Oak Parker Susan Jordan describes “a bizarre round of communications” after she discovered that Democrat Party operatives were behind a health care forum at Ascension Catholic Church.
She called the Archdiocesan Respect Life Office to make sure she had church policy right as regards “issue advocacy” on church property, then called the Ascension parishioner friend, Kathleen Masters, who had alerted her to the event, set for Sept. 20. Jordan is a member of another Oak Park parish, St. Edmund. She had been interested and had perused the flyer and found that its co-sponsors included Obama’s Organizing for America and the Democratic Party of Oak Park.
She thought it was a mistake, since the forum was set for the all-purpose, much-used and in-demand Pine Room at Ascension. That’s when the “bizarre round” began, a two-week process.
She told Masters what the Respect Life office had told her. Masters told her pastor, Fr. Larry McNally, who agreed it had to be a mistake. The event had to be non-partisan, he said. The mistake would be corrected.
But it wasn’t. A revised version of the flyer had the same sponsors, a week before the event. New flyers were produced not quite two days before the event — “sanitized,” said Jordan, who
later learned that the Democratic Party of Oak Park had paid for nearly 1,000 fliers (clearly stating the political co-sponsorship) that were widely distributed throughout Oak Park in the weeks prior to the event.
And the panel was stacked:
The panel of doctors included Dr. David Scheiner, touted as “President Obama’s personal physician for 21 years.” . . . . Each of the four panelists promoted only . . . single payer/universal healthcare. This was . . . a political rally masquerading as a parish forum.
Discussion was controlled:
Attendees were required to write questions on cards and present them to volunteers for submission to the moderator; absolutely no direct questions or comments from the audience.
A question about taxpayer funding of abortion provoked the forum’s “most glaring moment.”
Dr. Scheiner responded that “abortion is an issue that has been debated for decades; it really should not be part of the conversation on healthcare reform.”
His answer was greeted with “enthusiastic applause.” The pastor, Fr. McNally, said nothing. Neither did Rev. Richard Hynes, Director of the archdiocesan Department of Evangelization, Catechesis, and Worship, say anything.
(McNally made a similar statement from the pulpit during the 2004 presidential election, also eliciting applause, during mass.)
Jordan “sat in amazement.”
[T]he round of communications in the weeks prior to the event included a promise by Father McNally to the Archdiocesan Respect Life Office that he would “clearly address the pro-life issues in his opening remarks.”
He didn’t, she said, instead mentioning the bishops’ policy on health care and saying copies were available at the back of the hall.
Abortion was a no-go zone, but panel members
frequently mentioned the number of deaths attributed to the lack of health insurance, as reported by a recent study in the American Journal of Public Health by Harvard researchers. That number is estimated at 45,000 deaths per year-or . . . “an unnecessary death . . . every 12 minutes.”
Contrast that figure with the estimated 1,200,000 unnecessary deaths that occur every year from abortion: over 3,515 per day, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
She heard she had been fingered by McNally:
On the day of the event, I received an e-mail [from an ally, a mole?] informing me that the Chancery had received a communication from Father McNally indicating his concern that I was “behind an effort to be disruptive to Ascension’s planned talk … relating to healthcare reform … one of Cardinal George’s Cabinet members has even been told to attend the event as a mediator.”
She assumed the mediator was Fr. Hynes, the evangelization director, and not the armed cop who was also present, but Hynes remained silent.
Overhearing talk of hate mail sent to Fr. McNally, she ran over what she had said in the previous weeks.
I had said I would invite “every pro-life doctor I knew” to the forum: again, with the (false) expectation that this would be a true forum — welcoming a range of viewpoints.
Several did come. Dr. Christopher Clardy walked out after the first five minutes; he called her later to say “what a waste of time” it was, “a political rally on church property!”
Dr. George Dietz was there, wearing a pro-life button. His written question for the panel was refused.
And Dr. Robert Dolehide was there with his wife Eileen, who asked about putting pro-life materials on the table at the back of the parish hall. She was told to “get [her] own table.”
Fr. McNally had an entirely different view of the whole business. He told Wednesday Journal of Oak Park & River Forest he was pleased with the forum and “would do it over again.”
“I thought it was very fair. I didn’t feel we were promoting anything other than answering questions from folks. I thought it was very good. I really did. I thought, boy, this turned out to be terrific. It was just an emotional two hours. It was a very positive experience.”
Moreover, he said he “was already in the process of removing the political groups as sponsors before the archdiocese got involved” and blamed Jordan’s parish for interfering:
“If St. Edmund’s would have kindly called me, I would have told them that, instead of running downtown, which really annoyed me,” McNally said. “It was all taken care of behind the scenes. I just wish their pro-life committee would have just called me. I would have said that we’re fixing that. I’m really just frustrated she didn’t call me because I would have told her that, you know, things were being corrected.”