USCCB Issues Request of Catholics on Health Care Reform


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. Health care reform should provide access to affordable and quality health care for all, and not advance a pro-abortion agenda in our country. 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. 

On November 7, the U.S. House of Representatives passed major health care reform that reaffirms the essential, longstanding and widely supported policy against using federal funds for elective abortions and includes positive measures on affordability and immigrants.

On December 24, 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.

Congressional leaders are now trying to figure out how the rules of the House and Senate could allow the final passage of a modified bill that would satisfy disagreements between House and Senate versions.

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“I am pleased that the House health care bill maintains the longstanding policy against federal funding of abortion. On the other hand, the provisions on abortion funding in the current un-amended Senate health care bill are seriously deficient and unacceptable. I urge you to work to uphold essential provisions against abortion funding, to include full conscience protection and to ensure that health care is accessible and affordable for all. I urge you to oppose any bill unless and until these criteria are met”


I am deeply disappointed that the current un-amended Senate health care bill fails to maintain the longstanding policy against federal funding of abortion and does not include adequate protection for conscience. I urge you to support essential provisions against abortion funding, similar to those in the House bill. Include full conscience protection and ensure that health care is accessible and affordable for all. I urge you to oppose any bill unless and until these criteria are met.”

15 Replies to “USCCB Issues Request of Catholics on Health Care Reform”

  1. The USCCB is against the bill – yet the Catholic Health Association is for it. So which group should we listen to?

    1. It is difficult for citizens of a representative democracy to understand, appreciate, and believe this, but the Catholic Church theologically, and to an even greater extent religious communities with respect to habit and daily life, is not a democracy. Superior members of hierarchies rule congregations, whether it be pastors spiritually and theologically leading their flocks of laymen, or superiors of religious who additionally govern the lifestyle of those who have vowed to live according to a rule.

      Because of this (and this is the hard part for Americans to understand), it is possible that a large number of members of a religious body (even a majority) can dissent to its superior.

      Thus we can neither assume that “representatives” represent even a majority of their subject congregations, nor that, if they did, it would in any way influence the definition of Catholic orthodoxy with respect to the health care bill. The orthodox Catholic position with respect to the health care bill in question has already been promulgated by the only person(s) who has the authority to do so: the USCCB.

      If the representatives of women religious communities ( cannot have such an authority, it follows a fortiori that the Catholic Health Association could not possibly have such an authority.

      Again, the mouthpiece of the Catholic Church, a hierarchical institution, cannot be popular consent; it must be its hierarchy.

    2. “the Catholic Health Association is for it” presumably means that Sr. Carol Keehan is for it, as she makes clear here (). But assenting to her interpretation of the Bill is a choice not between what the Bill actually says and what the bishops actually say, but between what Sr. Carol Keehan says and what the bishops actually say.

      Sr. Carol notes: “We expect to see charges and counter charges about what is in the bill and how it will work. We need to carefully review its provisions, its safeguards and its implementation schedule and help everyone understand what the actual proposal is. We are especially called to share our expertise in the health care marketplace to help people understand this bill.”

      Presumably “we” here means her, and she is “especially called to share [her] expertise” because that is precisely what she is trying to do in the article. Possibly Catholics look at her expert opinion on the Bill and the bishops’ opinion on the Bill and decide that they themselves need to look at the Bill (which is I don’t know how long but I’m sure one could find the text of it fairly easily) and read it all and decide for themselves. OR possibly some Catholics will not have the time or the “expertise” to read and understand the Bill, and trust the official pronouncement of the bishops on the issue.

      But make no mistake, favoring Sr. Carol’s position over that of the bishops is precisely that. It is not favoring “what the actual proposal is” over the bishops’ interpretation of it.

    3. We need to pay attention to ‘the group’ that is in keeping with the Church’s moral and social teaching – and that would be the Bishops. A bad means is never legitimate even if used to accomplish a seemingly noble goal.

  2. Terrence
    Bishops always over disident, heretical nuns.(also, always go with those who protect the unborn rather than those who advocate for the “choice ” to kill them in the womb)

  3. I have no horse in this race, as my Dad would say; I’m just conscious that Catholics are on opposite sides of a straight yes/no decision (and despite all the negotions and lobbying, it will come down to a yes/no in Congress). One could argue that while USCCB speaks from hierarchical authority, CHA – and Catholic medical staff – speak from frontline experience. Some comments seem to suggest (implicitly) that the CHA and perhaps its leader are disreputable – is there any evidence to support this?

    1. I am not saying or implying that CHA and its president are disreputable (although I would readily admit that this *is* my personal opinion with the qualification that I think she is disreputable only with respect to her direct opposition to the official position of the USCCB). I am only saying that the dichotomy is between the USCCB’s position and Keehan’s position, and not, as Keehan is trying to make it seem, between the USCCB’s position and “what the actual proposal is” (her words). In her article, she is implying that the USCCB don’t have their facts straight; in the NYT article, she says outright that she is against the USCCB’s position.

      As a totally separate point, of course she is disreputable as a mouthpiece of Catholic social teaching. But this is not a valuation of her generally, only a judgment of her position as she articulates it herself—that’s the evidence.

  4. Government controlled health care is poison no matter what it contains. The government should help the private sector by removing the road blocks it has errected. Pretty quick now anyone who supported either version of this bill for whatever reason will realize that they have made a deal with the devil.

  5. Can somebody please tell me how to lodge a protest with Sr. Carol Keehan?

  6. I must point out that there is one glaring thing that seems to continually overlooked in this debate. Not only does this bill not provide adequate conscience protection for health care providers, plans or employers. It forces, on pain of imprisonment ALL to participate. While I do agree that we do need geniuine health care reform to care for those who are under and uninsured, the last time I checked charity at the point of a gun was still called robbery and also is a commandment breaker. Is this not the reason why we have a history of Catholic hospitals? Where are the sisters of mercy when you need them? Also why aren’t Sr. Carol and the rest of these modern day apostates in a psuedo habit not being publicly denounced by their local ordinary or metropolitan for creating public scandal? This creates much confusion in the faithful.

  7. I’ve seen in several places the claim about the CHA, or the religious sisters of NETWORK, being closer to the issue of health care than the bishops. But this claim fails, even without pointing out that the CMA and other religious sisters oppose passage of the Senate bill.

    The USCCB supported the House bill, which included the Stupak Amendment. The USCCB opposes the Senate bill, which does not have the same guarantees over abortion and conscience protection as the House bill.

    So the difference between the CHA and the USCCB is not one related to health care, the subject on which some claim CHA’s expertise outstrips the bishops’. It’s one related to abortion and conscience protection. (Coverage of immigrants is another sticking point with the USCCB, but as far as I know the CHA doesn’t disagree with them on that.)

    On the question of unacceptable material cooperation with abortion, the CHA speaks with no authority at all.

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