Cardinal George Misquoted

Cardinal George Misquoted June 22, 2010

This is interesting. I wish the USCCB would give us the transcript, because it would indicate where the misquotes come from, and I see no reason why an anonymous version of the transcript could not be released to help us know what really happened. Nonetheless, according to Helen Osman at the USCCB website:

It appears that Catholic News Agency would benefit from a similar strategy. To put it plain and simple, the quotes they attribute to Cardinal Francis George in their story (also posted on EWTN) are just wrong. I was in the room, as a member of the USCCB staff, for the presentation. And the official audio file that recorded the session for USCCB archives confirms my memory.

While the cardinal did present a sequence of events to the bishops, he never used the phrase “so-called Catholic,” accused the Catholic Health Association of creating a “parallel magisterium” or said the meeting of the three bishops with Sr. Keehan had “frustrating results.” And that’s just three examples. Not to mention that the reporting of the events is just plain wrong: for an example, the Stupak Amendment was not defeated in the Senate in December 2009, as the article states.

While this is good, I do hope the bishops, and Cardinal George, reflect on the way the USCCB’s positions have been misunderstood, and abused, by many for the sake of political gain.

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  • David Nickol

    I will suspend judgment on whether CNA “fabricated quotes” until I hear the audio recording of the session.

    Helen Osman says, “For CNN to elaborate even more on what CNA said in error is even more disturbing.” Wait a minute! It’s worse for CNN to take what CNA reports as credible than it is for CNA to fabricate quotes???

    • David

      I think Helen Osman is saying that the elaboration CNN did based upon the CNA article went ever further into error — if it is based upon an error, I can see how elaboration would then be worse in the objective sense.

  • David Nickol

    Well, the bishops certainly can’t deny saying this:

    We regret that this approach carried the day, as some overlooked the clear evidence or dismissed careful analysis and teaching on the morality of these matters. But making such moral judgments, and providing guidance to Catholics on whether an action by government is moral or immoral, is first of all the task of the bishops, not of any other group or individual. As Bishops, we disagree that the divergence between the Catholic Conference and Catholic organizations, including the Catholic Health Association, represents merely a difference of analysis or strategy (Catholic Health World, April 15, 2010, “Now That Reform Has Passed”). Rather, for whatever good will was intended, it represented a fundamental disagreement, not just with our staff as some maintain, but with the Bishops themselves. As such it has resulted in confusion and a wound to Catholic unity.

    As I and others have argued, if there had been a difference of opinion between the bishops and the CHA over, say, whether the health care reform bill should fund abortions in community health centers, then there would be a good argument that the bishops would speak with real authority. But the difference of opinion was over whether the bill would fund abortions at community health centers, and I don’t see why the bishops’ position on a matter of that nature carries any more weight than the CHA’s.

  • David Nickol

    This from Alejandro Bermudez, the executive director of Catholic News Agency:

    “What then is the reason for the outcry from Ms. Osman over their decision? Her post denying our reporting is disturbing, dishonest and unfairly selective, ” Bermudez stated, adding, “We stand by our report.”

    “It is easy for Ms. Osman to claim she has proof of CNA’s alleged dishonesty, and then say that she will not release the audio recording that would corroborate her claims. We support the release of the audio to see who is right.”

    • David

      The irony is — we have been told to trust the USCCB decisions about the bill itself, despite all the secret talks, and without showing all the work for their interpretation; we have been told that is what we must trust. Now the USCCB has someone post a reply to a misreport (this is the USCCB, so it is likely she was told to write what she did), we are still told to “trust us” but the people who want us to trust about the occult dynamics of health care interpretation do not want us to trust the same people when they say “we are being misreported.”

      Now, I agree (as I said) I think a transcript would be nice. The bishops seem to have come to the meeting thinking it would be internal, private, and what was said not get out. I don’t think it is wise to have such closed meetings when dealing with public relations. However, since they did, I can understand the reluctance to release the tape because it was not meant to be released. It is for this reason I think an anonymous transcription would help.

      I do think in the future, the idea should not be to have it so private.

  • Kurt

    Yesterday’s Washington Post interview with HRSA Administrator Mary Wakefield gave further evidence to the already conclusive proof that the bill does not fund abortions.

    First, she notes that CHCs received supplemental funding in the USCCB-endorsed Stimulus bill in addition to the Health Care bill. Why the USCCB held to the theory that funding outside of the regular appropriations process is not restricted by Hyde even when co-mingled with regular appropriations funds in the health care bill but did not raise this objection in the Stimulus bill cries for an answer.

