Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Update On My Mom's Situation

Thanks to those who have sent e-mails offering suggestions! I received some good news: I spoke to a gentleman at my Mom's parish who is coordinating some help for my Mom, through the K of C and other parishioners.

Sometimes, in these matters, it is just a question of getting in touch with the right person, who can bring the right people together.

So it looks like my Mom is going to get the help she needs. Deo Gratias!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Bleg! Help Needed For My Mother

I am asking any readers in the Orlando, Florida area if they might be able to do me and my mother a big favor.

My mother, Carole, lives in Deland, Florida. She is 66 years old and disabled, due to a back injury sustained at work about 6 years ago.

She needs to move by April 1, and she needs help in packing up her belongings in her apartment. She doesn't so much need help in actually moving (transporting furniture, etc). We have people who can help with that. But she needs help with physically packing up (boxing, etc.) her belongings in her apartment. She is simply physically unable to do a lot of that. My niece has been helping her out, but my niece has a 3 month old baby, so there's only so much she can do. And my niece's husband works, and as it is will be taking a day off of work to help with the move itself. It is next to impossible that I will be able to get down there before April 1.

We have tried local social service agencies, my mom's parish and the local K of C, and have thus far come up with nothing. And time is running out.

If you would be able and willing to give an afternoon or evening or two in the next week to help my mom out, you would be a Godsend.

Please e-mail me if you can help, or if you have another idea or source of assistance. My e-mail address is:

frrob AT earthlink DOT net

My e-mail address, with link, is also in the sidebar on the right side of the page.

Thank you!

I Consider Everything as Loss...

Sunday afternoon, as I was contemplating the likelihood of the Obamacare Health Care bill's passage, my mind was drawn repeatedly to Sunday's readings, particularly the second, from St. Paul's letter to the Phillipians:
Brothers and sisters:
I consider everything as a loss
because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.
For his sake I have accepted the loss of all things
and I consider them so much rubbish,
that I may gain Christ and be found in him...
(Phil. 3:8-9)

Since the passage of that disastrous legislation, my thoughts have returned to that reading.

I think, as I have written below, that this "Health Care" legislation will lead to the public funding and provision of abortion in a way we have never seen before. If it stands the coming legal challenges, and is not repealed or severely modified, I think it will open up a Pandora's box. It shreds any conscience protection for health care professionals, and thus will serve to further push Catholics to the margins in health care. Furthermore, I think Sr. Keehan and the CHA will find, in the long run, that they have made a devil's bargain. He who pays the piper calls the tune: and with the power of the state behind advancing the abortion license in health care, there will be inevitable pressure put upon Catholic hospitals to line up with the new regime. I think, in the long run, that this could spell the end for any distinctively Catholic (in terms of values and moral principles) identity in health care.

But again, to return to St. Paul: St. Paul lived in an age and society that was far more hostile to the faith than our own. We have to remember that there have been times and places where things were far worse for the Church and her members. And yet the Faith endured, the Church survived, and even sometimes, prevailed. Why, because we have Christ, who has already won the victory.

"I consider everything as a loss..." Everything. That means fortune, property, Catholic schools and hospitals, and yes, even our nation. We will not be saved by America. We will not even be saved through America. I love my country, but I must face the reality that at some point, like every other human institution, it will come to an end. If we realize that our nation itself is destined to be a loss, that puts into perspective a defeat such as Obamacare.

Yesterday, John Derbyshire at National Review Online wrote about the decline of our Republic that Obamacare typifies. If I recall correctly, Mr. Derbyshire is not a believer, and he takes a somewhat Stoic view of things, which comes out in this passage:
I see plainly that Western civilization, over my lifetime, has been a slow-sinking ship. The few who have known what is happening have worked desperately to seal the watertight doors, repair the fissures, pump out the flooded zones. It's been a losing fight, though. The tilt of the decks is harder and harder to ignore. Last night, a major bulkhead gave way. Soon a funnel will topple over with a great crash and a shower of sparks. Yet still the band is playing, the people are dancing, the food coming up from the galley.

