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US bishops outline 9 legislative priorities

Catholic World News - January 19, 2011

Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), outlined the conference’s nine legislative priorities for the coming year. The top priority, he said in a letter to members of Congress, is the protection of innocent human life from abortion and euthanasia.

Most fundamentally, we will work to protect the lives of the most vulnerable and voiceless members of the human family, especially unborn children and those who are disabled or terminally ill [emphasis in text]. We will consistently defend the fundamental right to life from conception to natural death. Opposed to abortion as the direct killing of innocent human life, we will encourage one and all to seek common ground, reducing the number of abortions by providing compassionate and morally sound care for pregnant women and their unborn children. We will oppose legislative and other measures to expand abortion. We will work to retain essential, widely supported policies which show respect for unborn life, protect the conscience rights of health care providers and other Americans, and prevent government funding and promotion of abortion. The Hyde amendment and other provisions which for many years have prevented federal funding of abortion have a proven record of reducing abortions, and should be codified in permanent law. Efforts to force Americans to fund abortions with their tax dollars pose a serious moral challenge, and Congress should act to ensure that health care reform does not become a vehicle for such funding.

“In close connection with our defense of all human life and particularly the most vulnerable among us, we stand firm in our support for marriage which is and can only be a faithful, exclusive, lifelong union of one man and one woman,” he continued.

There is good reason why the law has always recognized this, and why it should continue to do so. In a manner unlike any other relationship, marriage makes a unique and irreplaceable contribution to the common good of society, especially through the procreation and education of children. Children need, deserve and yearn for a mother and a father. All human societies in every era of history, differing greatly among themselves in many other ways, have understood this simple wisdom. No other kinds of personal relationships can be justly made equivalent or analogous to the commitment of a husband and a wife in marriage, because no other relationship can connect children to the two people who brought them into the world. For this reason, we will continue to vigorously support the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and strongly oppose legislative or executive measures that seek to redefine or erode the meaning of marriage. We suggest Congressional oversight of executive actions that have the effect of undermining DOMA, such as the expansion of spousal benefits to two persons of the same sex, and the weak defense of DOMA in court against constitutional challenge. We will seek to reflect respect for the family in every policy and program, to protect the rights of children, and to uphold the rights and responsibilities of mothers and fathers to care for their children. We will also continue to monitor legislation and federal regulations that protect our children and families from the destructive repercussions of pornography, which degrades human sexuality and marital commitment.

The conference’s next four concern economic challenges, equity in educational funding for private schools, assisting faith-based groups in ways that do not require them “to abandon their identity or mission,” and “equal access to the Internet for all, including religious and non-profit agencies.” Archbishop Dolan then touched upon universal health care:

The Catholic Bishops of the United States have worked for nearly a century to assure health care for all, insisting that access to health care is a basic human right and a requirement of human dignity. Basic health care for all is a moral imperative, not yet completely achieved. We remain committed to our three moral criteria: 1) Ensure access to quality, affordable, life-giving health care for all; 2) Retain longstanding requirements that federal funds not be used for elective abortions or plans that include them, and effectively protect conscience rights; and 3) Protect the access to health care that immigrants currently have and remove current barriers to access. We will continue to devote our efforts to improving and correcting serious moral problems in the current law, so health care reform can truly be universal and life-affirming.

The conference’s final two legislative priorities concern comprehensive immigration reform and international affairs, with an emphasis on “responsible transitions to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan” and promoting “religious freedom for all, acting against religious repression of our fellow Christians and others.”

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  • Posted by: FredC - Jan. 19, 2011 8:02 PM ET USA

    The third item, health care for all, must define "basic health care." The statement let open whether the USCCB wants to make every health-care measure equally available to every person? The statement also does not distinguish between legal immigrants and illegal immigrants. Do the bishops want both equally covered?

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