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Public Theology: Dissaray: Catholic Scholars against Catholic Bishops
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Dissaray: Catholic Scholars against Catholic Bishops
Daniel Maguire strongly critiques the bishops. They want public money for their institutions. Maybe the idea of a Catholic hospital is over.

By Ed Knudson

Daniel Maguire is Professor of Theology at Marquette University, a Catholic and Jesuit institution. At the Immanent Frame he articulates the strongest rejection of what the bishops are doing that I have seen, reprinted below.

It reminds me of the whole "privatization" argument of conservatives, that government services run by government departments should be privatized, turned over to "private" companies because these companies are so much more "efficient". They are efficient all right, they are efficient at providing lots of corporate money to Republican political candidates.

Privatization means lower salaries to workers and much higher salaries to corporate owners, which creates more inequality in the distribution of wealth in the country. There are so many corporate lobbies today because the corporations want public money for private gain. They say they want taxes to be reduced but they still want the big contracts. And, again, the Republicans want the cash for their political campaigns that keeps this money machine turning. It's not so private after all, it's a rip-off of the public purse.

The same is going for many so-called non-profit organizations. Right now, the Roman Catholic Church wants to be like a private company spending public dollars, but the bishops now are claiming religious freedom for themselves to be able to get the money without the responsibility to run the institutions according to the principles of a democratic society. They want to be free of government so they can control the decisions of women on sexual morality as defined by the narrow dictates of the bishops.

Just as the general public is realizing these privatization schemes (implemented by the George W. Bush regime especially) are not working so well for society, when the owners of privatized prisons start paying politicians to pass more restrictive laws so more people are sent to prison (as is happening in Arizona), along come the Catholic bishops saying they want to control the determination of what medical services health insurance should cover. They want the tax money, they don't want government to "dictate" how they use the money. Many Catholic institutions today probably employ more non-Catholics than Catholics, meaning that the bishops want to control the consciences of non-Catholic women too. It is amazing, all in the name of "religious freedom." It is not about religious freedom for women, it is about Catholic control of women.

It is true that the church has founded hundreds of hospitals around the country, both Protestants and Catholics. In most cases, Protestants have realized as the state has begun to fund health care their role has been reduced in the management of these hospitals. In many cases, even the denominational name is now gone. Emanuel Lutheran Hospital in my city is now just Emanuel Hospital for example. The church has had to give up these institutions.

It is time for the bishops to give up their expectation that they can use federal tax money to run their hospitals but reject their public responsibility to run them fairly for all.

Read Daniel Maguire's piece below. It is very helpful in making clear what this issue is about.


Galileo would have welcomed the bishops’ current fixation on sexual-reproductive issues. In his day their focus was on the stars; their attention has shifted to the pelvic zone where they are once again stumbling and bumbling, claiming authority on issues where they have no privileged expertise. Increasingly, Catholic laity no longer dance to their music, especially on sexual reproductive issues where they and their theologians have long since had a change of mind. On issues like birth control the bishops are effectively in schism.

Their current zeal and bullying tenor has more than a tinge of panic. Their seminaries are emptying, clergy sexual crimes and hierarchical cover-ups are being exposed, whole dioceses are going bankrupt. Time for a little diversionary stress on birth control?

Unfortunately, Catholic disarray is not just church business. The bishops are would-be amphibians, demanding sectarian privileges, while playing big and tough in the public square. They are awash in inconsistencies, wanting and needing public finances for their institutions but violating the consciences of the diverse publics they serve in their tax-supported institutions.

They base their case on a fallacy, grasped and supported by the religious right and Republican hopefuls. “Religious freedom” is their bogus cry. They claim “religious freedom” to violate the religious freedom and conscience rights of all who are served in their establishments.

All this hierarchical ruckus may serve to raise the overdue question of whether Catholic hospitals should face the sunset rule. They began before the state saw its obligation to bring health care to the poor. They can no longer provide for the poor without massive state aid, including tax-exempt status. (Tax exempt = tax shifted, meaning someone else has to pay).

Before the state saw its duty to respond to fires, Catholic monks rose to the need. They stopped when the state took over. Otherwise we would have Catholic firehouses, such as, for example, The Immaculate Conception Fire Company. The question is: are Catholic hospitals, like Catholic firehouses, anachronistic and anomalous remains of a mission no longer theirs?

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Date Added: 2/25/2012 Date Revised: 2/25/2012

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