I am not sure things are yet as dire as Derbyshire describes. If he is right, we must face that reality unflinchingly, and be ready for what may come. To that extent, the stoic approach is useful.

But even if he is right, we are not mere Stoics. Why? Because we have Christ. That means we have something that the Stoics do not: We have hope. Hope not for America, hope not for some ideal State or Nation or Republic, but hope for Eternity, where moth and rust do not consume, nor do the politicians royally foul things up.

Even if the ship of state is sinking, we have a lifeboat - the barque of Peter. And that lifeboat will carry us safely to the shore. Therein lies our hope.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Now, For Some Predictions

Predictions are always a dangerous business. But, based on what I've written already, I'll make a few predictions about what will happen next in the working-out of the Obamacare scheme.

Firstly, the "pro-life" Democrats who voted in favor of Obamacare will take cover in the Executive Order that Obama will issue, and hope you won't have heard about the Constitutional issues that obviate that order from the beginning. They will claim to have won a victory for life, even as the pro-choicers in Congress gear up for the abortion funding that the bill makes inevitable.

Secondly, the pro-choice activists will hold off until sometime after the election to file the legal challenges that will bring about the collapse of the house of cards that is Obama and Pelosi's promise of non-funding of abortion through Obamacare. This is the one issue in which I differ from Professor Destro, whom I mentioned in my post of Sunday evening. Professor Destro said that "we can be virtually certain that the first lawsuit arguing that the Senate Bill requires funding for abortions under the CHC appropriation will be filed before the ink is dry on President Obama’s signature." I disagree with his opinion here: The Democrats are facing some tough electoral fights in the fall, and they won't want to provide pro-lifers and Republicans with such ready ammunition. If they can maintain some discipline in the ranks, they'll get the pro-choicers to hold off till after the election. If the Democrats manage to hold on to their majorities, they'll feel emboldened to go ahead with the demolition of the house of cards. If they lose either of their majorities, they'll want to move forward before they lose the White House, and will feel that they must set the Obamacare abortion mechanism in motion. I'd look for movement on this front by early next year.

Speaking of elections, I predict that several of the "Stu-Packers" will lose their re-election bids and have to find some other employment. In particular, I think Bart Stupak's tenure in the House will come to an end this fall. He will find himself on the receiving end of concentrated pro-life anger, and the political activism that generates. And if Rep. Stupak thought his about-face would bring him back into good graces with the Left, he will be proven mistaken. If you take a look at sites like the Huffington Post and Daily Kos, the netroots are still screaming bloody murder at Stupak. They're vowing to unseat him and are pouring money into the coffers of a Democratic primary challenger. His flip-flop gained him nothing there. I will not be surprised to find that Stupak himself ends up gaining nothing from his flip-flop.

Next, when those legal challenges are mounted and lead to courts decreeing that the Federal Health system must fund abortions, Bart Stupak and his "pro-life" bloc will take cover under their innocent trust in the assurances they had that abortion wouldn't be covered and that the Executive Order would offer additional protection. They will act as though no one could have foreseen what was happening. They will conveniently forget that they were warned, and they will hope that you weren't aware of the warnings, either.

[I will allow for the theoretical possibility that one or more of the "Stu-packers" might show signs of contrition when these events happen. However, I think it unlikely. When was the last time a politician showed public contrition, except in the face of an indictment?]

Finally, at some point when the Obamacare program really kicks in, we will see thousands more abortions, paid for by federal tax dollars. The pro-choicers will have won their golden ring.

[I also allow for the possibility of two other things: It is theoretically possible that the legal cases brought about by Obamacare will lead to a Supreme Court verdict striking down Roe v. Wade. However, I would place the real-world likelihood of that at the vanishing point. Secondly, I allow for the possibility that the Republicans may regain control of Congress and repeal Obamacare. But in order to really accomplish that, they'd need a Republican president. And a lot can happen between now and 2012. In short, I think that, with all of their efforts, the Republicans will not be able to knock Humpty-Dumpty completely off the wall.]

