Catholic Health Association summit in Denver attracts praise from Obama

CHA Obama

On Monday, the Catholic Health Association (CHA) and its president, Sister Carol Keehan, opened the second day of its annual summit with a video featuring praises from President Barack Obama and Senator Bob Casey Jr. for the organization's support  to the health care bill signed into law by the U.S. president on March 23.

Some 800 participants at the 2010 Catholic Health Assembly, held this year at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Denver, opened the day with a health reform video titled “I Can't Wait."

The video tries to provide, in less than 10 minutes, doctrinal and historic justification to CHA's controversial support to the health care bill, despite the opposition of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB.)

The video collects pro-health care reform statements from several top leaders at Catholic hospitals and former CHA presidents. It also features Democrat Senator Robert Casey of Pennsylvania.

“I can say without any hesitation that if the Catholic Health Association were not involved in this effort, it’s highly likely we wouldn’t be able to pass the bill,” Sen. Casey says in the video.

Later, Casey is featured again saying:  “It was the right thing to do to pass this legislation ... It’s pro-life legislation, and we’re going to continue to call upon the Catholic Health Association for work as we implement this legislation, not just in the near term but over time.”

The video closes with a greeting from President Obama, who thanks “everybody at the Catholic Health Association for your help and courage in passing health care reform, a major victory for our nation, for human dignity, and for the most vulnerable among us.”

“I especially want to thank Sr. Carol Keehan for the extraordinary leadership she’s shown in advancing our national discussion. I know your ministry has been working for decades to make sure that everyone can afford quality health care.”

“Now, thanks to your efforts, the people in your ‘I Can’t Wait’ video won’t be waiting much longer,” President Obama adds in the video.

“Your work, your passion, your commitment helped make the difference, and you did so in a way that protects your long-standing beliefs and the beliefs of so many others across the country. On behalf of my administration and Americans everywhere, I want to say thank you. God bless you, and God bless America;” Obama says upon closing.

The video does not feature any U.S. Catholic bishop or USCCB spokesperson, although the opening Mass for the CHA assembly was presided over by Bishop Robert Lynch from St. Petersburg, Florida.

The USCCB strongly opposed the legislation on grounds that it will provide federal money to perform abortions for the first time in U.S. history.

Moreover, on May 21, the bishops clearly denied that “the divergence between the Catholic Conference and Catholic organizations, including the Catholic Health Association, represents merely a difference of analysis or strategy.  Rather, for whatever good will was intended, it represented a fundamental disagreement, not just with our staff as some maintain, but with the Bishops themselves.  As such it has resulted in confusion and a wound to Catholic unity.”

The USCCB spring “study meeting” is taking place this same week in St Petersburg.

After the fallout of the health care reform, the USCCB established  an ad hoc Health Care Concerns Committee, headed by Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana.

The committee should produce a report on the consequences of CHA openly opposing the Catholic bishops while claiming to represent Catholic doctrine. The report will likely be presented during the bishops' meeting.

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