Part 2 of this story involves the shocking break by some religious sisters from the teaching and leadership of the Bishops of the United States with regards to health care reform last month.
President Obama signed into legislation the Health Care Bill on March 23rd. In all of the last-minute back-room negotiations, including the unforgettable cave in by 9 "pro-life" democrats, a key to all of it was an 11th hour endorsement by Sister Carol Keehan, the leader of the CHA. The endorsement carried the signatures of numerous other leaders of Catholic Sisters from around the United States. In the wake of the endorsement it was often trumpeted that the signatures represented "60,000 Catholic Sisters" although that number has since been disputed heavily.
Regardless, Sister Keehan was one of 22 people invited by President Obama to the historic signing of the Bill, and she was given as a gift for her work on of the pens used to sign the Bill. Indeed, the support of Catholic Sisters was also trumpeted by Speaker Pelosi herself the night the bill passed the house as she rattled off a list of those to be thanked.
The problem with all of this is this is that the U.S. Bishops came out unanimously against the legislation. While the Bishops CONSTANTLY applauded the effort to insure every American, the Bishops said that the Bill in its form could not be supported. The bishops had two main concerns
1) The abortion language of the Bill
2) The fact that nothing was in the Bill to protect the consciences of Catholic health care workers and doctors (meaning nothing in the Bill protected the right of a Catholic doctor to NOT have to perform an abortion).
It is clear that every Catholic be reminded of a simple teaching of the Church: in each diocese the Bishop is the LONE INTERPRETER on decisions and issues involving faith and morals. I'll say it again - the LONE INTERPRETER. The actions of these sisters is thus unexplainable - you can't teach differently than your Bishop as a Catholic in the Church. If you want to endorse the Health Care Bill (certainly an issue which would fall under FAITH AND MORALS) then just do the honest thing and LEAVE the Church. Then you can endorse it all you want! But to stay in the Church, to claim to still be a religious sister in good standing with the Catholic Church, and to cause a GREAT deal of confusion among Catholics across the country, that, for me, evokes a passage from Matthew's Gospel which says that we should "beware of the false prophets who come in sheep's clothing..."
The argument made by many trying to rationalize or defend the decision of those religious sisters who signed the letter endorsing the bill was this - "The Bishops are old, out of touch, administrators who don't know the first thing about actual Christian charity or caring for the sick and vulnerable. The sisters, on the other hand, are on the front lines of the hospitals doing the work, seeing the sick, etc. It is their expertise that ought to be listened to here." What a dark, dark precedent that sets! The idea that the Holy Spirit would actually mislead the Bishops of this country, speaking in unison, is such an unfathomably dark proposition that it shutters me to think that some believe it. I also struggle to come up with a more anti-Catholic mindset than this one.
Let us pray for the religious sisters throughout our country (many were STRONGLY opposed to the Health Bill as it was signed) and let us pray for all those who are now thoroughly confused as to what exactly it means to be a Catholic today. Finally, let us pray for all of our Bishops who have the most unenviable task of trying to lead their flocks to Christ, even while some within the flock are pointing in the wrong direction.