In particular, I'll be glad to be proven wrong about the sixth prediction. But I don't see things working out that way.

It Turns Out That Bart Stupak...

...Is just another Democratic politician, after all.

Congressman Stupak has been speaking for weeks now about "standing up for principles" and taking a "principled stand" for life. So where did his principles go?

It is sad, really. Congressman Stupak could have been regarded as a Pro-life hero. On Saturday evening, the night before Stupak flipped, National Review Online's Corner ran an e-mail from a doctor in Stupak's district, saying:
I am proud to have him as my Congressman despite my differences with him. His strength of character in the face of tremendous pressure has been exactly what is needed. I have called and e-mailed him to thank him, and I will continue to pray for him.

I was coming to think of him as such a hero. Had he held firm, I was prepared to make a substantial (for me, anyway) contribution to his re-election campaign, as I knew he was facing a primary challenge from a rabid pro-choicer. I was also contemplating organizing a pro-life petition drive to urge the Michigan Republican party not to run an opponent against him in the fall election. That is how highly I was coming to think of him. Needless to say, I will not do any of those things now.

So why did he do it? Of course, we cannot crawl inside his head or heart and see his inner motives. But we can and indeed must examine his statements and actions. And I at least find his statements and actions in this matter to be either incomprehensible or, in the words of another blogger, "unconscionable".

Congressman Stupak, in his statement explaining his decision, said that he was accepting a promised Executive Order from President Obama as a measure that would "protect the sanctity of life." He further added that "the President's executive order makes it very clear that [abortion] will not happen," under the auspices of the Obama Health Care bill.

The problem: this executive order will do nothing at all to prevent abortions. It can't. Legally and constitutionally, it can't. You see, an executive order cannot undo the provisions of a law passed by Congress and signed by the President. Only another law can do that. Furthermore, an executive order cannot undo settled precedent of constitutional law.

Some writers and commentors over at Vox Nova have asserted that the opponents of Obamacare and the executive order fear that Mr. Obama will rescind the executive order, as though such a fear was ridiculous ("It's pointless to argue with them", one said.) Well, given the chicanery, baiting-and-switching, and misrepresentations that the President has perpetrated in getting this bill passed (mentioned in my previous post), I think it's entirely reasonable to mistrust his bona fides in this matter. However, if you're of a more trusting nature, and choose to think that the President will not rescind the order when it becomes politically expedient, well, good luck to you with that.

But, as was the case below, the President won't even have to rescind the order for it to be rendered null. It is a nullity as it is written. And that nullity will be made manifest in the first legal challenge mounted. Why, because, as I said above, an executive order can't undo the provisions of a law. And remember, as I wrote below, that the provisions of the Obamacare bill, since they do not incorporate Hyde-like language, will mandate that abortions be funded. So all someone has to do is challenge the executive order and the whole house of cards comes down. And the President will then be able to make a long face, go on television, and say how sorry he is, but that the courts have tied his hands in the matter. He and the congressmen who bought into this scheme will have their cover. Are we to imagine that smart lawyers like the President and congressional leadership aren't aware of these things?

But Congressman Stupak, and his allies, were warned about this as well. On Sunday morning Richard Doerflinger, the US Bishops' legal analyst, sent a memo to the aides of Congressman Stupak and others warning that this executive order didn't pass muster. Doerflinger wrote:
One proposal to address the serious problem in the Senate health care bill on abortion funding, specifically the direct appropriating of new funds that bypass the Hyde amendment, is to have the President issue an executive order against using these funds for abortion. Unfortunately, this proposal does not begin to address the problem, which arises from decades of federal appellate rulings that apply the principles of Roe v. Wade to federal health legislation. According to these rulings, such health legislation creates a statutory requirement for abortion funding, unless Congress clearly forbids such funding. That is why the Hyde amendment was needed in 1976, to stop Medicaid from funding 300,000 abortions a year. The statutory mandate construed by the courts would override any executive order or regulation. This is the unamimous view of our legal advisors and of the experts we have consulted on abortion jurisprudence. [emphasis mine] Only a change in the law enacted by Congress, not an executive order, can begin to address this very serious problem in the legislation."

