Just a few thoughts about the Supreme Court ruling a week ago today, being neither a lawyer nor court watcher, so my thoughts tend to be those of an extremely interested observer. I was happy that the court found the concept of universal coverage for health care constitutional. 55 million uninsured and many with no access to health care was a national shame. Even with the so-called “Affordable Care Act,” there would remain about 20 million uninsured with no access to health care, many of whom would be undocumented. Our diocesan Catholic Charities knows firsthand the reality of the horror many of these people face when they desperately need medical attention and assistance but are too afraid to approach the avenues which are open to most other people. Thank God for the dedicated doctors, nurses, and volunteers who help with La Clinica Guadalupana in Clearwater and the Catholic Mobile Medical van which visits the migrant camps in eastern Hillsborough County. How the Court arrived at its decision and why is interesting, always, but the reality is that the concept itself is not so weak as to be unconstitutional.
The Administration still has not played its hand yet in how it will respond to the deep problems which all Catholics should have in the HHS regulations implementing the Affordable Care act. It is my understanding that there will be some “fix” and that it will be satisfactory. Time will tell and the sand in the hour glass is rapidly emptying. One would think that if there was the genuine good will toward “conscience protection” of which President Obama spoke two years ago at Notre Dame, it would not be taking this long, but, alas, this is an election year and one can only suppose that someone is delegated with the challenging task in the re-election committee of counting votes gained and lost depending on what they do. Sounds cynical I am sure, but I would bet it is not far from the truth if not the truth. Some said that it would need to await the judgment of the Supreme Court in the case before it, but that argument is now hocus pocus.
Finally, yesterday concluded the “Fortnight for Freedom” observance in many of the parishes and institutions of the diocese and throughout the Church in this country. I have heard of many of our parishes doing clever and appropriate things throughout the fortnight. Interestingly, St. John Vianney parish in St. Pete Beach has a bell tower but no bells so the parishioners there were encouraged to come to Church yesterday at noon with their own bells which they rang at the suggested tolling moment. There were many holy hours and prayerful observances throughout the diocese. I would go to the bank that not every parish did as much as they might and that not every pastor was himself convinced enough that this was a matter of pastoral importance. Sometimes, I am asked if that bothers me, and my answer is “yes” and “no.” “Yes” in that I have asked for very little in things like this during my time as bishop and when I do it means that I believe deeply in it. “No” in that I know that this matter like some others cuts close to the political around which there can be a divergence of opinion. All my priests know that we preach and talk ideas and issues and do not instruct how to cast votes come election day. That I would not like. Sometimes I get letters complaining about individual pastors who seem not to be cooperating. You can blame me if you wish (it happens in a lot of other things and is part of the job description of being a bishop) because my men know at the end of the day, they too were given a brain and have a pastoral sense so they are quite capable of deciding that which is appropriate or will work. I know that if this was a matter in which I would gladly die in the ditch for, they would be there for me and for the Church. My sense is that in the case of the fortnight for freedom, they used their best judgment and most did beautifully.
Finally, I shall long remember the full St. Paul (Tampa) church for our diocesan Mass of commemoration on the Solemnity of the Feast of SS. Peter and Paul. It was simple but the Church at its best at prayer. Thanks to the over 1100 who came and listened and prayed.