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Over the line, or no big deal?

Monday, Mar 30, 2009

* Setting aside the debate over the actual bill for a moment, do you think this open letter to Catholics from Cardinal George on Archdiocese of Chicago letterhead is appropriate? Please read the whole thing by clicking here, but I’ll give you a few excerpts…

Before the Illinois General Assembly there is a proposal (HB 2354, the “Reproductive Health and Access Act”) that would remove the right to conscientious objection to abortion and related procedures for all health care workers. […]

The enemies of human life and religious freedom in Illinois are well funded. Pressure on legislators is great and is increasing. I ask you to contact your Representative this week to express your dismay that the Illinois legislature, elected democratically, would debate a bill that removes freedom of conscientious decision-making for health care workers as a condition of their employment. If, as we are told, the State should not come between a doctor and a mother, then surely all can agree that the State should not come between a health care worker and God. […]

This proposed law will rend the already fragile garment of our civic unity and further alienate many from our government. Catholics and all people of good will should work to ensure its defeat. I also ask you to thank those legislators who are courageously opposing HB 2354 and to pray for those who are supporting it. To contact your legislator, please go to www.ilga.gov, or call 312-368-1066. Thank you and God bless you.

Francis Cardinal George, OMI

Archbishop of Chicago

Just to be clear, a proposed, but as yet unfiled amendment to the bill will significantly change the conscience clause language that the Cardinal discusses.

As a non-Catholic, I’m usually reticent to post my own thoughts on these sorts of things (generally out of a very legit fear of being labled anti-Catholic), but I thought maybe you’d like to discuss this letter yourself.

As always, decorum rules will be enforced. Try to keep your tempers and preconceived notions in your head, not in your typing fingers.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

67 Comments
  1. - wordslinger - Monday, Mar 30, 09 @ 1:04 pm:

    I have no problem with churches engaging in the public square. Their collars neither add or detract from the force of their arguments.

    But you lose your tax exemptions, both on property and other endeavors. Let’s keep it a level playing field.


  2. - GOP - Monday, Mar 30, 09 @ 1:05 pm:

    As a Catholic, I am thrilled to see the Cardinal involved. He should keep it up! Maybe ‘Catholic’ politicians will listen.


  3. - Vote Quimby! - Monday, Mar 30, 09 @ 1:07 pm:

    I agree with wordslinger: if you try and effect public policy you should pay taxes to that public. As Jesus is quoted as saying, “Render unto Caeser that which is Caeser’s, render unto God that which is God’s.”


  4. - Wondering the same thing... - Monday, Mar 30, 09 @ 1:12 pm:

    Though I disagree, I don’t disrespect the Church’s opinion. Though as a non-profit, isn’t engaging in these kinds of advocacy efforts a forfeiture/threat to their tax-exempt status? Any lawyers out there more familiar with what trips the lobby trigger here?


  5. - dave - Monday, Mar 30, 09 @ 1:12 pm:

    There is no law that says non-profits cannot have a voice in, or impact, public policy.


  6. - Jake from Elwood - Monday, Mar 30, 09 @ 1:13 pm:

    Word and Quimby, would you agree that Planned Parenthood, AARP and any other so-called “not-for-profits” that support or oppose legislation ought to lose their preferred tax exemptions as well? What about municipalities who support/oppose legislation and get certain tax exemptions? Or does your logic only get applied to the churches?


  7. - OneMan - Monday, Mar 30, 09 @ 1:17 pm:

    Considering the importance of this issue to the chruch. Yeah, I don’t have a problem with it.

    If it was adpotion funding would anyone even question if the church was pushing for that?

    Looking forward to see the admended language, because the original language seemed to have no ’scope of practice’ language. ie a home health NP could be asked for something by a guest in an elderly paitnent’s home or someone could ask their opthomologist for a perscription that she may not be comfortable with issuing and unless she ‘pre-warned’ she would have to write it or risk losing her licnese.


  8. - Ghost - Monday, Mar 30, 09 @ 1:17 pm:

    This appears to be in response to pharmacies and pharmacists refusing to dispense plan b.

    I as a general matter do not have a problem with a church taking a position on a political issue.

    The practice of medicine is a social/governmental right heavily regulated. For example, Hospitals have to show a need for their services before they can be built. This keeps them from putting each other out of business or providing bad services by getting into competition wars like a retail business. BUT this limitaition means many small communities can only support a single hospital. Even in competiv areas of practices, often times the available econmies of scale limit th number of available practioners in an area. No one runs a business where they lose money for very long, escpecially with 100k+ in school bills.

    FOr hospitals and lcinics that need a certificate of need, the State is givign them a monoploy. in exchange, the state has a right to require you use your monoply to provide services needed by its citizens. I wouls say the same for granting of license.

    I am additionaly concerned anytime somone invokes the name of God to discrminate against a class of people, such as women. What if a KKK doctor decided no minorites should be treated under thier religious precepts; or if Catholics refused to treat those who were divorced etc.


