Tag Archives: bishops

Catholic laity – face-to-face with bishops

What I am about to tell you is something you’ve never seen in the Catholic Church. If you have seen anything like this, contact me. I’d like to learn more.

In September, I twice saw members of the lay faithful accompany two victims of priestly sexual misconduct into a bishop’s office and help these victims present their story of abuse. I saw the bishop remove two guilty priests from active service. When they learned of it, some Catholics responded with gratitude and relief. Others were upset that their favorite priest had been outed. For many Catholics, a priest’s popularity and the convenience of a Mass schedule trumps concern for a holy priesthood.

What I didn’t see were lawsuits or exposés in the secular press. I didn’t see sheriffs raiding the chancery or ugly protests at Mass. I caught a glimpse of Christ’s Church acting like the Body of Christ with brothers confronting brothers in love and hope. I saw mature laity identifying corrupt clergy and exhorting a mature bishop.

Co-responsibility of the lay faithful

I must stress, however that bishops did not initiate this investigation, discovery, or confrontation. The lay faithful took co-responsibility for Christ’s Church according to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. The Church is too important to leave to priests and bishops alone. In over20 different passages, St. Paul commands us to love, pray, honor, forgive, encourage, exhort, and admonish one another. Bear one another’s burdens. Laity don’t need canonical authority to hold bishops accountable. Their authority is rooted in something more foundational than canon law. They call upon the moral law, basic human decency. We cannot cooperate with evil. We must expose the hidden things of darkness. By virtue of their baptism, they are obligated to admonish, exhort, and encourage one another and that includes bishops and priests.

The clergy scandal has a silver lining: forcing the lay faithful to exercise co-responsibility for the Church. Laity, of course, won’t vote on revealed dogma. They won’t confect the sacraments. They will insist that our Church be governed by the best HR practices from our flourishing businesses. Sexual harassment is intolerable at any level. Healthy churches, like healthy families, don’t hide, minimize, or deny abuse. Because St. Paul’s vision of the Church drives this new laity, they have stopped murmuring and commiserating with Catholic buddies about the darkness. They have turned on the moral spotlight to properly confront, challenge, and exhort our clergy. Learn more at nomorevictimsmi.org.

Why is it novel for the Church to act like the Church?

Archbishop Fulton Sheen, while reviewing crises among the clergy, allegedly wrote in 1972: “Who is going to save our Church? Not our bishops, not our priests and religious. It is up to you, the people. You have the minds, the eyes, the ears to save the Church. Your mission is to see that your priests act like priests, your bishops, like bishops, and your religious act like religious.”

Right now the world sees bishops whose moral authority is on par with Bill Cosby. I know some outstanding converts who would not have come into full communion under these present circumstances. The world deserves to witness a morally and spiritually fierce laity unwilling to compromise the Gospel. We don’t need a club for religious cronies and pious pretenders. We need and are seeing a new movement of Spirit-led communicants striving to give the world a glimpse of Christ’s Kingdom. In September, I briefly witnessed Jesus governing his Church through all its members. The Church was acting like the Church. It shouldn’t be such a novel idea.

AL KRESTA is president and chief executive officer, Ave Maria Communications, and host of Ave Maria Radio’s longtime popular show, “Kresta in the Afternoon,” heard on the EWTN Global Catholic Radio Network.

Health care: a right or privilege?

A ‘right’ to health care completely skirts the issue of individual responsibility . . .

Deal W. Hudson

Deal W. Hudson

Our bishops want health care reform. They are advocating reform resulting in universal health coverage that respects “human life and dignity” and includes “freedom of conscience,” while restraining costs and applying “costs equitably among payers.”

The bills now before Congress give the federal government the commanding role in providing universal coverage; however, they also leave the door open to funding abortion and end-of-life care, which the bishops have loudly rejected.

The bishops do not consider a government-run program the only option for providing universal health coverage. “There may be different ways to accomplish this, but the bishops’ conference believes health care reform should be truly universal and genuinely affordable,” the bishops explain on their website.

“The Church does not teach that government should directly provide health care,” wrote Bishop R. Walter Nickless of Sioux City, Iowa. “The proper role of the government is to regulate the private sector in order to foster healthy competition and to curtail abuses. Therefore, any legislation that undermines the viability of the private sector is suspect. Private, religious hospitals and nursing homes, in particular, should be protected because these are the ones most vigorously offering actual health care to the poorest of the poor.”

Many Catholics are moved by the argument that health care is a “moral issue.” That claim, however, has to be rightly understood. Health care is not a moral issue per se. No one is obliged to pay for the sum total of all medical care either needed or desired by his “neighbor.” This is not the intent of Catholic social teaching regarding the “right” to health care.

As Bishop Robert W. Finn and Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann wrote recently: “The right of every individual to access health care does not necessarily suppose an obligation on the part of the government to provide it. Yet in our American culture, Catholic teaching about the ‘right’ to healthcare is sometimes confused with the structures of ‘entitlement.’ The teaching of the Universal Church has never been to suggest a government socialization of medical services.”

The problem with talking about “rights” to things like health care is that it completely skirts the issue of individual responsibility. Why am I responsible for paying for another person’s medical care when that person has squandered their resources, abused their physical well being, or simply chosen not to make a contribution to work-based health care coverage? The latter is why well over 10 million Americans are uninsured.

There’s also the issue of making distinctions within the category of health care itself. No Catholic wants to pay for another person’s abortion, contraception, in-vitro fertilization, euthanasia or embryonic stem-cell treatment. To give the federal government control over medical care in this country will eventually result in all of these services, including abortion, being paid for by Catholics. Even if abortion funding is stripped from the current legislation, it will undoubtedly be added later on. All it takes is one vote of the House and the Senate and one signature in the Oval Office.

Clearly, any sort of national or state health care program is not going to delve into issues of a person’s use of their financial resources which could have been spent on health coverage, or their employment history which could have provided health coverage, or even the treatment of their own well-being. That’s why a citizen’s moral obligation should be limited to essential services. This “safety net” approach to health care means that those without insurance, and in real need of medical care to treat serious health issues, should receive assistance. In point of fact, our nation’s hospital emergency rooms already provide this assistance. It is federal law that no hospital emergency room can fail to find treatment for someone presenting him or herself for medical care. The number of children being born in U.S. hospitals to illegal immigrants attests to this.

There are many moral issues, but none of us is morally — in a financial way — responsible for assisting people in obtaining the goods associated with that moral issue. After all, the goods associated with our moral choices most often cannot be possessed without our serious commitment to them. The best example is with regard to education. No one is educated by virtue of sitting in a classroom or, as St. Thomas Aquinas put it: “The student is the primary cause of his education.” The same dictum should be kept in mind with health care.

The Catholic Medical Association (CMA) understands that individuals must be held responsible for their own health. CMA supports an approach to health-care reform “achieved by legislation that empowers people to own their health insurance policies (as contrasted with government- or employer-controlled health care insurance) and using targeted measures to help people who cannot afford the entire cost of their insurance premium.”

CMA’s recommendation points the way to an alternative solution — one based on the principle of subsidiarity — to reach the goals advocated by the bishops. Universal coverage can be achieved without handing health care entirely over to the federal government. This alternative vision of reaching the bishops’ goals for health-care reform should be put before the Congress as soon as possible.

Deal Hudson is the president of the Morley Institute & the former publisher of CRISIS Magazine. The director of InsideCatholic.com, Hudson has published articles in The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, National Review and others.