Statements from nuns are flying around Capitol Hill as the health care debate moves toward a final vote. A small group of unorthodox nuns, no doubt at the urging of Democrats who are seeking divine intervention, re-issued a statement on Capitol Hill wrongly claiming that the Senate bill doesn't cover elective abortions.
In response, the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious, an order of more traditional nuns, issued a statement in support of the position of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). The Vatican was so disturbed by the sisters' letter that it released one of its own, warning America that the only group who speaks on the Church's behalf in Congress is the USCCB.
In ads blanketed throughout the Washington media today, the Bishops tried to put any doubts to rest as to where the Church stands on the Senate health bill. Their call to Congress to "remove abortion funding and mandates from needed health reform" is splashed across the pages of the Washington Post, The Hill, Roll Call, Congressional Quarterly, and Congress Daily. "Groups, trade associations and publications describing themselves as 'Catholic' or 'pro-life" that endorse the Senate [bill] are doing a serious disservice to the nation and to the Church," writes Archbishop Charles Chaput, "undermining the witness of the Catholic community... [The health care debate's] most painful feature has been those 'Catholic' groups that by their eagerness for some kind of deal undercut the witness of the Catholic community and help advance a bad bill into a bad law." For more on the controversy, check out Cathy Ruse's piece in National Review Online, "Catholic Health Association Can't Be Trusted on ObamaCare."
As Speaker Pelosi closes in on the magic number needed to pass the bill, the statement from those liberal nuns was enough to provide cover for three defectors who had been solidly in Rep. Bart Stupak's (D-Mich.) camp--Reps. Tom Perriello (D-Va.), James Oberstar (D-Minn.), and Dale Kildee (D-Mich). Kildee tried to defend his decision, telling the press, "I am a staunch pro-life member of Congress"--words that ring hollow after he agreed to move forward with the largest expansion of elective abortion since Roe v. Wade.
Meanwhile, as members prepare to vote as early as Sunday on the Senate bill, 37 states are scrambling to launch preemptive strikes at the President's plan. Yesterday, Idaho was the first state to pass a bill that would trigger an automatic lawsuit against the federal government if Washington mandated the purchase of health insurance.