new programs or expand authorizations for existing programs that are authorized to cover abortion, either explicitly or implicitly. Some of these provisions are entirely untouched by any limitation on abortion in existing law or in the PPACA itself, and others are subject only to limitations that are temporary or contingent.
Those who deny this characterization must have been surprised when three states – Pennsylvania, New Mexico, and Maryland – began the implementation of Section 1101 (42 U.S.C. § 18001) creating the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP), also known as the “high-risk pool” program. Abortion coverage was explicitly included by these three states in this $5 billion program that provides coverage for up to 400,000 people.

After National Right to Life publicized the abortion coverage, it was determined that the coverage was not excluded either by the president’s executive order or the Hyde Amendment. On July 14, the Department of Health and Human Services released a statement:

Abortions will not be covered in the Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP) except in the cases of rape or incest, or where the life of the woman would be endangered.
Nothing in the HHS statement suggested that abortion funding contradicted anything in the executive order, the PPACA, or any pre-existing law, including the Hyde Amendment. In other words, the implementation of PCIP by these three states to include abortion funding had been authorized.

Johnson’s affidavit provides three other examples of abortion authorization in the PPACA, and even these are not exhaustive. In addition to the program of pre-existing conditions, there are federal subsidies for private health plans that cover elective abortions, authorization for abortion funding through Community Health Centers, and authorization for inclusion of abortion coverage in health plans administered by the federal Office of Personnel Management.

Defenders of the bill say that under the premium subsidy program only private money will be utilized to pay for abortions. This is merely an accounting trick that still violates the Hyde Amendment. But there is a much bigger problem: The bill states that on the same day the Hyde Amendment is no longer attached to HHS appropriations, federal dollars may be used to fund abortions. This is an explicit authorization of abortion funding, which creates a huge incentive for Congress to put an end to the Hyde Amendment.

Johnson argues that any one of these four examples is sufficient to prove the SBA List was not falsely representing Driehaus’s voting record.

The biggest issue with the legislation, according to Johnson, is not the individual provisions authorizing taxpayer funded abortions, but “the absence of any bill-wide restriction on federal funding of abortion.” In other words, what’s missing is the very amendment offered to the House bill by Stupak, and co-sponsored by Driehaus – the amendment that never became a part of the final legislation.

Those who point to the protections of the Hyde Amendment or the president’s executive order, as does Driehaus, ignore the fact that they were already found inapplicable to abortion coverage in the PCIP. Hyde protections, which must be renewed annually by Congress, are limited to funds appropriated to HHS by the annual appropriations bill, and the health-care legislation contains many new authorizations and direct appropriations entirely unrelated to the restrictions of the Hyde Amendment.

Let’s be clear: Those who look at the evidence of abortion funding in the healthcare bill and still demur need to ask themselves if they want to remain guilty of the same political partisanship they so often attribute to others.

Understanding “Incivility”

Deal W. Hudson

Published October 25, 2010

Is the religious right uncivil? Conservatives Michael Gerson and Peter Wehner think so. In a joint Huffington Post column titled “The Success and Failure of the Religious Right,” they argue:

The language and tone of the religious right have often been apocalyptic, off-putting, and counterproductive. “Just like what Nazi Germany did to the Jews,” said Jerry Falwell, “so liberal America is now doing to evangelical Christians.” In 1994, a conspiracy-mongering video promoted by Falwell associated President Bill Clinton with drug dealing and murder.

Such melodrama, or hysteria, is good for fund-raising, but bad for American politics. It makes a civil political conversation impossible, and does a disservice to the cause of a Christian witness to society.

Gerson and Wehner’s complaint is rooted in a concern about being politically effective. They realize, correctly, that the occasional rude or crazed outburst from a religious right leader has led to a loss of credibility affecting the entire movement.

While that’s true, it’s nevertheless unavoidable. Those men and women of faith who are drawn into politics to fight for the endangered values they believe in do so because they’re passionate about combating evil. I’ve always found it surprising that anyone would expect only calm and rational discussion from large groups of citizens who are outraged by the murder of unborn children, the destruction of the institution of marriage, government attacks on religious liberty, and the pervasive takeover of education by postmodern multiculturalists.

Further, I’ve yet to see a successful political movement that wasn’t fueled by a considerable amount of passionate outrage. That was true for Obama in 2008, and it will be the same for the GOP in the upcoming election. Passion is like fuel – sure, you can waste it unproductively, but at the same time, you can’t drive a grassroots movement without it. Nor can you control it from the perch of a Washington, D.C. think tank.

The next time you hear someone complain about the religious right’s (or even the Tea Party’s) so-called lack of civility, I would suggest you say something like this: “Of course they speak with passion – they’re concerned about losing the character of the country they love, and are outraged that the core values that once guided our nation are being ignored.”

I’m not entirely unsympathetic to issues of civility – after all, I was raised to be gentlemanly and courteous in all circumstances and was told these qualities should belong to every man. But I quickly noticed three things: First, those who note the rudeness of their political opponents seemed oblivious to the same behavior displayed by their allies.

Second, the “incivility” charge is almost always used against conservatives, and rarely against those on the political Left.

And third, the “incivility” charge is too often used as an excuse to shut down discussion. This has become particularly obvious in the pro-life debate. Having lost the public argument, abortion supporters resort to characterizations of those who oppose abortion as angry, extreme, and violent.

They miss the mark all around. For example, those pro-lifers who carry pictures of aborted fetuses on the street are not being uncivil, even if their methods may not be effective. These pictures only appear uncivil to those who don’t want to be reminded of what it means to be “pro-choice.”

In the case of pro-life leaders, given the substance of their concerns, I am often surprised not by their “incivility” but by their restraint and observance of public decorum. Leaders such as Rev. Frank Pavone, Marjorie Dannenfelser, Doug Johnson, and, among the episcopate, Archbishop Charles Chaput are always calm and compelling witnesses to the truth about the most controversial issue in politics.

No doubt, there is a genuine civility problem in our culture – the evidence is everywhere: the popularity of reality TV, foul rap and pop lyrics, the explosion of Internet porn, and the vulgar texting habits of our teenagers. But these sources of cultural corruption are generated not by political passion but by a deliberate and cool-headed plan to generate profit by appealing to our most sordid impulses.

Maybe that’s the problem Gerson and Wehner should be worrying about.