Slate: Back to the FOCA question

virgin mary statue weepsWell, I am very, very sorry to bring this up again. However, I remain convinced that the whole connection between President-elect Barack Obama and his pledge to push for and sign the Freedom of Choice Act is at the heart of the current tensions inside the Pro-Life Movement -- especially in Catholic circles.

If you are looking for further evidence of the importance of this story, look no further than, which is normally not where one goes to find insights into cultural conservatism. Consider Melinda Henneberger's newsy essay "Lose-Lose on Abortion -- Obama's threat to Catholic hospitals and their very serious counterthreat."

The "they" in this sentence is, of course, the Catholic bishops who control Catholic hospitals.

Thus, we read:

Were they in spasm because Obama had won Catholics by nine points? (Nine! A landslide compared with the five by which my co-religionists had favored Bush in ’04.) Peeved because even some of the most ardent pro-lifers had broken ranks? (In Colorado, where Denver Archbishop Charles J. Chaput called Obama "the most committed 'abortion rights' presidential candidate of either major party since the Roe v. Wade abortion decision in 1973,'' it was Catholic voters who turned the state from red to blue.) Obama and Biden won 63-36 in Pennsylvania's heavily Catholic Lackawanna County, home to Scranton Bishop Joseph Martino, who seemed beside himself over the pro-choice position taken by Vice President-elect Joe Biden, a Catholic: "I cannot have the vice president coming to Scranton and saying he learned his values there, when those values are utterly against those of the Catholic Church," Martino said in Baltimore.

In a speech at Catholic University, Cardinal Frank Stafford almost sounded like one of those people who thinks Obama is the Antichrist, referring to the president-elect as "apocalyptic." Stafford told his audience, "For the next few years, Gethsemane will not be marginal," comparing Christ's agony in the garden to the suffering of Catholics under Obama. "On Nov. 4, 2008," he added, "America suffered a cultural earthquake." Oy.

And what is the issue here?

What in the world were these bishops talking about, claiming that religious freedom in America was under attack? Keep up the hysterics, boys, I thought as I scanned the latest story, and this will be birth control all over again: Your lips are moving but no one can hear you. And the most ludicrous line out of them, surely, was about how, under Obama, Catholic hospitals that provide obstetric and gynecological services might soon be forced to perform abortions or close their doors. Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Chicago warned of "devastating consequences" to the health care system, insisting Obama could force the closure of all Catholic hospitals in the country. That's a third of all hospitals, providing care in many neighborhoods that are not exactly otherwise overprovided for. It couldn't happen, could it?

You wouldn't think so. Only, I am increasingly convinced that it could. If the Freedom of Choice Act passes Congress, and that's a big if, Obama has promised to sign it the second it hits his desk.

Read on. This is a serious story. The Slate folks are on to something, daring to publish this.

Stay tuned, reporters. Or dig into this.

Oh, wait, I hear dissent out there. You still doubt whether this is linked to divisions in among pro-life Catholics?

Henneberger concludes:

At the very moment when Obama and his party have won the trust of so many Catholics who favor at least some limits on abortion, I hope he does not prove them wrong. I hope he does not make a fool out of that nice Doug Kmiec, who led the pro-life charge on his behalf. I hope he does not spit on the rest of us -- though I don't take him for the spitting sort -- on his way in the door. I hope that his appointment of Ellen Moran, formerly of EMILY's List, as his communications director is followed by the appointment of some equally good Democrats who hold pro-life views. By supporting and signing the current version of FOCA, Obama would reignite the culture war he so deftly sidestepped throughout this campaign.

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