.- The U.S. Catholic bishops have voted to establish a permanent Subcommittee on Health Care Issues to address ongoing concerns about one of the country’s most politically-charged and debated topics.
The bishops overwhelmingly approved the subcommittee by a vote of 214-15 on Nov. 14, the first day of their fall General Assembly in Baltimore. The new subcommittee will fall under the jurisdiction of the Committee on Doctrine.
As head of the doctrine committee, Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl will appoint the chairman of the new subcommittee.
The creation of a permanent subcommittee was recommended by a task force on health care issues, which held its last meeting in June 2011. The task force was mandated with coordinating the conference’s activities on health care and helping decide what kind of structure would best meet the bishops’ needs.
The task force dealt with issues including the implementation of the bishops’ Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, conscience protection cases, health care reform issues, the canonical status of Catholic health care facilities and non-Catholic hospitals that are a part of Catholic health care systems.
In recent years, the U.S. bishops have advocated health care reform, calling for “adequate and affordable health care for all.”
However, they have also spoken out against the health care bill passed in the 2010 session of Congress for failing to adequately ensure that taxpayer funds would not pay for abortions.
In addition, the bishops have argued against a mandate issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that would require contraception and sterilizations be covered by most private insurance plans.
They have also supported stronger conscience protections for health care employees who object to participating in abortions.