How a bishop takes his hacks, in a newspaper

On the website of the Pioneer Press, a newspaper of my native place, Minneapolis and St. Paul, I found with the help of Stella Borealis that the new Auxiliary Bishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis, His Excellency Most Rev. Lee A. Piché had written a letter to the editor.

The Church and health care
Pioneer Press
Updated: 09/05/2009 04:59:22 PM CDT

On Wednesday afternoon I drove from St. Paul to Duluth for a 30-minute meeting with Congressman Jim Oberstar, members of the staff of the Minnesota Catholic Conference, representatives of two other Catholic dioceses, a Lutheran pastor, and an Orthodox priest. We discussed with Mr. Oberstar our shared concern as Christians about the current version of the health insurance bill. Yes, we did make our point with him about our opposition to mandatory coverage for abortion – about which he, a Democrat, agrees with us – but we also shared with him our conviction that health care is a human right and should be accessible to all, and our hope that the reformed program will give special consideration to those people who live below the poverty level. Even before the current debate began, the Catholic bishops of this country have consistently called for reform of the health care system and have championed the cause of the poor. Because we include unborn citizens among the poor and most vulnerable, we are deemed obstructionists by those who have another agenda.

[Now, folks, watch this!  And put your coffee mug down…]

I returned to St. Paul, picked up the St. Paul Pioneer Press, and read the letter to the editor "The Church and health care." In an uninformed rant, the writer castigated the Catholic hierarchy for opposing health care reform (they do not), for being a "vital unit of the right wing of the Republican Party" (they are not), for using the abortion issue as a cover (a cover for what?), and for being another "wealthy group that opposes change" (I challenge the writer to examine my bank account and then call me wealthy). The writer ends by saying that he is, or used to be, a Catholic. If he is a Catholic, he should be ashamed of himself for shaking a fistful of falsehoods at his own leaders, leaders who are working as hard as they can to promote positive change. If he is no longer a Catholic, it is too bad because he stood a better chance of seeing his hopes realized by pitching in with the bishops and other members of the very institution he has abandoned. Either way I will pray for him.  [OORAH!]

Most Reverend Lee A. Piché

The writer is Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis.

Now that, dear WDTPRSers, is how a bishop should write in the newspaper.

The original, silly letter to which Bp. Piche is responding:

The church and health care

It does not surprise me that the hierarchy of the Catholic Church opposes health care reform ("Bishops taking stand against health plan," Aug. 28). They have become a vital unit of the right wing of the Republican Party. They use the abortion issue as a cover, but really they are just another wealthy group that opposes change.

It is unfortunate that a church that used to support the lower and middle classes has changed into a group that is against giving 40 million poor a chance of joining a health care plan.

I am a Catholic, or at least I was before I wrote this letter.

Jim R. Miller, Winona 


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  1. MargaretMN says:

    I heard great things about Bishop Piche, when he was made bishop not long ago. Seems like he is even better than advertised.

    Jim Miller is pretty uninformed, Catholic or no. He doesn’t seem to realize that we have Medicare, Medicaid and S-Chip. He also should read some more about Dorothy Day. She realized too late that government doesn’t equal charity.

  2. I would dare say that would qualify as a fisk of the finest order. Very nice job, Excellency!

  3. JFrater says:

    Is health care paid for by forcing others to pay really the Catholic view? I thought the Church would historically not support the socialist concept of universal health care and opt for donations to charities who provide it – but voluntarily. There is no charity involved when you are forced to pay for your neighbor’s bunion operation because he refuses to get a job. One might say the opposite is true in fact.

    Regarding the second letter, Mr Miller is wrong in saying the Church used to “support” the lower and middle classes. The Church offers salvation to all. It is not an institution designed by God to help one section of society. Mother Theresa didn’t try to eradicate poverty – she sought to convert those she healed so that when they died poor they had a chance of salvation.

  4. Rob Cartusciello says:

    Wow! Just, wow.

  5. Kerry says:

    As contemporary journalism no longer attempts to discern the facts but merely reports opposing ‘narratives’, that they would believe they have done their job printing the “Winona Diaries” narrative is not surprising. “Your truth, my truth, the Pioneer Press’s truth, the Catholic Church’s truth, pick one, pick all, pick none!”

