By Fr. George Welzbacher
December 9, 2007
On November 29th, after a long illness, veteran congressman Henry J. Hyde, illustrious representative from the State of Illinois and at a critical moment in our nation's history the House Judiciary Committee's courageous chairman, was summoned to the judgment of God. In an age when droves of politicians who describe themselves as Catholic cast their votes to promote the murder of unbom children Congressman Hyde for nearly a third of a century served the pro-life cause with eloquence and unswerving conviction. The amendment that famously bears his name, an amendment to a Medicaid appropriations bill, in its prohibition of the use of federal funds to pay for abortion is credited with having saved from one to two million children from the butcher's knife. As a devout Catholic layman he put to shame the disgraceful Father Robert Drinan, S.J., who as a five-term representative from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts served as Pied Piper-in-chief to the eastern seaboard's Catholic politicians, confirming them in their ludicrous belief that they could be "personally opposed" to abortion even as they cast their votes to promote it. In today's fifty million missing Americans we see the bitter fruit of the evil that Father Drinan supported and that Congressman Hyde opposed. For Drinan and Co. the warning of Scripture is apt: "Woe to him who builds a town with blood and who founds a city on iniquity" (Habbakuk 2:12).
The Drinan partisans will of course object: How can we impose our own religious beliefs on the secular order? The proper reply to which is that we are not dealing here with the distinctive tenets of one or another religious faith. What is at issue here is the universal natural moral law, the law that stems from man's very nature and that can be discerned by reason alone quite apart from divine revelation, though divine revelation afftrms it. In the deliberate murder of the innocent we see the violation of those "unalienable rights" that our Declaration of Independence salutes, rights that are "unalienable" precisely because they are not the gift of a government. They are the gift, the irrevocable gift, of man's Creator.
Congressman Hyde did not stand idly by as the innocent were led to destruction (Proverbs 24:11). May he therefore find a merciful judgment from an all-knowing and an all just God, for Whom the shedding of innocent blood is an everlasting abomination (Proverbs 6: 16-17) and a crime that calls out for vengeance (James 5:6).
May I share with you the obituary notice that appeared November 30th in The New York Times.
* * * * *Former Representative Henry J. Hyde, the powerful Illinois Republican who won battles to prohibit federal financing of abortions ... died yesterday in Chicago. He was 83.
The cause was complications of heart surgery, his son Anthony said.
With his heavyset build and snow-white hair, Mr. Hyde was an imposing figure on the House floor and a persuasive speaker whose arguments could change votes, a rarity in the House in the years he served, from 1975 to 2007.
While his public image was largely defined ... by the abortion issue ... within the house Mr. Hyde had a more complex political persona. He supported extending the Voting Rights Act in 1981, championed many foreign aid measures and family leave legislation, and backed Mr. Clinton over a ban on assault weapons. But he also supported aid to the Nicaraguan contras and backed constitutional amendments requiring a balanced budget and prohibiting abortions, flag-buming and same-sex marriages.
Mr. Hyde's efforts against abortion began in 1976, when he proposed an amendment to an appropriations bill to prohibit Medicaid, the federal-state health care program for the poor, from paying for abortions.
Though he was surprised to win that vote, the Hyde Amendment, as it came to be known, has been part of federal law ever since. (Some states [including Minnesota] use their own money to pay for medical abortions). Various exceptions to the amendment have been made over the decades. Today, only abortions following rape or incest or to save the pregnant woman's life are allowed.
Mr. Hyde was also a leading advocate of a federal law banning the procedure that he and others called partial-birth abortion. The measure was vetoed by Mr. Clinton in 1996 but signed by President Bush in 2003.
Mr. Bush awarded Mr. Hyde the Medal of Freedom this month. In a statement yesterday, the president called him "a tireless champion of the weak and forgotten " and praised him as promoting "a culture of life."
Dr. Wanda Franz, president of the National Right to Life Committee, said, "By conservative estimate, well over one million Americans are alive today because of the Hyde Amenelment- more likely two million."
But Nancy Northup, president for the Center for Reproductive Rights said, "The Hvde Amendment was one of the cruelest injustices perpetrated on American women. For over 30 years, it has allowed anti-choice politicians to deprive poor women of mediically necessay treatment.
Mr. Hyde's role in the impeachment of President Clinton surprised many Democrats because he had originally dismissed the president's affair with Monica Lewinsky. "You don't impeach him for a peccadillo," he said. When the House Judiciary Comrnittee,of which he was chairman, began proceedings in the fall of 1998, Mr. Hyde insisted that impeachment would not go forward without bipartisan support.
But he apparently grew angry with Mr. Clinton and his responses to the committee. Soon Mr. Hyde was shepherding impeachment resolutions alleging perjury and obstruction of justice through both the committee and the full House on nearly straight party-line votes....
"It's not a question of sex," Mr. Hyde told the House. "Sexual misconduct and adultery are private acts and are none of Congress's business. It's not even a question of lying about sex. The matter before the House is a question of lying under oath. This is a public act, not a private act. This is called perjury. The matter before the House is a question of the willful, premeditated deliberate corruption of the nation's system of justice. Perjury and obstruction of justice cannot be reconciled with the office of the president of the United States."
After the House voted to impeach Mr. Clinton, on Dec. 19, Mr. Hyde led house prosecutors in a trial before the Senate. But when votes were taken there on Feb. 12, 1999, the effort fell well short of the two-thirds majority of 67 votes required for conviction. One resolution got 45 votes and the other 50. Just as it had with Andrew Johnson in 1868 -the only other time it tried a president---the Senate acquitted Mr. Clinton.
Mr. Hyde often sparred in committee and on the floor with Representative Barney Frank of Massachusetts, one of the most liberal members of the House [and a protege of Father Drinan]. But Mr. Frank said yesterday that unlike many other conservatives, Mr. Hyde supported welfare measures and the Women, Infants, and Children nutritional program.
He acted on the view that because lie opposed abortion, that children would be barn in difficult circumstances, and liefell an obligation to help them. " Mr. Frank said.
Because Republicans imposed term limits an committee chairmen, Mr. Hyde led the Judiciary Committee only from 1995 to 2001. Then he became chairman of the International Relations Committee, where he led successful efforts to commit the United States to invest $5 billion over five years in combating H.I.V.and AIDS around the world. He did not run for re- election in 2006.
Henry John Hyde was born in Chicago, attended Georgetown University, where he played varsity basketball, and served in the Navy experiencing combat in the Philippines. He switched parties to become a Republican in order to support Dwight D. Eisenhower for president in 1952.
Besides his son Anthony, of North Aurora, Ill., Mr. Hyde is survived by his wife. Judy, of Geneva, Ill.; another son, Robert of Dallas; a daughter, Laura Hyde of Chicago; three stepchildren, Susan Schiesser of Geneva, Mitch Glazier of Bethesda, Maryland, and Stephen Glazier of La Grange, ILL.; seven grandchildren; and seven step-grandchildren.
As chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Mr. Hyde had gotten the panel to vote approval for several constitutional amendments. but he could also chafe at the demands placed on him by Speaker Newt Gingrich, a fellow Republican, and in 1995 he worked to defeate four amendments to impose term limits on members of Congress. The measures, he said, would have robbed Congress of experienced members who understood complicated issues.
"I just can't be an accessory to the dumbing down of democracy," he total the House.
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Congressman Hyde, requiescas in pace!