Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Personal Aside: George’s USCCB Statement Ignores Free Market Alternatives to Health Care.

   Feast of St. Patrick*
            What’s there about the whiff of statism that Cardinal Francis George and the USCCB [United States Conference of Catholic Bishops] love despite all evidence to the contrary?  ObamaCare, he and they view as complementary to the goals of social justice with one exception: its failure to include the Hyde amendment.  All the other social entitlements are bankrupt: Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid.  The Catholic aim of social justice, they aver, is indissolubly tied to taxpayer funding.  But the Church doesn’t teach that at all.  
            Social Justice, it has taught since Augustine and Aquinas, is the virtue that inclines one to cooperate with others in order to make institutions of society better serve the common good.  The central obligation of social justice falls on the individual—but man can’t do it alone. He must work with others, through organized bodies to identify the needs of society and by use of appropriate means meet those needs first locally, then regionally, then nationally and even globally. Where does government come into play?  Answer: it didn’t with Augustine or Aquinas.   
            It can but to read Cardinal George’s statement, government seems to be all there is. 
            Look at The Chicago Daily Observer website and scroll back to yesterday and you’ll get the entire draft of George’s USCCB statement vetoing ObamaCare signed by George.  My goodness, reading it you’ll think that if only the Hyde amendment language were included in the Senate draft, the  bishops would rush to embrace it, tossing their miters in the air and fanning the air with their crosiers.  That’s true. They’re like the Upper East Side of Manhattan Maoists of the `60s…they bleed oh how they bleed for the working man (er, working person).  How much more should government do?   
           But that’s not all of them.  Just the fashionable liberal old duffers like George, 73, who went to pre-divinity school since age 14, then seminary…then into the clergy, scaled the bishopric and whose hands are soft as a woman’s, knowing poverty and the class struggle first hand, from reading Msgr. John Ryan [1865-1945] and his doctoral dissertation Redistributive Justice and the Living Wage.  They feel oh-so-strongly about ObamaCare.  If only the Hyde language were incorporated! 
          Never fear. That old gang of bishops is fast fading—just like the old priests of Andy Greeley’s vintage (my contemporaries) are.  George has two more years here and his resignation will be proffered. He’s a good liturgist, though; has generally book-smart education with Ph.Ds in philosophy and theology. But does he know anything about The Squid, the grind to pass health care?  Forget it. 
       .  Never having worked a day in the private sector and nurtured in the then hot-house seminaries sheltered from the world, George and his vintage haven’t a clue in the world.  His statement for the USCCB shows it. 
           Not a mention of the many alternative free market concepts that deliver affordable health care from such distinguished Catholic laymen conservatives at Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). 
            It’s brimful of circa `60s language.  “The Catholic bishops of the United States have consistently advocated for the reform of the…health care system.[It’s taxpayer-paid government reform they “anguish” about, people].  
             “Their experience in health care and in Catholic parishes has acquainted them with the anguish of mothers who are unable to afford prenatal care, of families unable to ensure quality care for their children, and of those who cannot obtain insurance because of preexisting conditions.” [Sympathy from those who abdicated their charitable impulse to lobby for state funds].  
       Of course George has not the slightest glimmer of what it means to build up alternative means to statism…a statism that would place 1/6th of the economy in irons.  He’s a good liturgist, a fairly conservative philosopher, with Ph.Ds in both.  
         Where would he learn it?  Does he know economics?  No. The money comes in; he spends it—or has someone else spend it. Where would he learn about economics or hard times?  Living in a communitarian cocoon like the Oblates of Mary Immaculate since age 22, his only touch with the real world…now there’s a laugh…was when he first met…guess who? 
           Jack Egan.  
            When he was installed as Chicago’s 8th archbishop and was surrounded by people at the reception, George was asked by the late Tim Unsworth, a writer for the lefty National Catholic Reporter what he derived from the swirl of people who congratulated George. 
           “Very good!’ he said. I got to meet Jack Egan!”  
       And in the boilerplate of George’s statement that either he or someone wrote for him, the spirit of the hotly anti-capitalist, scotch-drinking, grizzled old Msgr. Jack Egan [1917-2001] rides once again…fresh from the echoes of yesteryear which George absorbed by reading Msgr. John Ryan [1865-1945] and his masterful doctoral dissertation Redistributive Justice and The Living Wage….here was the real thing! 
