Just as the Witch Doctor is impotent without Attila, so Attila is impotent without the Witch Doctor; neither can make his power last without the other.*
I am for freedom of religion and against all maneuvers to bring about a legal ascendancy of one sect over another.**
In all ages, hypocrites, called priests, have put crowns upon the heads of thieves, called kings.***
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops lent its endorsement to the 2,000+ page health care bill passed by the House last week (H.R. 3962), when Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and her arm-twisting cohorts persuaded others to okay the Stupak-Pitts Amendment. The amendment would prohibit insurance companies from including coverage for federally-subsidized abortions in their health plans, or so restrict them that it would not encourage any insurance company to include an abortion as a covered medical procedure.
The amendment, which passed by a vote of 240 to 194, would be included in the so-called “public option” of the legislation. The term “public option,” however, is a deceptive misnomer. There is nothing “public” about it. It would place a government bureaucrat in between an insurer and the insured. It should be called the “bureaucratic option.”
What has not been paid much attention is the fact that an organization of Catholic clergy has prevailed upon a nominally secular government to impose its religious dogma — that fetuses are persons from the moment of conception — on the rest of the country, in the face of opposition by several other religious groups, including one called Catholics for Choice. Of course, few in Congress, least of all Pelosi and her mandating munchkins and trolls, care to think of the First Amendment of the Constitution or even to give it serious credence, or perhaps devote two seconds of consideration of it in their power-obsessed minds. The words in that amendment are simple, clear and brief. It states that:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”
The establishment clause prohibits Congress from creating a state religion, while the free exercise clause bars Congress from granting “most-favored religion” status to any religion at the expense of or over another (that is, while not literally creating a state religion).
Balance that against the mammoth health care bill with its millions of words. The question, however, is: Can the endorsement of the anti-abortion provision by the bishops, together with the concession by Pelosi (also a Catholic) and her allies in response to the peevish machinations of Stupak and his allies, be construed as the establishment of a religion?
Actually, no. But it hovers close to it. In fact, the American Catholic Church is a major recipient of federal funds. Its collection basket overflows with taxpayer money. It should come as no surprise that the bishops could exert such extraordinary influence on a nominally secular Congress. Politico reports:
With well over half of their revenue coming from the government, it is safe to say that Catholic hospitals survive on government funding as well as contributions from private sources….Catholic Charities, the domestic direct service arm of the bishops, also depends on state and federal dollars. Sixty-seven percent of Catholic Charities’ income comes from government funding. That represents over $2.6 billion in 2008 — an amount that is more than three times as large as the next largest charitable recipient of federal funds, the YMCA. Just as Catholic hospitals do, Catholic Charities receives enormous quantities of government dollars while abiding by existing constitutional and statutory requirements that prevent government sponsorship of religion.
How the Stupak-Pitts Amendment to the health care bill came to be an issue is completely consistent with the character of the bill itself. In a move that smacks of extortion of extortionists. Bart Stupak, a Michigan Democrat (and Catholic) who sponsored the amendment, together with Pennsylvania Republican representative Joseph Pitts (an evangelical Christian), promised that they and other Democrats and Republicans would block passage of the bill if it permitted the federal subsidy of abortions in conjunction with the bill’s insurance coverage. Joining them in that maneuver were Democratic Representatives Ike Skelton of Missouri, John Tanner and Lincoln Davis of Tennessee, and Dan Boren of Oklahoma.
They were apparently moved to initiate that maneuver by the first bishops’ letter, dated October 10, in which, among other things, the bishops demanded that the bill:
Exclude mandated coverage for abortion, and incorporate longstanding policies against abortion funding and in favor of conscience rights. No one should be required to pay for or participate in abortion. It is essential that the legislation clearly apply to this new program longstanding and widely supported federal restrictions on abortion funding and mandates, and protections for rights of conscience. No current bill meets this test.
Otherwise, the bishops warned:
If final legislation does not meet our principles, we will have no choice but to oppose the bill. We remain committed to working with the Administration, Congressional leadership, and our allies to produce final health reform legislation that will reflect our principles.
Once the amendment had passed, however, the bishops wrote the House:
We are very pleased that the House leadership has agreed to allow the essential Stupak-Pitts-Kaptur-Dahlkemper-Lipinski-Smith Amendment to be considered by the House. This amendment will add to the Affordable Health Care for America Act (H.R. 3962) crucial provisions that maintain the current protections against abortion funding and mandates. Specifically, it will achieve our objective of applying the provisions of the Hyde amendment to the public health plan and on the affordability credits in the exchanges called for in the legislation.
