The Bishops Respond

The USCCB has sent over the text of the bishops' response to the recently passed healthcare legislation:

For nearly a century, the Catholic bishops of the United States have called for reform of our health care system so that all may have access to the care that recognizes and affirms their human dignity. Christian discipleship means, “working to ensure that all people have access to what makes them fully human and fosters their human dignity” (United States Catechism for Adults, page 454). Included among those elements is the provision of necessary and appropriate health care.


For too long, this question has gone unaddressed in our country. Often, while many had access to excellent medical treatment, millions of others including expectant mothers, struggling families or those with serious medical or physical problems were left unable to afford the care they needed. As Catholic bishops, we have expressed our support for efforts to address this national and societal shortcoming. We have spoken for the poorest and most defenseless among us. Many elements of the health care reform measure signed into law by the President address these concerns and so help to fulfill the duty that we have to each other for the common good. We are bishops, and therefore pastors and teachers. In that role, we applaud the effort to expand health care to all.

Nevertheless, for whatever good this law achieves or intends, we as Catholic bishops have opposed its passage because there is compelling evidence that it would expand the role of the federal government in funding and facilitating abortion and plans that cover abortion. The statute appropriates billions of dollars in new funding without explicitly prohibiting the use of these funds for abortion, and it provides federal subsidies for health plans covering elective abortions. Its failure to preserve the legal status quo that has regulated the government’s relation to abortion, as did the original bill adopted by the House of Representatives last November, could undermine what has been the law of our land for decades and threatens the consensus of the majority of Americans: that federal funds not be used for abortions or plans that cover abortions. Stranger still, the statute forces all those who choose federally subsidized plans that cover abortion to pay for other peoples’ abortions with their own funds. If this new law is intended to prevent people from being complicit in the abortions of others, it is at war with itself.

We share fully the admirable intention of President Obama expressed in his pending Executive Order, where he states, “it is necessary to establish an adequate enforcement mechanism to ensure that Federal funds are not used for abortion services.” However, the fact that an Executive Order is necessary to clarify the legislation points to deficiencies in the statute itself. We do not understand how an Executive Order, no matter how well intentioned, can substitute for statutory provisions.

The statute is also profoundly flawed because it has failed to include necessary language to provide essential conscience protections (both within and beyond the abortion context). As well, many immigrant workers and their families could be left worse off since they will not be allowed to purchase health coverage in the new exchanges to be created, even if they use their own money.

Many in Congress and the Administration, as well as individuals and groups in the Catholic community, have repeatedly insisted that there is no federal funding for abortion in this statute and that strong conscience protection has been assured. Analyses that are being published separately show this not to be the case, which is why we oppose it in its current form. We and many others will follow the government’s implementation of health care reform and will work to ensure that Congress and the Administration live up to the claims that have contributed to its passage. We believe, finally, that new legislation to address its deficiencies will almost certainly be required.

As bishops, we wish to recognize the principled actions of the pro-life Members of Congress from both parties, in the House and the Senate, who have worked courageously to create legislation that respects the principles outlined above. They have often been vilified and have worked against great odds.

As bishops of the Catholic Church, we speak in the name of the Church and for the Catholic faith itself. The Catholic faith is not a partisan agenda, and we take this opportunity to recommit ourselves to working for health care which truly and fully safeguards the life, dignity, conscience and health of all, from the child in the womb to those in their last days on earth.

James Martin, S.J.


