Wednesday, November 19, 2008

HHS Gains Friend to Women

I am particularly pleased the former Sen. Daschle has been named to the post of Secretary of HHS. The right wing has spent eight years making the powers of government inimical to women. This is some one who has publicly stood for health choice for women, and has had to fight with the Catholic Church to keep his beliefs.

In 2003, Daschle lost his seat in the U.S. Senate after a public fight with his local bishop over a woman's rights.

TOM DASCHLE may no longer call himself a Catholic. The Senate minority leader and the highest ranking Democrat in Washington has been sent a letter by his home diocese of Sioux Falls, sources in South Dakota have told The Weekly Standard, directing him to remove from his congressional biography and campaign documents all references to his standing as a member of the Catholic Church.

This isn't exactly excommunication--which is unnecessary, in any case, since Daschle made himself ineligible for communion almost 20 years ago with his divorce and remarriage to a Washington lobbyist. The directive from Sioux Falls' Bishop Robert Carlson is rather something less than excommunication--and, at the same time, something more: a declaration that Tom Daschle's religious identification constitutes, in technical Catholic vocabulary, a grave public scandal. He was brought up as a Catholic, and he may still be in some sort of genuine mental and spiritual relation to the Church. Who besides his confessor could say? But Daschle's consistent political opposition to Catholic teachings on moral issues--abortion, in particular--has made him such a problem for ordinary churchgoers that the Church must deny him the use of the word "Catholic."

Much of the discussion about Daschle's standing has gone on in private over the last few years, although Bishop Carlson and Senator Daschle had a very public spat about partial-birth abortion in 1997. During the run-up to a Senate vote on the issue, Daschle proposed what he called a "compromise," banning the procedure while allowing exemptions for any woman who claimed

mental or physical health reasons for having such a late-term procedure. Pointing out the way the exemptions gutted the ban, Carlson called Daschle's proposed compromise a "smokescreen" designed solely to "provide cover for pro-abortion senators and President Clinton, who wanted to avoid a veto confrontation."

Daschle, in turn, rose on the floor of the Senate in Washington to denounce his own bishop back in South Dakota for speaking in a way "more identified with the radical right than with thoughtful religious leadership."
...Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger's office, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, issued in Rome a "Doctrinal Note" on Catholics in political life. "A well-formed Christian conscience," the note declared, "does not permit one to vote for a political program or an individual law which contradicts the fundamental contents of faith and morals."

The courage to take on the right wing is one characteristic I am very glad to see in the administration of health matters in this country. The administration is showing responsible care for the country's health rather than blind ideology, a big change indeed. This is a good choice.

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