This analysis has since been echoed and expanded by numerous legal and constitutional experts.

In other words, as I wrote above, since the constitutional law and the provisions of the bill itself trump any executive order, the President's executive order will be a nullity the moment it is signed.

And, once again, if you don't believe me, believe the actions and words of pro-choice representatives. Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz is a committed pro-choicer, and she said, "Well, it can't be a change by executive order, because an executive order can't change the law":

Note that after that clear legal statement, she dissolved into double-speak. She said that "unequivocally... we would not change the Hyde amendment." Well, the Hyde amendment doesn't apply to the Obamacare bill, as she undoubtedly knows. Everything she says after "an executive order can't change the law" is all stated in the context of the Hyde amendment, which doesn't apply. She concludes by lamely saying the order would provide "further comfort" for the members concerned about this issue.

And don't forget the co-chair of the House Pro-Choice Caucus, Rep. Diana DeGette, agreed to the Executive Order. The leader of the pro-choicers in Congress is unfazed by the executive order, as I wrote below, because she knows it to be a house of cards.

So, why did Rep, Stupak go along with this? Well, as I said, I can't know his heart or inner mind, but a couple of possibilities strike me: The first is that Stupak's flip-flop was a cynical ploy, and that he was not really committed to making a serious pro-life witness. I'd like not to believe that, but the possibility can't be dismissed. This video of Stupak from last summer saying he could vote for health care bill in spite of abortion funding, at least calls his sincerity into question. And his flippant remark to NRO that "the sky could fall" does not exactly foster an image that he is looking at his flip-flopping in a serious way. However, I don't really buy this view. I just don't see that kind of duplicity and deceit in his character.

Another possibility is that Rep. Stupak was fooled: that he was sold a bill of goods by Obama and Pelosi. I'd like not to believe this either, as the Executive Order scheme is really the thinnest of dodges - tissue thin. But others have been fooled, as I wrote below. One thing that leads me to believe that this may be possible is the fact that, all along, Mr. Stupak has been saying that he really, really wanted to support this, that he really wanted to "be a yes" for Obamacare. We are all more easily misled regarding things we really want or really want to believe in. If Bart Stupak really wanted to believe in this Health Care bill, he might have been more ready to accept a superficially satisfactory "fix" than someone a little more skeptical.

Whatever the case may be, Mr. Stupak will have his conscience to wrestle with, and, like all of us, he will have to account for his actions one day to the One who will know what was in his mind and heart. Whether he was playing us, or whether he was fooled, he has shown that he should no longer hold office. But regardless of which of these possibilities is the reality, he most certainly needs our prayers.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Bishops, The Health Care Bill, and Misdirection

I may only be writing a slightly-advanced post-mortem regarding the so-called Health Care Reform bill that the House of Representatives is currently debating: Congressman Bart Stupak and his bloc of allied Democratic congressmen announced earlier today that they will now support the bill, based on a promise of an executive order from President Obama that will supposedly prevent federal funds from being used for abortion (more on that later). The turning of the "Stu-Packers" virtually guarantees passage of the bill.

But make no mistake, the Health Care Reform bill will inevitably lead to federal funding and provision of abortions under the new health care system. That is why Cardinal George and the US bishops have been so outspoken in opposing it. Cardinal George and the bishops have pointed out that the only thing that has thus far prevented federal funding of abortions is the Hyde amendment, a piece of legislation restricting the provision of abortion in federal social service spending since the 1970s. Absent the restriction of the Hyde amendment, the way is open to federal funding of abortion. That is why the CHA pronouncement in favor of Obamacare was mistaken: they said that the language of the bill was an "acceptable way" to limit abortion. But the bill has no Hyde-style language, and thus does not actually prevent federal funding of abortion.

