Friday, October 9, 2009

Reflections on the Bishops' Letter to Congress


The USCCB has been speaking out on the issues of the right to life, and why the current health care proposals are unacceptable.  The text of the letter is as follows:

Dear Member of Congress:

On behalf of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), we are writing to express our disappointment that progress has not been made on the three priority criteria for health care reform that we have conveyed previously to Congress. In fact, the Senate Finance Committee rejected a conscience rights amendment accepted earlier by the House Energy and Commerce Committee. If final legislation does not meet our principles, we will have no choice but to oppose the bill. We remain committed to working with the Administration, Congressional leadership, and our allies to produce final health reform legislation that will reflect our principles.

We continue to urge you to

1. Exclude mandated coverage for abortion, and incorporate longstanding policies against abortion funding and in favor of conscience rights. No one should be required to pay for or participate in abortion. It is essential that the legislation clearly apply to this new program longstanding and widely supported federal restrictions on abortion funding and mandates, and protections for rights of conscience. No current bill meets this test.

2. Adopt measures that protect and improve people’s health care. Reform should make quality health care affordable and accessible to everyone, particularly those who are vulnerable and those who live at or near the poverty level.

3. Include effective measures to safeguard the health of immigrants, their children and all of society. Ensure that legal immigrants and their family members have comprehensive, affordable, and timely access to health care coverage. Maintain an adequate safety net for those who remain uncovered.

We sincerely hope that the legislation will not fall short of our criteria. However, we remain apprehensive when amendments protecting freedom of conscience and ensuring no taxpayer money for abortion are defeated in committee votes. If acceptable language in these areas cannot be found, we will have to oppose the health care bill vigorously. Catholic moral tradition teaches that health care is a basic human right, essential to protecting human life and dignity. Much-needed reform of our health care system must be pursued in ways that serve the life and dignity of all, never in ways that undermine or violate these fundamental values. We will work tirelessly to remedy these central problems and help pass real reform that clearly protects the life, dignity and health of all.


Bishop William F. Murphy Diocese of Rockville Centre Chairman

Committee on Domestic Justice & Human Development

Cardinal Justin Rigali Archdiocese of Philadelphia Chairman

Committee on Pro-Life Activities

Bishop John Wester Diocese of Salt Lake City Chairman

Committee on Migration

Some will doubtlessly accuse these bishops as "meddling" in politics.  However this is not the case.  When a political process or policy does not run afoul of the obligation of Christians, generally they will not speak out.

However, when a law is contrary to the teaching of the Church… particularly if it compels the Christian to act in a way contrary to the faith, it must be opposed.

The common counter-claim is that Christians are "pushing their beliefs on others."  However, if one thinks it through, it is not a valid claim to make.  Consider the civil rights movement of the 1960s.  Consider the opposition to Nazism and World War II.  Were these things standing up against injustices or were they "pushing beliefs on others?"

The "pushing beliefs" argument is essentially made by the individual who disagrees with the stance taken.  The irony is that this individual, in seeking to silence the opposition is in fact pushing their own beliefs on others.

The bishops of the Catholic Church indeed are reminding the members of congress that as individuals and as representatives of a nation they stand before God, and that their searching for reformed health care (which is not an intrinsic wrong) must have this understanding in mind.

The unbeliever or the non-Christian may disagree with the Christian view of human rights or of morality, but the question is on what basis they promote their own view.  If they would insist on imposing their view on us [no conscience protections on abortion etc.] the question must be asked "On what basis do you impose this on us?"

Unless the question is answered satisfactorily, we cannot give this mentality free reign.  And, dare I say it, if we Christians know we possess the truth, we are not to hide our light under a bushel but are to share it with the world

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