British Catholic paper criticized for saying U.S. bishops must back Obama on health care

British Catholic paper criticized for saying U.S. bishops must back Obama on health care

Cardinal Justin Rigali / President Obama
Cardinal Justin Rigali / President Obama


A Catholic newspaper in Britain has drawn harsh criticism for claiming that the U.S. bishops’ concerns about abortion coverage in proposed health care reforms are allowing a “specifically Catholic issue” to obstruct the legislation.

In an August 15 editorial, The Tablet said it was “unfortunate” that the U.S. bishops have concentrated on a “specifically Catholic issue” by working to exclude abortion from state funded-health care. Rather, The Tablet advised, they should concentrate on “the more general principle of the common good.”

The newspaper claimed in its editorial headlined, 'U.S. bishops must back obama,' that few other proposals are more clearly examples of the “preferential option for the poor,” claiming that nearly 50 million Americans do not have health coverage.

“The Church’s teaching is clear: health care is a basic right, derived from the right to life itself. Of course abortion is important, but the Catholic bishops have not put anything like equal stress on these other social justice dimensions of the health-care debate,” the Tablet argued.

The newspaper also claimed that “opponents of change” are “largely funded by the operators of the health insurance industry.”

In The Tablet editors' view, the support of the U.S. bishops for proposed health care reforms in their current form would introduce “reason and truth” into the debate. The editorial also complained that in 1948 the Archbishop of Westminster Cardinal Barnard Griffin only worked to secure Catholic exemptions in the establishment of Britain’s National Health Service.

Damien Thompson, editor of  the Catholic Herald, was strongly critical of the editorial on his blog for the English paper The Telegraph. He claimed The Tablet had a “teenage crush” on President Barack Obama that was no longer “just embarrassing” but instead “downright offensive.”

He attacked The Tablet’s claim that abortion is a “specifically Catholic issue” as “the sort of misrepresentation of the Church’s position that I might expect from a teenage student union activist, not a venerable Catholic magazine.”

The claim suggested to Thompson that its author was ignorant of the Catholic Magisterium and actually believed that the rights of the unborn should be subordinate to the common good, rather than an “indispensible component.”

Thompson charged that under The Tablet’s new editor the newspaper routinely displays “a degree of theological illiteracy and ignorance of basic Catholic teaching” that would have been unthinkable under its previous editor.

William F. Murphy, Bishop of Rockville Centre, New York, has written to the U.S. Congress on behalf of all the U.S. bishops, saying that “Genuine health care reform that protects the life and dignity of all is a moral imperative and a vital national obligation.”

However, he condemned as “morally wrong” any reform plans that compel Catholics or others to pay for the destruction of human life.

The U.S. Bishops' Pro-life Committee chairman, Cardinal Justin Rigali, has also voiced concerns about the place of abortion in proposed health care legislation.

Tom Grenchik, director of the U.S. bishops’ Pro-Life Secretariat, has said that mandated abortion health care coverage and funding is “a line we can never cross.” He has also warned that some U.S. leaders are threatening health care reform by forcing Americans to accept such mandates in proposed reform bills.

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