The Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops ("TCCB") simply will not stop with the calumny against Texas Right to Life ("TxRTL") with that ill-conceived Parish Advisory. Since my last three posts on this unfortunate, scandalous situation, not much has changed publicly, even as the Bishops backed off a bit and re-characterized it as something it was clearly not. Now they have, apparently, doubled down.
In the wake of a case of clear euthanasia in England that those bishops supported, the TCCB's attacks on TxRTL, and support of the wrong sort of candidate in Texas, there exists now a synchronicity that provides us with a particularly poignant teachable moment here...or two or three. Read on. I'll explain.
You have, no doubt, heard about Alfie Evans in England who's life-sustaining care was removed against his parents' very valiant and consistent efforts to stop it; against the efforts of the Italian government, no less, which granted him citizenship in an effort to save his life; against the efforts of even the Pope himself.
Many in the political sphere - talking heads and those who have a polarized or overly simplistic dichotomy of "good government" vs. "bad government" - have chalked this up to merely socialized medicine run amok. If only.
No, my friends, this is not merely the result of socialized medicine. It is the far more complicated result of a deep-seated philosophy rooted in eugenics and euthanasia that is spreading like the cancer it is. And it is spreading everywhere. It is in Texas through the Texas Advance Directives Act ("TADA") and it has been here in Texas officially since the law was passed 1999 and signed by Republican Governor George W. Bush. Efforts to pin this on liberal v. conservative, R v. D, red v. blue fail miserably. This is more than that. As I always say, you have to dig deeper. Issues over politics and parties. It's not as sexy. It doesn't make for the nifty soundbites. It requires more of you. But that is the reality here.
What happened to Alfie Evans can happen here. I've detailed a few of my experiences on this blog, but TxRTL has had many, many more. Hundreds more. Not only do Alfie cases happen here, an infant Texan suffered Alfie's fate almost at the same time he did.
In her own words, Emily Kebodeaux Cook of TxRTL, described her efforts to save the life of a four month old baby caught in the cross-hairs of a hospital that wanted him dead against the wishes of his family. Sound familiar?
I have written extensively on this blog as to why this is wrong morally and legally. (This post provided a catalog of my posts along with a synopsis of each). Don't you want a right to have a say in whether or when your life-sustaining care is withdrawn in Texas? Well, you don't. Not right now. We are working to change this.
And, as if our fight wasn't hard enough because of the powers-that-be in the largely anti-life medical establishment (which does not include all doctors, thankfully) and their lobbyists, we have to fight from "within" (I'm being generous here) against other groups which call themselves pro-life but which support this anti-life, anti-patient law (and, frankly, make it hard to get anything truly pro-life done).
Then, to my personal great shame as a Catholic, we have to fight our own hierarchy, which I have also detailed over and over. The TCCB consistently sides with those who do not support a patient's right to choose when his life-sustaining care will be withdrawn and those who promote euthanasia (and even abortion, which I have explained). In that post, I note that they do not have any canonical teaching authority, but nevertheless, it is a scandal in the truest sense of the concept. Lives are at stake and lost because of their efforts.
Yet, the TCCB had the audacity - and with no hint of irony or hypocrisy - to post this Tweet about Alfie:
Understand that TxRTL is doing - and has always done - here in Texas what Pope Francis sought to do in the situation of Alfie!
Understand also that TxRTL has been under near constant opposition by the TCCB and now the cold war has turned red hot with the aggressors being the TCCB. Even after the Parish Advisory turned into a fiasco - and may very well turn into much more of a problem for the TCCB in time - the TCCB has, like the errant English bishops, doubled down in their error.
The TCCB has supported - either implicitly or explicitly - a candidate named Ben Leman in the House District 13 state congressional race who is likewise endorsed by the organizations the TCCB now says speak for it. Leman is using the Parish Advisory as a weapon and in his campaign material, as you might expect.
Meanwhile, TxRTL has endorsed a candidate named Jill Wolfskill who is solidly pro-life and understands the stakes for all pro-life issues including TADA. She will do the right thing. Leman's endorsements, among other things, make clear that he is the wrong choice for those who care about liberty and life. He is so problematic that the Texas Homeschool Coalition withdrew its endorsement of him this week and threw it to Wolfskill (herself a homeschooling mother). (I have to wonder what they were thinking in the first place, but that's for another day. Or not.)
