Thursday, March 18, 2010

Yet Another Health Care Round-Up

Just today, Archbishop Edwin O'Brien offered this on health care reform:

For decades, the Catholic bishops of the United States have been and continue to be consistent and strong advocates for comprehensive health care reform that leads to health care for all, including the weakest and most vulnerable.

In anticipation of a possible final vote on the U.S. Senate’s heath care reform bill, Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien called for transparency throughout the voting process in both houses of Congress, and encouraged Catholics in the Archdiocese of Baltimore to urge their elected officials in Congress to work to uphold provisions against abortion funding, to include full conscience protection and to ensure that health care is accessible and affordable for all.

"Anything short of this would be unacceptable and irresponsible on the part of our elected officials," Archbishop O’Brien said. "The American people and the Catholic bishops have been told repeatedly that no federal funds would be used for abortion in any final bill. This is not the case. The Senate bill would depart from longstanding principles of the Hyde Amendment, which has enjoyed bipartisan support for more than three decades and would expand federal funding and the role of the federal government in the provision of abortion procedures. If allowed to stand, the Senate bill would constitute the most far-reaching relaxation of abortion law since Roe vs. Wade."

The Archbishop also cited the Catholic Church’s social justice teaching, which supports the principle of subsidiarity; the Church believes that decisions should be made as close to those effected by them as possible, commensurate with the common good. This is especially true "of the conscience-laden decisions often involved in health care," the Archbishop noted.

The Archbishop echoed the statement issued earlier this week by Cardinal Francis George, Archbishop of Chicago and President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Cardinal George, speaking on behalf of the U.S. Bishops said, "Two basic principles continue to shape the concerns of the Catholic bishops: health care means taking care of the health needs of all, across the human life span; and the expansion of health care should not involve the expansion of abortion funding and of policies forcing everyone to pay for abortions. Because these principles have not been respected, despite the good that the bill under consideration intends or might achieve, the Catholic bishops regretfully hold that it must be opposed unless and until these serious moral problems are addressed."

To read statements made by other U.S. Catholic bishops, visit
Very flattering that he links to this very blog at the bottom of the statement.

Here's an email message from earlier this week from Archbishop Nienstedt of St. Paul-Minneapolis to the Minnesota Congressional delegation:

March 15, 2010
E-Mail Message
Dear Senator or Representative,
I write to urge you, as a member of Senate or House, to commit yourself to enacting genuine health care reform that will protect the life, dignity, consciences, and health of all.

While I am grateful that the House health care bill, by way of the Stupak amendment, applies the existing prohibitions on federal funding for abortion, I am deeply concerned about the current Senate health care bill. This legislation fails to keep in place the current law. It requires taxpayers and the federal government to fund and facilitate plans which include elective abortion and then requires people in those plans to pay directly into a fund which only pays for abortions. This is unacceptable.

I thank you for your leadership to the state of Minnesota, and hope that you will continue to represent Minnesotans faithfully. No legislation should be finalized until and unless basic moral criteria are met. The only way we will get needed health care reform legislation that protects the life, dignity, conscience and health of all is if you continue to provide strong and consistent moral and political leadership. I hope that we as Minnesotans can count on your help in this urgent task.

Please know of my prayers for you and your families as you face these decisions that will impact us all.

With every good wish, I remain,
Cordially yours in Christ,

The Most Reverend John C. Nienstedt
Archbishop of Saint Paul and

Bishop Kevin Vann of the Diocese of Fort Worth sent this to Congress by fax:

The Catholic Bishops of the United States have long supported good and affordable health care for every citizen, because health care is a basic human right. As the shepherd and teacher to 700,000 Catholics in the Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth, I believe health care reform must protect human life and dignity from conception to natural death, particularly the voiceless and the vulnerable.

Rockville Bishop William R. Murphy, Galveston-Houston Cardinal Daniel DiNardo and Salt Lake City Bishop John Wester outlined the position of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in a letter to members of the House of Representatives dated February 24, 2010. As a final vote on health care reform appears eminent, I join my fellow bishops in asking members of Congress to adopt legislation which includes the following:

-- Ensures access to quality, affordable, life-giving health care for all
-- Retains longstanding requirements that federal funds not be used for elective abortions or plans that include them, and effectively protects conscience rights
-- Protects the access to health care that immigrants currently have and removes current barriers to access.

Catholic Bishops believe the Senate health care reform legislation has major flaws which are real and must be addressed. As approved by the Senate, this bill:

-- Provides for direct federal funding of elective abortions in community health centers

-- Provides federal subsidies for health plans that cover such abortions, violating longstanding federal policy under the Hyde Amendment and similar laws
-- Will force families to choose between their health needs and their consciences on abortion, by forcing all enrollees in many health plans to pay a separate fee solely for other people’s abortions
-- Fails to apply longstanding federal policy on the conscience rights of pro-life health care providers to the new funding provided under this bill.

I and all Catholic Bishops are grateful for your consistent and courageous votes to ensure that the national health care bill includes the existing prohibitions on federal
funding for abortions by voting for the Stupak Amendment. In short, the House bill simply follows current law. Unfortunately, the Senate version of health care reform does not contain the same stipulations. I urge you to insist that the final national health care reform legislation prohibits federal funding of abortions.

Outside the abortion context, neither bill has adequate conscience protection for health care providers, plans or employers.

We will have the much needed health care reform that protects the life, dignity,
conscience and health of all only if you continue to provide strong and consistent moral and political leadership. I pray that God will continue to give you the strength and courage to withhold your vote for national health care reform if the legislation fails to address these fundamental problems.


Bishop Kevin W. Vann JCD, DD
Catholic Diocese of
Fort Worth

Archbishop Gregory Aymond of New Orleans issued the following today on behalf of all his fellow Louisiana bishops:

The Louisiana Conference of Catholic Bishops strongly supports the United States
Conference of Catholic Bishops in their opposition to the current Senate health care bill. Some in the Catholic Church maintain that the Senate bill will not provide taxpayer funding for abortions and that it will uphold longstanding conscience protections. They are mistaken. It is our belief that the Senate bill fails to maintain longstanding policy against federal funding of abortion and does not include adequate conscience protections. Therefore, the bishops of Louisiana are disappointed in both the inaccurate interpretations of some within the church, as well as the confusion that this has caused. Our focus continues to be to advocate for health care reform that respects the life and dignity of all, while being both accessible and affordable. Please pray for those who represent us in Congress that they will re-examine the health care bill.

And if all of this didn't feel like information overload, here's a post from the Web site of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charlston, West Virginia:

To the Faithful of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston:

In the past several days, there has been significant public debate and pressure placed on certain members of Congress to support the Senate version of health care reform that is currently being considered in the U.S. House of Representatives.

There have been confusing messages sent from groups such the Catholic Health Association and Network, consisting of members of religious orders, which are not consistent with the position of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Furthermore, political action groups such as Catholics United—that are in no way affiliated with the diocese or Catholic Church—have started secular media campaigns that confuse Catholics with misleading images and messages that are not consistent with the position taught by the Bishops of the United States, including Bishop Michael Bransfield.

Based on the phone calls we have received at Diocesan offices in Wheeling, parishioners across West Virginia have grave concerns regarding deceptive political advertisements and public statements from Network and CHA that deviate from the USCCB’s stance on conscience rights and public funding of abortion. It is the clear and unchanged position of Bishop Bransfield and the USCCB that unless these flaws are addressed in the legislation, the Senate bill should not be passed in the House.

So yes, it's been a chaotic week in terms of the Catholic Church and health care reform.

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