U.S. bishops, dissenting Catholics face off in in health care debate

U.S. bishops, dissenting Catholics face off in in health care debate


While the U.S. Bishops are encouraging the faithful to call their representatives and ask them to oppose Senate legislation because of federal funding for abortion, the group Catholics United and other left-leaning groups are running interference, allowing lawmakers to justify ignoring the guidance of the bishops on the critical moral and political issues contained in the bill.

In a recent email sent to supporters, Chris Korzen, the head of Catholics United, urges Catholics to “ keep the pressure up,” saying, “(h)ealth care reform is coming down to the wire, and abortion is the last sticking point.”

“The bishops' staff claim that the Senate bill expands federal financing of abortion,” Korzen writes. “That’s simply not true. Independent news outlets and policy experts have confirmed that the Senate health care bill explicitly prohibits federal financing of abortion. Despite this, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops are still opposing reform.”

“The bishops need to hear the truth about what health care reform will - and will not - do. Join us in calling the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Cardinal Francis George of Chicago,” Korzen adds. “Let him know that Catholics in the pews want the bishops to get their facts straight and support health care reform.”

The Catholics United head then gives the number to Cardinal George's archdiocesan office and says that “(h)opefully if Cardinal George hears from enough of us, the bishops will get better information about what’s in the bill and drop their opposition to reform.”

Colleen Dolan, spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Chicago, told CNA on Friday that although they “have received some calls,” they “receive all types of calls everyday.”

“There is no way to determine if they are part of a campaign,” she added. 

Korzen's group has also led a TV campaign across 8 congressional districts featuring ads that claim to “set the record straight” about the “false allegations” surrounding Senate bill abortion funding. In an Friday email to CNA, Korzen said that the ad campaign has a budget of “six figures,” but he would not disclose specifics of who is funding the campaign. “Money comes from same sources as all our ad campaigns: private donors, foundations who share catholic values,” he said.

In contrast to this, the U.S. bishops launched an effort on March 15 to ask Catholics to “take action” and call their congressional leaders to inform them of the deficiencies of the bill. The Conference also posted resource materials on their website explaining the flaws in the health care bill on Thursday.

“As long-time advocates of health care reform, the U.S. Catholic bishops continue to make the moral case that genuine health care reform must protect the life, dignity, consciences and health of all, especially the poor and vulnerable,” a statement announcing the March 15 effort begins.

“Health care reform should provide access to affordable and quality health care for all, and not advance a pro-abortion agenda in our country,” the statement adds. “Genuine health care reform is being blocked by those who insist on reversing widely supported policies against federal funding of abortion and plans which include abortion, not by those working simply to preserve these longstanding protections.”

“The U.S. Senate rejected this policy and passed health care reform that requires federal funds to help subsidize and promote health plans that cover elective abortions. All purchasers of such plans will be required to pay for other people’s abortions through a separate payment solely to pay for abortion. And the affordability credits for very low income families purchasing private plans in a Health Insurance Exchange are inadequate and would leave families financially vulnerable.”

“Outside the abortion context, neither bill has adequate conscience protection for health care providers, plans or employers,” the statement underscores.

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