Who Speaks for the Catholic Church?
However, during the process of due diligence the Catholic Health Association endorsed the proposed legislation despite the reservations and the lack of approval of the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops. Additionally other groups of women religious, such as the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, endorsed the legislative package and clearly endorsed its ratification.
The question needs to be asked; are these organizations accurately reflective of the authentic teachings of the Catholic Church? For the most part the use of the term, “Catholic,” in the organizations title provides a somewhat tacit seal of approval which implies adherence to authentic Catholic teachings as proclaimed by the Magisterium of the Catholic Church.
However, such an application of the adjective, “Catholic,” does not always hold true to the organizations purposes and objectives. The Catholic Health Association for example is an organization that offers a loosely held confederation of health facilities that were formerly initiated and managed by religious communities. While the facilities operate under a general charter that embraces the “Spirit of Catholicism”, there is nothing in their charter that makes them answerable to the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops as it relates to their operating policies and procedures. In effect, the CHA is actually a trade organization that represents the interests of health care organizations that were formerly run by religious communities of priests or religious.
The president of Catholic Health Association was present for the public signing of the health care legislation into law at the White House this week. Sister Carol Keehan, DC. Sister Carol Keehan is a member of the religious group, Daughters of Charity. She has indeed lobbied for many years for the passage of a universal health care package that safeguarded all American citizens, especially the rights of the poor and challenged groups in American society. Sister Keehan for years has worked in the health care field and has even been recognized for her achievements by secular organizations and even Pope Benedict XVI in bestowing the papal honor, Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice (For Church and Pope) Award. However, despite her personal achievements, the implied approval of the entire legislative package, now federal law placed the Catholic Health Association in direct contradiction and de facto in opposition with the American Catholic Bishops.
Understandably no legislation is perfect and there are many imperfections in the Obama Health Care package. The fact remains there can only be one unified voice that represents the United States Catholic Church and that responsibility resides with the American Catholic Bishops. While the American Bishops have worked consistently towards the goal of a universal health plan for all Americans with concessions made for Catholic beliefs, their voice was in fact not loud or strong enough to curtail other groups such as the Catholic Health Association or The Leadership Conference of Women Religious from usurping the mantle that rightly belongs to the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops.