Statement on Health-Care Reform and Authentic Catholic Witness

As the Democrat party accelerates efforts to enact comprehensive health-care legislation before the Easter recess, the Catholic Health Association, leaders of women’s religious orders, and academics at Catholic institutions have endorsed Senate bill H.R. 3590 and called for the House of Representatives to pass this bill as-is. In so doing, they have intentionally and publicly contradicted the policy position of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

The Catholic Medical Association (CMA) agrees with the conclusion of Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput, O.F.M., that these groups “have done a grave disservice to the American Catholic community by undermining the leadership of the nation’s Catholic bishops, sowing confusion among faithful Catholics, and misleading legislators through their support of the Senate bill.” Should this political ploy prove successful in persuading some legislators to vote for this flawed bill, these individuals and groups will have done a grave disservice to human dignity and to the common good of this nation.

Senate bill H.R. 3590 is a substantially flawed and unacceptable piece of legislation. Its policy positions on abortion and conscience rights alone warrant rejecting the entire bill. The evidence is clear that:

* The Stupak amendment is absolutely essential if massive new funding of abortion is to be prevented;
* Governmental subsidies for abortion increase the abortion rate;
* Senate bill H.R. 3590 provides multiple new streams of funding for abortion;
* Key proponents of abortion, including President Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Rep. Henry Waxman and Kathleen Sebelius, specifically reject the Stupak amendment and understand that Senate bill H.R. 3590 effectively circumvents its provisions;
* Senate bill H.R. 3590 does not include the most fundamental conscience rights protection under current law – the Hyde-Weldon amendment’s protection against being coerced to participate in abortion by a governmental entity;
* Senate bill H.R. 3590 requires all enrollees in health insurance plans covering abortion to pay, separately and exclusively, for abortions obtained by other plan participants.

Given this evidence above, it is difficult to understand how some Catholics could lobby in favor of such legislation. Given the significance of the issues at stake, and the consistent, compelling policy guidance provided by the U.S. bishops on these matters, publicly opposing and/or undermining the U.S. bishops at this time is imprudent and uncharitable.

The CMA holds that there are multiple other serious failings in the health-care legislation and legislative process of the last year. To name only three:

* Senate and House legislation relies heavily on the federal government to dictate solutions for the real problems in U.S. health-care financing and delivery, an approach that is flawed in principle and ineffective, if not dangerous, in practice. Such an approach would violate the principle of subsidiarity further undermine the physician-patient relationship, and represent a failure to learn from the ongoing systemic problems affecting Medicare and Medicaid.
* Senate bill H.R. 3590 refuses to make any advance in effecting a more just and constructive solution to the health care access challenges faced by immigrants.
* The current legislative approach is unsustainable from an economic standpoint. Enacting it would represent not only poor stewardship, but an injustice to future generations.

Given the considerations presented above, the Catholic Medical Association calls upon all Catholics, particularly those who have recently lobbied publicly in favor of H.R. 3590, to demonstrate unity and charity in opposing the central flaws in current legislation and in working together to achieve authentic health-care reform in a timely manner.

Founded in 1932, the Catholic Medical Association is the largest association of Catholic physicians in North America. CMA represents more that 1,400 national-level medical professionals and many more Catholic physicians and health care providers at the local level. For more information, go to http://www.cathmed.org.

Update: A PDF copy of this statement may be obtained by clicking here.

In Addition OneNewsNow is reporting that Priests for Life is speaking out after a group of nuns endorsed the proposed healthcare reform measure.

The group of nuns under the umbrella of the Catholic Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) has publicly broken ranks with U.S. Catholic Bishops who oppose the bill. Father Frank Pavone, national director at Priests for Life, tells OneNewsNow that most nuns who are members are actually pro-life.

Father Frank Pavone , “It’s just that they are severely misinterpreting the effect this bill will have on the lives of the unborn and by extension on the health — the moral health, the physical health — of our entire nation,” he explains. “Abortion is far more destructive than apparently they are taking account of when they take this particular position.”

The group claims to represent 59,000 nuns, but Pavone believes it may only be the 59 nuns who signed the letter. “The accuracy in what they’re saying is that they, together, collectively have responsibility for that many nuns,” he notes. “It certainly doesn’t mean they all agree with this.”

Since a vote on the healthcare measure could come soon, the Priests for Life national director is urging people to contact their elected representatives in Washington, even if they have done so before, and urge them to reject the current bill.

In another sign that Catholics are weighing in on both sides of the debate, The Associated Press reports that a retired Catholic bishop supports President Obama’s healthcare overhaul, despite the church’s official opposition. Retired Bishop John McCarthy of Austin, Texas, says he is opposed to abortion and believes that the bill before Congress would guard against using taxpayer funds to pay for it.

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