Bishops Disappointed by Senate Vote to Kill Pro-Life Amendment

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Pro-Life Secretariat just released a statement denouncing the defeat of the Pro-Life Nelson Amendment.  In addition the USCCB will not support any health care bills that diminishes the Stupak Amendment that was passed in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Here is their released statement in its entirety:

December 9, 2009

Bishops Call Vote a Grave Mistake and Serious Blow to Genuine Reform

Say the Senate Should Not Support Bill in its Current Form

Hope That House Provisions on Abortion Funding Prevail

BISHOPS DEEPLY DISAPPOINTED BY SENATE VOTE

TO TABLE NELSON-HATCH-CASEY AMENDMENT

WASHINGTON—“The Senate vote to table the Nelson-Hatch-Casey amendment is a grave mistake and a serious blow to genuine health care reform,” said Cardinal Francis George, President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. “The Senate is ignoring the promise made by President Obama and the will of the American people in failing to incorporate longstanding prohibitions on federal funding for abortion and plans that include abortion.”

Bishop William Murphy, Chair of the bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, said: “Congress needs to retain existing abortion funding restrictions and safeguard conscience protections because the nation urgently needs health care reform that protects the life, dignity, conscience and health of all. We will continue to work with Senators, Representatives and the Administration to achieve reform which meets these criteria. We hope the Senate will address the legislation’s fundamental flaw on abortion and remedy its serious problems related to conscience rights, affordability and treatment of immigrants.”

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, Chair of the bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, said: “Congress needs to separate facts and truth from political rhetoric on abortion funding. Even our opponents claim they do not support federal funding for elective abortions and they want current restrictions to apply. The way to settle this often misleading debate is simply, clearly and explicitly to apply Hyde restrictions to all the federal funds in the legislation. That is what the House did and what the final bill must do. The Senate should not approve this bill in its current form.”

Bishop John Wester, Chair of the bishops’ Committee on Migration, pointed out: “For many years the bishops have strongly supported accessible and affordable health care for all. Health care must protect, not threaten, human life and dignity; respect, not violate, consciences of providers, taxpayers, and others. We believe universal coverage should be truly universal, not deny health care to those in need because of where they come from or when they arrive here. The Senate proposal falls short in these areas. Immigrants deserve access to health care for their benefit and the common good of all of society. We urge Senators to resist amendments that would leave immigrants and their families behind as the nation reforms health care. We urge Senators to support amendments that improve health-care access for immigrants and their families and to oppose efforts that deny them access.”

Cardinal George concluded: “While we deplore the Senate’s refusal to adopt the Nelson-Hatch-Casey amendment, we remain hopeful that the protections overwhelmingly passed by the House will be incorporated into needed reform legislation. Failure to exclude abortion funding will turn allies into adversaries and require us and others to oppose this bill because it abandons both principle and precedent.”

USCCB Pro-Life Secretariat

67 Responses to Bishops Disappointed by Senate Vote to Kill Pro-Life Amendment

  • Mike Petrik says:

    Personally, I think it is dangerous for the Bishops to weigh in on most prudential matters. Of course, they should oppose any legislation that would advance abortion, just as they should weigh in on all matters of grave morality. But while appropriate access to health care may have a moral component, whether a particular approach would be effective or most effective is well outside the charism of bishops. I’m far more interested in what health care economists say, as well as insurance companies, doctors, hospitals, and medical organizations. Big and small pharma too. And big city hospitals that serve the poor. All are stakeholders and have knowledge. But the Bishops and their staff don’t know any more than you or me. They just have impulsive policy preferences based on political bias just like you and me.

  • Tito Edwards says:

    I think the bishops are fully invested in the process since they seem to be wedded to “universal coverage” in health care. Though I disagree on their method of implementing God’s Kingdom here on earth, at least they found “a” voice somewhere.

    Hopefully they’ll be more unified in the next election cycle when it comes to protecting the unborn among us.

  • Tito Edwards says:

    Michael I.,

    The bishops conference is not an authority of Catholic teaching.

    So I choose what I like from the USCCB.

    I only adhere to Sacred Scripture, the Magisterium, and Sacred Tradition.