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8 years 6 months ago
With this statement the bishops have driven their credibility truck off the cliff.The EO is not sufficent? Lincoln and Truman  used EOs . Therefore we have no Slaves and an intergrated military. Both of these Presidents could not gotten their action  bill through Congress. The Senate would not pass Stupak without 60 votes. Thanks to the pro choice Senator Brown from Massachusetts the Dem Stupak amendment would not pass despite so called pro-life republicans who would not support Stupak in the Senate.
Bishops need new advisors because they have no clue about what's at stake.Stupak brought more pro-life shout out into the culture than all the communion denying bishops put together.
Mary Sweeney
8 years 6 months ago
I too suspect that massive federal funding of abortion will not be found. However, as I understand it, The Hyde Amendment, enacted in 1976, denies federal Medicaid coverage of abortions except in the cases of rape, incest, or life endangerment. I also believe that many Bishops have encouraged their priests to sign on to Medicaid if they qualify financially. I know that many religious women are covered by Medicaid. Would it not be more sincere to withdraw from such a program as a matter of conscience?
8 years 6 months ago
There are some, Mr. Gleason, who charged that the bishops had driven their credibility off a cliff when they issued left-leaning pastorals in the 80s on the economy & war.  The bishops survived the recriminations on the right, and methinks they'll survive those on the left.  So much for reasoned dialogue among people of goodwill, however.  I think we ALL need a break from health care.
Jim McCrea
8 years 6 months ago
Yawnnnnnnnnnn.  A word to the Catholic bishops in this country and around the world:  few if any people will give a flying flap about what you say UNTIL you can prove that you can handle your own messes.  Your credibility is right up there with that of Ghaddafi - and Bibi Netanyahu.
Vince Killoran
8 years 6 months ago
"We speak in the name of the Church and for the Catholic faith itself": For whom do we speak?
I agree with Ed, Jim, et al.: the bishops credibility is thin indeed.
8 years 6 months ago
Joe, perhaps a distinction can be made between the bishops' statements on faith and morals and their attempts to analyze political decisions in light of the faith.  I would not challenge the bishops on doctrine, but it is possible that their prudential judgment, when entering the sphere of politics, and in the area of institutional leadership, might be challenged.  Thus the bishops can rightly tell us the abortion is an evil to be opposed, but might not have the best sense of how to oppose that evil in an effective way in a pluralistic society.
8 years 6 months ago
Jeff Landry.
All the bishops who issued 'the left leaning' pastorals are dead or living in retirement homes.. the living ones who still keep up, are weeping..
Vince Killoran
8 years 6 months ago
I think Joe, Jeff, & Co. have inflated  the boundaries of the bishops' authority and denied the responsibilities of Catholics-as individuals and collectively-to "speak for the Catholic faith itself" as well.
As for their role as legislative experts, I laughed out loud when I read their claim that "We believe. . . that new legislation to address its deficiencies will almost certainly be required."  Must we also believe this as well since they do?
8 years 6 months ago
Your life is more important than my health care insurance regardless of the imperfections in a democratic society.
Your anger should be directed at the Democrat Party who risked their dream of centrally planned health care on ambigous abortion funding language.  It should not have surprised you that the bishops would want unambiguous language concerning this matter.  It did not surprise me that the Democrat Party would want ambiguous language.
8 years 6 months ago
The Bishops did not reject the EO. They rejected the Senate Bill that the EO was meant to correct.
James Lindsay
8 years 6 months ago
If massive federal funding of abortion is found, there will certainly be corrective language. I suspect, however, that none will be and further expect that once coverage is available the number of abortions will go down. Indeed, this action probably has done more than anything else to preserve Social Security, since the birth rate will go up as more families have insurance.
David Pasinski
8 years 6 months ago
The bishops ought to read American church history more thoroughly, check their constitutional law about how to work in a DEMOCRACY, and study the demographics of the nation. And then they need to spend some time in crowded Emergency Departments, a few inner city obstetric practices, free clinics, rural health care centers, and some chronic illness wards in some of the large nursing homes. After they've done that for a couple years, issue another statement on health care.
Jim McCrea
8 years 6 months ago
No, Jeff - we all need a break WITH health care.  Thank God that the Democrats had the intestinal fortitude to do the right thing.
8 years 6 months ago
For the fiscal future of our country, I pray you (and the Democrats) are correct, Mr. McCrea.
8 years 6 months ago
The bishops credibility when in union with the Magisterium and the pope is absolutely trustworthy. If you choose not to believe that is your problem not the bishops.
8 years 6 months ago
I am NOT arguing that the Bishops' comments on health care are on a par with their defining Catholic faith & morals.  It is, of course, a prudential judgment on a particular piece of legislation from which any individual Catholic is free to object.  I was objecting to some of the comments accusing the bishops of having no authority to speak whatsoever because of sexual abuse that occurred decades ago, as to which they have acted to correct (in the US at least) or objecting to the claim that the Bishops speaking for the "Catholic faith" itself, and portraying the comments of people like Card. George as nothing more than a right-wing hack who is nothing more than a Republican shill.  It is basic Catholic eccelsiology that the Bishops do, in fact, teach the Catholic faith, & I raised the economic & war pastorals only to suggest that I think the Bishops' hold various views that do not fall within the typical left-right battles.
8 years 6 months ago
This is about morals.  It is immoral to support a law that would allow government funded abortion.
The argument about current laws that allow the use of Federal funds for abortion in rape and incest is not up for vote.  If this was up for vote it would be immoral to support.
This bill IS a "baby killer".  If Catholics cannot insist that a health care bill not include abortion then what can we stand on?
Michael Henthorn
8 years 6 months ago
You know, Joe, a democracy will always be imperfect because human beings are flawed. Those human beings also include our Bishops who state that they are pro-life, but were willing to work to deny people-me, a Knight of Columbus-affordable health insurance, which IS about life versus sickness and death.
The USCCB is acting more and more like the SSPX every day.
Vince Killoran
8 years 6 months ago
They do "speak" for the Faith but let's have some precision to this-when and in what situations do they do so?  My problem is the blanket assertion of this without any nuance.  When we examine this more carefully I think it's clear that the Church-including the laity-also "speak" (again, it's complicated).
On the matter of sexual abuse, the hierarchy have done a mostly horrible job of penance and begging forgiveness.
Joe, you've lost me (actually I never followed your argument): the new law does nothing of the kind.
We're spinning our wheels on this one so I'll step aside and let someone else get the last word.
8 years 6 months ago
The US bishops reject Obama's signing an EO that no fed funds will be used for abortion.
Spanish bishops say it's OK for King Juan Carlos to sign new Spanish abortion law liberalizing the taking of un-born life. 'He has to sign' it's his job..
The Belgian bishops allowed their KING to resign for 48 hors so someone else could sign the pro-abortion bill. nice guys ..
Now tell me how many kinds of hierarchy have we got in this one holy CATHOLIC church.
Our bishops ally with Republicans; the Spanish bishops ally with monachists. Belgian bishops know how to finese... this is why you have to be celibate to be a bishop.. My wife would kick ass. 


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