USCCB ‘grateful’ for passage of infrastructure bill, urges no funding of abortions

Archbishop Coakley Archbishop Paul Coakley, chair of the USCCB domestic justice and human development committee, preaching during Mass in the cathedral in 2021. | Archdiocese of Oklahoma City

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) on Tuesday offered some praise of the U.S. Senate’s passage of a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, while critiquing one provision and warning against any funding of abortion. 

Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City, chair of the bishops’ domestic justice and human development committee, stated on Aug. 10 that the conference was “grateful” for the Senate’s passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

The bill, which totaled nearly 3,000 pages, passed the Senate by a 69-30 vote. It now heads to the House of Representatives for debate and vote. 

The legislation includes significant investments in public transit, railways, bridges, and clean drinking water, which Coakley said “reflects an integral ecology.” He also applauded its emphasis on “climate change mitigation, carbon capture and climate resilience,” as well as its initiative to expand broadband internet access and create new jobs.

However, Coakley criticized a provision in the legislation which “would advance a false understanding of gender and sexuality.”

The USCCB told CNA the provision Coakley was referring to was in Section 60307 of the bill. 

The provision states: “No individual in the United States may, on the basis of actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, or disability, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity that is funded in whole or in part with funds made available to carry out this title.”

Coakley affirmed that “Catholic institutions must be free to serve everyone with respect and dignity in accordance with our beliefs.” The conference in the past has advocated against sexual orientation and gender identity nondiscrimination provisions in federal programs, as Catholic organizations could be disqualified from participation due to the Church’s teachings on marriage and sexuality. 

Coakley also insisted that no taxpayer money go towards abortion. Some pro-life leaders have expressed concern that a proposed budget package - which could accompany the infrastructure bill in its eventual passage - could contain billions of dollars in health care spending without prohibitions on funding of abortions. 

“It is critical that any proposal to expand health care coverage avoid an expansion of taxpayer funding of abortion,” Coakley said. 

Archbishop Coakley wrote that the bishops are “especially interested in how the package affects those on the margins of society and protects God’s creation.” 

He urged Congress to further address issues such as rental assistance, and ensuring quality and affordable childcare options, paid sick leave, parental leave, and other policies supportive of families. 

“In addition, as Pope Francis recently emphasized, we continue to call for universal access to good and affordable health care,” he wrote. He also called on Congress to work for legalization and a path to citizenship for “Dreamers,” holders of Temporary Protected Status or Deferred Enforced Departure status, migrant agricultural workers, and “other undocumented essential workers.”

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