  9. - Anonymous - Monday, Mar 30, 09 @ 1:18 pm:

    A similar letter appeared in other Illinois dioceses. (I saw it in my parish bulletin) I assume all the bishops in Illinois got together on it, as they sometimes do on certain efforts.

    Perhaps the immediate “threat” of the bill actually becoming law was somewhat exaggerated. I am Catholic and very pro-life, and opposed to this measure. However, I suspected all along that it would turn out to be one of those things like concealed carry, civil unions, etc. that never gets anywhere but is introduced mainly as a way for the sponsors to play to their constituents (in the case of this bill, mainly liberal Dems from Chicago and the burbs).

    Whether or not a FOCA-type bill would actually have the effect predicted here MAY be open to question as it likely would depend on how the courts interpreted it. Which, from a pro-life point of view, is exactly the problem because most court decisions of recent years have tended to go against them. So naturally, pro-lifers, Catholic hospital advocates, etc. have been expecting and preparing for the worst.

    There’s also always a chance that ANY bill, even a very “bad” one, could make it through the process, and those whose interests are affected have a right to know about it and express their views.

    So while the bill may not have had quite as much support or “pressure” being exerted to get it passed, or had the immediate and devastating effects this letter implies, I believe it was entirely appropriate for the bishops to call attention to it in this manner.


  10. - Our Time Has Passed - Monday, Mar 30, 09 @ 1:20 pm:

    As the spiritual leader of Chicago Catholics, the Cardinal has a moral mandate to express opinions that affect the spiritual basis of citizens. As this also strays into the realm of employment, there are real issues to be debated.


  11. - OneMan - Monday, Mar 30, 09 @ 1:22 pm:

    Ghost,
    It targets a lot more than pharmacies. Basically every medical practice in the state, including those who don’t need a certificate of need.


  12. - Conservative Republican - Monday, Mar 30, 09 @ 1:24 pm:

    wordslinger & quimby miss the point - and lead into an irrelevant one.

    Is the letter “appropriate”? Is it appropriate to defend one’s legal rights against a reduction thereof? If you are a leader of a group which collectively enjoys those rights, aren’t you empowered to suggest a course of action to your members to preserve those rights?

    Roman Catholic hospitals do not perform abortions. The law now protects health care workers who by reason of conscience (including religion) decline to participate in procedures like abortion. The proposed amendment would empower those workers’ employers to compel them to participate in such procedures at the risk of their employment.

    Several years ago I heard an acerbic non-Catholic rail on about how Catholic hospitals should be compelled to perform abortions because they receive support in the form of public aid and other government subsidies. This attitude seems to be on the march, ergo this amendment. The Cardinal has every right to mobilize his flock to act in opposition.

    If not, why don’t we just change the name of our country now to the “United Autocratic States” and save our tax dollars on the National Archives by just tossing that Declaration and Constitution into the garbage.


  13. - SPICatholic - Monday, Mar 30, 09 @ 1:24 pm:

    Not matter your religious beliefs, no medical professional should be required to do something expressly against his/her religious beliefs. The Cardinal did not call out an specific member, but health care services is a major mission of the Catholic church that would be gravely hindered by this legislation. The effects of this legislation (without an amendment with significant changes) would be far reaching. The Catholic Church provides a great deal of service that saves “Caeser” plenty of that which is Caeser’s. AND there are many, many 501(c)3’s who actively engage in public policy advocacy.


  14. - Vote Quimby! - Monday, Mar 30, 09 @ 1:37 pm:

    Jake & ConRep: understand what I said before going off on your spin: ==if you try and effect public policy you should pay taxes to that public.==
    I think that should apply to all, equally.


  15. - Anon - Monday, Mar 30, 09 @ 1:42 pm:

    The church is not taking a stance for one politician over another, not making any endorsments, but simply encouraging their members to speak out on an ISSUE important to their beliefs. There are no donations or endorsements being made, just spiritual leaders giving guidance to their followers on what it deems a moral issue. There is nothing wrong with that.

    I always find it interesting, and disturbing, that such “red flags” are almost always only raised when certain churches speak out on issues and when other churches do the same, or worse such as having candidates come give campaign speeches from the pulpit, heads turn the other way.


  16. - Papermoon - Monday, Mar 30, 09 @ 1:43 pm:

    I will second SPICatholic on this one. ‘Freedom of choice’ having been so pointedly championed as of late, it is a surprise to me when this kind of legislation negates the freedom of our treasured professionals to operate with a choice in terms of their moral/religious beliefs. Whether or not abortion is precisely objected to, a clear thinking advocate of liberty and law should be able to see that this is the stuff America was built on.

    To tag onto that, it is certainly the Cardinal’s right and duty to make the Church’s position clear.


  17. - Reddbyrd - Monday, Mar 30, 09 @ 1:45 pm:

    As a non-practicing Catholic/Thinking Christian I think it is safe to say the letter is appropriate, but ineffective because it is coming from a group that cannot police itself, always has its hand for govt cash and opposes gambling which the KC offer bingo.
    They need a dose of hypocrites anonymous.