        The socialist-leaning buddy of Saul Alinsky and Studs Terkel who talked a brilliant social justice game but never never experienced poverty or faced profit-making enterprise…since he was kept out of the Depression as a Quigley kid, then a seminarian (where his closest touch was reading Msgr. John Ryan), through World War II where he was deferred—the only experience he had was imagining the experiences others had. In the civil rights days he was a marcher some times locally but always made it back to the rectory’s warm meals after dark.  His great avocation was sipping Chivas at Cliff Dwellers and talking about the mythic days of sweatshops and child labor mills he never knew but only read of. 
            One day when Andrew Young was in Chicago…Young, the top aide to Martin Luther King and a friend of mine about whom I wrote and produced a film documentary…I invited Jack to attend a reception for him.  Suddenly when the gaggle of conversation died, Jack after sipping steadily, became his lachrymose self…declaring to Young “you and I marched at Selma together and when a big cop tried to slug me, you interfered with him and saved my life!”  
         Touching. Very touching. Many dabbed at their eyes along with old Jack. Later on after the party Young tapped my shoulder and asked: “Who WAS that?” 
         Just a vicarious activist, I said.  Oh, he said.  
         “I got to meet Jack Egan!” 
         I guess it was a thrill if you’re a smallish balding ex-university professor taking over administration of one of the nation’s biggest archdioceses.           
         John McDermott who in his latter years was an office-mate of mine at 307 N. Michigan often said: “We…Al Raby and a bunch of others and I…marched with King in Cicero and there was Jack.  Then the cops came rushing out and there wasn’t Jack.  We all went to jail and in our cells somebody had a radio and played the ongoing testimony of Jack Egan before a City Council committee—testifying before a battery of cameras. We were so proud of Jack. And later his secretary Peggy Roach sent us some cookies.” 
        Oh well. Never fear. The old gang of bishops…most younger than I…are fading fast along with their lamentable 1960s pop sociology.  They and their fashionable “social justice” radicalism: sort of like the coterie of Upper East Side of Manhattan Lenny Bernstein-like radicals are soon to be of the past.   George has two more years and his resignation will be proffered.  He’s a good liturgist, though, has a book-smart education with two doctorates—in philosophy and theology.   Not his fault that he’s been spoiled by being hailed the smartest man in the room.  
        Yeah but to which I’d add he doesn’t know what he doesn’t know.  
           Then maybe…God willing…we can dismantle that 1960s vintage liberal church-state octopus whose tentacles cling to a state liberalism that should never be invoked…to be replaced by nothing:: no organization, no marble palace in Washington, no courtiers writing tracts on environmentalism.  Replaced as I repeat by nothing.  Leaving only individual bishops acting in their dioceses where they take the spiritual and intellectual treasures of the Church to promote the common good not only in small groups but literally of all humanity.          
        * Feast of St. Patrick [AD 5th Century], Archbishop of Armagh and Apostle of All Ireland. The patron saint of The Squid because he’s Irish and cleaving to him and wearing of the green obscures the truth that with few exceptions to be a Catholic Democrat who is at all in power one must be obligatorily pro-abort…but  to deflect from disloyalty to the Church you get drunk, shout loudly in bars and volunteer to fight any SOB who challenges your ethnicity.  People soon forget that as a rising Democrat you are dishonoring your faith along with the Daleys, Madigans, Houlihans et al.  
          Patrick, of course, was not Irish but a Brit…whose full name was Patricius Magonus Sucatus. He was  the son of a deacon and whose grandfather was a priest…in those days there being no strict laws of celibacy that was imposed on the Western clergy.  As is well known, as a youth while tending a herd of goats  he was kidnapped from the coast of Briton by Irish pirates and held in slavery for six years. Then he either escaped or was freed, made his way to a port on the Southeast Coast of Ireland and eventually persuaded some sailors to take him with them.  Returning to his family, Patricius was much changed…from a young man whom he wrote “knew not the true God” to one who believed in and loved God very deeply. 
         He received some training for the priesthood, which included the Latin Bible and was ordained but by no means was he skilled in academics. The first bishop to the Irish was one Palladius but he did not last long. Patrick was the second and worked principally in the North, setting up his see at Armagh and organizing the Church into territorial areas.  He encouraged the formation of monasteries but was not a monk.  He was concerned with abolishing idolatry and sun-worship. 
       One of his finest traits was a consciousness of his being an unlearned exile.  He wrote his “Confessions” in his last days, declaring: “Daily I expect either a violent death or to be robbed or reduced to slavery or the occurrence of some such calamity.  But I have cast myself into the hands of Almighty God for He rules everything; as the Prophet saith `Cast thy care upon the Lord and He Himself will sustain thee.” He died in old age and was buried about AD 461 at Saul on Strangford Lough where he had built his first church.

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