It’s predictable that news reports of the apparent "split" between Catholic Bishops and Catholic Nuns/Hospitals would be portrayed as a good omen that might make it easier for Congress to find a way out of the dilemma it created when the House and Senate adopted competing restrictions on insurance coverage for abortions.

Per the New York Times:

In an apparent split with Roman Catholic bishops over the abortion-financing provisions of the proposed health care overhaul, the nation’s Catholic hospitals have signaled that they back the Senate’s compromise on the issue, raising hopes of breaking an impasse in Congress and stirring controversy within the church.

The Senate bill, approved Thursday morning, allows any state to bar the use of federal subsidies for insurance plans that cover abortion and requires insurers in other states to divide subsidy money into separate accounts so that only dollars from private premiums would be used to pay for abortions.

Just days before the bill passed, the Catholic Health Association, which represents hundreds of Catholic hospitals across the country, said in a statement that it was “encouraged” and “increasingly confident” that such a compromise “can achieve the objective of no federal funding for abortion.” An umbrella group for nuns followed its lead.

The same day, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops called the proposed compromise “morally unacceptable.”

The divide frames one of the most contentious issues facing House and Senate negotiators as they try to produce a bill that can pass in both chambers.

Father, forgive me, for I am not a believer, let alone a Catholic, but . . .

It is disheartening to learn that the debate is about how best to restrict access to abortion; it’s between whether to drive insurance covering it out of exchange markets through economic pressure and harrassment (House) or through state opt-out prohibitions sanctioned by federal statute (Senate). The middle ground between those two unconcionable, radical extremes is still unconcionable and radically extreme.

All but forgotten, the legal/Constitutional ground, as established by a once sane Supreme Court, is that the right to an abortion can only be restricted under very limited state interests that expand only in later trimesters. That supreme law and common sense approach apparently have no place in today’s debate, because if they did, the correct response would be that there should be no unwarranted restrictions on abortion access arising from the federal government’s subsidies or any other efforts to help woman avoid undue economic harm or discrimination for seeking legal and necessary health care.

How did we get to the point where the accepted range of political debate is between what the Catholic Bishops will demand before allowing elected officials the Sacraments and what the Catholic Nuns/Hospitals will demand as the condition for accepting federal subsidies in their efforts to remain competitive?

Where is there a John Kennedy telling these dogmatists they have no right to tell elected officials how to vote? And where are the elected officials with sufficient courage to proclaim they have no obligation to accept their church’s direction in matters of state?

But not to worry. Only 5 of the 6 current Catholic Justices of the Supreme Court are conservative, and they will ensure that the First Amendment’s establishment clause, and the penumbra right to privacy remain inviolate. Or not.