  18. - John Bambenek - Monday, Mar 30, 09 @ 1:49 pm:

    A point people forget, Cardinal George DOES pay taxes. The Church may not because it isn’t a profit generating organization. So is this really an attempt to put special rules on him because he wears a collar and people listen to him?

    I run a charity, for instance, that is tax exempt. Do I risk losing that exemption every time I speak on the street about politics? Is the IRS going to start monitoring my twitter feed too?

    There is a difference between engaging in First Amendment-protected activity and hiring an army of lobbyists.


  19. - NewDay - Monday, Mar 30, 09 @ 1:51 pm:

    Thou shall not kill. We Catholics don’t want to be culpable in the genocide of our own children.


  20. - fisher - Monday, Mar 30, 09 @ 1:54 pm:

    Ghost - pro-lifers aren’t trying to discriminate against women as a class of people, they are concerned about ensuring the rights of unborn humans as a class of people. Two groups with rights in tension with each other.


  21. - Brock Berlin's Clipboard - Monday, Mar 30, 09 @ 1:56 pm:

    As a non-Catholic, I take no issue with the Cardinal expressing his views on the legislation, nor am I at all surprised at what those views are. My primary concern is that referring to the opposition on this bill as “enemies of human life” does very little to improve the quality of the debate. Certainly both sides in this debate can be over the top at times, but many of the sponsors of this bill are conscientious legislators and decent people.


  22. - Justice - Monday, Mar 30, 09 @ 1:58 pm:

    I see this as a moral obligation of the Catholic Church, as well as all churches to pursue the right to life and to take every measure necessary to protect the innocent. Every citizen of the Catholic church and other churches are tax payers. The fact that the church itself does not pay taxes doesn’t diminish their right or obligation to encourage their members to work to save lives. I support the church’s action….in this case.


  23. - Plutocrat03 - Monday, Mar 30, 09 @ 2:00 pm:

    If we wish to disenfranchise the not-for-profits for speaking then we better do it evenly across the board.

    Each and every campaign I see candidates paraded in front of church congregations with the pastor encouraging the congregation to vote for a given candidate. I hear no calls for the removal of their tax status.

    The Catholics have a right to express their views and vote like members of any religion. They do not need special treatment, nor do they deserve more scrutiny than any other religious organization.


  24. - Lou - Monday, Mar 30, 09 @ 2:01 pm:

    Mr. Bambenek - the item was on Diocese letterhead, which would negate your point.

    Quimby, you raise a valid point on the issues with the tax code and non-profits, and worthy of debate.

    Of the issue of plan B and the Pharmacist, I put this under a “render unto Caesar” issue. The Pharmacists have a monopoly on dispensing drugs. So long as they maintain the monopoly they have to dispense whatever the State tells them to do (I am opposed to Plan B).

    And to Rich’s Question, no it does not cross the legal line, nor does it cross the ethical boundary in my opinion.


  25. - Rich Miller - Monday, Mar 30, 09 @ 2:03 pm:

    I think “Brock Berlin’s Clipboard” best sums up at least some of my views on this matter.


  26. - Thomas Westgard - Monday, Mar 30, 09 @ 2:05 pm:

    Since all human life is equally sacred, where are the correspondingly urgent letters asking people to take action opposing all capital punishment? Abortion is a politically unifying force for the political right, so they use it all the time in this way. Opposing all capital punishment on principle is less politically convenient *but equally inconsistent with the Pope’s reading of God’s will.*

    It’s not just death issues, either. There are dozens of bills in Springfield that improve quality of life for people that the Catholic Church could equally well support. But most of them involve real improvement for the lives of the poor, which is NOT a rallying cry for the political right.

    What I see is the Cardinal himself picking the most politically convenient issue to write a letter about. He might want to check that direct line to God - it appears to be routed through GOP headquarters.


  27. - Anonymous - Monday, Mar 30, 09 @ 2:09 pm:

    John Bambenek, Lou is correct. In the words of fictional Sir Humphrey Appleby, “It’s interesting, that nowadays politicians want to talk about moral issues, and bishops want to talk politics.” Maybe if the American Roman Catholic bishops spent more time tending to the Church and less time working the electorate, they would find themselves paying out fewer court-imposed damage settlements.


  28. - Anon - Monday, Mar 30, 09 @ 2:10 pm:

    Thomas, not sure what Catholic church you’re hearing, but the one I’m familiar with speaks out against the death penalty on many occasions. They protest at every execution I’ve seen publicised, even John Wayne Gacy. You likely don’t hear much from them on the issue now because an execution hasn’t been allowed to be performed in Illinois in nearly a decade.


  29. - the Patriot - Monday, Mar 30, 09 @ 2:11 pm:

    It is appropriate. This is an issue of morality which is fair game for the church. Not for profits may take positions on issues. They cannot endorse a partisan candidate…unless it is a democrat.

