Action Alert!

the USCCB on health reform: 'mixed results'

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Oct 27, 2009

The US Conference of Catholic Bishops has announced that it saw "mixed results" in a series of Senate finance committee votes on health-care reform.

The votes everyone was watching involved funding for abortion. On that issue, the pro-life amendments were defeated. Richard Doerflinger, the associate director of the USCCB's pro-life secretariat, described those votes as "especially disheartening." He concluded: "The bill remains deeply flawed on these issues and must be corrected." Nothing "mixed" about those results.

In their latest letter to Congress, the leaders of the US bishops' conference-- represented by three chairmen of USCCB committees-- said that acceptable reform legislation must protect human life, offer coverage to legal immigrants, and be affordable. The USCCB now says that the legislation emerging from committee "failed to improve the access immigrants currently have," and "many families are still vulnerable to high health-care costs." So the legislation is defective on those (less important) issues as well. Where are these "mixed" results?

Earlier this year the USCCB said that the legislation under consideration would not bar abortion subsidies, and was therefore unacceptable. When President Obama said that the bill would not subsidize abortion-- essentially calling the bishops liars-- the USCCB welcomed his statement and expressed the hope that the legislation would be amended to bring it into line with the president's words. When that didn't happen, the USCCB leaders said that they would "vigorously" oppose the "unacceptable" legislation. Saying that a committee's work produced "mixed results"-- when in fact there was no fundamental change on the essentials-- is not a means of "vigorously" opposing the bill.

The only things truly "mixed" in this sad scenario are the messages coming from the US bishops' conference. If the bishops had said three weeks ago, in a plain declarative sentence, "We oppose this legislation," their stand would have had some real impact. Now the hour is late, lawmakers are taking firm stands, and we're still waiting for that clear, simple message from the USCCB.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

Sound Off! supporters weigh in.

All comments are moderated. To lighten our editing burden, only current donors are allowed to Sound Off. If you are a current donor, log in to see the comment form; otherwise please support our work, and Sound Off!

  • Posted by: annemarie - Oct. 31, 2009 4:49 PM ET USA

    I do NOT understand the USCCB’s reluctance to challenge the Obama admin. Like Jesus, bishops are duty-bound to be the Good Shepherd - obligated to stand for what is morally right, not for what is politically correct. This legislation is an unabashed grab for socialist power, for control of our lives. Where are our bishops? They should be standing against this degradation and assault on human life. "Woe to the shepherds who mislead and scatter the flock of my pasture, says the LORD." Jer.23:1

  • Posted by: Pete - Oct. 29, 2009 12:15 PM ET USA

    I don't believe the USCCB is capable of "mixed" anything. It has been a total failure in everything it's attempted from the Dallas Constitution, to immigration reform, to health care reform, to "Hate Speech", to an English translation for the Liturgy. (That's only taken 10 years and still isn't finished.) The USCCB isn't capable of a "clear, simple message" on anything. Look at the mess with the "Catholic" politicians who are still receiving the Eucharist. Health Care! Right!!!

  • Posted by: - Oct. 28, 2009 12:53 AM ET USA

    This is insane! We must make our Catholic voice clear!

  • Posted by: - Oct. 28, 2009 12:15 AM ET USA

    Phil, like you, I abhor the American "culture of death" in our culture. However, to be very honest, I can understand the USCCB's reluctance to directly challenge or criticize the Obama administration at this point in history. There are many areas where the administration APPEARS to be MOSTLY in line with Catholic doctrine. Perhaps it's easy to trade the unborn faceless fetus for living human beings who have a name and a history. Perhaps it's only human to give preference to "born" humans.