Bishop Lynch on Healthcare

It was only a matter of time, I suppose.

The US Bishops looked like they were actually holding together against the pro-abortion Senate version of the healthcare bill. And then comes Bishop Lynch, the same bishop who betrayed Terri Schiavo, even skipping town to Indonesia over Holy Week and Easter (in violation of Canon 395 §3) to avoid having to take an unpopular stance to save her life. He’s not, to my knowledge, particularly unorthodox – just unwilling to stand up for the Truth when nice people disagree with him. And that’s happened here again. Here’s his post on the subject of healthcare:

Last night I received an e-mail from Sister Carol Keehan whom I had tried to reach by phone prior to writing the previous blog. She was flying and I was busy so we never connected. Sister Carol is a good woman of the Church, no liberal trouble-maker by any stretch of the imagination and a woman who as CEO turned Providence Hospital around from certain bankruptcy and closing to a viable facility in the northeast section of the District serving an increasingly poor and marginalized community. She is worthy of being listened to and the other members of the CHA (Catholic Health Association) board respect both her experience and her wisdom. She writes and I believe I owe it to her to place here: “I need to tell you that the information about our position [in your blog] is incorrect. I know that it is what Cardinal George’s statement says but that is not our position. We believe that the Senate bill as written now, meets the test of no federal funding for abortion. We said that we wanted that preserved in the reconciliation bill not fixed. That is a misrepresentation of our position. We would not have taken the position we took if we were hoping for a fix. It had to be already in place and it is. Many legal scholars, the ABC News “Fact Check” also same the same thing. The provisions were negotiated by Senators Casey and Nelson, two of the most ardent pro-lifers out there.

I must also include for your thinking that several very reliable sources have said the same thing as Sister Carol above. The position of the bishops, which I embrace until I have some certainty that we are wrong, is being refuted by usually reliable sources and last night, Congressman Thomas Perriello, a conservative pro-life Catholic, said that he was convinced that the Senate version would guarantee that no federal funds would find their way to abortion services. If he moves to accept the Senate version, that will be a major moment for the pro-life movement given his past perfect record.

Passions run high in this matter, sometimes at the expense of rational analysis. I will try and keep myself informed of the developments throughout this week and continue to share my thoughts with you here. Now it is off on AMTRAK again, this time to Miami, for a visit with our twenty college seminarians and a funeral in Lake Worth tomorrow.


Let’s be abundantly clear. Every authentic pro-life organization (and by this I mean every pro-life organization which wasn’t founded by Democratic operatives so that they could claim that they had “pro-life support,” like Catholics United for the Common Good) has slammed this bill as providing abortion funding. Now look at what the bishop wrote. There are two people who were talked up in the piece as reputable voices on the pro-life side: Sister Carol Keehan of the Catholic Health Association (who just publicly opposed not just her bishop, but all the US bishops, on healthcare); and Democratic Congressman Thomas Perriello, who Lynch claims is “a conservative pro-life Catholic.” In addition to these two, he claims that “several very reliable sources” agree with them. In contrast, he seems to write Cardinal George and his brother bishops off as ill-informed or irrational because “Passions run high in this matter, sometimes at the expense of rational analysis.”

It makes me sick. Almost any time a bishop comes out in defense of the truth on an unpopular issue, he finds himself stabbed in the back by some brother bishop eager to suck at the Democratic teat at any cost. Yet when bishop do richly deserve rebukes — for violating canon law and Catholic moral teachings, rather than simply liberal dogmas — it seems that there’s nary a peep. What’s worse, Bp. Lynch is wrong on nearly everything he says in this post. The bishops he undermines were much more knowledgable on the issue, and the people Lynch prefers model terrible examples of how Catholic pro-lifers should behave:

  • Sister Carol Keehan praised Obama for choosing pro-choicers Tom Daschle and Jeanne Lambrew for Health and Human Services, the government position with the most say on abortion. That’s right. She was pleased Obama put a pro-choice “Catholic” like Daschle in a position of promoting abortion federally. So I can’t say I’m quite as impressed with her pro-life credentials.
  • Keehan refers to Democratic Senators Casey and Nelson as “two of the most ardent pro-lifers out there.” This is flatly untrue. Casey, Jr. is a huge disappointment (given how great his dad was) who was almost denied Communion for funding abortion abroad and Daschle’s replacement, Kathleen Sebelius. Nelson publicly sold out the pro-life movement for the Cornhusker kickback. The USSCB refers to their compromise on principles as “unacceptable.” Keehan’s making it really clear that she didn’t really give two hoots what the USCCB thinks, and Bp. Lynch is seemingly supporting this, because she’s a ” good woman of the Church, no liberal trouble-maker by any stretch of the imagination.”
  • Congressman Perriello calls himself a pro-choice progressive, and reputable Catholic sources refer to him as “pro-legalized abortion“. Calling him a “pro-life conservative” (without mentioning his party, of course) is dishonest, or at least terribly misinformed. It’s true he voted for the Stupak amendment (which bans federal funding of abortion), but that’s hardly the litmus test for being pro-life. Either way, it’s an embarassment to Catholics when a bishop posts something on his blog which is this grossly inaccurate.