    Everytime a conservative church takes a position, the liberals want to revoke their tax exempt status. How many reviews of Reverend Wrights church have taken place since he endorsed a partisan candidate on the pulpit. How many of the ministers who supported Burris have had their churches tax exempt status reviewed since endorsing him? These were clear endorsements of political parties and their candidates.

    Yes, lets have a level playing field. I want the AG to look into Wright’s church and all of the ministeres who endorsed Obama or Burris by the end of the day.


  30. - Ravenswood in Little Egypt - Monday, Mar 30, 09 @ 2:17 pm:

    Anon, the Roman Catholic Church has traditionally accepted capital punishment as per the theology of Thomas Aquinas , who accepted the death penalty as a necessary deterrent and prevention method. Pope Benedict himself said, “There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia.” The lack of consistency is clear.


  31. - Anon, Good Nurse, Anon - Monday, Mar 30, 09 @ 2:19 pm:

    I think Churches and people need to take care of their own houses before they start trying to “affect change” in other people’s.

    And if heath care professionals have a problem with doing their jobs, because of “moral and religious beliefs,” then they should consider a new profession.


  32. - John Bambenek - Monday, Mar 30, 09 @ 2:19 pm:

    Letterhead? Really? That’s all you have?

    Go write a letter to the IRS then and complain. Just bear in mind, next time I see another Democrat parade himself in a church congregation and pound the pulpit for supprt, people like me will go for their tax deduction too.

    A letterhead is a far, far cry from the kind of lobbying lots of charities and not-for-profits do.


  33. - Kathryn Barkley - Monday, Mar 30, 09 @ 2:25 pm:

    I’m not even sure why this is a discussion. It should be self-evident that of course Cardinal George would speak out against this bill, of course the Catholic church is against it, and yes, he has every right to do so under state and federal law and every obligation to do so under his calling and vocation.


  34. - Secret Square - Monday, Mar 30, 09 @ 2:42 pm:

    Forgot to add my name, I was Anonymous @ 1:18.

    The fact that this bill has been sitting on second reading (the stage at which amendments can be made if not made in committee) for more than two weeks also led me to suspect that some kind of amendment was in the works to address the Catholic/pro-life objections involved or maybe change it into a completely different form.

    I may be wrong, but I have a hard time believing that the rest of the House, the Senate, or the Governor has any desire to touch a hot button like this with a 20-foot pole right now, given that they are already walking through a highly explosive political minefield with regard to the budget, tax increases, etc.


  35. - El Conquistador - Monday, Mar 30, 09 @ 2:44 pm:

    From the IRS website:

    In general, no organization may qualify for section 501(c)(3) status if a substantial part of its activities is attempting to influence legislation (commonly known as lobbying). A 501(c)(3) organization may engage in some lobbying, but too much lobbying activity risks loss of tax-exempt status.

    Legislation includes action by Congress, any state legislature, any local council, or similar governing body, with respect to acts, bills, resolutions, or similar items (such as legislative confirmation of appointive office), or by the public in referendum, ballot initiative, constitutional amendment, or similar procedure. It does not include actions by executive, judicial, or administrative bodies.

    An organization will be regarded as attempting to influence legislation if it contacts, or urges the public to contact, members or employees of a legislative body for the purpose of proposing, supporting, or opposing legislation, or if the organization advocates the adoption or rejection of legislation.

    Organizations may, however, involve themselves in issues of public policy without the activity being considered as lobbying. For example, organizations may conduct educational meetings, prepare and distribute educational materials, or otherwise consider public policy issues in an educational manner without jeopardizing their tax-exempt status.


  36. - Louis G. Atsaves - Monday, Mar 30, 09 @ 2:54 pm:

    Our Greek Orthodox Metropolis uses similar language in a letter on his letterhead, only he refers to HB2353, not HB2354?

    It also urges us to contact our legislators and uses the same telephone and website information.

    The fact that the organizations are “tax exempt” give them the right to speak out. Ask anyone about remodeling a Church structure within City of Chicago limits or other municipalities. There is plenty of regulation of churches going on without resorting to threatening to pull their tax exemptions. The priests, Bishops and Metropolitans all pay income taxes, they pay sales taxes on their personal purchases, they pay real estate taxes on their personal properties, etc. etc. etc.

    With the Catholic Church running some hospitals, I support their right to speak out on this issue.


  37. - Pot calling kettle - Monday, Mar 30, 09 @ 3:02 pm:

    I eagerly await a letter such as this in support of universal health care.


  38. - Out of Place - Monday, Mar 30, 09 @ 3:04 pm:

    Thanks for the actual text of the law, El Conquistador. It seems clear that the letter from the Cardinal does not constitute a “substantial part” of the Archdiocese’s activities and is therefore in compliance with the law.


