This piece by Edward Feser is too harsh on the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, but it sounds like a plausible explanation for Rep. Bart Stupak’s (D, Mich.) sell-out of pro-life principles. Most of the post is about why the USCCB is wrong to support state-directed health care, which represents an abandonment of the Christian principle of subsidiarity, and it is worth reading for the discussion of whether the bishops should be backing socialized medicine. As I say, the whole thing is worth reading (grab a coffee or a double scotch) but this excerpt captures the key point about Stupak and other “pro-life” Catholic Democrats who backed Obamacare:

On the day Obama signed the bill into law, Cardinal Francis George, a bishop with a reputation for orthodoxy, urged vigilance on the matter of abortion while declaring that “we applaud the effort to expand health care to all.”

Now, suppose you are Bart Stupak, or some other Catholic in government. You are ideologically prone to favor statist solutions to social problems, and under constant pressure from your fellow Democrats to support them in any event. You are not a theologian, and must rely on what prominent churchmen say on matters of current public controversy in order to determine what the Church’s teaching requires of you. They tell you that the Church teaches that abortion is tantamount to murder, and if you are remotely serious about your Catholic faith – as Nancy Pelosi, Arnold Schwarzenegger, the late Ted Kennedy, Rudy Giuliani, et al. manifestly are not, but Stupak and his ilk at least appeared to be – then you will dutifully oppose legalized abortion. But these same churchmen also tell you – or seem to, anyway, if you are a layman not versed in moral theology – that it would be a grave injustice not to vote for an expansive federal health care bill if ever you have an opportunity to do so. Now you are confronted with a situation in which you have to choose between what seem to be two grave moral imperatives: to prevent federal funding of abortion, and to vote for what might be the only significant federal health care bill likely to come your way for the foreseeable future. Your conscience tells you to do both if you can, and there is in any event enormous political pressure on you to vote for the bill. Obama’s promise of an executive order, manifestly flimsy though it is, provides just the way out you need.

Is this how Stupak reasoned? I cannot claim to know, of course; and both this video clip from last year and his statements since the vote make it hard to believe his prolonged public hand-wringing was entirely in good faith. But perhaps such a rationalization passed through his mind.