Sanity In Response To FOCA Agitation

February 20, 2009

spanishorig31As a Roman Catholic who lives in a fairly moderate area of Bucks County, PA (though the county itself definitely trends “culturally conservative,” with new voter registration only recently favoring Democrats over Republicans), I should tell you that I am continually bombarded from the pulpit with entreaties against abortion under any circumstances, which I realize is totally consistent with the policy of the Catholic Church (though not with all parishioners, including yours truly). I believe that, though there is most definitely a spiritual component to this argument that should be respected, there is also a medical component which should be respected as well concerning the health and well being of all parties involved, which I realized is too nuanced apparently for the Church to support.

With all of this in mind, I should also tell you that, a few Sundays ago, we as congregants were implored in an unusually aggressive manner (for our church, anyway) to fill out cards to be sent to our two U.S. Senators (Bob Casey and Arlen Specter) and our U.S. Congressional Representative (Patrick Murphy) urging them not to support the Freedom of Choice Act (two Sundays prior to that one, a priest from the group Priests For Life spoke and conjured all kinds of desperate scenarios in the event that the FOCA was signed into law, with rhetoric such at that used here to be pretty typical of what was said at the homily).

Well, imagine my surprise as I read this story…

The U.S. Catholic Church’s crusade against the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) has all the hallmarks of a well-oiled lobbying campaign. A national postcard campaign is flooding the White House and congressional offices with messages opposing FOCA, and Catholic bishops have made defeating the abortion rights legislation a top priority. In the most recent effort to stop the bill, Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia sent a letter to every member of Congress imploring them to “please oppose FOCA.”

There is only one hitch. Congress isn’t about to pass the Freedom of Choice Act – because no such bill has been introduced in the current Congress.

At a time when the United States is gripped by economic uncertainty and faces serious challenges in hot spots around the globe, some American Catholics are finding it both curious and troubling that their church has launched a major campaign against a piece of legislation that doesn’t exist and wouldn’t have much chance of becoming law even if it did. To many critics, it feels like the legislative equivalent of the dog that didn’t bark.

What’s more, not only has the FOCA not been introduced or voted on, it has never even made it out of the committee where it originated (as the story tells us).

And we also learn the following…

A Freedom of Choice Act was introduced in the 108th and 110th Congresses (from 2003 to ’05 and ’07 to ’09, respectively) by Representative Jerold Nadler, a New York Democrat. It was developed at a time when the future of (Roe v. Wade) was in doubt because it was unclear if George W. Bush would have the opportunity to appoint another justice to the Supreme Court. But FOCA had a hard time gaining traction – even under Democratic control of Congress…

Congressional Democrats have also been less than enthusiastic about the proposal. A spokesman for Nadler says that while he expects the legislation to be reintroduced, “it won’t be anytime soon.” Even if FOCA is reintroduced in the current Congress, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has indicated she has no intention of bringing it up for a vote. And even if she did, there are not enough votes in Congress to pass the bill.

I don’t know about you, but I feel like I got “played” here more than just a little bit. And I’m not happy about it (I don’t have a link to a Gallup poll on this at the moment, but I recall that the FOCA didn’t even merit 50 percent approval among those polled – this, to me, has all the makings of another “non-controversy” concocted by those clueless “values voters,” like the supposed revival of the Fairness Doctrine).

You know, I would really like to hear what the Church has to say about the “big picture” stuff going on in this country; I realize there’s only so much it can do about our collapsing economy and middle class, to say nothing of health coverage and the climate crisis, but even calling for prayerful intervention could only help, to say nothing of actual advocacy.

But I suppose instances such as this will remain typical of the blinkered thinking of the institution as a whole and many of its supporters, to the point where Bob Casey, a pro-life Democrat, is pilloried because he doesn’t march in total lockstep with “the faithful” (and Casey, by the way, most definitely opposes the FOCA; I know, because I asked him about it myself).

Update: And by the way, thanks to one of my “field correspondents” for the following (just to show how far anyone can go with extremism)…


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