Self-described Catholic groups who endorsed the health care bill despite objections “severely damaged” the common good and diluted the pro-life witness of the U.S. bishops and the Catholic faithful, asserted Bishop Samuel J. Aquila of Fargo, North Dakota in a Tuesday statement.
Bishop Aquila said it was “truly tragic” that some “so-called ‘Catholic’ groups” came out in support of the legislation.
“The Catholic Health Association (CHA), Catholics United and some small groups of religious orders have supported the Act,” the bishop explained. “In recent days, most sadly of all, these groups have received gratitude from pro-abortion forces.”
These groups, Bishop Aquila stressed, acted “in direct contradiction to the bishops” who are the “guardians” of authentic Christian teaching.
“The actions of these groups have betrayed the common good, undermined the teaching authority of the Church, and have disregarded the courageous witness by the Bishops and the many millions of faithful Catholics to the gift and dignity of human life,” he continued. “We now face the reality of severe damage to the common good by the expansion of abortion throughout our land because of the counter-witness of these groups.”
Additionally, the bishop said, these groups and some Catholic legislators and laity have “weakened the bonds of communion” within the Church and diluted “her witness to justice for all, from the moment of conception until natural death.”
He then reported that the groups’ influence was evident in North Dakota, whose U.S. Rep. Earl Pomeroy cited the encouragement of “Catholic nuns” to defend his vote for the legislation.
Bishop Aquila lamented that some Catholics are “more faithful to their political parties and ideological beliefs than to the teachings of Jesus Christ and his Church.”
“Rather than being a leaven in their respective party and in society for the good, by ignoring the primacy of the truths of our Catholic faith, they pave the way for secularism and a culture of death.”
Speaking about the effects of the health care reform bill itself, the bishop said although it seeks to expand access to health care especially for the poor and uninsured, at the same time it “allows for the violation of the sacredness of human life” by expanding federal funding for abortion.
“As Catholics, we cannot support something which helps some people while, at the same time, allows and funds, in part, the destruction of the most innocent among us, the unborn, and does not provide adequate conscience protection for those who are pro-life,” he added.
The executive order purporting to apply Hyde Amendment restrictions to the legislation “falls short,” in the bishop’s view, as its efforts to address shortcomings are “highly likely” to be legally invalid.
“The legal and policy advisors of the U.S. Catholic Bishops have noted the executive order cannot and does not fix the statutory problems of funding abortion, it cannot and does not make up for the absence of conscience protections that are missing from the statute, and it does not strengthen existing conscience protections,” he explained.
Bishop Aquila’s statement concluded by calling for Catholics to “remain steadfast” in witnessing to the human dignity of the unborn child and to the need for conscience protections for pro-life medical professionals and institutions.