Furthermore, it seems that the bishops have been given the "bait-and-switch". Cardinal George, in his statement of March 15, wrote:
The American people and the Catholic bishops have been promised that, in any final bill, no federal funds would be used for abortion and that the legal status quo would be respected.

However, the bishops were left disappointed and puzzled to learn that the basis for any vote on health care will be the Senate bill passed on Christmas Eve. Notwithstanding the denials and explanations of its supporters, and unlike the bill approved by the House of Representatives in November, the Senate bill deliberately excludes the language of the Hyde amendment. It expands federal funding and the role of the federal government in the provision of abortion procedures.

The President promised one thing, and in this health care bill, he is delivering something else. Did he change his mind, or was he never serious about the promise to begin with? Here's a hint: The President is a lawyer, and understands the careful parsing of words. Did he ever promise to include specifically Hyde-like language in the Health Care bill, or did he only make general "promises" like the ones the Cardinal described?

At the root of the matter is the question, "Does the Obama Health Care bill provide federal funding of abortions?"

President Obama, Nancy Pelosi, et al. have been saying "No." And, according to the barest, most legalistic interpretation possible, they're not lying. The bill does not have, anywhere in it, language saying "this legislation provides X billions of dollars to pay for abortions." Nor does it say, "doctors or hospitals under the federal plan must provide abortions according to scheme or formula Z."

OK, great! Right?

No, not so great. This bill doesn't say things like I wrote above because it doesn't need to, in order to open the way for federal funding of abortion. Remember the Hyde amendment, that prevents federal funds from going to abortion? Well, it only applies to annual appropriations in the Health and Human Services budget. And the Obamacare bill is not part of the HHS appropriation: It is separate legislation. So the Hyde amendment doesn't apply. That means that the door is wide open for funding abortion through the Obamacare system. Hence, the bishops' and Cardinal George's insistence that the bill have Hyde-equivalent language in it. Language that it doesn't have. Language that President Obama and Nancy Pelosi refused to include and that the Senate Democrats refused to adopt.

Not only does the Obamacare bill "open the way" to federal abortion funding, but, because of the way the bill is written, it mandates such funding. Why? Because it is a matter of settled constitutional law, since Roe v. Wade, that federal funds cannot be withheld for the provision of abortions unless there is specific legislation requiring such prohibition. In other words, unless Congress specifically forbids funding of abortion, the funding of abortion is required. That's why the Hyde amendment was necessary in the first place. And that's why such a provision was necessary in the Obamacare bill. The President and Mrs. Pelosi didn't need to include abortion funding language in the bill because they knew perfectly well that the settled legal precedents would do it for them in the absence of any Hyde-like language to the contrary.

Now, this isn't just my opinion. This has been the consistent warning of the USCCB. This was the warning of the US Bishops' legal analyst, Richard Doerflinger, who said, in response to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius' assertion that the Obama administration didn't want to fund abortions: "Abortion has a court mandate unless Congress stops it specifically... The Hyde Amendment doesn’t cover this bill, so it is irrelevant." As I said, this is settled constitutional law: Even lawyers for the Bush administration, in examining the issue several years ago, agreed that the precedents were clear.

And if that wasn't enough, Congressman Stupak and the other "pro-life" Democrats had another warning delivered yesterday. Professor Robert Destro, a constitutional law scholar at the Catholic University of America, and expert in the law surrounding abortion, wrote a letter to Stupak on Saturday saying plainly regarding the question of abortion coverage in Obamacare:

It’s not even a close question. Abortions will be covered.

Professor Destro is the former dean of the Columbus School of Law at Catholic University, and has been involved in abortion related litigation for over 30 years. He wrote:
For nearly forty years, the courts have held that there are no medical or economic reasons to distinguish elective abortions from any other medical service. The basic argument is that health care coverage for women cannot be truly “comprehensive” unless – and until – elective abortions are covered just like any other medical procedure. Federal appeals courts have been unanimous in their holdings that when Congress provides funding for “comprehensive” services, it must explicitly prohibit the use of federal dollars to pay for abortions. If there is no explicit prohibition, the courts will order the federal government to pay.