Here’s what I wrote on the Bishop’s blog in response – it’s awaiting moderation, so we might see it later:

Bishop Lynch:
You claimed that “last night, Congressman Thomas Perriello, a conservative pro-life Catholic, said that he was convinced that the Senate version would guarantee that no federal funds would find their way to abortion services. If he moves to accept the Senate version, that will be a major moment for the pro-life movement given his past perfect record.”

Yet here’s how the Congressman described his own views on abortion in a liberal blog: “Confusion …[about] my position on abortion may stem either from my public association with Catholicism as co-founder of the progressive Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good or from being badly misquoted in a New York Times article following the 2004 election. I firmly believe that abortion should not be criminalized, nor can we allow any action that seeks to coerce women by reducing access to care or making the process less safe. I also believe that progressives need to move from defense to offense on this issue.”

He ‘firmly believes’ that the murder of children should remain legal, and that nothing should be done to reduce access to this practice, and that pro-choice “progressives” should be on the offensive about the issue. So he self-identifies as neither as conservative nor as pro-life. Nor is he either of these.

In light of that, I think that it is fair to say that this post is both badly and dangerously misinformed. Badly, in that it is wrong on numerous factual issues. And dangerously, because (a) it sounds as if you’re disagreeing with your brother bishops (who seem to have done their homework on this particular topic a bit more thoroughly), (b) you support as pro-life voices individuals who are a threat to the unborn, and (c) the timing of this ill-informed post couldn’t have been much worse. Encouraging lay Catholics to listen to (effectively) pro-choice Democrats like Perriello instead of authentic Catholics like Cardinal George is a baffling move for a bishop to make. Hopefully, that wasn’t your intention, but it is hard to see how an uninformed Catholic reading this blog wouldn’t walk away with the perception that Cardinal George is wrong, and Congressman Perriello is right (and conservative, and pro-life).

My concern is that due to your clout, serious Catholics may be mislead into taking this post seriously, and feel that it is okay, in the 11th hour, to support the monstrosity of a healthcare bill currently pending. I strongly urge you to update or correct this post to reflect Perriello’s actual position, and to take the time to find out which side is really telling the truth about abortion in the Senate bill.


Joe Heschmeyer

I doubt it’ll help much, but there comes a time when you just have to do something.


  1. Well, the thing is that, as far as I can tell based on the limited set of facts I’ve been able to read, they are correct when they say that no Federal Funds will be used to fund abortions. But that’s just telling half of the truth and being very legalistic about it, which I can appreciate it, being an accountant. The other side of the coin is that the bill does have provisions that force tax-payers to pay a premium to fund abortions (there might be caveats to this, but as I said, I haven’t been able to review the entirety of teh facts) so while the money would not come out of the US Treasury, it would come out of my pocket and yours, mandated by the Federal Government.

    To me, it’s one of those cases when a half-truth is a lie, they are just hiding behind a narrow interpretation of the language to dodge the greater issue.

    If anybody has a different understanding of the facts, please let me know and point me to your source so I can better understand this mess myself.


  2. Grimaud,

    Senate bill H.R. 3590 permits federal funds to be used for abortion. Those who say that the proposed law will not fund abortion are legally incorrect.

    You need to know:

    1. Under current federal law federal funds will be used for abortions unless a law that applies to those funds prohibit such use.

    In other words, the default status is that abortions can and will be funded except when a specific law blocks such funding.

    So, instead of looking for language in the bill stating, “there is appropriated $xxx to fund programs providing elective abortions” the task is to find language in the bill that specifically prohibits each dollar in the bill from being used for abortions.

    If you find an appropriation in Senate bill H.R. 3590 for health or medical services that does NOT have a specific anti-abortion requirement, then those funds may be used to fund abortions.

    2. Legal opinions containing the above described legal principles are available for your review:

    USCCB: Funding Abortions at Community Health Centers

    NRLC Legal Memo

    3. The Catholic Medical Association’s (CMA) mission includes addressing ethical, legal and policy issues at the national level. The CMA Statement concludes that H.R. 3590 funds abortion. [Scroll down, the formatting is askew]

  3. John’s right. In the words of Archbishop Naumann of KCK:

    “The United States Catholic Conference, in its analysis of the Senate Bill, identifies these specific problems with the Bill: 1) The Bill appropriates $7 billion for services at Community Health Centers that can be used directly for elective abortions. 2) The Bill uses federal funds to subsidize health plans that cover abortions. By subsidizing plans that cover abortions, the federal government will expand abortion coverage and make abortions more accessible. 3) The Bill uses the power of the federal government to force Americans to pay for other people’s abortions even if they are morally opposed to abortion.

    If the Senate had wanted to prohibit federal funding for abortion all they had to do was accept the language that had been adopted by the House of Representatives by an overwhelming majority. The Senate rejected this language.”

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