.- The bishops of the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference have issued a statement on national health care reform, saying present proposals have “critical shortcomings” that violate Catholic principles concerning respect for human life and dignity and respect for consciences. “Health care is not just another issue for the Church or for a healthy society. It is a fundamental issue,” read the bishops’ statement issued after an October 6 meeting. “Health care is a critical component of the Catholic Church’s ministry.”
The bishops noted that Pennsylvania’s Catholic hospitals, nursing homes and home health agencies serve millions of people. They also described the Church as a “major purchaser” of health insurance for thousands of employees in Catholic agencies and institutions.
“The Catholic Church in Pennsylvania brings both strong convictions and everyday experience to the issue of health care reform,” the bishops stated.
“If a final health care reform bill does not have respect for life at all stages of development, respect for consciences, affordability and inclusion of all of society, the Bishops will be forced to oppose it,” they wrote, saying they prayed that “critical shortcomings” in present proposals be remedied.
The prelates voiced their concerns that the health care reform proposals being reviewed by Congress at present do not guarantee “fundamental rights.”
“Our Catholic moral tradition teaches that every human being, from the moment of conception to natural death, has an innate dignity that entitles him or her to certain rights and protections. Included among these is the right to life and to have access to health care, which is essential to preserving human life and promoting human dignity.”
Genuine health care reform, they said, must restrict funding for abortion and must respect the consciences of health care providers. It must not impose excessive financial burdens on low- and moderate-income individuals and families. Legal immigrants and their family members must be allowed “timely access” to health care coverage, they commented.
Further, they wrote, there must be an adequate “safety net” for those who remain without health coverage.
“We will work tirelessly to improve the legislation to reflect these essential priorities,” wrote the bishops, adding that the Catholic community of Pennsylvania can be a “strong and reliable partner” in advancing health care reform that does not violate Catholic principles.
The statement from the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference represents 14 bishops in the 10 different dioceses that cover the state.