    Unlike you that adheres to Noam Chomsky, Karl Marx, and Bono.

  • Mike Petrik says:

    Tito, I noticed and wasn’t at all surprised. No big scandal in my mind, since I have several misguided Marxist friends. We avoid politics and economics and just drink. I don’t see how Marxism can be squared with Catholicism though. But perhaps the USCCB has an authoritative teaching on how to do that. ;-)

  • Although I would not call myself a Marxist, I’ve learned from Marx. As has the Roman Catholic Church and the rest of the human race.

    Mike – Um, because the USCCB are nothing but the bishops (you know, the successors of the Apostles!) in the united states.

  • Perhaps you and Tito would like to have a conversation about Marx, and about which of his ideas I agree with and don’t agree with, and whether or not the ideas I agree with are in opposition to Church teaching or whether the Church herself acknowledges said ideas?

    Or maybe you both can throw around the name “Marx” and the term “Marxism” without actually getting specific?

    Or maybe Tito will simply delete my comments when I ask him to actually get specific and show us how much he actually knows about Karl Marx?

    What about Chomsky, Tito? Can you explain to me what elements of Chomsky’s work are in opposition to Church teaching? Perhaps u.s. foreign policy is sacred and unable to be criticized?

  • Phillip – If you actually read Apostolos Suos and the relevant ecclesial documents, you will find that the issue is much more complex than your claim that “[t]he magisterial authority of a Bishops Conference is about that of an individual bishop.”

    Tito – You’re not making any sense. Could you rephrase for me? What was that about Hitler?

  • Phillip says:

    Of course its much more complicated than that. But of course, when one reads Apostolos Suos, one sees that a single dissenting vote by a bishop on a doctrinal matter ends the authority of the Conference and the matter must be referred to Rome. An individual bishop has that degree of authority in that he can stop the entire conference.

  • It is important to read the relevant ecclesial documents as well, including theological discussion on these matters. AS makes some interesting (non-infallible) claims about the authority of bishops conferences which are indeed in tension with, say, significant portions of Vatican II (which carry more weight than AS). AS strikes me as awfully mathematical, as if one rogue wacko bishop could threaten the authority of the teaching of the rest. Does not strike me as a very Catholic approach to authority.

    So yes, AS is important, but other documents are important too. And it’s important to read AS in its entirety and in context.

  • Phillip says:

    Of course AS can be read as a development of doctrine (non-infallible perhaps) though with greater magisterial teaching than theologians. As the theologian Cardianl Dulles noted, AS is the effort of the Church (read magisterial authority) to place the authority of conferences in its proper context (a limited one) which is only a reflection of individual bishops authority. This is the proper context.

  • Phillip says:

    Of course that would presuppose that much of what the USCCB does is pronouce on doctrinal matter. Actually most, such as its support of current health care legislation with three provisions, is doctrinal. It is of course not. It is prudential. Thus laymen can licitly disagree with their position in regards to the legislation in general.
    What is doctrinal is the USCCB’s defense of traditional Catholic teaching that abortion is an intrinsic evil. Thus Tito is on good ground in his position.

  • Guys. Marx was generally good about diagnosing a lot of the problems of capitalism-particularly its tendency towards self-destruction due to the need for expansive greed.

    Now, his other ideas about history and individualism and God and pretty much everything else he wrote? utter garbage. But those that disagree with us often have a kernel of truth in them.

    Oh, and bishops are important, You should generally listen to them. (Darn it, I just agreed mostly with Michael I. I may get banned from this blog if I keep this up!)

  • Joe Hargrave says:

    I agree Michael D, though I can’t say Marx’s ideas about history were totally wrong – certain classes do gravitate to certain ideas. The casual relationship might be out of tune, but the correlation is there.

    The irony is that so much revolutionary nonsense, especially when it railed the hardest against Christianity, is really born out of a sort of childlike disappointment that humanity did not live up to the true standards of Christianity.

    I see much of revolutionary socialism stemming from what Moses Hess said to Marx – that the whole point was to “bring heaven down to Earth.”

    If we lived as Christians ought to live, consistently, fully, these people would disappear. In a sense I see the revolutionary scourge as, if not a punishment, an inevitable symptom of a society that has fallen off the right track. That is how Leo XIII and especially Pius XI saw it.

