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Bishops Plead With Congress Not to Pass Health Care

By Deal Hudson

In a last minute attempt to influence enough votes to defeat the health care bill containing abortion funding, the Catholic bishops issued a strongly worded statement.

I fear it will be too little, too late.  The bishops have wanted this bill so badly they have played a game of qualified support all along, criticizing the abortion funding and lack of conscience protections in the bill, but not screaming loud enough to endanger the bill’s passage through the legislative process.

Now, the bill is coming to the finish line, and screaming won’t help — the bishops’ timidity, speaking through the USCCB,  was skillfully taken advantage of by fake Catholic groups such as Catholics United and Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, along with the Catholic Health Association, a trade association of Catholic hospitals.  Those wavering Catholic members of Congress took the cover supplied by the deceptive statements and endorsements of the bill by these groups.

Even in this latest statement, issued today, the bishops spend too much time talking about their support for universal health care and not enough about the evils contained in the bill.  It’s easy to see why so many Catholic members of Congress where able to ignore them.

Given all the verbiage devoted to the importance of universal health care coverage, these Catholic politicians probably thought these statements by the bishops gave them a kind of tacit approval to support the bill.

Here is what I am talking about. The bishops’ statement begins:

WASHINGTON—The U.S. bishops urged the House of Representatives to fix flaws in health care legislation or vote against its passage in a March 20 letter to House members. The letter was signed by Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, chair of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities, Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Centre, New York, chair of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, and Bishop John Wester of Salt Lake City, chair on the Committee on Migration. The letter follows:

Dear Representative,

For decades, the United States Catholic bishops have supported universal health care. The Catholic Church teaches that health care is a basic human right, essential for human life and dignity. Our community of faith provides health care to millions, purchases health care for tens of thousands and addresses the failings of our health care system in our parishes, emergency rooms and shelters. This is why we as bishops continue to insist that health care reform which truly protects the life, dignity, consciences and health of all is a moral imperative and urgent national priority.

Things get stronger and more pointed, but I wish there were a lot more of the Old Testament prophet and less of the urbane diplomat found here.  The bishops write, “We are bishops, not politicians, policy experts or legislative tacticians,” but it is “tacticians” that they have acted like, and sounded like, throughout this debate.

In the last paragraph, they practically apologize for urging Congress to defeat the bill:

With deep regret, but clear in our moral judgment, we are compelled to continue to urge House members to oppose the Senate bill unless these fundamental flaws are remedied. At this critical moment, we urge Representatives to take the steps necessary to ensure that health care reform respects the life and dignity of all, from conception to natural death.

Perhaps a miracle will keep our country from this impending disaster, and perhaps it will be the prayers of all the faithful who know the human cost of this bill that will, in the end, be our strongest weapon.

You can read the complete statement here.

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