  39. - ding - Monday, Mar 30, 09 @ 3:10 pm:

    I disagree with the Archbishop’s position, but he’s doing nothing inappropriate.

    501c3’s are within their legal rights (as broadly as they are defined by the IRS under the Insubstantial Part Test) to participate in grassroots lobbying - which is what this letter is doing. It is encouraging its consituents to communicate with legislators; if the letter was written on letterhead and sent to specific elected officials then the archdiocese would be participating in direct lobbying.

    Now, direct lobbying is also allowed but is given less of a margin than indirect or grassroots lobbying.

    But if the Archdiocese (as most non profits) is under the Insubstantial Part Test, then the issue of direct vs. indirect lobbying is moot because the original IRS statute doesn’t measure how much is standard, too much or appropriate. It’s too vague.

    If we were to penalize the Archbishop for ‘inappropriate’ lobbying it has to be shown that exceeded an insubstantial part of their overall activity. I can practically guarantee that their 990 doesn’t specify what this test is.

    However, if they changed their designation from the Insubstantial Part Test to a 501(h) Expenditure Test then their activities, or lobbying limits, are measured in a different, more exact way and this question is easier to answer (i.e., whether the letter was appropriate.)

    But still, indirect or direct, the Archdiocese is still within its rights to participate in lobbying such as this. As are other 501c3’s.

    Just my two cents. I hope I wasn’t too incoherent.


  40. - VanillaMan - Monday, Mar 30, 09 @ 3:11 pm:

    Where were you people last year when dozens of “sermons” from Reverend Wright in Chicago were being discussed? Political comments? Check. Presidential candidate a famous member of church? Check.

    Our country has a long and illustrious history of political activism from it’s churches. As it should be.

    “It’s interesting, that nowadays politicians want to talk about moral issues, and bishops want to talk politics.” - a fictional character Intesting that the poster who uses this fictional character’s quote in a non-fictional setting, uses it to suggest that churches shouldn’t talk, but then doesn’t suggest that politicians shouldn’t talk.

    If you believe that the IRS should investigate every religious organization that makes political statements, you might was well live in a police state, because that is what you will end up with. Threatening legal action against churches is disgusting, and smacks of intolerance against those holding diverse opinions. It is church-bashing.

    For a country that celebrates as it’s only holiday designated for one single person, Martin Luther King, Jr. - a minister - to now recommend sending the IRS in Gestapo-style tactics to pressure churches into silence, is shocking and inexcusably illogical.

    Human life is created at conception, so when we discuss medical reasons to end that life, we are having a discussion as important as when we are discussing the death penalty. A society that casually ends life shouldn’t survive, and usually doesn’t.


  41. - Fed-up - Monday, Mar 30, 09 @ 3:12 pm:

    It just seems to me that there are in fact two issues here. The first is the right of the church to speak out on public policy. As long as they are not endorsing specific candidates from the pulpit they have every right, and in this instance the obligation, to speak out on relevant social issues of the day. The whole tax issue is a smoke screen. The other salient issue is the erosion of personal rights and freedoms. If an individual pharmasist or other medical practioner has a deep moral conviction on this or any other issue, they should retain the right to refuse service. It is not as if people don’t have a myriad of choices. Just go down the street and have your medical needs met with another provider.


  42. - Anon - Monday, Mar 30, 09 @ 3:20 pm:

    The Roman Catholic Church (as opposed to the catholic church — which most Protestant Churches consider themselves to be part of) has every right to voice its opinion about this bill. Just like every corporation (who hire lobbyists) every citizen (who votes) and every non-profit (who get their membership and donors by voicing their opinions).

    The real issue here is the actual issue. Should doctors, pharmacists, Roman Catholic hospitals etc be compelled to do things against their own personal objection. The answer is NO!. There are plenty of others who will do what the Roman Catholics do not want to do. Why should we force them?

    Does New York City require Jewish shopkeepers to stay open on Saturday? Of course they don’t. While some may consider this a trivial comparison it really is the same thing.

    Let the Roman Catholics (Full disclosure - I am becoming one) have their opinion and right on this. Get your abortions, stem cells, condoms etc at a non-Roman Catholic enterprise—there are plenty of them.


  43. - Irish - Monday, Mar 30, 09 @ 3:41 pm:

    As a father of two adopted children who have been and will always be my own, I oppose abortion because had two mothers chosen that option I might have never known these beautiful people.

    I was born and raised a Catholic. I disagreed with many of the tenets of the Church and was married as a Methodist. I have evolved to being aorganized religion agnostic in that I believe in a God but my God does not require you to attend a man made building to believe or to be christian.

    I respect the right of every woman to decide what to do with their own body, but I support very informed decisions. I do believe however if abortions are allowed they must be done within the first two to three months.

    All that being said I think the issue is very simple. I as an employee I do not have the choice to not do work assigned to me because I do not believe in the work being done. If something is iillegal or presents a hazardous situation that might cause me injury and is not within my job description I can refuse to do it and I suffer the consequences. but if I just disagree with a procedure that is being done at my work place my option is to quit. If you are being paid for what you are asked to do then you do it. You may not like it or agree with it. But you do it.
    This is not something that requires or doesn’t require legislation. It is the employment and working process.


