Click here to advertise on CatholicCulture.org

The bishops and their(?) lobbyists

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Oct 19, 2009

 Writing in Time magazine, Amy Sullivan asks: "Will the Church Try to Block Health Reform?"

The question is ironic, in light of the energy spent by Catholic officials-- especially at the US Conference for Catholic Bishops-- to promote the health-care reform package. Now it seems the White House and its journalistic allies are setting the USCCB up as scapegoats, in the case the campaign fails. 

Sullivan's complaint-- and it's fair to assume she's picked up this complaint from the Obama administration-- is that the USCCB assured supporters that a cosmetic change in the proposed legislation known as the Capps Amendment, prohibiting the most direct forms of federal funding for abortion, would be enough to ensure the American bishops' support for the bill. But after that amendment was approved, Cardinal Justin Rigali announced that it wasn't good enough-- that since the measure still provided ample indirect subsidies for abortion, the bishops could not support it. The bishops, Sullivan suggests, had reneged on a political commitment. 

You won't find-- anywhere-- a commitment by the US bishops to support a particular piece of legislation. But if Sullivan's reporting is accurate, some lawmakers felt that they had received such a commitment. How could that have happened?

Deal Hudson, who has spent enough time in Washington to know how these things work, has a likely explanation. Some USCCB lobbyist(s), acting in the bishops' name (or at least claiming to do so), gave the assurance that the Capps Amendment would do the trick. Now Hudson wants to know:

From whom at the USCCB did Congressional Democrats receive assurances that Capps was going to be enough to satisfy the bishops?

Good question. Here's another: If a USCCB lobbyist overstepped his bounds, made a promise he should not have made, and thereby put his bosses in an awkward position, will those bosses (the bishops) realize that they've been poorly represented, and perhaps need a different lobbyist?

Come to think of it, here's another question: The bishops had no incentive to promote the Capps Amendment; it didn't fix the problems they saw in the legislation. But the Democrats did have an incentive to pass the amendment: precisely to quiet the bishops' opposition. So if it was a USCCB staff aide who persuaded lawmakers to approve that amendment, who was he really working for? When this lobbyist was telling legislators how to assuage the bishops' concerns, was he really lobbying Congress on behalf of the bishops? Or was he, in effect, lobbying the bishops on behalf of the Democratic majority? 

Deal Hudson ends his analysis of this telling episode with a conclusion that's right on the money:

Sullivan's purpose in writing her article is to point a finger at the bishops for thwarting health care reform. What she has really done is reveal the close relationships that exist between the USCCB, Congressional Democrats, and the Obama administration.

An appeal from our founder, Dr. Jeffrey Mirus:

Dear reader: If you found the information on this page helpful in your pursuit of a better Catholic life, please support our work with a donation. Your donation will help us reach five million Truth-seeking readers worldwide this year. Thank you!

Progress toward our April expenses ($18,110 to go):
$35,000.00 $16,890.48
52% 48%
Sound Off! CatholicCulture.org supporters weigh in.

All comments are moderated. To lighten our editing burden, only current donors are allowed to Sound Off. If you are a donor, log in to see the comment form; otherwise please support our work, and Sound Off!

There are no comments yet for this item.

Subscribe for free
Click here to advertise on CatholicCulture.org

Recent Catholic Commentary

Round Trip to the present moment: a Catholic jazz artist's latest offering April 22
Easter with the Pope April 21
Smaller Church, Bigger Faith, 3: Ecclesiastical Discipline April 17
The Holy Spirit and Evangelization: A Primer April 16
Journey to the Sun: A Strange Biography of Junípero Serra April 16

Top Catholic News

Most Important Stories of the Last 30 Days
Pope Francis: Easter Vigil homily (full text) CWN - April 20
Pope Francis's Easter Message 'Urbi et Orbi' (To the City and the World): full text, link to video CWN - April 20