  6. Kerry says:

    Oh, I forgot. “I am a Catholic, or at least I was before I wrote this letter.” does one, in writing a letter to the Pioneer Press, immediately incur excommunication? Where, or to whom, may I write a letter that I may incur full communion with The Church. (May I have Senator Kennedy’s spot, he wasn’t using it.)

  7. MikeM says:

    It seems to me like any proposals for government involvement in healthcare end up treading dangerously on natural rights.

    I’m honestly a little saddened to see our Bishops clamoring for government involvement in healthcare. It seems to me like such Charity should come from Christians and the Catholic Church. The Bishops seem to, in several circumstances, want to hand to the state roles which Rerum Novarum assigns to the Church. This capitulation welcomes the continuation of the idol-state.

  8. Jacob says:

    Is health care paid for by forcing others to pay really the Catholic view? I thought the Church would historically not support the socialist concept of universal health care and opt for donations to charities who provide it – but voluntarily. There is no charity involved when you are forced to pay for your neighbor’s bunion operation because he refuses to get a job. One might say the opposite is true in fact.
    Comment by JFrater — 8 September 2009 @ 12:35 am

    This is what the bishop of my hometown diocese has to say on that. He’s a bit less nebulous than some of the other bishops speaking out on the subject. Kudos to him for being specific.

    Second, the Catholic Church does not teach that “health care” as such, without distinction, is a natural right.
    Unlike a prudential concern like national defense, for which government monopolization is objectively good – it both limits violence overall and prevents the obvious abuses to which private armies are susceptible – health care should not be subject to federal monopolization.

    R. Walker Nickless, Bishop of Sioux City, IA in a statement.

  9. Jordanes says:

    Seems to me that Jim Miller is just using his support for “health care reform” as a cover for his support for mass slaughter of unborn babies.

    Hey, sauce for the goose . . . .

  10. Baron Korf says:

    I think the current system is broken terribly, and there is quite a bit that the government can do to help, namely get out of the way but other ways as well. However, I think they are going about it all wrong.

    If I understand correctly, the bishops support universal access to health care, meaning that it is not prohibitively expensive for people to access basic health care needs.

    I know someone who lost their coverage near the end of a pregnancy, and got a $14k bill for having a baby. There is something wrong there in my opinion that needs to be addressed.

  11. Aaron says:

    I’m really getting tired of the dishonest way they throw the “40 million uninsured” line around. Everyone who’s even the slightest bit informed about health care knows that the uninsured are typically not the “poor,” but the self-employed, the lower middle class, and so on. The poor are already covered by an assortment of programs. The proponents of socialized health care know all this, but they continually throw that number out as if talking about the folks down at the homeless shelter.

  12. irishgirl says:

    Kudos to you, Bishop Piche!

    That’s how a shepherd should speak!

  13. JohnE says:

    I sure hope Jim Miller was merely writing unthinkingly in anger. Otherwise, I am not sure what to grieve more — the little it took for him to throw away his faith, or the little faith he had to throw away.

  14. Jayna says:

    His parentheticals remind me of someone I know. Hmm….maybe if they were bracketed and in red bold face type.

  15. markomalley says:

    And meanwhile, there are some officials who are making a full-on push for socialized medicine and are so wont to justify it as a requirement of the Magesterium as to pull papal quotes out of context and misteach the principles of Social Doctrine.

    Am I the only one who notices that most whose mission it is to push Social Justice issues consistently forget to mention the principle of subsidiarity?

  16. Agnes says:

    Your Excellency, way to go with that shepherd’s crook! Maybe Miller feels a little sheepish?


  17. Hans says:

    There’s an interesting reply by one Miki Tracy to Mr. Miller in the link from the story, as well. (It’s where it says [just now], “Read all 30 comments”.

    Miki wrote in part, “Regarding Mr. Miller’s “The church and health care” letter, I spoke on the phone this afternoon with both Mr. Miller and his wife, Margaret. I told him that as a fellow Catholic I object to his characterisation of the Bishops’ Conference stand as it pertains to the issue of health care reform as it currently presents before Congress, and I offered to send Mr. Miller the very documentation that he claims does not exist, […]”

    A bishop who isn’t shy and a Catholic supporting the bishop; what a concept!

  18. Hidden One says:

    The comment referred to above is, indeed, excellent.

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