  44. - downstate hack - Monday, Mar 30, 09 @ 3:44 pm:

    I agree with anon. Although I do not necessarily support their opinion, The Government has no business legislating conscience of an individual. There are plenty of options for those seeking the services without forcing people to work against their beliefs. The Church has every right to issue a public opinion.


  45. - zatoichi - Monday, Mar 30, 09 @ 3:45 pm:

    The letter is relatively consistent with what the Church has said in the past. I have no problem with the message coming from the pulpit. That is the Church teaching its moral stance. Seeing how hard the Church has been hit with managing it’s own internal ethical issues, it will have a tough time getting everyone to buy in. Each Catholic will have to decide if they believe what the Cardinal is saying.

    The problem becomes where does it stop? Does a Catholic neurosurgeon decide to not remove the bullet from someone’s brain because they engaged in an activity the Church says is immoral? Do home care workers refuse to provide care for similar reason? Abortion is an easy hot button that has no consistent societal answer regardless of anyone’s personal beliefs. If I was in Springfield, this is one log I would not put on the fire of the current problems until employment and the economy get in better shape.


  46. - Anon - Monday, Mar 30, 09 @ 4:08 pm:

    As many others have said, it’s perfectly appropriate and legal for the Archbishop to write this letter. I just wanted to comment on the “over-the-top” use of the term “enemies of human life” language by Brock Berlin’s Clipboard, with which Mr. Miller appears to agree. I agree that using that term isn’t going to help sway pro-choice people, and it certainly isn’t charitable or in keeping with my view of Catholic behavior (and I attend Mass daily), but it is consistent with the Church’s teaching on abortion. To someone who truly believes the fetus is a human being possessing the same value and rights as any other human being, abortion is killing of an innocent, pure and simple, and government-approved or sponsored abortion deserves the same condemnation as linching in the old south or killing of supposedly sub-humans by the Nazis. If you give the Archbishop and pro-life Catholics the benefit of the doubt, and accept that they truly believe the fetus is fully human, what would you expect them to say about a bill that forces doctors to participate in the killing? Or how do you feel about the Church’s silence or (at best) lukewarm opposition to the Nazis? My apologies to anyone who is offended by comparison with Nazis, because I accept the fact that people can have good faith beliefs on this issue that are contrary to mine, and so I don’t admit the validity of the comparison. But if you grant the same presumption of a good faith belief to the Archbishop, what he said is not so out-of-line.


  47. - JonShibleyFan - Monday, Mar 30, 09 @ 4:09 pm:

    Thomas Aquinas said, “In this life, however, penalties are not sought for their own sake, because this is not the era of retribution; rather, they are meant to be corrective by being conducive either to the reform of the sinner or the good of society, which becomes more peaceful through the punishment of sinners.”

    In other words, Aquinas endorses capital punishment if no other means are available to protect society from the criminal, but opposes penalties “for their own sake.”

    This view is summed from a 1980 statement of US Catholic Bishops opposing the death penalty.

    Context, please.


  48. - VanillaMan - Monday, Mar 30, 09 @ 4:12 pm:

    The problem becomes where does it stop? Does a Catholic neurosurgeon decide to not remove the bullet from someone’s brain because they engaged in an activity the Church says is immoral?

    Catholic hospitals, like the Church favors human life. Abortion ends it. So someone being injured with a life threatening injury would have no reason to be concerned. But someone who wants to end a human life would find restrictions placed upon that action in a Catholic hospital, just as a community who wishes to end a human life via court action would find restrictions in place to protect that human life.


  49. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Monday, Mar 30, 09 @ 4:25 pm:

    === There is no law that says non-profits cannot have a voice in, or impact, public policy. ===

    That’s true, Dave.

    However, there is a law that prevents certain classifications of non-profit organizations (501-c3’s) from engaging in “lobbying”, roughly understood to mean advocating for or against a specific piece of legislation.

    And just so we’re clear: lobbying on this issue by the Catholic Church doesn’t just start and stop with this letter. You can bet your rosary beads that the Church is issuing commands from the pulpit to their parishioners on this one.


  50. - Anon - Monday, Mar 30, 09 @ 4:32 pm:

    “Commands from the pulpit” happen every weekend in every church, not the just the Roman Catholics.

    Let’s be real, this is a moral issue that some agree with and some do not.


  51. - ConservativeVeteran - Monday, Mar 30, 09 @ 4:35 pm:

    When someone becomes a doctor, he or she says an oath and promises to, “Do no harm.” Each abortion harms and kills a baby, causing the doctor to violate the oath. Therefore, any doctor who performs an abortion should lose his or her license.


