Search This Blog

Monday, March 22, 2010

Has the President Gone Pro-Life?


However, if there is to be found a ray of sunshine in the Health Care Bill just passed, it is that unborn children have protections still. Thank the Lord for this.

There are plenty of other problems with the bill. The debt. The government control. The enormous debt. The loss of personal freedom. The gigantic debt.

And there's the coersion. The back room deals. The secrecy. The condescending attitude toward those of us opposed to the plan. Free people and free governments shouldn't operate this way.

But I'm looking for a silver lining right now and this appears to be it.

Here is the text of the order issued Sun., Mar. 21, 2010, in time to garner votes in favor of the bill:

Executive Order ensuring enforcement and implementation of abortion restrictions in the patient protection and affordable care act.

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, including the "Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act" (approved March ­­__, 2010), I hereby order as follows:

Section 1. Policy.

Following the recent passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act ("the Act"), it is necessary to establish an adequate enforcement mechanism to ensure that Federal funds are not used for abortion services (except in cases of rape or incest, or when the life of the woman would be endangered), consistent with a longstanding Federal statutory restriction that is commonly known as the Hyde Amendment. The purpose of this Executive Order is to establish a comprehensive, government-wide set of policies and procedures to achieve this goal and to make certain that all relevant actors-Federal officials, state officials (including insurance regulators) and health care providers-are aware of their responsibilities, new and old.

The Act maintains current Hyde Amendment restrictions governing abortion policy and extends those restrictions to the newly-created health insurance exchanges. Under the Act, longstanding Federal laws to protect conscience (such as the Church Amendment, 42 U.S.C. §300a-7, and the Weldon Amendment, Pub. L. No. 111-8, §508(d)(1) (2009)) remain intact and new protections prohibit discrimination against health care facilities and health care providers because of an unwillingness to provide, pay for, provide coverage of, or refer for abortions.

Numerous executive agencies have a role in ensuring that these restrictions are enforced, including the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and the Office of Personnel Management (OPM).

Section 2. Strict Compliance with Prohibitions on Abortion Funding in Health Insurance Exchanges. The Act specifically prohibits the use of tax credits and cost-sharing reduction payments to pay for abortion services (except in cases of rape or incest, or when the life of the woman would be endangered) in the health insurance exchanges that will be operational in 2014. The Act also imposes strict payment and accounting requirements to ensure that Federal funds are not used for abortion services in exchange plans (except in cases of rape or incest, or when the life of the woman would be endangered) and requires state health insurance commissioners to ensure that exchange plan funds are segregated by insurance companies in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles, OMB funds management circulars, and accounting guidance provided by the Government Accountability Office.

I hereby direct the Director of OMB and the Secretary of HHS to develop, within 180 days of the date of this Executive Order, a model set of segregation guidelines for state health insurance commissioners to use when determining whether exchange plans are complying with the Act's segregation requirements, established in Section 1303 of the Act, for enrollees receiving Federal financial assistance. The guidelines shall also offer technical information that states should follow to conduct independent regular audits of insurance companies that participate in the health insurance exchanges. In developing these model guidelines, the Director of OMB and the Secretary of HHS shall consult with executive agencies and offices that have relevant expertise in accounting principles, including, but not limited to, the Department of the Treasury, and with the Government Accountability Office. Upon completion of those model guidelines, the Secretary of HHS should promptly initiate a rulemaking to issue regulations, which will have the force of law, to interpret the Act's segregation requirements, and shall provide guidance to state health insurance commissioners on how to comply with the model guidelines.

Section 3. Community Health Center Program.

The Act establishes a new Community Health Center (CHC) Fund within HHS, which provides additional Federal funds for the community health center program. Existing law prohibits these centers from using federal funds to provide abortion services (except in cases of rape or incest, or when the life of the woman would be endangered), as a result of both the Hyde Amendment and longstanding regulations containing the Hyde language. Under the Act, the Hyde language shall apply to the authorization and appropriations of funds for Community Health Centers under section 10503 and all other relevant provisions. I hereby direct the Secretary of HHS to ensure that program administrators and recipients of Federal funds are aware of and comply with the limitations on abortion services imposed on CHCs by existing law. Such actions should include, but are not limited to, updating Grant Policy Statements that accompany CHC grants and issuing new interpretive rules.

Section 4. General Provisions.

(a) Nothing in this Executive Order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect: (i) authority granted by law or presidential directive to an agency, or the head thereof; or (ii) functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.

(b) This Executive Order shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.

(c) This Executive Order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity against the United States, its departments, agencies, entities, officers, employees or agents, or any other person.


Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Health Care Bill

I make it a point not to discuss politics in my Country Parson blog. However, the health care bill being rammed through Congress is not a political issue: it is a moral one.

The obvious issue is abortion. What I have read about the bill (though I have not read the bill itself) is consistent with the bill's strongest proponents, President Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid. That consistency is that the unborn are not protected human life. Unborn children are only valuable as experimental medical commodities. These three see no harm in aborting children and they are hard pressed to find a reason to protect them in a federally-funded health care bill.

This is an unfortunate fact of life for we who support life, especially for the unborn. From the top, the three most powerful positions in the U.S. government are admitted, confessed, and practicing pro-abortionists. We can only pray for them, for their repentance, and keep our voices heard. (And we can thank God for pro-life representatives and the stand they take against the Abortionist-in-Chief and his lackeys.)

There are other issues, too. Health care coverage for unmarried adult couples, especially homosexual couples, is in the bill. I'm not opposed to homosexuals having health care coverage. I am opposed to homosexual marriage and to homosexual couples having benefits of marriage.

And, for that matter, non-married heterosexual couples shouldn't have the benefits of marriage, either. Maybe since "shacking up" has become the norm in our culture this seems harsh. But the Truth is that marriage is marriage, and without vows made between a man and woman before God, there is no marriage.

