.- Catholics and others in West Virginia are âvery upsetâ by a Catholics United ad campaign backing the Senate health care bill, the local diocese says. Because of âmisleadingâ messages, a number of the adsâ viewers wrongly think that the diocese or Church officials are now backing the controversial bill.
Bryan Minor, executive director of Communications and Development for the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, told CNA in a Thursday e-mail that his office is hearing of ânumerousâ television ads that began airing on March 17 in the northern West Virginia area.
Minor explained that the ads ask U.S. Rep. Alan Mollohan to vote in favor of the Senate bill to expand health coverage.
âI have not seen the ad myself, yet, as we are handling a number of phone calls about it. It is minimizing the abortion issue, apparently.â
âCatholics and non-Catholics alike who call the diocese are very upset when they first reach us â¦ they think that the Diocese or Church officials have now agreed to back the Senate bill.â
Minor reports that the diocese tells concerned callers that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and the diocese are not behind the messages.
Callers are told that Catholics United is âan independent political organization that is not sanctioned or recognized by the U.S. bishops,â Minor told CNA.
After learning this, callers âtend to calm down and then express their concern for the name âCatholicâ being somewhat hijacked for the purposes of encouraging phone calls to elected officials.â
Asked how the Catholics United campaign might affect public knowledge of the U.S. bishopsâ position on the health care legislation, Minor suggested the adsâ position may help further mobilize the Catholic population to become âeven more activeâ as the House vote on the Senate bill becomes âimminent.â
âIn any event, it does require the average parishioner to carefully scrutinize what they see and hear in the mass media so as to gain (the) truth (as) to what the Bishops are espousing in such important matters,â Minor commented.
A statement on the dioceseâs website says âconfusing messagesâ have been sent from groups such as the Catholic Health Association (CHA) and NETWORK. Citing phone calls to the diocese, it remarks that parishioners across West Virginia have âgrave concerns regarding deceptive political advertisements and public statementsâ from the groups.
These messages âare not consistent with the position of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishopsâ on conscience rights and public funding of abortion.
âFurthermore, political action groups such as Catholics Unitedâthat are in no way affiliated with the diocese or Catholic Churchâhave started secular media campaigns that confuse Catholics with misleading images and messages that are not consistent with the position taught by the Bishops of the United States, including Bishop Michael Bransfield,â the websiteâs statement continues.
The âclear and unchanged positionâ of Bishop Bransfield and the USCCB is that unless flaws on conscience rights and abortion funding are addressed, the Senate bill âshould not be passed in the House,â the diocese said on its website.
Minor told CNA the website message had been approved by Bishop Bransfield.