  52. - Anonymous - Monday, Mar 30, 09 @ 4:39 pm:

    The government will never force Catholic Hospitals to perform abortions because, in the end, if the Church refuses and the hospitals close, the healthcare industry would collapse.


  53. - Thomas Westgard - Monday, Mar 30, 09 @ 4:49 pm:

    I eagerly await a letter such as this in support of universal health care.” @Pot calling kettle

    This summarizes it nicely. The Cardinal eagerly goes after the easy target, whipping up the already overheated argument over abortion, but doesn’t have the courage to take on issues that are equally important to treating people in ways that are consistent with Catholic teaching, but lack the political simplicity with which abortion can unify and motivate the faithful.


  54. - dave - Monday, Mar 30, 09 @ 5:10 pm:

    However, there is a law that prevents certain classifications of non-profit organizations (501-c3’s) from engaging in “lobbying”, roughly understood to mean advocating for or against a specific piece of legislation.

    YDD… no there is not. As spelled out above your comment:

    == In general, no organization may qualify for section 501(c)(3) status if a substantial part of its activities is attempting to influence legislation (commonly known as lobbying). A 501(c)(3) organization may engage in some lobbying, but too much lobbying activity risks loss of tax-exempt status. ==

    It is quite clear that the Catholic Church, and this specific diocese, are not committing”a substantial part of its activities” to lobbying.


  55. - plced - Monday, Mar 30, 09 @ 5:14 pm:

    Tax-exempt status has to do with trying to change elections, not policy. People bring this up every time churches talk about policy. Talking about and trying to change policy is perfectly legal for churches to do. Furthermore, it is perfectly legitimate for the Cardinal to publicly state his views and instruct his people.

    Planned Parenthood is Tax-exempt as well, should they lose their exemption too? Or does that not count since they aren’t a religious group?

    Lastly, how does universal healthcare get a level playing field with abortion? One is the killing of unborn children, the other is a method of paying for caring for people…Not exactly the same thing…


  56. - Skirmisher - Monday, Mar 30, 09 @ 5:21 pm:

    I agree with the Cardinal, and I most fervently agree with his right to take a moral stand on a legislative issue. I also agree, however, that churches and demoninations which take public positions on political matters have no business having tax exemptions. How do youi draw the line between “some lobbying” and a lot of lobbying? Any lobbying should disqualify a church from a tax exemption.


  57. - wordslinger - Monday, Mar 30, 09 @ 5:24 pm:

    Churches aren’t typical tax-exempt organizations. They don’t have to register with the IRS; they’re assumed to be tax exempt, which has been a practice as old as the Republic to keep government interference out of church matters.

    But don’t tell me churches don’t raise money to lobby or electioneer from the pulpit or support candidates. And yes, when they do, you can tax the Revs. Wright and Jackson along with the Catholic Church or my own Lutheran Church, in my book.

    And to the Cardinal, as neither an enemy of human life nor religious freedom in Illinois nor well funded (look who’s talking), careful on casting stones, brother. Little humility may be in order.


  58. - this old hack - Monday, Mar 30, 09 @ 6:13 pm:

    Rich, it is absolutely appropriate and I am surprised you would have reservations. The church is expressing its view on a proposed law, just as it has on the Iraq War, the death penalty, etc. Was that wrong also?

    YDD, I suppose given your liberal leanings, you also object to the church’s statements on those issues.

    Finally, YDD, clearly you have never been to a Catholic Church. You said: “You can bet your rosary beads that the Church is issuing commands from the pulpit to their parishioners on this one.”

    Dude, I have been a practicing Catholic for all of my 37 years, was an alter boy and sang in the choir at the seat of the Chicago Archdiosese, Holy Name Cathedral, and I never once heard priests “issue commands from the pulpit.”

    And before you attack me as being an out of touch, Rush Limbaugh lover, let me say that I am also a three D voter in primaries with legislative campaign experience.

    I was formerly pro-choice myself, until I realized that you can never get past the fact that we are dealing with either 1) an unborn child or 2) the potential for life. Liberals, who fight for the rights of the vulernable in society, ought to think about this. While an abortion for the health of the mother is sometimes neccessary, precaution beforehand or adoption can ensure that abortion is not needed in most cases.

    I departed the pro-choice movement the day I realized that all they talk about are their “rights”. They forget that with “rights” also comes “responsibility”.

    I am not advocating a return to back alley abortions. It should stay legal, but women should be given as many alternatives as possible and encouraged not to end the pregnancy. Legal and God willing, rare.


  59. - Bookworm - Monday, Mar 30, 09 @ 6:30 pm:

    In addition to all the moral objections I have as a pro-life Catholic, I don’t see where this bill is even necessary to protect the rights of women seeking abortions or emergency contraception. Are there really THAT many pharmacists who object to EC prescriptions in the first place, and when they do, how often does it happen that absolutely NO ONE else is available to fill it?