  • Phillip says:

    Michael,

    Yes, the bishops are important in matters of faith and morals. In matters of application of faith and morals to the political domain, that’s the role of the laity. The bishops may chime in with their prudential judgment. And I will assess their prudential judgment and use mine as is proper to the vocation of the Catholic layman.

  • Only if one does not understand the distinction between intrinsic evils and prudential application of moral principles where licit differences apply.

    I understand the distinction well, but that distinction is not a matter of doctrine vs. not-doctrine.

  • Phillip says:

    Ah yes. But one can never commit an intrinsic evil (abortion). One can disagree quite substantially on the way to provide health care to the population in general.

  • But one can never commit an intrinsic evil (abortion).

    Obviously.

    One can disagree quite substantially on the way to provide health care to the population in general.

    True. But Catholic teaching demands that health care actually be provided to the population in general. Most folks who “respectfully disagree” with the bishops on the health care issue have no desire to see health care extended to those who have no coverage, preferring free-market “you gotta earn yer health care” approaches. Basically what Catholic teaching allows is substantial disagreement on how universal health care is to be provided.

  • Phillip says:

    Of course your present a false picture Michael. And what universal health care includes is not defined by the church. In my experience, America does in fact provide universal health care for children through S-CHIP. For the elderly with Medicare and with almost all poor with Medicare/Medicaid. Your point again is limited to a very false impression of what the government already does with health care in America.

  • Phillip – Show me where I am false, don’t simply claim what I have said is false.

    Millions of people are not covered in the united states. Millions of lives are ruined by this health care system. You cannot say with any seriousness that the u.s. provides universal health care.

    Another contradiction of the right: claiming on the one hand that the u.s. DOES provide universal health care, and then on the other hand in another argumentative context insisting that the u.s. should NOT provide universal health care.

  • Phillip says:

    Having said that, yes in fact S-CHIP and Medicare/Medicaid will cover almost everyone (S-CHIP will cover all children.) To claim otherwise is to not be based in the facts.

  • Phillip says:

    Nothing in Catholic Social teaching says there must be a single payer. Also nothing that says that such coverage must be equal across the board. These are licit areas of disagreement.

  • Having said that, yes in fact S-CHIP and Medicare/Medicaid will cover almost everyone (S-CHIP will cover all children.)

    All children = almost everyone? What?

    Nothing in Catholic Social teaching says there must be a single payer.

    I never said CST requires single payer. I said I am in favor of it. But CST requires that every person receive health care regardless of their ability to pay, i.e. universal health care.

    Also nothing that says that such coverage must be equal across the board. These are licit areas of disagreement.

    What exactly are you looking to get out of? Which persons do not deserve what? Please be specific since you seem to have something in mind.

  • Phillip says:

    S-Chip will cover all children. That takes care of that segment of the population. Medicaid and Medicare covers most others. That leaves a small number of people who do not have coverage. A basic plan that does not necessarily cover everything that a plan that others have would be consistent with CST. Basic health screenings, basic medications, basic procedures and emergency care – yes. Coronary bypass, more sophisticated medical care, more cutting edge medications – no.

  • Medicaid and Medicare covers most others.

    Most?

    That leaves a small number of people who do not have coverage.

    A “small number” is awfully imprecise. Are you saying that statistics reported and used by the USCCB are false? Is 40 million or whatever the statistic is a “small number”?

    A basic plan that does not necessarily cover everything that a plan that others have would be consistent with CST.

    The way you have phrased this indicates a “what can we get away with” approach to ethics

    Basic health screenings, basic medications, basic procedures and emergency care – yes. Coronary bypass, more sophisticated medical care, more cutting edge medications – no.

    Why should poor people NOT be able to have coronoary bypass surgeries? Why should they be denied “cutting edge medications”? Why are you intending to set up a class structure?

