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Thursday, December 25, 2008

Catholic Bishop’s Tardy on FOCA Outrage

Where was this outrage two months ago? Where was this outrage six months ago, or 18 months ago? On December 8 of this year, columnist Ray Kerrison (see column here) of the New York Post wrote that “Obama's commitment to FOCA (Freedom of Choice Act) dominated [the U.S. Catholic Bishops’] discussions at their annual convention in Baltimore last month.”

Writing a few months ago, I noted that Barack Obama said, “The first thing I'll do as President is sign the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA).” FOCA, as co-sponsor Barbara Boxer has said, “supercedes any law, regulation or local ordinance that impinges on a woman’s right to choose. That means a poor woman cannot be denied the use of Medicaid if she chooses to have an abortion.”

The National Organization for Women (NOW) has stated that “FOCA will supersede laws that restrict the right to abortion, including laws that prohibit the public funding of abortion.” NOW adds that, “FOCA prohibits states from enacting laws intended to deny or interfere with a woman's fundamental right to choose abortion,” which would include laws that limit the access of minors to abortion.

In his column Kerrison notes that FOCA “would also compel taxpayers to fund abortions and provide abortions in military hospitals. Most provocatively of all, it would force religious hospital and health-care institutions to perform abortions in violation of their convictions.”

Kerrison also states, “If President-elect Barack Obama goes through with his campaign pledge to sign into law the Freedom of Choice Act, holy hell is going to break loose.” He adds that, “FOCA means war.” It should have meant war BEFORE Obama got elected.

Catholic Bishops are stepping up the combative rhetoric. Kerrison points out that “US bishops have always been united in their moral condemnation of abortion. But they have stopped short of flexing political muscle, evading a head-on confrontation. That may now change.” Too bad they didn’t do more political “flexing” BEFORE Obama got elected.

Kerrison quotes the Bishops’ saying things like, “[FOCA] would threaten Catholic healthcare institutions and Catholic Charities. It would be an evil law that would divide our country and the church should be intent on opposing evil. Chicago's Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Paprocki…said flatly that if the Obama administration attempted to force Catholic hospitals to provide abortions, they'd shut them down rather than comply. ‘This is not a matter of political compromise or finding some common ground,’ said Bishop Daniel Conlon of Steuvenville, Ohio. ‘It's a matter of absolutes.’” Too bad more Catholics didn’t go to the polls with such a mindset.

Catholics voted for Obama over McCain to the tune of 54% to 45%. Obama’s 54% is two points higher than Bush’s Catholic support in 2004. Twenty-seven percent of the U.S. electorate is Catholic, with significant numbers in battleground states like Ohio and Pennsylvania. I doubt that Catholic support for Obama would have been as great if Catholic Bishops had taken this grave a tone BEFORE Obama got elected.

We should not be surprised. Obama was given a pass on many issues. Perhaps a closer look at exactly what he was saying, how he had voted, and with whom he associated would have given not only Catholics, but a majority of Americans a different view of him.

With Obama due to take office in less than a month, we can’t afford to continue to look back and wonder what would have happened if he had received more scrutiny. However, it is worth noting that, just like all of our major decisions in life, elections have consequences. We all can learn from our mistakes. Here’s hoping the lessons of the Obama administration will not be too painful.

Copyright 2008, Trevor Grant Thomas
At the Intersection of Politics, Science, Faith, and Reason.
Trevor and his wife Michelle are the authors of: Debt Free Living in a Debt Filled World
tthomas@trevorgrantthomas.com

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