Saturday, January 30, 2010

Politics Daily: Catholic Bishops tell Congress to Ditch the Politics, Pass Health Care


Well, praise the Lord! The Catholic church has been a one hit wonder for so long with its anti-abortion stance, it's good to see it get off its pulpit to address a far bigger issue. 
In a strongly worded appeal that will test their political influence, especially with their pro-life and Republican allies, the Catholic bishops of the United States have told Congress to put politics aside and focus on the "moral imperative" of passing universal health care.

"The health care debate, with all its political and ideological conflict, seems to have lost its central moral focus and policy priority, which is to ensure that affordable, quality, life-giving care is available to all," the three bishops who are leading the lobbying effort for the Catholic hierarchy write in a letter sent Tuesday to all 535 senators and representatives. "Now is not the time to abandon this task, but rather to set aside partisan divisions and special interest pressures to find ways to enact genuine reform."

In a bow to Scott Brown's stunning victory in the Massachusetts senate race, which gave Republicans enough votes to block health care reform, the bishops write: "Although political contexts have changed, the moral and policy failure that leaves tens of millions of our sisters and brothers without access to health care still remains."

Passing legislation to provide universal, affordable health has been a longtime goal of the Catholic bishops, and in their letter to Congress, they reiterate that they consider health care "a basic human right." They have even called health care reform a "pro-life issue," although their own line in the sand against any hint of federal funding of abortion coverage and for strong conscience protections for hospitals and health care workers arguably delayed the negotiations until Brown's victory seemed to seal the reform's fate.

Besides abortion funding, the Catholic hierarchy is also concerned that health care reform be affordable for everyone, especially poor and working class Americans, and that it allow immigrants to buy insurance even if reform does not cover all immigrants regardless of status, as the bishops would prefer.

The authors of the letter reflect that three-fold concern. They are Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, head of pro-life efforts for the hierarchy; Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Centre, New York, their chief spokesman on domestic issues; and Bishop John Wester of Salt Lake City, their spokesman on behalf of immigrants.

"Providing affordable and accessible health care that clearly reflects these fundamental principles is a public good, moral imperative and urgent national priority," the bishops write. "The moral measure of any health care reform proposal is whether it offers affordable and accessible health care to all, beginning with those most in need. This can be a matter of life or death, of dignity or deprivation."

The bishops say the current bills would still leave 18 to 23 million people uncovered, and say they have other objections related to conscience protections and abortion funding. But the bishops are also hoping something can be salvaged.

See the rest of the story at

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