In other words, as I wrote above, the funding of abortion will be required. There will be no choice in the matter, even if the Obama Administration wanted one. The courts must and will follow the legal precedents.

Professor Destro goes on to write:
This has been the law for over thirty years. In Beal v. Doe, 432 U.S. 438, 443 (1977), Pennsylvania women denied coverage for elective abortions under state law sued in federal court, arguing that “Title XIX [Medicaid] requires Pennsylvania to fund under its Medicaid program the cost of all abortions that are permissible under state law.” In Beal, the argument was that Congress’ failure to exclude abortion from the definition of “family planning services” in the 1972 amendments to Title XIX required the states to cover abortion. The courts have always assumed that, without the Hyde Amendment, federal law requires that the federal government must pay for abortions. Neither the argument and nor the precedents have changed. Read together with the case law and Section 1303 of the Senate Bill (which assumes that abortions are a part of a “comprehensive” health care insurance program), we can be virtually certain that the first lawsuit arguing that the Senate Bill requires funding for abortions under the CHC appropriation will be filed before the ink is dry on President
Obama’s signature.

And why is Destro so certain about this?
You may wonder why I am so certain about these conclusions. The answer is simple: I have been involved in the funding fights over abortion since 1977, and helped to write the amicus brief filed by 218 Members of the House of Representatives in Harris v. McRae.

Now it seems to me that there are two possibilities: Either the President, Nancy Pelosi, et al. have been proceeding in wide-eyed innocence and sincerity protesting that the Health Care bill will not fund abortions, in perfect ignorance of the legal ramifications involved, or, they have been engaging in a classic campaign of misdirection, pointing to the bill and its lack of overt funding provisions, all the while hoping you won't notice what constitutional law will mandate. Given the President's deliberate decision not to use Hyde language, his bait-and-switch tactics, and Nancy Pelosi's avid support for abortion-on-demand, I think the latter is far more plausible.

And there is one more piece of evidence: the behavior of the pro-choicers themselves. They have been rabidly hostile (from their point of view, understandably so) to any modification of the Obamacare bill which even approaches Hyde-like language. Just yesterday, Rep. Jan Schakowsky of Illinois reacted vehemently against even the hint that abortion restrictive language would be re-inserted to the Obamacare bill, vowing that 50 democrats would "walk away" if that happened. They wanted the existing language (that which is in the bill being debated now) to remain - a tacit admission that the existing language does open the way for federal funding of abortion. Federal funding of abortion has been the "golden ring" for pro-choicers for over 30 years. If this legislation didn't provide it, you can be assured they wouldn't be satisfied. Even the much-ballyhooed executive order supposedly preventing federal funding is another piece of kabuki-like misdirection: Rep. Diana DeGette, co-chair of the House Pro-Choice Caucus, agreed to the Executive Order "compromise". Why would the leader of the pro-choice caucus agree to something that appears to restrict abortion? Easy, because she and her allies know that, as Professor Destro said, the Health Care bill will end up funding abortions, executive order or no.

A lot of people have been misled by the President and Mrs. Pelosi's campaign of misdirection. It appears that, at best, the leadership of the CHA was bamboozled. Many on the Catholic left, such as many of the writers and readers over at Vox Nova, seem to have been fooled as well. It's understandable: the truth of the issue is buried beneath a deliberately-erected superstructure of obfuscation and outright deception. As his fans never tire of telling us, the President is very smart. It beggars belief to imagine that Mr. Obama didn't know exactly what he was planning to do to Cardinal George, the bishops and Catholics with his bait-and-switch, and what he has been doing of late.

But don't be fooled any longer. The Obamacare legislation will end up funding abortions. The settled law on the matter is clear: not that it could, or may, or might, but that it must.