Monday, January 18, 2010

Verities And Balderdash ( With Apologies to Cat Stevens)

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking over the past few days. And for those of you who know me well, I’m sure you can attest to this being a scary thing. And with that said, I’m sure some of the things I’m going to talk about will cause some upset among many of you who read this blog. For that, I’ll apologize in advance. However, in my mind there are some things that need to be said, and if they’re not said by someone else then I will say them. If nothing else, I wouldn’t be surprised if some of what I have to talk about cranks up a lively discussion.

Truthfully, I hope it does.

First, there is a US Senate race happening in Massachusetts. An election is set to take place tomorrow, and the winner of that election will be sent to Washington to take the seat of the late Senator Edward Kennedy.

Of course, many of you who live in the New England states are aware of this, I’m sure. It has been a topic of local and regional news reporting since before Christmas, and the political advertising has been nothing short of vicious on both sides of the race. The contenders, Republican Scott Brown and Democrat Martha Coakley have been battering each other for the seat, and depending on what you read and when you read it, the opinion polling puts it as a neck-and-neck race.

Personally, I’m not terribly excited about either of these candidates. While they both have pros and cons associated with each of them, I’m simply not impressed by them because of the beatings they’ve been giving each other. Further, neither of them in my view really is running an issue-related campaign. They’re doing what is done in so many political races: they’re going after each other’s character, and they’re playing on the emotions of their prospective voters. This is especially evident based on the the campaign ads I’ve seen; they both are going after what are core voter concerns: the economy and healthcare reform.

Now I understand why they each campaign in this fashion; as I said, it’s a tried-and-true method of political warfare. And – this race doesn’t directly affect me; since I don’t live in Massachusetts, I really have no say about the outcome of the election. I don’t truly care, either, as the fighting that goes on over politics happens up here also, and it can be incredibly competitive. That said, however, it indirectly affects each of us because of the issues that they have chosen to run on.

On top of that, there are charges that an outsider from New Hampshire is campaigning illegally for Scott Brown. Bill Binnie, a New Hampshire businessman who’s planning to run for the Senate seat soon to be vacated by Senator Judd Gregg (the lone Republican in the New Hampshire congressional delegation), aired ads on Boston television in favor of Scott Brown’s candidacy. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in Massachusetts is crying foul over Binnie’s ads, saying they’re illegal. And the Brown campaign has stated that they didn’t ask for any help from outside.

So who do you believe?

As for Martha Coakley, she had President Obama campaigning for her in Boston yesterday. I thought that was interesting, but if you look at the exigent circumstances around his visit, it makes sense that he would be doing that. After all, if Brown wins the election, it puts the Obama plan for healthcare reform in jeopardy because it gives the Republican minority the power to filibuster, and ultimately block the votes that are needed for the legislation to pass.

Again – does this affect those of us who do not live in Massachusetts?

Directly? No. Indirectly? Absolutely – it affects every American. How does it affect us? That’s easy – it depends on where you stand and what you want. If you’re in favor of the legislation passing and changes in how healthcare is delivered in this country, then you don’t want Scott Brown to win the election. If you are not in favor of the legislation, then you don’t want Martha Coakley to win.

It seems pretty simple. But, like anything else, it is surely not so.

Another item: I read in yesterday’s Union Leader/Sunday News that a number of Catholic priests of the Diocese of Manchester are filing a lawsuit intended to stop the proposed action of affiliating Catholic Medical Center with Dartmouth-Hitchcock. I’ve written about the situation here, so it’s not as though I haven’t talked about it. But – there is more. There is always more, and this is no different.

When I read about this lawsuit, it occurred to me that this could be considered an act of disobedience towards the Ordinary of the Diocese. As I thought about it, though, perhaps it isn’t so much because the vows that a Diocesan priest take of obedience to his Bishop have to do with matters of faith and morals. Some, I’m sure, would say that this vow relates to all matters, but I’m not so sure of that.

I did a little bit of research on the subject of obedience recently. From what I have been able to determine based on some of the reading I’ve done, I was able to confirm what I said in the previous paragraph. What I was not able to determine, however, is whether or not obedience extends beyond the issues of faith and morals. My suspicion, based on that, is that it does not. And if that’s true, then the Bishop of Manchester is going to have his hands full because of this.

One of the main reasons cited by the priests who are filing the lawsuit is the fear that the Hitchcock folks would pressure CMC into providing services that are “not in accordance with Catholic teaching.” I suppose in the view of the priests who are involved, as well as the pro-life community in and around Manchester, this seems appropriate. However, I suspect that legally the claims that are being made will not have a leg to stand on. I say that because of a report that I read that was released recently regarding the status of affiliation between CMC and the Dartmouth-Hitchcock system.

Walter Maroney, the attorney who investigated the proposal and its details, did what appears to me to a painstaking analysis of all of the things that could go wrong as well as what happened in the past regarding Optima Healthcare. From what I have read, at least initially, it appears that things are being done differently with the express intent of avoiding a similar set of circumstances. However, it is not done yet. Because of this, it’s possible that things still could be changed in the proposal that, when it’s a done deal, could cause the affiliation to go horribly wrong. And the only way to see if this happens, unfortunately, is for it to go forward.

I would be interested to see whether or not the parties filing the lawsuit have an analysis or information of their own supporting their case. Not that I have any expertise in the law, but it is making for a very interesting set of problems that need to be solved before anything is finalized.

Then there is the question of whether the pro-life community will ever be satisfied with this. My feeling is that the only way something like this could happen, honestly, is for the affiliation to not go as proposed.

That said, I believe that some parties are going to be unhappy when it’s a done deal. I just don’t know who those parties will be…

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