A more grievous threat is the creeping shadow of euthanasia. While over-simplified as 'death panels', the fact remains that the health care bill allows the government to choose who gets what benefits. The comparison is made to private companies which do, essentially, the same thing. The key difference is that we have a choice about private companies with which we conduct business. We do not have a choice when the federal government is involved.

Like abortion, euthanasia's only significant benefit is financial. Rather than protecting life in its latter years, the cost of care is placed in the balance on one side with human life on the other. Keeping terminally ill people comfortable and dignified as they die is certainly the moral option. However, making a decision about how much care is given based on the cost is patently immoral. The Obama-Pelosi-Reid bill is only cost conscious.

Another moral issue is the role of government. The government is not a moral institution; it is a social institution. The health care bill makes moral decisions ad nauseum. It is pro-abortion and anti-marriage. It is also condescending to the individual rights of Americans to lead their own lives without government interference. It increases taxes. It limits personal freedom. It is extra-Constitutional (in fact it is supra-Constitutional).

These Trojan horse issues are a direct threat to the Church. Christian doctors and nurses who oppose abortion may be forced to commit the act because it is federally insured. Hospitals run by Christian denominations would be in the same boat. They could be compelled to allow patients to die because of financial concerns rather than providing decent end-of-life care.

Just as important is the potential for government censorship of the pulpits of those who disagree with the government. If free, taxpayer funded abortion is the law of the land, what becomes of the voice of dissent? If benefits for non-married couples are acceptable to the government, what about those of us who support marriage?

It is imperative to pray for President Obama, Congressman Pelosi and Senator Reid. It is important to pray for our nation that we may find true moral high ground and an ethical, upright way to provide health care for those most needful of it.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

The Cross: More Questions that Answers

Today is the Third Sunday of Great Lent, the Adoration of the Holy Cross. Today's message is in keeping with the Lenten theme for 2010, "For All Things We Know and For All Things We Do Not Know." This theme is taken from our Eucharistic liturgy, and recalls for us that we may trust and thank God for what we know in this life, and for things we simply can't or don't know.

Gospel: Mark 8:31-9:1

When I was a boy, I went to St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Elyria, Ohio. It is one of those downtown Churches that sits on the courthouse square. As a boy, I thought the steeple was the tallest structure I had ever seen. Atop the steeple is a gold cross.

I remember asking my grandfather how on earth they kept that cross so shiny. I remember being a persistent questioner when I was little and my grandfather was an ornery answerer. He told me that the Church had a monkey that had been trained to polish the cross each week. The priest would put the monkey on his leash and let him climb to the top of the steeple to do his duty.

(Deep down, I still believe this story.)

Having questions about the Cross is the beginning of understanding the reality of the Cross.

There are "physical questions" about the Cross:
* How tall was the Cross? * Where was the Cross? * How common was crucifixion? * Why was Jesus nailed and the others tied to the Cross? * How could this have happened to Jesus Christ, Who was so good?

There are "intellectual questions" about the Cross. Many have seen detailed descriptions of crucifixion that are popular this time of year. Movies like The Passion provide depictions of crucifixion in graphic detail. People raise the issue of Jesus Christ’s ‘unfair’ trial.

There are "emotional questions" we ask. Why would God require the Cross of His own Son? How could they have been so mean to Christ Who was so good? Wasn’t there another way besides His death?

I imagine these are the sorts of questions Jesus Christ and the Apostles were discussing in Mark 8:31-32: "He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him."

We may find ourselves in the place of St. Peter. He knew that “for all the things he knew” he didn’t want those things to happen to Jesus Christ. Why? Because Jesus Christ was his friend, his co-worker, his mentor. He loved Him. Why would anyone want to see terrible things happen to anyone they are close to?

When facing a trial in our own lives, how often do we react like St. Peter? We don't want the pain. We don't want the suffering. We don't want the cross.

Jesus Christ rebuked his friend in verse 33: "Get behind me, Satan! You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men."

St. Peter encountered what he did not know.
- The Cross and its consequent salvation are God’s matters to provide.
- The Cross and its affect are matters of “mystery,” and we don't usually like mystery.
- The way of the Cross is not a matter of human will, but of Divine purpose.

The Lord knew that St. Peter is very much like ourselves. We want to provide our own way of salvation. We want to work it own in a manner that suits us. We don’t like ‘mystery’: we want reality, we want answers. We like the Divine purpose as long as it doesn’t run against our own purposes and directions.

For all the questions St. Peter and the other Apostles had, Jesus Christ answered the questions they didn’t ask – the Spiritual questions about the Cross.

"If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me and for the Gospel will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?"

The Lord clarifies for St. Peter, the other Apostles, and for his other hearers that following Him is a matter of taking up your own cross. Your cross may be a life experience that is hard to bear, the results of a poor decision you made that has long-term effects, or even a condition that you had nothing to do with.

What Jesus Christ is saying is that following Him is a matter of losing your life in order to gain it. There are many people who spend their whole lives trying to gain success, material wealth, and pushing their way to "the top" who end up lonely and spiritually destitute.

He underscores the fact that following Him may bring on shame in this life, but reward in the next. We have little to be ashamed of as Christians in this country. There is no arm in wearing a cross here. But think of the Christians in Tehran, or Beijing, or Darfur, or any of the Moslem nations where Christianity is illegal. Those saints have learned what it is to bear the Cross in the face of shame.

This Sunday of Adoration of the Holy Cross, what questions of do you have? Take a moment with your own cross in your hand and reflect on these ideas:
+ What is the cross you are carrying?
+ Have you truly lost your life – or have you simply let God borrow it for a while?
+ Has the Cross been an issue of shame or embarrassment to you? Why or why not?