The pending vote on the health care bill in the United States Congress is an issue that has polarized all sorts of groups regarding the potential benefits and deficiencies of the proposed legislation. If one looks at the legislation from the perspective of a faithful Catholic, on the surface the proposed legislation really does not appear to present a problem for most Catholics. However, when one seriously considers components of the bill, it provides tax-payer funded resources for the procurement of an abortion.Most people that read this really don’t care much about federally funded services for abortions. Unfortunately, even those within the Catholic Church often gloss over the issue of abortion and see it as a, “lesser evil,” in cases of rape, incest and so on. Most church going Catholics really don’t follow the issue with much concern and shrug off the issue as one that doesn’t concern them.

Tragically, the political, cultural & social disregard towards the horrendous sin of abortion is on the verge of gaining silent popular and legislative approval with the ratification of the Obama health care plan. In the press, the matter has been a weekly barrage of partisan politics, which is part of the Washington, D.C. daily events. However, the issue of the appropriateness or the inappropriateness of the legislative plan for healthcare for all Americans has provided a divisive topic for two groups of female religious in the Catholic Church.

The Leadership Conference of Women Religious, (http://www.lcwr.org ) has publically endorsed and supported the pending legislation on health care reform. They are based in Silver Spring, MD. This organization was formed in 1956, as a direct call from Pope Pius XII which encouraged religious communities of both men and women to provide positive input into the process of modernizing the lifestyles of religious communities. Initially the organization was called the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious; the name was changed in 1971. The group has approximately 1500 members and claims to represent 95% of the 65,000 female religious in the United States. When researching and writing this article, this author called their headquarters and asked to speak with someone that could clarify the group’s position that supported the healthcare bill that is opposed by the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops. Unfortunately, I was unable to reach anyone other than voicemail boxes. I did leave voicemails for every religious on staff and sent subsequent emails, however, there has been no response.

There is another organization in the United States that is formed under the name of, The Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious, (http://www.cmswr.org) that was formed in 1992 and has been approved by the Vatican Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and the Societies of Apostolic Life in October 1992.

This organization of female religious has backed the position on the pending health care bill of the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops( http://usccb.org ) and has publically rejected and condemned the ratification of the proposed legislation.

When developing and writing this article, I had the opportunity to speak with a representative of the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious (who asked to remain sub rosa). She stated quite clearly that the reason their organization was not in support of the proposed legislation because it was not in conformity with the teachings of the American Bishops and did not adhere to the Church’s teachings against abortion and its moral gravity.

Is it no wonder then, that the average Catholic in the pew has a hard time understanding the Catholic Church’s teachings on abortion and the sanctity of life when there are two groups of female religious that seem to differ in their understanding of the nuances of the issue?

Clearly, the correct teachings of the Catholic Church on the subject hold anyone that provides for an abortion, procures and abortion or assists in an abortion procedure in anathema.

What then is the motivation of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious in supporting the proposed legislation in defiance to the teachings of the American Conference of Catholic Bishops? Could the motivation simply be a continued effort on the part of some religious communities to undermine the authority of the American Bishops in favor of spreading the ever pervasive ideologies of political and social agendas that do not reflect authentic teachings of the Catholic Church? While, there are numerous religious both male and female those serves the Catholic Church and are obedient and loyal to the Church’s teachings and hierarchical structure there are some that seek to subvert the current structure of a male dominated clerical and administrative Catholic Church.

The struggle that has developed within the female communities of religious in the Catholic Church is a reflection of the larger tension that exists between Catholics that are drawn in both directions regarding similar beliefs and allegiances within the Catholic theocratic world. In addition to the perpetual considerations over the Church’s teachings on birth control, priestly celibacy, males only priesthood, the solutions to the sex scandal within the Church, the perceived inequality against women in the Church, this public opposition to the moral and ethical directives of the American Bishops is symptomatic of the great tensions that exist within the world of Catholicism.

The struggle of female religious seemingly is part of the investigation that is currently underway by the Vatican of communities in the United States. Seemingly, the feminist movement of the 1970’s may have influenced the manner in which female religious communities modeled themselves in the wake of Vatican II. The Vatican commission investigating the communities of religious life intends to study and make recommendations that will permit religious communities of women to rediscover their religious charisms that distinguish them as female religious. Opponents to the investigation suggest it is a Vatican attempt to further control the activities of women in the Church and continue their exclusion from Holy Orders and ministry.

While there are points that suggest both pros and cons to each camp’s considerations regarding some of these issues, the essential issue remains true, Catholics, regardless of their state in life, clergy, religious, laity cannot endorse any activities that support and promote the legalized funding of abortions.

It is time that all of us in the Catholic world begin to embrace ALL of the moral and ethical teachings of the Catholic Church and not just the points that suggest political correctness or ones that are socially inclusive. Regardless of the intention of the sources of funding for abortions through the politically and socially correct motivations of the Obama White House, Abortion is a sin.

It is time for the female religious that congregate behind the politically correct name of the Leadership Council of Women Religious get back into the moral and ethical mainstream of the Catholic Church and tow the Catholic line and principles. Support the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops, Sisters and retract your organizations support for legislative justification of socialized abortive services.

Religious communities of men and women in the Catholic Church should have obedience and fidelity to the Magisterium as the principle motivation of their religious lives and communities, not causes of political and social justices.

Once when dealing with an issue of discontent at Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary outside of Philadelphia, John Cardinal Krol gave two options for disgruntled seminarians over the reforms of Seminary life. Appearing after Vespers in Saint Martins Chapel on the Feast of Saint Joseph the Worker, May 1st,1966 Cardinal Krol gave the following admonition to the seminary faculty and student body:

“ In any of you, students or faculty, entertain any ideas that the renewal must follow your directives, rather than those of ecclesiastical authorities, then you had better reconsider. If in conscience you are willing and able to accept the authorized directives of the renewal, I shall thank God. If in conscience, you feel that you cannot comply, then in conscience you should leave. You have the choice of staying and of obeying, or of leaving, non datur tertium. ex. History of Saint Charles Seminary by Msgr. James Connelly, S.T.L.,Hist.E.D. 1979

The same counsel applies to all Catholics that are opposed to the Church’s authentic teachings, stay and obey, or leave, you will not be given a third choice!

Hugh J.McNichol is a Catholic author and journalist writing on Catholic topics and issues. He attended Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia, where he studied both philosophy and theology. He writes frequently at http://verbumcarofactumest.blogspot.com & http://nothing-left-unsaid.blogspot.com . Hugh writes about his Irish Catholic upbringing and educational experiences at http://graysferrygrapevine.blogspot.com . He has contributed works to Catholic News Agency, Catholic Online, The Irish Catholic, Dublin, the British Broadcasting Company, London and the Philadelphia Bulletin, Catholic Exchange, Pewsitter.com, Blogger News Network & The Catholic Business Journal and CatholicMom.com. Comments are always welcome at hjmn4566@gmail.com.

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