As landmark healthcare legislation makes it slow way through Congress, the U.S. Catholic bishops are in danger of finding themselves on the sidelines of history, regarded as a single-issue constituency with no view toward the greater good.
That's a growing view among many Catholic writers -- expressed clearly in Wednesday's Los Angeles Times by columnist Tim Rutten, a Catholic. Rutten joins an evolving chorus of voices who note that the bishops have the influence to help push through a change in public policy they have sought for decades: universal health care coverage. Instead, they have become enmeshed in abortion politics, threatening to undermine a bill that would help ten of millions.
Rutten quotes Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, former Lt. Governor of Maryland, who spoke out on Tuesday: "As Catholics, are we so laser-focused on the issue of abortion that we are willing to join the 'tea-partyers' and the like to bring down the healthcare reform bill? And at the enormous expense of million of Americans who suffer every day" without healthcare?