  • Phillip says:

    Actually the 40 million includes a large number of 18-39 year old who choose not to buy health insurance. A calculated risk but for most it is a wise economic choice. 11 million who qualify for Medicaid/S-CHIP are not enrolled. That would cover most of that 40 million number.
    CST does not require equality of outcome. A right in CST is that that would allow basic human flourishing. Vaccines and basic medications will. More elaborate plans are not required by CST. That’s been the teaching since Rerum Novarum

  • Phillip says:

    Everyone will die. Even the rich will run out of options. Even with ordinary policies there is denial of care (transplants, experimental procedures.) The question is how much health care is a right.

  • Tito Edwards says:

    I’m sure if Michael I. needed emergency surgery he would be crossing the border from Canada to the U.S. because he knows full well that the socialized health care in Canada would put him on a waiting list.

  • Everyone will die.

    Ah, here is your position. Crystal clear.

    I’m sure if Michael I. needed emergency surgery he would be crossing the border from Canada to the U.S. because he knows full well that the socialized health care in Canada would put him on a waiting list.

    1) I don’t live in Canada anymore. 2) I never had provincial health insurance while living in Canada because I am not Canadian. International students, until very recently, had to purchase private insurance. It was very inexpensive compared to the u.s. 3) In three years in Canada I did not meet a single Canadian who was unhappy with Canadian health care. Not one. I sought them out. They’re few and far between. 4) I am currently without health insurance.

  • You still didn’t answer the question.

    If you needed emergency surgery would you wait 3-6 months or would you jump back to the greatest nation in the history of the world, America?

    You never ASKED me a question. You said “Iafrate would probably do such and such.”

    But since you asked me directly this time…

    Presumably you are asking me assuming I still lived in Canada. Considering I had no U.S. health care at all when I lived in Canada I would obviously wait it out because “the greatest nation in the history of the world” would be of absolutely no help.

  • Tito, you are under the mis-apprehension that the US healthcare system is superior to that of other advanced economies. It is not.

    I am one of the lucky ones – I have insurance, decent by American standards. But in other countries I am familiar with, I can see doctors faster, I can get similar treatment, and I don’t have to deal with byzantine insurance bureacracies.

  • Tito Edwards says:

    MM,

    Exchanging byzantine insurance bureaucracies for byzantine government bureaucracies is a step down in most people’s opinion.

    You may be able to get basic medical care at a lower price, but you will have to wait for most surgeries and other sophisticated medical procedures due to the lack of highly trained physicians being priced out of the market and to heavy regulation making it impossible to make a living in those fields.

  • Phillip says:

    But we are back to the point where we were before. The bishops have made a prudential judgment. Some laymen agree. Some disagree for different reasons. Abortion is an intrinsic evil. Obama’s health care plan is a prudential judgment. Elimination of class distinctions is not a component of CST. Rationing of some sort will happen as it does currently. Death is an inevitability. Not all health care that is available needs be present in a health plan to be moral.

  • The prudential judgment of the bishops is one thing, but their insistence that health coverage should be universal is not a prudential judgment.

    Abortion is an intrinsic evil.

    What does this have to do with it and why did you just throw it in the middle of this paragraph? Are you one of those “everything is really about abortion” types?

  • Phillip says:

    Just that the Senate plan just passed includes abortion coverage and the bishops have noted that one cannot support the current plan as a Catholic.

    Yes basic coverage for all is a Catholic principle. The problem with the bishops’ statement is that if abortion payment, as well as conscience provisions, were provided in the legislation, they would support it as being consistent with Catholic principles. This is their prudential judgment. Mine is that it does not. That’s the prudential judgment part.

  • Mike Petrik says:

    I don’t see how universal “coverage” is anything but prudential. Universal access to basic health care may be a Catholic principle, but “coverage” suggests insurance, and the role of insurance is prudential. To the extent a society can afford it, no one should be denied access to basic health care. The extent to which that is actually happening in the US today is debatable, as is how improvements can be made. With proper protections against abortion, I have absolutely no problem with Catholics supporting a variant of the current legislation; I also have no problems with Catholics opposing it. To suggest that Catholics are required to support or oppose in such a case is just mistaken. Phillip is correct.

  • Michael,

    How can you on the one hand insist that only those who are ideologically sympathetic to you have an accurate understanding of what socialists/anarchists advocate, and yet on the other hand insist that only those who are _not_ Republican (indeed, only those who dislike them) have an accurate understanding of what Republicans advocate?

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