This past Sunday a friend of ours named Alex attended Mass in Washington, DC, at the well-known Holy Trinity Catholic Church, the Jesuit parish in Georgetown. Alex has been part of a Catholic outreach effort in several battleground states. Its specific goal has been to educate Catholic voters on the key distinction between settled or non-negotiable principles and issues – and those which allow for the proper exercise of our prudential judgment.
What, however, did he find on the front of the Holy Trinity bulletin? Alex found an article from Prof. Vincent Rougeau, Dean of Boston College Law School, which portrayed the prudential judgment issue of how to best approach the provision of health care as if it were a settled issue (reprinted from America, Aug. 13-20, 2012.)
In this article, Dean Rougeau praised the Affordable Care Act, the new health care law passed by the Obama administration. He did not mention that it was publicly opposed by the Catholic bishops because, particularly through the implementation of the notorious HHS Mandate, it provides federal funding for abortion and mandates the provision of abortion inducing drugs, sterilization and contraception. In addition, it contains no real exemption for religious institutions, fails to recognize the fundamental human right to religious liberty and violates the conscience of health care workers. These are genuinely settled issues of a serious nature.
Rougeau wrote: “Most countries with the necessary financial means (and some without it) have provided universal health care to their citizens and residents for decades because it was fairly obvious that human dignity required it. Universal health care is a moral imperative, something a political community ought to offer if it hopes to encourage meaningful membership and participation in the community, both of which are essential to a well-functioning democracy.”
Is this reprinted article intended to influence the vote of Holy Trinity parishioners? Absolutely! It’s introduced in the Holy Trinity bulletin thus, “In the article, Dean Rougeau suggests how, as Catholics, we might understand our responsibility as a voter and a citizen.”
Does the argument contained in Rougeau’s article help the reelection of President Obama? Of course! This is not to suggest that Holy Trinity has done anything in violation of its non-profit status — it has not. But, the pastor of Holy Trinity has employed his latitude as a teacher of the faith to mislead his flock on two fronts: First, on the Church’s vital distinction between settled and prudential issues, and, second, by omitting any reference to the abortion funding in Obama’s health care legislation, or the opposition of the USCCB.
The bulletin’s introduction to Rougeau’s article also announced, “Part Two will appear in next Sunday’s bulletin,” the Sunday two days before the election on Nov. 6. (We knew where the District of Columbia 3 electoral votes were headed anyway.)
Rougeau, as our friend pointed out, included an extremely objectionable argument near the end of his article — that Catholic values should be put aside. He vaguely refers to the abortion issue but claims it is trumped by the need for universal health care:
“Although I take very seriously the role that we as Catholics should play in bringing our values to the discussion of specific aspects of national health care policy, I think it is more important to make sure that everyone who needs health coverage has it – period. Allowing people to go without access to decent health care in the midst of this nation’s extraordinary affluence is at best a shameful misdirection of our priorities and at worst evidence of a nation blind to the basic requirements of social justice.”
Once again, this inaccurate interpretation of the principles offered in Catholic teaching on social justice is raised as a banner, but only to obscure the foundation of all justice — the fundamental human right to right to life. Without the Fundamental human right to life, all other derivative rights are jeopardized. In effect, the very infrastructure of human rights is placed at risk! We pray that this repugnant habit, whether mere rhetoric or not, will be put aside by Catholics in coming decades.
To his credit, Alex attempted to discuss his objections to this article by Dean Rougeau being featured in the Holy Trinity bulletin two Sundays before the national election with the Pastor. But he reported, “The pastor disagreed on all fronts and wasn’t much interested in having the conversation.” When pastors and other clergy place such material in front of their parishioners, they, of course, know exactly what they are doing. Alex, however, did the right thing — even clergy need to know that the laity knows what they are doing when they do it.
Had we been the editors at America, the following ad hominem section of Rougeau’s article would have been excised:
“In the United States, however, many people do everything they can to prevent the entire population from receiving health coverage because they cannot stand the idea that the government (as opposed to the free market) might be in the best position to provide it or because they despise the President and his political party or because of disagreements about whether particular procedures should be covered.”
CLICK LIKE IF YOU’RE PRO-LIFE!
Really? Just who are these “many people?” We would have removed this comment, given that it reflects not only on the mean, subhuman Republican Party but on the bishops themselves.
And who are these people who “despise the President and his political party?” We doubt very much if Dean Rougeau actually knows any of the “many people” about whom he speaks — it’s not likely he runs into them at Boston College law school or his social circle.
Perhaps Dean Rougeau has the gift of seeing into the souls of those who disagree with the President’s pro-abortion policies and sees a hatred driving their pro-life objections? Ah, but we don’t know that to be the case anymore than Rougeau knows whether or not they “despise the President and his political party.”
LifeNews Note: Deal W. Hudson is president of the Pennsylvania Catholics’ Network and was chairman of Catholic Outreach at the RNC between 2000-2004 and is
the author of Onward Christian Soldiers: the Growing Political Power of Catholics and Evangelicals in the United States (Simon & Schuster 2008).