The Catholic League has this note today with my emphases and comments:

November 10, 2009


Catholic League president Bill Donohue comments on President Obama’s position on abortion restrictions in the health care bill:

On September 30, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops sent a letter to the U.S. Senate saying, “So far, the health reform bills considered in committee, including the new Senate Finance Committee bill, have not met President Obama’s challenge of barring use of federal dollars for abortion.”

We now know that President Obama—who is lobbying to excise the abortion restrictions that the bishops wanted—has betrayed the bishops. Here is how New York Times reporter Robert Pear put it today: “President Obama suggested Monday that he was not comfortable with abortion restrictions inserted into the House version of major health care legislation, and he prodded Congress to revise them.” Although Obama spoke out of both sides of his mouth in his ABC News interview, Pear’s statement is an accurate reflection of the president’s position.

The manly thing for the president to do would be to state the obvious: his love for abortion rights brooks no compromise. [There it is.  That would be the honest thing.] But he won’t do so, choosing instead to play the same old shell game he’s been playing all along. And he is not alone. For months, we have been told that the bill does not cover funds for abortion, yet if that were true, there would have been no need for the Stupak amendment, and no resistance to it.

This has been a great moment for the bishops, and for Catholics generally, but the fight is not over. [Do I hear an "Amen!"?] It’s important that those on both sides know exactly who the players are on each team.

Hmmm… President Obama seems not to be living up to his expressions of openness and outreach to the Catholic Church made at, for example, Notre Shame. 



The other day I was quoted in the newspaper of my home town, the Minneapolis Star Tribune in an article about the new US Ambassador to the Holy See.  Here is what I said, with a bit of a lead in for context:

"It leads to the thought that this administration is prepared to play serious political hardball and get its way with a significant chunk of the Catholic vote," said Catholic theologian George Weigel, a senior fellow at the conservative Ethics and Public Policy Center.

To Weigel and other Obama critics, Diaz’s appointment is of a piece with an earlier, controversial invitation for Obama to speak at Notre Dame, which deeply divided American Catholics.

"What would really be a dumb idea," Weigel said, "is if [the White House] imagined this to be another surrogate in an attempt to split the Catholic community in the United States. It’s not a suspicion without ground."

Among those who share that suspicion is John Zuhlsdorf, a Catholic priest from Minneapolis who moderates a popular conservative Internet blog. Diaz’s "appointment could be part of a larger campaign to suborn Catholics in the United States," said Zuhlsdorf, known to his followers as Father Z. "Obama doesn’t care what the Catholic Church teaches. This is an aggressively pro-abortion politician. And everyone knows Catholics are a huge voting demographic."


Some conservatives acknowledge that there’s something benign about Diaz, who is best known for his work in Hispanic culture. "Obama had to find an ambassador to the Vatican," Zuhlsdorf said. "He wasn’t going to pick someone who was a conservative Catholic."

Even so, Diaz’s careful statements about inclusiveness and building bridges will do little to allay the concern of conservative Catholics that he was picked to legitimize the liberal idea that abortion is a matter of personal conscience.

"They’ve awakened something they might not want to awake," Zuhlsdorf said.

I must make the observation that in my conversation with the writer of the article, I always and only referred to the President as "President Obama" and to the Ambassador as "Ambassador Diaz".

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. I recently heard a Bishop speak who said that through colleagues who have had audience with Pres. Obama, that he feels that he is “losing” certain fights which Catholics have taken up. I don’t want to disclose too much, because this is obviously not from the horses mouth, but a comment like that, coming from a Bishop gives at least hope.

    That being said, it is clear that the Obama administration has made a concerted effort to “appease” Catholics and conservative Christians. But like you said Fr. Z, as they bring Catholics into “play” in terms of dialogue on these issues, they may be awakening or legitimizing arguments which they ought not to do, at least for their sake! :)

    There seems to be a wave building in American Politics (thanks to people like you, Abp. Chaput, Dolan, etc…) that seriously listens to and takes into account the Catholic view. As the “reform of the reform” and the “New Liturgical Movement” strive to make the Church more “serious,” or in the very least return it to its philosophical roots, the world will begin to take it more seriously on political and social issues.

    It is funny how something like “liturgical reform” and the refinement and return to the Heart of the Church, the Heart of Christ, is revitalizing not only liturgical and religious legitimacy but also the legitimacy of the Church in society and the world.

  2. The Astronomer says:

    President Obama is against public funding for abortion, except when he is in favor of it. Cognitive dissonance or do Rahm & Co. at 1660 Pennsylvania think Roman Catholics really are that gullible???

    Padre Pio, ora pro nobis.

  3. Tominellay says:

    I think President Obama will not be re-elected. Catholics have been awakened from decades of slumber.

