Catholic Culture Overview
Catholic Culture Overview

Sister Carol is watching

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Oct 13, 2010

The sequence of events is interesting.

First a Catholic hospital system in Scranton, Pennsylvania, went on the market, and the chief executive said that the effects of ObamaCare were “absolutely” a factor in the economic calculations that prompted the decision to sell.

Then Sister Carol Keehan, the president of the Catholic Health Association and leading supporter of ObamaCare, issued her own statement, saying that the new health-care reform bill is not causing problems for Catholic hospitals. In Scranton, the head of Mercy Health Partners quickly followed suit, distancing himself from any suggestion that ObamaCare was a problem.

Next the American Spectator posted a story suggesting that Sister Keehan had thrown her weight around to support her ally in the White House, and pressured Mercy Health Partners to toe the party line.

Now, responding to that Spectator article, both Mercy Health Partners and the Catholic Health Association have released new statements, insisting that ObamaCare is not-- repeat not-- a problem for Catholic hospitals and any suggestions to the contrary are (in the words of the CHA) “completely false, misleading and politically motivated.” 

To review: The American Spectator suggested that Sister Keehan had—to put it nicely—“prompted” Kevin Cook, the president of Mercy Health Partners, to clarify his original statement. To rebut that suggestion, Mercy Health Partners put out a new statement—and so did Sister Keehan. Or to put it differently: the Spectator insinuated that Sister Keehan was looking over Cook’s shoulder. So Cook put out a disclaimer-- with Sister Keehan looking over his shoulder. 

By the way, the article in the American Spectator can fairly be described as “politically motivated,” insofar as the Spectator is a magazine with unabashedly conservative political sympathies. But what about the CHA statement? When a statement on ObamaCare comes from the desk of Sister Keehan—who was at the White House celebrating when the health-care reform bill was signed—it’s not illogical to wonder whether that statement might be politically motivated as well. 

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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  • Posted by: JimKcda - Oct. 18, 2010 7:11 PM ET USA

    When will the time come when we can simply believe a statement from our Bishops and/or religious leaders and accept it as the TRUTH not a "political half-lie? Not now! Not lately! Not ever? When is it acceptable to tell a bold-faced lie? When it will cost you money? When it will harm your favorite politician? When it will make you look bad? When it conflicts with your slant on life? When? I was taught, NEVER!

  • Posted by: LCRich - Oct. 17, 2010 10:55 AM ET USA

    mjarman comments, "Is the point that Catholics can't differ on economic issues?" Catholics can differ on economic issues or any other issue so long and the difference is not centered on Church teachings. The only argument a Catholic can make is in support of the Magisterium. Obamacare clearly violates many of these teachings. I trust we agree on this point.

  • Posted by: tarbal793938 - Oct. 15, 2010 9:10 PM ET USA

    First as a member of the health care field there are major problems with Obamacare that not only affect Catholic hospitals but all hospitals. Is Obamacare the reasons for the three Catholic hospitals closing-not directly since it has only been law a few months. Second this is the same Sr Carol that gave us the no abortion funding in the Obamacare speech. We know from various sources this is not really true. It is there.

  • Posted by: - Oct. 13, 2010 5:30 PM ET USA

    Frankly, I'm at a loss to see why this commentary is topical. It can hardly escape the readership that Phil does not like the health reform law. Fair enough. Is the point that Catholics can't differ on economic issues? Is the point that "Phil is right about the economics of this particular piece of legislation"? Maybe time will tell. Is the point that someone in the system was on Phil's side and her bosses decided a different message was in order? My boss gets the last say, too. So what?