    I believe DFPR has rules in place allowing EC prescriptions to be filled by an electronically transmitted or faxed order from off site, in the (relatively rare) event that the pharmacist on duty at a given store objects to filling it. This rule was drawn up as part of a lawsuit settlement with objecting pharmacists.

    My point is that although these cases got a lot of publicity, it doesn’t seem to me that there were a huge number of them. To run roughshod over the conscience rights of that objecting minority seems to me to be overkill.


  60. - Bookworm - Monday, Mar 30, 09 @ 6:32 pm:

    Not to mention the fact that the FDA now allows Plan B emergency contraception to be sold over the counter to anyone over age 17, which means those instances in which a woman would actually have to present a prescription and a pharmacist would have to fill it are increasingly rare.


  61. - 47th Ward - Monday, Mar 30, 09 @ 7:31 pm:

    The Cardinal could tone down his rhetoric, but his public stance should be welcomed and given the same weight as other voices in the debate.

    I hate this issue. I’m prochoice in the civil rights sense and prolife if the decision was mine to make. I guess it comes down to when a fetus has equal rights with its parents, especially its mother. The Cardinal and others think that life and all the rights to life in the Constitution begins at conception. If you carry that logic forward, you forever consign women to a less than equal status.

    That’s why I’m prochoice. Under our laws, women and men ought to be equal. If the Cardinal had his way, our laws would recognize the unborn as citizens with equal rights. I think that relegates women to second class status. Natural law is one thing, U.S. law is something entirely different.

    As the leader of Chicago’s Roman Catholics, it is the Cardinal’s duty to speak out on this. The General Assembly has a duty to do what it thinks is best for all of the people of Illinois. Individuals have a duty to follow the law, and members of faith organizations proclaim a duty to follow their conscience. Each is free to do as they see fit in their own domain.

    Abortion may be a sin, but it is legal and I hope it remains so. I also hope it becomes so rare as to disappear from the list of “we’ll never agree” topics that separate otherwise agreeable groups. For the most part, the prochoice and prolife groups have more in common than we allow ourselves to see.

    It’s hard to offer analogies on this, but if we accept the religious view on this issue over the Constitutional/civil rights view, then when will the Cardinal call for making adultery illegal? In other words, the right to pursue happiness opens the door for a lot of sinful behavior.

    And that’s for God to sort out.


  62. - this old hack - Monday, Mar 30, 09 @ 7:45 pm:

    47th Ward: well said, but why does there have to be a 1st class and 2nd Class citizen in the debate?

    why can’t both the woman and the unborn have the same rights? Unless you acknowledge that the termination of a pregnancy is the taking of a life, or at the very least the potential for life.

    And, when does the unborn get to weigh in on the debate? Ah, they don’t…making the Cardinal’s stance neccessary.


  63. - 47th Ward - Monday, Mar 30, 09 @ 8:13 pm:

    ===why can’t both the woman and the unborn have the same rights?===

    That’s exactly the point, which is clearer if you ask instead: why can’t men and the unborn have the same rights?

    Our constitution acknowledges that women have the right to be treated equally with men. Unless and until women can decide for themselves about whether and when to give birth, they cannot be the equal of men in society.

    I’ll concede that I agree abortion is morally wrong, and those who disregard God’s laws are doomed to eternal damnation. But that isn’t the basis of our Constitution, nor is natural law. Nor should it be.


  64. - Just Thinking - Monday, Mar 30, 09 @ 9:34 pm:

    What the Catholic church is doing is legal. Generally speaking, the IRS views a “substantial part of [the] activities [of] attempting to influence legislation” as being lobbying activity that exceeds 5% of the activities of the 501(c)(3). The Roman Catholic Church has every right to lobby. It also has a right and responsibility to educate its parishioners about the moral values that the church upholds. The two go hand in hand.

    All legislation is based upon someone’s morality. With 177 members in the General Assembly representing different areas of the state, different ethnic groups, and varying moral values, it is understandable that there will be extremely controversial pieces of legislation.

    Although I have lobbied for many years, for the most part, I am constantly amazed at the graciousness of legislators and lobbyists who, while disagreeing, openly discuss their differences. The reason these bills are so controversial is that they reach to the core of dissenting value systems. When that happens, there frequently is a point reached where there can be no compromise.

    Both sides on this legislation have points for which they will “die on the sword.” The reason the government allows 501 (c)(3)’s to have a certain lobbying presence is that they do not have to give up their right to petition the legislature just because they are a non-profit group or a church.


  65. - anon - Monday, Mar 30, 09 @ 11:23 pm:

    I am a Catholic and agree with the Cardinal. God Bless him.


  66. - Kevin Highland - Tuesday, Mar 31, 09 @ 7:21 am:

    if the church want’s to be politically active they can pay taxes like the rest of us do.


  67. - Just Thinking - Tuesday, Mar 31, 09 @ 8:16 am:

    “Political” is working in elections. “Policy” is legislation, even though legislators often introduce legislation to be political. While I believe legislation is about policy, it seems that some legislators believe that legislation is about politics.


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


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