The Catholic Church's So-Called "Moral Convictions" Against Abortion

In David Kirkpatrick's piece on Catholic opposition to Obama-care, phrases employed by conservatives like "rationing" and "moral convictions" are closed up in scare quotes.

A front-page story Fridayby David Kirkpatrick on Catholic pushback against Obama's health care overhaul, "Despite Church's Push on Issue, Some Bishops Assail Health Plan," has an illuminatingly selective use of scare quotes (perhaps that should be "scare quotes").

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has been lobbying for three decades for the federal government to provide universal health insurance, especially for the poor. Now, as President Obama tries to rally Roman Catholics and other religious voters around his proposals to do just that, a growing number of bishops are speaking out against it.

As recently as July, the bishops' conference had largely embraced the president's goals, although with the caveat that any health care overhaul avoid new federal financing of abortions. But in the last two weeks some leaders of the conference, like Cardinal Justin Rigali, have concluded that Democrats' efforts to carve out abortion coverage are so inadequate that lawmakers should block the entire effort.

Others, echoing the popular alarms about "rationing," contend that the proposals could put a premium on efficacy that could penalize the chronically ill.

Notice that conservative concerns of "rationing" and "moral convictions" are placed in scare quotes, signaling to Times readers that those claims are politically charged and questionable, while liberal phrases like "social justice" are presented in straightforward fashion.

The bishops' opposition - published in diocesan newspapers, disseminated online by conservative activists, and reported in a Roman Catholic newspaper to be distributed this weekend at churches around the country - is another setback for Mr. Obama's health care efforts. His administration has been counting on the support of Catholic leaders to help rally believers behind his health care plan. Just last week, he held a conference call with 140,000 religious voters to appeal to what he called their "moral convictions."

The bishops' backlash reflects a struggle within the church over how heavily to weigh opposition to abortion against concerns about social justice.

Following some interchange about whether or not Obama's scheme pays for abortions or not was a paragraph presenting the church's liberal view about the "evils of global economic inequality" as a straightforward description, with no journalistic commentary required.

On its Web site this summer, the bishops' conference published a commentary by the Rev. Douglas Clark of Savannah, Ga., arguing that the country now rationed "health care on the basis of wealth." Father Clark cited an encyclical last month from Pope Benedict XVI about the evils of global economic inequality.