Executive Director of Justice Peace and Human Development
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
Conference call with news media, November 23, 2009
The US Catholic Bishops have been working for decades for affordable and accessible health care for all.
The most important thing about the bishops’ conference is that it IS the BISHOPS’ conference. The principles and priorities which staff is outlining on this call are the moral principles and legislative positions established by the Bishops. We are happy to offer background and context. However, for the formal USCCB positions on abortion and conscience, on affordability and on immigrants we refer you to the letter sent Friday to the Senate. And to the statement of Cardinal George, the USCCB president, which was affirmed by the body of bishops last week. The Catholic Community brings unique perspectives and everyday experience to our support for genuine health care reform:
- We provide health care. The Catholic Church health care is the largest non-governmental provider of health care in the nation, with more than 600 hospitals, 2000 long-term care facilities and countless clinics and ministries serving the poor and those with out coverage.
- We purchase health care for tens of thousands of employees who work in our dioceses, schools, charities and other ministries. We know the costs of escalating health care coverage. We are paying those increasing costs everyday.
- We pick up the pieces of this failing health care system. The sick and uninsured are in our emergency rooms and shelters, on our parish doorsteps and in our schools everyday.
- We preach and teach that health care is a basic human right, not a privilege; a service, not a commodity. Access to health care for all is an essential requirement to protect human life and dignity and an essential element of the common good and a decent society. But health care should protect life, not destroy it. We believe health care legislation must respect the consciences of providers, taxpayers, and others, not violate them. We believe health care reform must keep in place the longstanding and widely supported federal policies (reflected in the Hyde Amendment) which do not require by law that people pay for elective abortion or plans that include elective abortions. We believe universal coverage should be truly universal, not deny health care to those in need because of their condition, age, where they come from or when they arrive here.
The Bishops’ Conference is offering our moral principles, everyday experience and deep commitment to genuine health care reform--what it is and is not--- to this essential and long overdue national discussion. As the Bishops said last Friday:
These …policy objectives are not marginal or special interest concerns. They are at the heart of the debate: Whose lives and health are to be protected and whose are not? Will the federal government, for the first time , require people to pay for other peoples’ abortions? Will immigrants be worse off as a result of health care reform? At their core, these choices are not just political, but also moral
It is the strong and consistent position of the USCCB that reform which clearly protects the lives, dignity, consciences and health of all is a moral imperative and urgent national priority.