Catholic bishops won't support repeal of health care bill

January 19, 2011

WASHINGTON(RNS) The U.S. Catholic bishops will not join efforts to
repeal the new health care law, even though they staunchly opposed the
bill last year after concluding it permits federally funded abortions.


Instead of pushing repeal, the bishops said Tuesday (Jan. 18) they
will devote their energy "to correcting serious moral problems in the
current law," according to a letter sent to Capitol Hill from Cardinal
Daniel DiNardo, Bishop Stephen Blaire, and Archbishop Jose Gomez, who
all chair political committees at the U.S. Conference of Catholic
Bishops.


Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, president of the USCCB, echoed
that message in a separate letter to all 535 members of Congress
outlining the bishops' top political priorities.


By not supporting House Republicans' campaign to repeal the health
care law, the bishops averted another clash with Catholic health care
workers and nuns, who had bucked the hierarchy last year by publicly
backing the bill.


In his farewell address as president of the USSCB last year,
Cardinal Francis George of Chicago lamented the "wound to the church's
unity" caused by last year's debate.


The Catholic Health Association and Network, a social justice lobby
run by Catholic sisters, both said they continue to support the
Affordable Care Act that was passed last year.


"While no one piece of legislation is perfect," said Sister Carol
Keehan, president and CEO of the Catholic Heath Association, "we believe
many of the (bill's) provisions to strengthen our health care system and
expand access and coverage to millions of families are essential and
should remain law."


The House began debate on the repeal on Tuesday; the GOP-led
campaign will likely end there as well, as neither the
Democratic-controlled Senate nor President Obama support rescinding the
law.


The bishops urged Congress to take up two bills introduced last year
that they believe would ensure the new health care bill maintains
longstanding prohibitions on federal funding of abortion and bolsters
conscience rights for health care workers. Religious progressives and
the Obama administration have said the new law and a related executive
order signed by the president last year already do so.