Passing this amendment allows the House to meet our criteria of preserving the existing protections against abortion funding in the new legislation. It also would fulfill President Obama’s commitment in this area. Most importantly, it will ensure that no government funds will be used for abortion or health plans which include abortion. It is a major step forward.
In the bishops’ first letter there is no reference to or mention of the premise that abortion is immoral, or that fetuses are “persons” with “rights.” Those are merely covered by the disingenuous phrases, “rights of conscience” and “our principles.” What “rights” and what “principles”? As Ayn Rand would retort: Blank-out. In the second, congratulatory letter, the bishops felt they no longer needed to mention “rights” or “principles.” They were only too happy to pat the Stupak syndicate on the back.
Catholics and their clergy are not the only religious groups that oppose abortion on moral grounds. There are secular opponents, as well. The question, then, is not whether there are any provable grounds to such a position, but whether or not such an idea, grounded on mere emotionalist assertions, has any business influencing any legislation.
In both of the bishops’ letters, the premise is not spoken, revealed, or even implied. It has been merely incorporated into the arid language of the bill concerning federal funding of abortions and insurance coverage.
In an apparent digression here, it would be apropos to quote Ayn Rand from her 1964 Playboy interview. Asked about her alleged remark about the cross being a symbol of torture, she replied:
To begin with, I never said that. It’s not my style….What is correct is that I do regard the cross as the symbol of the sacrifice of the ideal to the nonideal. Isn’t that what it does mean? Christ, in terms of the Christian philosophy, is the human ideal. He personifies that which men should strive to emulate. Yet, according to the Christian mythology, he died on the cross not for his own sins but for the sins of the nonideal people. In other words, a man of perfect virtue was sacrificed for men who are vicious and who are expected or supposed to accept that sacrifice. If I were a Christian, nothing could make me more indignant than that: the notion of sacrificing the ideal to the non-ideal, or virtue to vice. And it is in the name of that symbol that men are asked to sacrifice themselves for their inferiors. That is precisely how the symbolism is used. That is torture.
What is the bishops’ premise? What is their principle? Just as environmentalists expect man to sacrifice his well-being, standard of living, longevity, and happiness in the name of “preserving” the earth or the climate or polar bears or weeds, women are specifically expected to be virtuous by sacrificing their lives and happiness for the sake of a non-ideal, that is, for the sake of a fetus, or a non-person.
So it is logical that the bishops would endorse the entire, sacrifice-through-coercion health care legislation. It is doubtful that they actually believe in the nonsense that fetuses have “rights.” They know, in the dark, unexamined cores of their souls, that the bill is a prescription for slavery and sacrifice to all the “non-ideal” men and women in the country. They are the Witch Doctors working hand-in-hand with the Attilas. Virtue comes from the point of a gun. They pose as “pro-life,” when, in fact, they are anti-life.
Had the bishops not intervened and played politics with the House sponsors and advocates of the health care bill, the provisions that cover insurance-covered abortions would probably have remained untouched. This is aside from the issue that the whole bill virtually appropriates Americans’ bodies and wealth for the sake of the poor, the uninsured, illegal immigrants — and fetuses. The bishops are indifferent to the fact that the bill lays the groundwork for totalitarianism in this country. They are oblivious to the virtual enslavement of the medical profession. Their “rights of conscience” and “principles” trump those of all other Americans.
The bishops are not only anti-choice in the matter of abortion, but anti-choice in the most fundamental sense of individual rights. The Bill of Rights means as little to them as it does to most members of Congress. They are the natural allies of the totalitarians in the House and Senate.
*”For the New Intellectual,” in For the New Intellectual: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand. New York: Signet, 1961, p. 23.
**Thomas Jefferson, letter to Elbridge Gerry, January 26, 1799. From Gorton Carruth and Eugene Ehrlich, eds., The Harper Book of American Quotations, New York: Harper & Row, 1988, p. 499.
***Robert G. Ingersoll, 1833-1899, Prose Poems and Selections, 1884. From Daniel B. Baker, ed., Political Quotations, Detroit: Gale Research, Inc., 1990, p. 190.