  4. Peggy R says:

    I am glad to hear that the bishops don’t think the battle/war is over yet and are holding firm. I want to know, however, why the bishops don’t strongly object to the end of life counseling and potential euthanasia through denial of care. [Yes, they’ve stated general principles.] Further, while not on par with abortion and other life issues, why does the USCCB not object to mandatory insurance purchasing and the jail/fine consequences for refusing to do so? Is this how the USCCB wants “health care reform”? Does the USCCB think this is just? And those are just a couple of things in the bills.

    And the USCCB web pages on health care reform ask the faithful to contact Congress to urge passage of healthcare reform, as a general idea, but only last week reach the conclusion that they don’t support the bills outstanding. We only hear about abortion as a sticking point. Why on earth would I join the USCCB to urge “health care reform” when my idea is not the USCCB’s or the Dems’ plan? They wanted us to endorse the Dem plan. That disturbs me.

    Thus, are the faithful, political officials, and the general public to conclude that nothing in the bills, other than abortion funding, is morally objectionable in their eyes since the USCCB has drawn a line in the sand only about abortion?

    Sorry, I am just really upset about the USCCB’s role in all this and its apparent endorsement of the heavy-government approach to insurance reform which underlies all the bills this year.

  5. ghp95134 says:

    I’m shocked! Shocked!!

    For you, Father:


  6. stgemma_0411 says:

    I certainly do hope that the “sleeper has awakened” (Dune reference). I know too many people, Catholics at that, who, in their own minds, were able to persuade themselves that they didn’t necessarily have to be a single-issue voter when it came to abortion, and so voted for Obama because they thought him to be “an agent of change”. The same people are now languishing over the fact that they did vote the way they did. But I worry that the culture has gotten to a point of indifference and while it is all well and good to say that the Bishop’s are starting to wake up, I think next weeks votes on the Liturgy will go a long way to see how much they have truly “awakened”. My hope is that Bp Trautman and his ilk are in no way successful in quashing the necessary reforms to the liturgy. If they are successful in quashing the reform, then I think it will be a tremendous step backwards. Amazing that all of these things are coming to a head in the same period of time.

  7. Henry Edwards says:

    This has been a great moment for the bishops, and for Catholics generally, but the fight is not over.

    Actually, this is not even a fight. I understand Ms. Pelosi, in persuading liberals to vote for the House bill including the anti-abortion language, assured them that it was just a vehicle for moving the issue along to the Senate, and that in eventual conference between House and Senate, any remaining anti-abortion language would be be stripped out and deleted.

    So it’s hard for me to see that anybody has won anything.

  8. Peggy R says:

    You know, if there is no public option in the bill, this is not an issue. So, the answer is to defeat the public option. That’s free advice for the USCCB.

  9. Jon says:

    “I always and only referred to the President as “President Obama…” ”

    Father, now why would you want to go and do that?

    “Redneck birther” that I am, I remain a sedevacantist regarding the presidency.

    When Our Leader was a elected, I made a public vow not to use the title together with the name, whether in conversation, writing, or reading aloud a news story.

    In the past year, I am proud to say I have kept my vow. My teenage sons have a great time trying to slip me up, but to no avail.

    I find “Mr.” Obama suffices quite nicely for the gentleman.

  10. EXCHIEF says:

    Some who post here must live in another world. Obama has made no concessions to the Catholic Bishops and has done nothing (for those who are paying attention) to appease Catholics. He has a track record of telling one group one thing and the polar opposites another. He is a Chicago trained politician which means he is an accomplished liar. The Bishops were duped by the Stupek ammendment. Obama didn’t betray the Bishops and neither did Pelosi. The Bishops betrayed themselves and all true believing Cathilics in this country and did did so through a combination of stupdity and being just plain naive.

    Tigers don’t change stripes and Obama’s stripes should be clearly apparent unless the observer’s head is buried in the sand. For the Bishops to urge support for the health care bill because of the (meaningless) Stupek ammendment was the height of immorality and stupidity. Anyone with ANY political insight knows that the ammendment will be eliminated or seriously watered down in the committee conferencing process. Even if it were to remain intact there is a sunset provision after which the Secretary of HHS (a pro death “catholic”) can permit government funding of abortion. Aside from the abortion issue there are a host of other immoral aspects to the legislation that should never have garnered the Bishops’ support.

    When all is said and done if the final bill passes with funding for abortion the Bishops need to look in a mirror if they want to assign blame.

  11. As I have pointed out earlier, Cliff Kincaid of Accuracy in Media (AIM) has pointed out the bishops have a serious stake in getting the American Taxpayer to pay for the 700,000 to 800,000 employees (full and part-time) who work in their 600 plus hospitals coast to coast. They are BUSINESSMEN, responsible for the salaries, benefits, pensions of their employees as well as the patients who have no or sub-par insurance. They would be pleased to have the Government pick up their costs AS IT HAS FOR DECADES! They don’t think of themselves as sacerdotal priests or bishops. That is why they are fighting so hard on the liturgy and the reform of the reform. They see this as a career where someone with their “disordered personalities” can gain the security of employment and respectability.

