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The health care plan appears unhealthy for the church
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“Dissent among Catholics seen as nuns’ groups back health bill” headlined Michelle Boorstein of the Washington Post on Thursday.  “Recent public statements in favor of the health-care bill by the head of a major Catholic health organization and a group of nuns have given American Catholics a rare look at public disagreement among church leaders,” she explained.

“Experts on religion, politics and the Catholic Church said they could not remember the last time leading figures within the church so publicly contradicted the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the official voice of the Church in the United States.”

And this contradiction is no minor blip in the radar of what usually seems a unified and at times monolithic voice from the established Catholic Church and her leaders.

Although more orthodox Roman Catholics have noted that only 59 nuns signed the original declaration, one has to acknowledge that they represent a full 59,000 sisters.

They also speak for a large proportion of the Catholic hospitals in the United States.

The Post cited “the intense passion among American Catholics for universal health care” as the motive behind the nun’s opposition to the Bishops’ stance.  On the other hand, “the continued preeminence of abortion among all other issues” accounts for staunch opposition to the current Health Care bill by our Bishops and other pro-lifers.

The nuns argue that the bill will assist women in their pregnancies, and will not lead to federally funded abortions.  How is it, then, that our Bishops claim that it will?

“Incredibly naïve or disingenuous,” the Bishop of Kansas City is credited by the Post as stating regarding the sisters and the position they’ve taken.   The National Council of Major Superior of Women Religious, which represents 129 orders and nearly 10,000 nuns, opposes their sisters’ organization.   They’re known as the CMSWR.

Here’s the text of the CMSWR’s declaration from Thursday, March 18:  “In a March 15th statement, Cardinal Francis George, OMI, of Chicago, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, spoke on behalf of the United States Bishops in opposition to the Senate’s version of the health care legislation under consideration because of its expansion of abortion funding and its lack of adequate provision for conscience protection.  Recent statements from groups like Network, the Catholic Health Association and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) directly oppose the Catholic Church’s position on critical issues of health care reform.

The declaration continues: “The Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious, the second conference of Major Superiors of Women Religious in the United States, believes the Bishops’ position is the authentic teaching of the Catholic Church. Protection of life and freedom of conscience are central to morally responsible judgment. We join the bishops in seeking ethically sound legislation.”

And thus it is that “Holy War” erupted “Among Catholics over Abortion Language in Health Care Bill,” as claimed on the very same day.  But FOX News pinpointed what I consider the key problem.  It’s not that the Catholic sisters involved with health care support abortion or want their institutions to be obliged to carry them out.  No Catholic health care administrator in his or her right mind would want that door to open.  It would basically spell doom for our Catholic clinics and hospitals.

Catholic may differ over the question as to whether abortion is ever permissible or even medically indicated.  But by claiming to be Catholic, they oblige themselves to defend the dignity of all human life from conception to natural death.   They may beg to differ on questions regarding medical ethics, but they cannot contradict, either by way of public stance or by practice, such a fundamental teaching as the Right to Life.

Then how does FOX News account for the schism that is afflicting the U.S. Church?

“The abortion language in President Obama’s health care reform bill has ignited something of a holy war among Catholics, who are sharply divided on whether the legislation would allow the government to subsidize the termination of pregnancies.”

Representative Bart Stupak, the Michigan Democrat who’s “led the charge to include in the final bill the tougher anti-abortion language passed last November by the House, derided the White House for touting the nuns’ support.  ‘When I’m drafting right-to-life language, I don’t call up nuns.’  He consults rather with ‘leading bishops, Focus on the Family, and The National Right to Life Committee,’” reported FOX.

The media love a good internal fight, above all within the Roman Catholic Church.

The general public pays good money for coverage on any number of in-house battles.

But how many people have actually taken an interest in what the Bishops have said?

Recently, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) directed Catholics to contact their House and Senate members, urging them to oppose the Senate Health Care Bill unless changes regarding abortion funding, conscience clauses (in medical care and pharmaceuticals) and immigrants are made. Here is the Bishops’ statement:

“As long-time advocates of health care reform, the U.S. Catholic bishops continue to make the moral case that genuine health care reform must protect the life, dignity, consciences and health of all, especially the poor and vulnerable.  Health care reform should provide access to affordable and quality health care for all, and not advance a pro-abortion agenda in our country.  Genuine health care reform is being blocked by those who insist on reversing widely supported policies against federal funding of abortion and plans which include abortion, not by those working simply to preserve these longstanding protections.”  From there, the Bishops outline what had happened:

• On November 7, the U.S. House of Representatives passed major health care reform that reaffirms the essential, longstanding and widely supported policy against using federal funds for elective abortions and includes positive measures on affordability and immigrants.

• On December 24, the U.S. Senate rejected this policy and passed health care reform that requires federal funds to help subsidize and promote health plans that cover elective abortions. All purchasers of such plans will be required to pay for other people’s abortions through a separate payment solely to pay for abortion. And the affordability credits for very low income families purchasing private plans in a Health Insurance Exchange are inadequate and would leave families financially vulnerable.

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

• Congressional leaders are now trying to figure out how the rules of the House and Senate could allow the final passage of a modified bill that would satisfy disagreements between House and Senate versions.

ACTION: Contact your Representative and Senators today by e-mail, phone or FAX.

• To send a pre-written, instant e-mail to Congress go to

• Call the U.S. Capitol switchboard at: 202-224-3121, or your Members’ local offices.

Contact information is available online at &

MESSAGE – HOUSE: “I am pleased that the House health care bill maintains the longstanding policy against federal funding of abortion. On the other hand, the provisions on abortion funding in the current un-amended Senate health care bill are seriously deficient and unacceptable. I urge you to work to uphold essential provisions against abortion funding, to include full conscience protection and to ensure that health care is accessible and affordable for all. I urge you to oppose any bill unless and until these criteria are met.”

MESSAGE - SENATE: “I am deeply disappointed that the current un-amended Senate health care bill fails to maintain the longstanding policy against federal funding of abortion and does not include adequate protection for conscience. I urge you to support essential provisions against abortion funding, similar to those in the House bill. Include full conscience protection and ensure that health care is accessible and affordable for all. I urge you to oppose any bill unless and until these criteria are met.”

WHEN: Votes in the House and Senate are expected at any time. Act today!

One commentator online predicted the storm of opposition our Bishops would face for having opposed the Health Care Plan as it now stands.  He put it this way:

“The Catholic Church will face serious attacks over this. The calumny machine is in full force. I implore all God loving Christians to defend those who keep His commandments. We are brothers and Jesus prayed that we may be one in Him.”

Well, this battle is entering its final stages.  There is the danger that the Health Care bill could be implemented without a full legislative process.  If that were to occur, the battle would quickly move into the courts and onto the streets.   Unnecessary conflict could be avoided, and all the collateral damage circumvented, if those who genuinely desire universal health care reform continue the patient process of dialogue.  But so long as publicly funded abortion remains a possibility, the battle will go on.  Better a drawn-out war in the halls of government than the shedding of more innocent blood.