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Bishop Swain Not Following Church Leaders on ACA Medicaid Expansion

Sister Simone Campbell came to Yankton this week to talk about health care, the Affordable Care Act, and the Catholic commitment to social justice. The Catholic nun said in the press and in her lecture at Mount Marty College last night that the ACA isn't perfect, but that on the whole, it will help us better fulfill our obligations as Americans and (many of you) as Christians to use our vast national wealth to take care of each other.

Bishop Paul Swain tried to distract us by shouting Abortion and rubbers! or whatever else he wants his followers to think President Obama will make them buy. (He's not the only Catholic I know who's prone to shallow distraction.) Bishop Swain gave Sister Campbell heck for not heeling to the anti-ACA position of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Oh yeah, Bishop Swain? Two can play at that game. Last night Sister Simone looked Lt. Gov. Matt Michels and the rest of her large Mount Marty audience in the eye and said South Dakota should expand Medicaid as called for the Affordable Care Act. What's Bishop Swain's problem with that? Nothing... if he's listening to his fellow bishops:

When questioned by local reporters and Catholic social justice advocates, Bishop Swain has so far refused to endorse the expansion of Medicaid in South Dakota. And while each bishop and his diocese are free to operate with relative autonomy, Bishop Swain is decidedly at variance with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, who wrote in a 2009 letter to the U.S. Senate:

The bishops support the expansion of Medicaid eligibility for people living at 133 percent or lower of the federal poverty level. The bill does not burden states with excessive Medicaid matching rates. The affordability credits will help lower-income families purchase insurance coverage through the Health Insurance Exchange.

Furthermore, dozens of Catholic bishops across the country have themselves publicly and vigorously supported Medicaid expansion. Bishop Swain’s abdication of moral leadership is unacceptable for such a visible Church figure, especially on this urgent life issue [Ryan Casey, "All Catholic Bishops Must Act on Medicaid Expansion," Millennial Journal, 2013.09.12].

Yeah, listen to the bishops. Expand Medicaid.

The bishops open their February 2013 statement supporting Medicaid expansion with the statement that "The Catholic tradition affirms that health care is a basic right flowing from the sanctity and dignity of human life." (How about them Catholic apples, Troy?)

Bishop Swain (whom I suspect can walk into Avera any time and get all the health care he needs) seems to be missing the point. He stirs controversy over a side issue as if not wanting us to hear Sister Simone Campbell's central call to social justice. Tens of thousands of South Dakotans aren't lining up at Avera demanding free abortions. Tens of thousands of South Dakotans can't get good health coverage and are praying they don't get sick.

On Medicaid expansion, Sister Simone Campbell is right. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is right. Bishop Swain is the odd man out here, standing on the wrong side of his own Church.


  1. Jerry 2013.09.13

    Psssst. Hey Bishop Swain...over here. I think you should know that AVERA is a Catholic organization and it is one of the insurers providing healthcare through the ACA marketplace. Don't let this train run you down sir, stand up for the poor and do the job of your position. Your buddy, Jerry

  2. Rick 2013.09.13

    Maybe the Bishop should call the Vatican. He's fully out of step with this Pope's views on the church's dedication to social advancement. I don't think the infalibility theory applies to a rogue, crackpot Bishop.

  3. Nick Nemec 2013.09.13

    It seems as though the Bishop's previous life as Legal Counsel and Director of Policy for Wisconsin Governor Lee Sherman Dreyfus from 1979 to 1983 is coloring his judgement on the issue of economic justice.

  4. Porter Lansing 2013.09.13

    Hear Hear, Mr. Heidelberger. Excellent blogging.

  5. Dave 2013.09.13

    Pat Powers has just launched another attack against Sister Campbell ... of course, he only partially quotes her while doing so, and he also takes that quote out of context to try to prove his very weak point.

  6. interested party 2013.09.13

    Pat believes women are merely receptacles as does the bishop mentioned. Sister Simone has world wide attention and Swain will be forced by the Holy See to shut the hell up.

  7. interested party 2013.09.13

    The catholic church offers seven sacraments to men but only six to women.

  8. Barry Muxen 2013.09.13

    Perhaps I can add some insight here. A few years ago, the Catholic diocese started closing down small rural churches due a to lack of priests that wanted to serve in those areas. St Joseph's parish in Doland was among the first to be considered for closure. In time, the parishioners had to accept the diocese's plan, mostly because no more priests would be assigned. In the end, after the alienation(the church's term for decommissioning a church) ceremony, Bishop Swain was asked if he would say a few words thanking those who had worked and taught for the parish, including my wife, who served as secretary and Sunday school teacher for 20 plus years. The response was a flat no and that came from not from him, but from his deacon. And then he was out the door. Classy.

  9. Bill Dithmer 2013.09.13

    Barry maybe you could give me some insight into something that relates to the decommissioning of a church. What happens to that property, that the church owns, after it has been decommissioned?

    The Blindman

  10. Barry Muxen 2013.09.13


    In Doland's case, the building and the lot it sat on became the property of the parishioners who decided to try to sell it. Fortunately, the local Lutheran Church stepped up and made a very fair offer that was readily accepted. It was the best solution to a difficult situation
    as the former parishioners would not have to watch the property fall into disrepair. The money resulting from the sale was given to local cemetery associations.

  11. Rorschach 2013.09.13

    Bishop Swain wrote: “I responded to Sister Campbell’s interview in (Wednesday’s) Yankton Daily Press & Dakotan because she set forth as true that which is not, and did so in a way that attacked the authority of bishops as teachers of the faith. In the Catholic tradition the consensus teaching of the bishops is not just one position among many. Your reported comment that Sister has one ‘viewpoint’ and the bishops have another ‘viewpoint’ suggests an equivalency outside the Roman Catholic tradition.”

    So what the Bishop is saying is that since women are not permitted to be Catholic bishops, no Catholic woman's viewpoint is ever equivalent to his.

  12. interested party 2013.09.13

    PNR is another military employee who enjoyed the benefits of TRICARE: it provides free birth control and abortions.

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