Catholic entities undermine U.S. bishops’ authority

From the National Catholic Register:

Recent headlines have told the story “Catholic Hospitals, Bishops Split on Health Care” and “Catholic Bishops Fight for Authority Over U.S. Flock.”

These volatile headlines refer to the fact that some Catholic individuals and organizations publicly disagree with the U.S. Bishops about provisions of the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare. This opposition from within the Church makes the bishops’ effort to preserve religious freedom much more difficult, for the Obama administration and some Democrat Congressmen have been quick to use a “divide and conquer” strategy by invoking these dissident groups as if they are legitimate Catholic authorities.

The most prominent Catholic supporter of Obamacare has been the Catholic Health Association of the United States (CHA), led by its president and CEO, Sister Carol Keehan, a Daughter of Charity. Playing a supporting role for her have been the officers of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) and the conference’s lobbying arm, Network. Sister Carol declined to be interviewed for this story….

Nevertheless, Sister Carol and the other high-profile sisters who have publicly opposed the bishops’ position have been hailed by Obamacare supporters as having legitimate moral authority in the Church to counter the bishops. For example, on March 8 — International Women’s Day — Sister Carol was named by the Center for American Progress as one of “13 Religious Women to Watch in 2012 Changing the World for Good” because: “She was instrumental in garnering support for the Affordable Care Act in 2010, when CHA broke with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to publicly support the act. As a result, Keehan gave moral permission to legislators who were conflicted about supporting the bill.”

So, what gives these sisters and the CHA authority to grant “moral permission” for disagreement with the nation’s bishops?

Nothing. Neither the sisters nor the CHA hold any authority to speak for the Church on faith and morals: That authority belongs to the bishops alone, as Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, Kan., told Catholic News Service during his recent ad limina visit to the Vatican. He said that his group of Midwestern bishops also spoke with Vatican officials about the public support of the CHA and LCWR for the so-called “accommodation” in the HHS mandate. The bishops have rejected the “accommodation” because it still requires religious institutions to provide insurance that covers immoral services.

“Those efforts are really undercutting the Church and trying to divide it again by setting up two teaching authorities when there’s only one within the Church,” Archbishop Naumann said. “It’s a very serious issue, I think, particularly when religious try to insert themselves in the role of trying to be the teachers within the Church. They have important roles to play but they are not the ones to teach on these matters.”…

Read it all.

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