TxRTL, in my experience, has merely, occasionally responded to the TCCB and the organizations that seem to live for not much else than to muck up genuine pro-life legislative, judicial, and grassroots efforts and to attack TxRTL (sometimes seemingly out of the blue). But now they've gone on offense to further respond directly to the continuing, incessant, defamatory accusations and attacks by the TCCB and what many of us call the faux pro-life groups.
I quote the entire thing here in blue, but you can read it on their website:
Texas Right to Life was recently the subject of a libelous Parish Advisory issued by the political arm of the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops (TCCB). In an effort to slander Jill Wolfskill, the Texas Right to Life endorsed candidate for Texas State House District 13, and the major conservative organizations supporting her, Ben Leman has echoed the false claims by TCCB in their politically-motivated Parish Advisory. As practicing Catholics, we were stunned and disappointed that TCCB’s political arm would make such a vitriolic condemnation of the largest, oldest, and only statewide Pro-Life organization in Texas.
The assertions of the TCCB are absolutely, demonstrably false.
While officially non-sectarian, Texas Right to Life has exhibited leadership consistent with Catholic theology on Pro-Life issues since the organization’s legal incorporation in 1973. While we recognize the role TCCB’s lobbyist has in advocating for certain legislation on behalf of Texas Catholic bishops, TCCB lacks canonical authority to repudiate the Life-saving work of Texas Right to Life. Although Texas Right to Life has never spoken on behalf of the Catholic Church (or any denomination), the mission and goals of Texas Right to Life are in line with the Catechism of the Catholic Church and with the longstanding Christian tradition of protecting all innocent human Life.
Catholic Teaching on Medical Ethics
Recently, the plight of the English baby, Alfie Evans, enthralled the world because of the sickening disregard for human Life demonstrated by the British hospital and government. Sadly, Alfie died five days after being forcibly removed from his ventilator. While Pope Francis advocated for the right of Alfie’s parents to seek further medical treatment, the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales abominably sided with the British Courts.
Such a disagreement elucidates a common occurrence: The opinions and policies promulgated by some of the conferences of bishops often differ radically from the Vatican and are not to be taken as absolute truth, particularly since these conferences of bishops are political administrative entities without canonical authority. In fact, what happened in England is a too common occurrence in Texas. The “ten-day law” of the Texas Advance Directives Act (TADA) grants hospitals and doctors unilateral authority to remove life-sustaining treatment from patients with a mere ten days notice, which has sped the death of hundreds of patients in Texas. TCCB vilified Texas Right to Life in the Parish Advisory for working to reform the draconian law that is worse than any statute in Britain. While TCCB’s lobbyist wholeheartedly agrees with the bishops in Britain in that doctors and hospitals should have the final authority to make life-ending decisions for patients, Pope Francis’ defense of Alfie mirrors Texas Right to Life’s patient advocacy efforts in which we work to transfer patients to willing providers in more appropriate care settings.
Moreover, Section 2278 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church clearly affirms the right of patients and their families to make appropriate medical judgements within the correct moral framework:
2278 Discontinuing medical procedures that are burdensome, dangerous, extraordinary, or disproportionate to the expected outcome can be legitimate; it is the refusal of “over-zealous” treatment. Here one does not will to cause death; one’s inability to impede it is merely accepted. The decisions should be made by the patient if he is competent and able or, if not, by those legally entitled to act for the patient, whose reasonable will and legitimate interests must always be respected. (emphasis added)
In attempts to reform or overturn TADA, Texas Right to Life, acting in concordance with the Natural Law, has demonstrated adherence to Section 2278, espousing policies that prioritize the wishes and directives of the patients to continue treatment. Contrarily, TCCB’s lobbyist supports TADA, which nullifies the right of the patient or his family to make medical decisions. Rebuking Texas Right to Life for opposing TADA is absurd, not to mention a warped misrepresentation of Texas Right to Life’s position. The political arm of TCCB and Ben Leman have enfeebled themselves by attacking Texas Right on this front.
Catholic Teaching on Abortion
The political arm of TCCB has also actually attacked Texas Right to Life for being too ardent in the defense of preborn Life. Texas Right to Life has led the effort to enact Life-saving legislation that makes appreciable efforts in destroying the faulty foundation upon which Roe v. Wade was fabricated. Texas Right to Life spearheaded the passage of the Sonogram Law in 2011 and the Preborn Pain Act in 2013. Both of these provisions have saved the lives of thousands of preborn Texans.
