The Deacon's Bench

The Deacon's Bench

Who is Robert George?

The New York Times Magazine this weekend offers a detailed answer, with an in-depth look at a man who is arguably the leading (and most influential) Catholic intellectual in America.

A snip:

articleLarge.jpgGeorge’s role as an adviser to (these) bishops began more than 20 years ago, when he was a young professor and recent Ph.D. A mutual friend introduced him to the Rev. John Myers, then a bishop in Peoria, Ill., who was working on a pastoral letter about the moral obligations of Catholic voters and politicians. With George’s assistance, Myers wrote a letter laying out the case that abortion, as the taking of a life, was a crime against the natural law of human reason, not merely a violation of Catholic theology. Therefore, Myers and George argued, Catholic politicians and voters were wrong to write off the church’s teachings as a matter of personal faith. What’s more, the letter warned, voting for a candidate or a law upholding abortion rights would almost invariably put a Catholic so far outside church teachings that he should not receive communion. As the first systematic rebuttal to Mario Cuomo and other Catholic politicians who support abortion rights, the letter kicked off a now-familiar debate inside the church. “Whenever I venture out into the public square, I would almost invariably check it out with Robby first,” Myers, now the archbishop of Newark, told me. Many of the bishops, Myers says, rely on George as “a touchstone” and “the pre-eminent Catholic intellectual.”


Last spring, George was invited to address an audience that included many bishops at a conference in Washington. He told them with typical bluntness that they should stop talking so much about the many policy issues they have taken up in the name of social justice. They should concentrate their authority on “the moral social” issues like abortion, embryonic stem-cell research and same-sex marriage, where, he argued, the natural law and Gospel principles were clear. To be sure, he said, he had no objections to bishops’ “making utter nuisances of themselves” about poverty and injustice, like the Old Testament prophets, as long as they did not advocate specific remedies. They should stop lobbying for detailed economic policies like progressive tax rates, higher minimum wage and, presumably, the expansion of health care — “matters of public policy upon which Gospel principles by themselves do not resolve differences of opinion among reasonable and well-informed people of good will,” as George put it.


A few months later, in a July 17 letter to Congress, the bishops did something close to that in the health care debate. Setting aside decades of calls for universal coverage, the bishops pledged to fight any bill that failed to block the use of federal subsidies for insurance covering abortion. “Stalin famously asked, ‘How many divisions has the pope?’ ” George wrote to me in an e-mail message after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi allowed a vote on an amendment that satisfied the bishops’ demands. “I guess Pelosi now knows.”

Check out the rest.

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posted December 21, 2009 at 8:14 am

I did not read the entire article, I will admit as I make this comment, but the USCCB have been rolled on the health care debate. They should have opposed the entire thing from the very start,like many of us who sit in the pews have urged, and argued for reforms.
Did they really think that Obama, Pelosi, Mikulski, et al (a little Latin for those of you in The People’s Republic of Takoma Park) would not get abortion coverage in it? Did they not think that they would buy off any Representative or Senator (look at Nelson) with huge amounts of $$$ for their states? Look at some of the cabal that has been advising them – “consultants who are lesbians, and working for SIEU.”
The USCCB has only one option to remain credible to Catholics: OPPOSE THIS HEALTH CARE DISASTER

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posted December 21, 2009 at 2:39 pm

I assume that those bishops who have put themselves on record opposing any of the currently attainable health care reform bills are prepared to open all Catholic hospitals to the uninsured?

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posted December 21, 2009 at 5:36 pm

Marian, why would a Catholic hospital open itself up to anybody simply because the Bishops do not back communist style health care reform? Where do you expect the money to come from to pay for these people to be treated at these Catholic hospitals?
What you FAIL to understand is that health care is NOT a right. You do NOT have the right to force a third party to pay for anything for you – that is a form of servitude. Your rights end at the tip of your nose, to claim that you have a right to health care is to claim somebody has an obligation to provide it for you. Where do you get the right to force anybody else to provide you with health care?
Perahps if the people in charge today (democrats/liberals) would do what is best, we wouldn’t be in this situation. Republicans have offered sensible ideas for reform – that would bring the costs down for everybody – but the left wants nothing to do with that.
Why do they (democrats/liberals) want to block insurance competition? Why wont they let companies offer their policies across state lines? Competiton ALWAYS drives down the costs! Why wont they let sensible tort reform become law? Is it because the trial lawyers are their single largest political contributors? Why wont they block illegals from getting free (tax payer provided) health care? Is it because they are pandering for votes?
These are just a few ideas to lower the cost of health care and insurance. Why are the democrats/liberals against them?

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Your Name

posted December 21, 2009 at 5:39 pm

They already are, Marian. Just like any other hospital in America.
Need to find a new cudgel.

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posted December 22, 2009 at 12:22 am

The Catholic Church says that health care IS a right and as such, illegal immigrants are entitled to it. In addition to being concerned about abortion and conscience clauses, one of the main issues highlighted consistently by the USCCB in this debate has been their concern that health care reform make affordable health care available to everyone, including illegal immigrants. That’s not communism; it’s Catholic teaching.

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posted December 22, 2009 at 10:30 am

What you FAIL to understand is that health care is NOT a right. You do NOT have the right to force a third party to pay for anything for you – that is a form of servitude. Your rights end at the tip of your nose, to claim that you have a right to health care is to claim somebody has an obligation to provide it for you. Where do you get the right to force anybody else to provide you with health care?
The above is in no sense Christian. In fact, it’s indecent. I would pity those who hold such views if they weren’t intent on forcing the rest of us to be as cruel as they are.
If you’re a libertarian, stop going to Church, for you can never be both a libertarian and a Christian.

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Katie Angel

posted December 22, 2009 at 3:14 pm

I reject everything about Robert George – he is in no wise in concert with the primary teaching of Jesus, who ate with sinners and condemned those who oppressed the poor and disenfranchised. Yes, we need to be concerned with moral issues but those issues are much greater than just the three he cares about. Poverty, discrimination and oppression are larger social ills than abortion, same-sex unions or stem cells and affect millions more people. The Church needs to be working to fulfill the spiritual and corporal works of mercy – none of which include condemning and browbeating people. I am so tired of my church obsessing on sexual crimes while ignoring the other six deadly sins

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