View from the choir

I am a Catholic layperson and Secular Franciscan with a sense of humor. After years in the back pew watching, I have moved into the choir. It's nice to see faces instead of the backs of heads. But I still maintain God has a sense of humor - and that we are created in God's image.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Bishops Oppose Current Senate Health Care Bill


That's how the chairmen of three committees of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops described the current health care legislation expected to be approved by the Senate this morning.

In a letter issued December 22, the bishops urged the Senate not to go forward -a request that, barring some last minute miracle, has apparently fallen on deaf ears (including some nominally Catholic ones).

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities; Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Centre, New York, of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development; and Bishop John Wester of Salt Lake City, of the Committee on Migration, said in their letter that the Senate bill “violates the longstanding federal policy against the use of federal funds for elective abortions and health plans that include such abortions -- a policy upheld in all health programs covered by the Hyde Amendment as well as in the Children’s Health Insurance Program, the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program -- and now in the House-passed ‘Affordable Health Care for America Act.’”

They noted that under the Senate bill, “federal funds will help subsidize, and in some cases a federal agency will facilitate and promote, health plans that cover elective abortions.”

“All purchasers of such plans will be required to pay for other people’s abortions in a very direct and explicit way, through a separate premium payment designed solely to pay for abortion. There is no provision for individuals to opt out of this abortion payment in federally subsidized plans, so people will be required by law to pay for other people’s abortions.”

“This bill also continues to fall short of the House-passed bill in preventing governmental discrimination against health care providers that decline involvement in abortion,” the bishops said. And it also “includes no conscience protection allowing Catholic and other institutions to provide and purchase health coverage consistent with their moral and religious convictions on other procedures.”

They also brought in access to health care by immigrants - regardless of their status.

“Without such access, many immigrant families would be unable to receive primary care and be compelled to rely on emergency room care. This would harm not only immigrants and their families, but also the general public health. Moreover, the financial burden on the American public would be higher, as Americans would pay for uncompensated medical care through the federal budget or higher insurance rates.”

The letter is welcome, but perhaps the bishops need to be more forceful - such as saying the time has come for "Catholic" politicians to decide what is more important, their faith, or their elective offices.

To see the entire letter, go to

(UPDATE: It passed this morning.)

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