  12. coeyannie says:

    Didn’t the bishops applaud the health care bill when funding “abortion” was excluded? The whole health care bill stinks, with or without abortion funding. I wish the bishops would stop playing footsie with Obama. I’m praying…….

  13. catholicmidwest says:

    100% correct, EXCHIEF.

  14. Peggy R says:

    American Life League questions whether the Stupak amendment was pro-life at all:


    I am with EXCHIEF, coeyannie, catholicmidwest, and Will Phelan.

  15. catholicmidwest says:

    It’s a bit more complicated than that, William, because the church herself doesn’t exactly own those hospitals as you’d see if the real crap hit the fan in the case that abortion became a mandatory service in the US. There’s some wiggle room–run by lay boards and all that–as much as many Catholics would not like to see that happen.

    However, the bishops as well as the laypeople of the Catholic church still do see these institutions as “charitable arms” and “public presences” of the church and they may still derive emotional satisfaction (and some cash by various routes) when they see them doing well.

    And you are right about the business nature of the whole bishops’ conference thing. The USCCB is largely not in the business of looking out for our religious well-being; rather, they are in the business of maintaining real estate and running the ineffective “services” (diocesan offices etc) which they actually do control.

  16. catholicmidwest says:

    I do have to qualify my last statement. “The USCCB” should read “many of the bishops in the USCCB and the USCCB itself as an organization.” There are a precious few bishops who do appear to have a plausible definition of the word “bishop,” but only a few. Now and then you do hear about them. Here’s an example:


    This article would have been unthinkable 5, even 10, years ago. That’s a good thing, although still too rare.

    Right now, the great majority of the bishops, unfortunately, still seem to have their role confused with something else, what else I haven’t yet figured out. Maybe director of shuffleboard on a cruise ship? I don’t really know.

    Maybe this threat to them and the consequent betrayal they might have to endure might wake them up. One can only hope something does.

  17. robtbrown says:

    I will not be surprised if the Stupak Amendment turns out to be little else than political cover.

  18. wmeyer says:

    Lately, on the drive home from the office, I have heard calls from a number of folks to Sean Hannity, saying they now regret voting for Obama. They admit to having listened during his campaign, yet seem not to have believed, I guess. For my part, I give him this much: he has been consistent in his declarations about abortion. Anyone who thought he was open to compromise was deluded. He is open to the compromise by others of their deepest beliefs, but not to the smallest change in his own goals.

  19. catholicuspater says:

    I don’t see this as the Bishops’ finest moment at all. What they did was support a statist takeover of 18% of the economy. This bill has so many bad things in it, among them government funded-contraception, sterilization, euthanasia and rationing of care.

    The Bishops’ could have easily killed this bill, as they should have. Instead, they opted for a brokered deal with people we all know will betray them. The Stupak-Pitts Amendment was full of the usual exceptions, i.e., rape, incest, life of the mother.

    If you want my opinion, I think the Bishops have handed over our healthcare to an anti-life, atheistic, Marxist Democratic Party that is only interested in amassing more power by increasing the size of govt. That is not good for the Church, the family or the U.S. taxpayer.

  20. wmeyer says:

    catholicuspater, I fear your assessment is correct, and pray it is not.

    Still, at least this time, the message was published prior to the vote, unlike the mild release that was published a few days after the presidential election.

    Brick by brick, I suppose, in another context.

  21. An American Mother says:

    Whoever’s in charge at the USCCB is in the process of carrying the scorpion across the river, thinking that it won’t sting him. Unfortunately it will sting us all.

  22. JonM says:

    As I posted in another thread, we don’t want to pit ourselves against the bishops. Besides, there is light at the end of this tunnel we have been stuck in since the 1960s as the next generation of bishops will be truly committed to teaching and preserving the faith.

    With that said, it is extremely disappointing but, sadly, not very surprising that the Stupak Amendment appears to have been much ado about nothing – well, nothing but a screen to support the biggest government take intrusion both economically and personally in America.

    Ensuring that poor and less fortunate people have access to medicare does not require a 2 000 page manuscript and a take over of 1/5 of the economy.

    To any casual observer, this appears that the USCCB produced an excuse to support the law because they are (predominantly) politically supportive of statist policies. This is of course in violation of Pius XI’s teaching on subsidiarity.

    I haven’t been Catholic for more than seven months and I know this. Can the USCCB really claim ignorance?

    This sort of wordly concern is hurting evangelism (my family says ‘see, see! look at your hypocritical leaders!’), poorly tending to the sheep, and is exactly what our Lady warned about at Fatima and Akita.

    Jesus warned about those who scatter the sheep and I think about this every day when I witness and how I don’t do a good enough job. Does the USCCB share this concern?

  23. chorst01 says:

    Fr. Z,

    An “honest” Barak Husein Obana is an oxymoron.

  24. Kimberly says:

    My daughter-in-law called yesterday because she had seen Fr. Z’ quote in MST (she has just started visiting Fr.’s website). She was soooo excited. Ahhhh, the energy of new followers does my heart good.

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