This past year, Texas Right to Life championed the Dismemberment Abortion Ban, a bill banning a gruesome form of abortion in which a living preborn child is torn apart limb from limb while her heart remains beating. Conferences of bishops supported Dismemberment Abortion Bans in their respective states, including Florida, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan, Nebraska, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. The measure passed with bipartisan support in both chambers of the Texas Legislature despite active opposition of the ban by a small, local organization extolled by TCCB, Texas Alliance for Life (TAL).
These prudent, incremental reforms work toward achieving the ultimate goal of overturning Roe. Although vocal on many other issues, TCCB’s lobbyist was silent on this measure in the capitol but offered letters questioning the prudence of the Dismemberment Abortion Ban and even disparaged Texas Right to Life for supporting the bill. In short, TCCB’s Advisory impugns Texas Right to Life because we are just too Pro-Life.
Texas Right to Life Voter Guides
The last attack in the Advisory from TCCB aims at Texas Right to Life’s political endorsements, or lack thereof, which are largely informed by the votes taken by officeholders. These votes are a tangible indicator of a legislator’s true positions on Pro-Life issues. Often the legislators opposed by Texas Right to Life voted against various Pro-Life bills and amendments.
All votes, including votes from the most recent 2017 Sessions of the Texas Legislature, are featured in the Pro-Life Scorecard on Texas Right to Life’s website. Even with their blatant anti-Life votes, these legislators are often supported by TAL and other groups allied with TCCB. Thus, the Advisory from the political arm of the TCCB appears to be an effort to retain power and influence in Austin rather than an effort to build a Culture of Life and inform parishioners of the truly Pro-Life candidates.
TCCB’s lobbyist and Ben Leman have engaged in calumny against Texas Right to Life; they have taken the odious step of distorting the truth in pursuit of raw power. For over forty years Texas Right to Life has courageously fought for innocent human Life, all human Life, even when doing so is politically unpopular and even when we had to fight alone. Asserting that Texas Right to Life is anti-Catholic is demonstrably false and beneath the bishops of Texas.
Don’t believe Ben Leman’s slanderous comments, founded upon a politically motivated yet unsubstantiated Parish Advisory written by an Austin establishment insider.
Believe in Jill Wolfskill, who is running for the Texas House so that she can lend her voice and her vote to the Pro-life majority to protect all innocent human Life. Jill will work to reform the very anti-Life law supported by TCCB’s lobbyist that threatens the lives of hospitalized patients. For House District 13, Jill Wolfskill is the only honest Pro-Lifer.
Yours for Life,
Elizabeth and Jim Graham
Director and President
Texas Right to Life
This letter is proudly paid for by Texas Right to Life.
So there you have it. TxRTL has laid out the issues, corrected the record, and told those of you in HD 13 for whom to vote based on their assessment of who is truly pro-life. They have explained how the Voters Guides and Scorecards are prepared as well in this video.
Let me take a moment here and disagree with TxRTL. I know, you're probably shocked, but as I've said, I do have my own mind and opinions on things. Frankly, I think TxRTL has been too easy on the TCCB as a whole - that is, in my view, on the Bishops themselves. It seems to me that the buck stops with those who employ and direct those making mischief and publicly espousing positions contrary to the Catholic faith. It seems to me that the Bishops, the TCCB as a whole, could reign this lobbyist in, could shift the agenda and tone, Catechize her - if they wanted to. But TxRTL's letter is focused on the lobbyist and lobbying arm of the TCCB.
Rather, TxRTL has extended to TCCB, the Bishops themselves, a generosity and shown a graciousness that has not been reciprocated by the TCCB or individual Bishops in any way that I am aware of. Certainly none have done so publicly. In particular, Bishop Olson, as I have covered here recently, seemed to completely lose control of himself in his vehemence and focused attacks on TxRTL. So out of control was he, that he attacked lay persons publicly on Twitter! It was a scene and most unbecoming to a man in his position. But TxRTL has not responded in kind, even though I believe they would be justified in so doing.
By their fruits, you will know them. All of them.
I hope this brings you up to date on some things - here and over there in England and the Vatican - and I hope you go out and vote for the right people in each election, every time. It matters.
Thanks for reading!