Bishop RickenHeadlines from these past months have given a great deal of attention to congressional work on health care reform. This complex issue has drawn the attention of many groups and for good reason; any enacted changes could have far-reaching implications.
As a church, we Catholics must to be attentive to this issue. We believe that men and women are made in the image of God and that the protection of the life and dignity of every human person stands paramount. Affordable and accessible health for all, especially the poor, directly influences each person's quality of life. Prospective changes could impact what kind of health care is administered, how it is administered and to whom it is administered. Our church has been and will continue to be vigilant about the protection of all life - from conception to natural death. We are also mindful of how health care reform could impact our Catholic health care institutions and our Catholic health care workers.
To assist in articulating the Catholic Church's position on health care reform, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has launched a Web site, www.usccb.org/healthcare. It includes videos, facts, statistics, frequently asked questions, links for contacting members of Congress and letters from bishops to Congress. For example, Cardinal Justin Rigali, Archbishop of Philadelphia and chairman of the U.S. Bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities, wrote to Congress on Aug. 11 criticizing abortion provisions in the House version of health care legislation. Similarly, Bishop William F. Murphy of Rockville Centre, N.Y., and chairman of the U.S. Bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, of which I am a member, outlined the bishops' concerns and priorities for health care reform as a whole in his July 17 letter to Congress.
Certain aspects of the national health care reform discussion deserve special comment. Unfortunately, it appears that various forces are attempting to derail national health care reform by misrepresenting the church's teaching on abortion and national health care reform and by excluding the right for immigrants to benefit from national health care reform. Our Bishops' Conference has made it perfectly clear that any legislation must not provide government funding for abortion and that all documented immigrants in our country must benefit from national health insurance reform. Any attempts to build a wedge in the church over these issues or to misrepresent church teaching is indicative of evil in our society.
Helping the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in this endeavor are the Catholic Health Association and Catholic Charities USA. Both organizations are committed to the church's teachings and are working hard to ensure that the principles of our faith are met in all health care reform. Another national Catholic organization, the St. Vincent de Paul Society, is also advocating for health care reform that is in line with the church's social and moral teachings as well as papal encyclicals and statements from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
These organizations - whose members have worked tirelessly for decades to help disadvantaged individuals and families - are instrumental in bringing the Gospel message to millions across our country. Let us come together as one united Catholic family and support national comprehensive health care reform that is centered on the church's teachings: protection of the life and dignity of all persons, from the time of conception to natural death; access for all, with a special concern for the poor; pursuing the common good and pluralism in health care choices and freedom of conscience for health care workers; and restraint of costs that are more equitably borne across the spectrum of users.