“It’s not a matter of not communicating, it’s that there are things about the bill that people don’t believe or don’t want to believe. Unless they’ve been immersed in this policy work on abortion, they don’t necessarily understand that the rules on abortion are different than almost any other thing."
Supporters of the legislation “sincerely and with some reason believe that it’s going to help a lot of people,” in Doerflinger’s view, and have not let themselves focus on the abortion aspects.
“The USCCB’s focus is not to dismiss other concerns, but to say ‘you cannot do this kind of evil on this kind of level’.”
In a prior question at the conference a reporter from CNSNews.com asked whether a member of Congress can morally vote for health care reform if the Senate bill’s abortion provisions are not changed.
The USCCB official said it depends on the exact action of the Congressman. If he reviews the legislation, sees “all the ramifications” and concludes it will greatly expand funding for taking an innocent human life, that person should “morally see it as his or her responsibility to demand change.”
“It’s wrong for public figures to deliberately and knowingly promote and provide funding for that kind of taking of life.”
In response to a question from Julia Duin of the Washington Times, Doerflinger acknowledged that there have been “confusion” and “victims of confusion” in the debate.
He noted that Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius had reassured some supporters that regulations were in place and that the Obama administration did not want to fund abortion.
That sounds “really lovely” to someone without a policy background, but is “totally irrelevant” because federal statute trumps federal regulation, Doerflinger commented. Abortion has a court mandate “unless Congress stops it specifically.”
“The Hyde Amendment doesn’t cover this bill, so it is irrelevant. But you have to have a certain amount of background and training and experience in this to know that.
“Some people are just believing statements on their face that look reassuring, but are actually being used to prevent honest and candid debate.”
Though Catholics must deal with “frayed nerves” and divisions on policy, in Doerflinger’s view divisions on moral teaching weren’t at the root of most of the differences in the present debate.
(Story continues below)
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Tom McClusky, the senior vice president of the Family Research Council (FRC), who also addressed the press conference, was less conciliatory.
He charged that some advocates of the Senate health care bill were repeating 2008 election tactics to attract support from undecided Christians.
“All they needed to do was plant the seeds of doubt and not worry about the facts so much, and attack those who disagree with them.
“Richard himself has been a victim of some of those attacks, and the USCCB certainly has been.”