by Ed Klein, Peoria, IL
Does anybody remember what John F. Kennedy, our first Catholic president, said to those concerned that the Vatican would be dictating U.S. policy? “I believe in an America,” he said, “where no Catholic prelate would tell the President — should he be Catholic — how to act.” Well, that was then and this is now. Today, the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops is pressuring legislators, Catholic and otherwise — including the President — to pass an agenda dictated by the Vatican into the law of the land.
That agenda, seeking to wield political power over Capitol Hill, would restrict millions of Americans from getting much needed health insurance. All because the bishops want to deny access to abortion, even in cases of rape, incest or risk to a woman’s life. No contraceptions after rape, no treatment for ectopic pregnancy threatening a woman’s life, or for problems that might adversely affect an embryo or fetus. There would also be little respect for living wills and no further embryonic stem cell research. In short, there would be nothing in the healthcare system that didn’t meet the demands dictated by a small group of men speaking for the Catholic Church — and attempting to force their particular theology on every American citizen regardless of his or her beliefs.
There’s nothing wrong with the bishops speaking for the Catholic Church, nothing wrong with them condemning health care legislation containing provisions offensive to them. They also have every right to get their message out by preaching to their congregations, writing pastoral letters, being interviewed on newscasts, writing newspaper articles, excommunicating Catholic legislators or others who disagree with them. In short, they can use whatever methods they desire to protest healthcare legislation that doesn’t meet their standards. But one thing they should not do is to pressure legislators who were elected to represent all the people to pass laws forcing their beliefs on those Americans who disagree with them. Isn’t it enough that Big business has succeeded in getting its corporate agenda made the law of the land? Can we permit religion to do the same?
If the bishops get their way, Congress will have opened the door for them to try to impose their ideologies at every level of society. We have finally reached a critical point in passing a bill — perhaps not as good as we’d like — but one that would provide most Americans with affordable healthcare. Are we willing to let a small group of self-righteous crusaders destroy the hopes of those whose well being and often their very lives, depend on meaningful healthcare reform?