The Bishops and Moral Authority

I am struggling today.

I am struggling because the bishops of the Roman Catholic church are making a stand at their meeting in Baltimore, saying that it is necessary that they be the moral voice of the church. To that end, they are speaking against health care reform, or the recent health care reform bill that passed the House and is now in the Senate because the bill doesn’t extend health care coverage to the poor (or enough of the poor) and it is not clear that abortions will not be supported by aid from the federal government.

On the face of it, their stance is not a bad one. They are speaking up for the poor, which is good …but on the flip side, their stance tells me they do not understand how that stance will only add to the misery of the poor. I think the bishops have taken the scripture “be fruitful and multiply” to a level that the original Biblical writers never intended.

The facts are these: women will continue having sex, and unwanted pregnancies will continue to happen. Rich women will always have a way to have abortions, but poor women will not. They will either have one more baby, born into a life of poverty and misery … or they will have an illegal abortion, which will either harm them, their baby, or both of them.

Larger than that, I have never heard the bishops make a stand pushing for the quality of life for those babies who ARE born! Pro-life ought to mean more than protecting a fetus. Once a child is born, where is the church, any church, to help that child have a quality life?

So, when I read that the bishops felt and feel that it was their moral responsibility to speak out, I got a sick feeling inside. Where is the church in general? Why is it that the church, now in the form of Roman Catholic bishops, seemingly so often in the way of progress and help for “the least of these?”

The other reason I got a sick feeling is that the bishops, in my mind, really do not have a moral authority leg to stand on. The memory of the aberrant sexual behavior of priests still sits with me, and I am not sure that all of the deviant behavior has been cleaned up, though the bishops swear that it has been. They said at their Baltimore meeting that this health reform bill gives them an opportunity to reclaim their moral voice.

It doesn’t work for me. I think “the church” in general demonstrates such a chasm between what ought to be and what is real that it is hard for a lot of people to embrace it. I recently read that one bishop of the Roman Catholic church argued that the late Senator Ted Kennedy’s funeral ought not to have been a mass; because he was pro-choice, he was out of line with the teachings of the church, this bishop argued, and therefore ought not be afforded the privilege of a Catholic funeral.

In fact, he said, no Catholic politician who is pro-choice ought to be allowed a Catholic funeral.

Really, bishop?

Where is such admirable morality when it comes to making sure children are not molested, or that children who are born but who go through their lives with not enough to eat and are sick because they do not have health care? Should the priests who were “found out” in regards to their molestation of young children entrusted to their care be allowed to have Catholic funerals?

I think the bishops are wrong to stand in the way of health care reform. If they were consistent moral voices, if they had a reputation for standing up for “the least of these” in this country and in the world, I would not care about the statements they are making now. Had the church not been shown to be complicit in the sexual abuse its own priests had practiced against young children (complicit because they were silent and tried to hide the problem),then I would say that they are being consistent as audible moral voices.

But the church has not been …and for that reason, I resent the statements they are making now as health care reform seems at least possible, after more than 70 years of the issue being on the table.

That’s a candid observation.

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