    She also notes that the new funding will not be in the hands of the CHCs until “this fall.” The new fiscal year starts October 1, 2010 when all funds controlled by HHS will unquestionably come under Hyde. It doesn’t seem clear there is even a small window before the new FY.

    But further, it is clear from her comments that the CHC funding is discretionary spending not an entitlement program. She uses her rightful and legal discretion (subject to the President’s Executive Order) to direct priorities and place restrictions on the news funds. CHCs will be able to use the funds to open new health centers, repair and renovate existing centers and expand the eligible population served. But yes, in addition to that, she does speak of new services CHCs will offer with the new funding. Abortion? No. Dental care and mental health services.

    The suggestions that CHC funds could be used for abortion under the health care law should get a junior grade legislative analyst fired.

  • It looks like CNA
    noticed Osman’s comment and “stands by” its story. Furthermore the CNA reaction also questions the reliability of other not-so-conservative Catholic news outlets:

    Alejandro Bermudez, the executive director of Catholic News Agency, stated that “[NCR reporter John] Allen’s report validates CNA’s reporting of the remarks made by Cardinal George at the executive meeting.” “Most of the religious outlets who covered the disagreement between the bishops and CHA, such as Commonweal, America Magazine and the National Catholic Reporter, did not support the bishops’ decision to oppose the health care bill and criticized the USCCB, not based on our report, but on Allen’s.”
    “What then is the reason for the outcry from Ms. Osman over their decision? Her post denying our reporting is disturbing, dishonest and unfairly selective, ” Bermudez stated, adding, “We stand by our report.”

    Looking back at Henry’s comment, “the USCCB’s positions have been misunderstood, and abused, by many for the sake of political gain” reminds me of arguments over the words “for many” vs. “for all” in the Words of Institution.

    • Frank

      The problem is — John Allen’s report does not validate CNA.

  • Oops,… didn’t realized I duplicated part of David’s quote!

  • Tasha

    Vox Nova comes under fire again over at CVA blog.

    • Well, it’s common. And of course, CVA gets ecclesiology dead wrong. This kind of rhetoric is appalling, but more importantly, could be turned back on the people who use it, when dealing with other directives the bishops have brought forward. Of course, in many of the other directives, the bishops often are not speaking of specific laws, but of general principles. They do deal with specific laws on issues like immigration reform, and it is credible to question whether or not their reading of the immigration laws are valid, though to ignore the principles by which they proclaim such laws would be in error. Moreover, if they wanted to address this issue this way, let’s address the way the bishops of the world look at the issue, or how some bishops in the US did not entirely agree with the statements against CHA. What does this mean? Seriously, what we have is bad ecclesiology being promoted for political gain, and it is clear they know it is bad ecclesiology, because they immediately play the prudence card when the social issue is not of their liking. Or, one could just point out how many have criticized the bishops for their discussion of voting in 2007 — did they, therefore, divide church unity?

    • M.Z.

      It would be nice if Bowman were able to make a serious argument. His article isn’t internally consistent, but I’m sure he’ll get lauds for his tribalism.

  • Kurt

    Seriously, what we have is bad ecclesiology being promoted for political gain…

    I don’t question the bad ecclesiology. But they are failing at the later point too.

    The secular political forces against health care reform gave CVA and their cohorts the task of whipping up broad Catholic opposition to health care reform. They failed. They were totally snookered by Catholics United, Catholics in Alliance, etc. and now they are angry, bitter and dispirited.

    The Karl Rove-Deal Hudson operation was tremendously successful in the 2004 Presidential election. The 2008 election was a setback for them but one win and one loss doesn’t prove a team to be weak. But the failure to deliver effective Catholic opposition to health care reform has caused them to lose face and clout with their secular conservative allies and funding sources.

    Corporate and secular conservative interests have been the financial backers of these operations (hence CVA’s opposition to the DISCLOSE Act that passed the House yesterday). These groups had been a good investment as they were thought to bring aboard to the conservative agenda moderate and apolitical Catholics as well as pro-life liberals.

    Now the jig is up and CVA, Keating’s Catholic Answers, etc. are losing their corporate benefactors.

    Oddly, they had a good game. Millions of Catholics and Pro-Life liberals voted Republican despite very serious differences with the GOP on important issues. The Catholic Conservative political groups brought on board voters for whom the secular conservative message had no appeal. Yet instead of stroking and comforting these voters they started to insult and treat with disrespect the Pro-Life liberals. In the health care debate they were just out and out nasty towards those that didn’t cooperate in their agenda of simply using the abortion issue as a tool to defeat health care.

    The Right now knows they can win over Catholic conservatives with secular conservative appeals and the Catholic Right has no credibility outside of those voters who are already conservative. Their usefulness is over and they are mad and angry about it.