To save jobs and money our Connecticut Bishops blinked on Catholic teaching. I'm not as angry as I was yesterday because I've concluded that the legislature basically used a straw-man to further their anti-religious fervor. We could have fought a much better campaign against their false teachings. After all, we have the truth on our side. But we lost fair and square, and only more involvement in the legislative process (and really better education of the Catholic public), earlier and more frequently, could have prevented the capitulation last week.
You can read Bishop Lori's 9/29/07 blog providing some of the background to the Conference's retreat and it ultimately boils down to a very tiny chance of killing a very tiny person versus the very real possibility of losing a lot of money, jobs and healthcare for many. sigh.
Consider this . . . the pro-abortion advocates at the legislature basically dreamed up what is really a fantasy scenario whereby a recently raped, ovulating woman, without a ride, at a Connecticut Catholic hospital really wants, but is denied, Plan B. This scenario is a far-fetched pro-choice fantasy and has never happened and probably never will. Nevertheless, they easily coax public opinion in their favor. It really isn't hard since the Church hardly puts up a fight. But anyway, they get the legislation passed. Are the bishops really supposed to spend a ton of money on legal fees, fire people from their jobs (because that is what will happen if they close emergency rooms), basically "fall on their sword" over what is probably an imaginary scenario? Prudence would say "no."
Very likely no lives will be lost from complying with this law. What has really died is a big teaching moment and witness for the truth, and frankly, those moments "pass away" every day. I would like the bishops to "fight back" against the forces of evil in our legislature, but I would also like them to be real agents for teaching the catechism at Confirmation, to scold pro-choice legislators (Hello Representatives DeLauro, Larson, Lawler), to enthusiastically encourage abstinence and natural family planning, theology of the body, real feminism, and come down hard on contraception in general. I think a reason we lost at the legislature is that most Catholics in Connecticut didn't even know the church still believes life begins at conception, or why it matters. Isn't THAT the real scandal.
The bishops created this mess for themselves, no doubt. The Conference has been without a head for their legislative arm for over a year. Months of inter-diocese nit-picking, hem-hawing, and general lackadaisical management of the process has ensured mass-confusion at the Capitol on issues that effect the laity and the church. (Did anyone notice that the position for Director of the CT Catholic Conference just finished a second round of advertising. What is going on there?) The laity remains woefully uneducated on their democratic responsibilities as Catholic citizens. Paralyzed by fear of losing their tax-exempt status, CT Catholic churches seem unable to encourage even their church-going members to vote a pro-life ticket, or to even vote at all.
But we can't just blame the bishops. Anyone who didn't at least contact their legislator about Plan B, attend Catholic Concerns Day, work on a campaign, write a letter to the editor, attend a hearing, or encourage friends and relatives to do so are also partly to blame for the passage of Plan B. Don't feel too bad though. The bishops were nowhere to be seen at the Capitol in the weeks leading up to the vote. Here is Archbishop Mansell pirogi-ing it up in Poland with the Knights of Columbus on May 5, the week Plan B hit high gear at the Capitol. Maybe it wouldn't have made a difference, and the stingy, resolute forces at the Capitol still would have won this year. But imagine for a moment the tall, commanding, peaceful, assuring, fatherly yet stern presence of Archbishop Mansell strolling the Capitol corridors, gently asking to speak with a legislator or 2. It would have turned many votes and minds. He could have gotten 50 people to show up with him at a press conference and maybe he wouldn't be in this "pirogi" now.