Cardinal George statement on House-approved health care bill

UPDATE: Our story on the statement.

The following statement was issued this evening by Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops:

Over the weekend, the US House of Representatives advanced major legislation to provide adequate and affordable health care to all. The Catholic Bishops of the United States have long advocated that adequate health care be made available to everyone. In an essential step, the House voted overwhelmingly to reaffirm the longstanding and widely supported precedent that no federal funds will be used to pay for elective abortions. In doing so, the Representatives honored President Obama’s commitment to the Congress and the nation that health care reform would not become a vehicle for expanding abortion funding or mandates. The Conference will remain vigilant and involved throughout this entire process to assure that these essential provisions are maintained and included in the final legislation. We will work to persuade the Senate to follow the example of the House and include these critical safeguards in their version of health care reform legislation. We also thank the members of the House who took this courageous and principled step to oppose measures that would force Americans to pay for the destruction of unborn children, and the Democratic leadership for allowing the Representatives to vote on this amendment that protects the common good.

In the national discussion on how to provide the best kind of health care, we bishops do not claim or present ourselves as experts on health care policy. We are not prepared to assess every provision of legislation as complex as this proposal. However, health care legislation, with all its political, technical and economic aspects, is about human beings and hence has serious moral dimensions. Our focus is the concrete realities of families with children and their access to doctors, the poor and the elderly, those with limited means and those with few or even no means, such as the mother carrying a child in her womb. Our Catholic commitment to health care picks up the pieces of our failing system in our emergency rooms, clinics, parishes and communities. This is why we believe our nation’s health care system needs reform which protects human life and dignity and serves the poor and vulnerable as a moral imperative and an urgent national priority.

We remain deeply concerned about the debate that now moves to the Senate, especially as it will affect the poor and vulnerable, and those at the beginning and end of life. We will continue to insist that health care reform legislation must protect conscience rights. We support measures to make health care more affordable for low-income people and the uninsured. We remain deeply concerned that immigrants be treated fairly and not lose the health care coverage that they now have. We will continue to raise our voices in public and in prayer; we ask our people to join us in making the moral case for genuine health care reform that protects the life, dignity, consciences and health of all.

8 Responses

  1. Have the bishops come up with a statement of conscience for those Catholics who have ignored the bishops’ statement and allied themselves with the tea party movement? It seems the two positions can’t be reconciled and some guidance would be helpful.

  2. The tea party movement that stands for personal liberty and against legalized theft by the government? The bishops don’t need to issue anything to clarify the teachings of subsidiarity; they apparently need to issue a statement around individual Christian duty to love their neighbor. The current legislation that people claim to support out of Christian love and charity is really just shirking your personal responsibility by supporting the taking of some “rich” peoples’ property not your own and giving it to someone you’ve never met and calling that just. It’s not justice, it’s a sin — Thou shall not steal.

  3. I am sorry to see the jubilation of Cardinal George on the passage of the House version of the Health Care Bill. Maybe he should have read the bill before commenting on it. One can assume from the leaks that are coming from Congressional sources that this was not a bill for all the people. There seems to be sections in this bill that give penalties for noncompliance that are not within the provisions of the Constution of the United States. The bill seemed to have been passed to gain partisan political power and not to relieve the burden on people who need health insurance.
    We actually have been assured by a member of Congress that a pro-abortion clause will be in the final bill before it goes to the president for signature. I believe the Conference of Catholic Bishops should be very cautious before rendering judgement on whether the final bill goes hand in hand with Catholic social teaching.
    Remember Cuba in the 1950’s
    Respectfully
    Richard Lizotte

  4. Mike, do you remember what Christ said to the rich young man? “Go, sell everything you have, give the money to the poor, and follow me.” My experience with the tea partiers is that they’ve turned selfishness and self interest into their greatest good. And we do have to remember Christ’s injunction “that which you did to the least of me, you did to me.” We can’t escape the Church’s social teaching on this one, since to a great extent we actually become our brother’s keeper.

  5. Christ did not say, Go tell Caesar to feed the poor, he said,” Feed the hungry”,etc. to the people themselves. It isn’t charity when the government forces you to give it your money so it can waste a lot of it before giving it to some-
    one else. The American people have every right to say that they don’t want government- run health care which will be more expensive and not as effective as private care. This bill is the beginning of forcing people to depend on the government in stead of God. America has become a great nation by average people doing things for themselves. And we are also a very charitable nation
    who do help people in need. We don’t need the government to run everything,
    especially something as private as healthcare.

  6. Seems like some Catholics have a selective understanding of ‘subsidiarity’. It means that an issue be effectively delt with by the lowest competent authority. In the case of healthcare the lower authority (municipal and state) has not effectively dealt with the issue thus the higher level power (federal government) takes up the resonsibility. Subsidiarity does not mean mandatory devolution of power no matter what. Besides, ‘subsidiarity’ is a catholic social teaching element which is not directly equivalent to the civic question of the relationship of state and federal governance. One cannot apply the concept univocally as some on this board seem wanton to do.

  7. Before the Bishops get to excited about the Anti-abortion amendment, they had, or their staff most likely, read the other 1990 pages of the bill. There is a lot of room for many things to be hidden in the complexities that appear to be build into this bill. Otherwise it would not be so long. Remember the “devil is in the details”.

  8. I echo Cardinal George’s pleasure that at least one version of the legislation in question preserves doctor’s freedom to refrain from performing abortions, and will not use taxpayer funds to support such activities.

    However, there is every indication that the removal of such elements was merely a ploy to acquire the approval of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, and the support of average Catholics, while leaving the door open to add the provision back into the legislation at a later date.

    In addition, the narrow focus on this one provision has diverted attention away from the remaining 99.9% of the bill. Even with the abortion provision omitted, the legislation in question violates basic human rights and in the process the government openly goes far beyond it’s constitutional boundaries. For example, it pretends that the Federal Government has the authority to compel citizens to buy health insurance, and threatens to fine or even imprison them if they do not. This is a violation of the Constitution of the United States, basic human liberty, and fundamental Catholic principles regarding the freedom of the human person. It is, in fact, a form of extortion and coercion.

    The problems with the health insurance system are rooted in federal and state regulations, themselves, and the rules of various insurers. MORE government regulation will only make matters substantially worse.

    There isn’t any such thing as perfect legislation. But let us not support opaque legislation that obviously violates human freedom and dignity simply because it doesn’t compel one particular act that we find repugnant.

    The ends do not justify the means. It is unethical to violate people’s liberty — threaten, imprison or steal from them — in the pursuit of our own particular goal of providing health care to others.

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