For months, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has been portrayed as the vote-tipping behemoth that will ultimately dictate (with the help of Bart Stupak) the outcome of health care reform. Stupak is hailed as a hero by the conservative movement (which, remember, opposes health care reform anyway) for threatening to hold up reform over abortion funding. By pro-reform anti-choicers, he’s lionized as a pro-life icon, but most of the members of the Stop the Abortion Mandate coalition wouldn’t shed a tear if health care reform went down in flames owing to Stupak’s contingent of anti-abortion Democrats.
But now a conservative Catholic group — a self-described Catholic Tea Party — thinks the bishops are wrong to advocate for reform at all.
Catholic Advocate, a group recently founded by Deal Hudson, who led the 2000 and 2004 Bush campaign outreach to Catholics before being ousted over a sexual misconduct scandal, is pushing a Catholic tea party to counter the USCCB, which Catholic Advocate claims is too liberal. Hudson (who has been described as the “Catholic Karl Rove”) brought his idea to last month’s Conservative Political Action Conference, where his Catholic tea party break-out session even attracted a brief appearance by tea party favorite Marco Rubio, who is running against Florida governor Charlie Crist in the Republican Senate primary.
“We at Catholic Advocate were hearing frustration,” the group’s vice-president, Matt Lewis, told The Brody File last week, “from lay Catholics that their voices were not being heard.” Hudson recently derided the USCCB as a political lobby that didn’t represent the church or its teachings.
Bryan Cones at U.S. Catholic, reacting to Hudson’s attack on the bishops and tea party clarion call, sardonically observed:
Can we just be honest here? Deal Hudson is a Republican. He thinks everyone should be a Republican, and he thinks if you’re a Catholic, you should be a Republican because the only issues you should ever cast a vote on are abortion and gay marriage (as if the GOP is really pure in practice on either of those issues). Abortion and gay marriage are, after all, why Jesus came to earth.
After the bishops pressured House Democrats to include the Stupak amendment last year, Catholics for Choice — which, unlike the bishops and Stupak, supports Roe v. Wade and abortion coverage in health care reform — showed that the bishops are more conservative than lay Catholics. More recently, Catholics United has become critical of the bishops and Stupak for holding up health care reform over the abortion issue.
Catholics United’s Chris Korzen condemned Hudson’s call for a Catholic tea party. “There’s clearly no place for lies, violence, and anti-government rhetoric in the Catholic Church,” he said. “Yet, that’s exactly what we’re going to have unless the Catholic Bishops start to denounce the tea party movement. Regrettably, we’ve seen exactly the opposite from them over the course of the past year.”
Stupak and the bishops continue to insist against all contrary evidence that the abortion provision in the Senate health care bill forces taxpayers to pay for other people’s abortions. Last week both Timothy Noah at Slate and ABC News showed that Stupak’s and the bishops’ claims were in fact “wrong.”
Catholics United’s Korzen said, “even after they got the Stupak amendment, the Bishops never endorsed the House bill. They haven’t lost all their credibility quite yet, but they’re pretty darn close.”