Instead of addressing the legitimate concerns of those who oppose the church’s teaching on abortion—such as concerns for the health of women—American bishops too often seem to fear that any acknowledgment of the complexity of this issue would weaken their own position. And instead of speaking from the real strength of their position, and assessing their political situation rationally, too many bishops are in a hurry to warn of impending betrayals and persecutions, suggesting that their prochoice political opponents have more power and fewer scruples than they actually do.
Thus, American bishops spent a fortune on a campaign to defeat the illusory threat posed by the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA), which has almost no chance of becoming law. Rather than concede that they may have exaggerated the threat posed by FOCA, some bishops talk as if they themselves averted it by means of their furious warnings. Then there were the denunciations of the University of Notre Dame for inviting President Barack Obama to give its 2009 commencement address, an act some bishops seemed to equate with apostasy. More complicated and consequential was the role played by the USCCB during the congressional debate over the recently passed health-care-reform bill. The bishops ended up opposing the bill because of their dubious reading of its provisions to restrict abortion funding and protect existing conscience clauses (for more on this, see Timothy Stoltzfus Jost’s “Episcopal Oversight”).
Jost dissects the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops continuous parade of false and misleading arguments about health reform. Arguments which tend to discredit the USCCB and confuse those who trust them:
Public polling repeatedly reveals that Americans are confused about what the health-reform legislation does. The legislation is long and complicated, and some misunderstanding of the bill is inevitable. It is unfortunate, however, that this confusion continues to be fed by mischaracterizations of the legislation by the USCCB.