Why We Aren’t United with Catholics United

Catholics United (CU) has launched a campaign to promote health care reform and encourage Catholics to support it with the full force of a united Catholic voice. It’s called Catholics for Health Care Reform. CU cites the achievements of the USCCB and Congressman Stupak in getting safeguards for the unborn in the bill that passed the House (the one now in the Senate). They are calling upon all Catholics to join the campaign.

After a closer look at this group, pro-life Catholics proceed with caution. This is the same group that gave their support to Candidate Obama, Speaker Pelosi, HHS Secretary Sebelius and other left-leaning pro-abortion Democrats. This group, according to Catholic News Agency (CNA), “supported the president’s health care bill even when the U.S. bishops were opposing it, before the Stupak Amendment passed in the House.”

So, what is this group saying on the subject of health care reform? Why should we be cautious about joining their campaign?

Catholics United wants to muddy the waters. They want as many Catholics as possible to think that supporting this reform is synonymous with supporting our bishops and adhering to the Catholic faith.  Their effort is working. Even the LA Times got it wrong when they attributed a CU quote to the United States Council of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). Kim Geiger, a reporter at the LA Times wrote:

The [Stupak Amendment] won immediate support from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which urged Catholics to ‘lend their full-throated support’ to the Democrat’s healthcare bill.

Trouble is, the USCCB did not make this statement. It was made by the CU Executive Director Chris Korzen, but the LA Times incorrectly attributed these words to our bishops. The mistake has been corrected, but how many readers were misled before the LA Times set the record straight?

Cardinal Francis George noted that the bishops were thankful “the Representatives honored President Obama’s commitment to the Congress and the nation that health care reform would not become a vehicle for expanding abortion funding or mandates.”  In addition, Cardinal George warned that “the Conference will remain vigilant and involved throughout this entire process to assure that these essential provisions are maintained and included in the final legislation” (full statement at the USCCB website).

While CU wants Catholics to believe it is a moral imperative to back reform with “full-throated support,” Cardinal Francis George has made it clear that:

[The bishops] remain deeply concerned about other aspects of health care reform as the debate now moves to the Senate, especially as it affects the poor and vulnerable, and those at the beginning and end of life. We will continue to insist that health care reform legislation must protect conscience rights.  We support measures to make health care more affordable for low-income people and the uninsured. We remain deeply concerned that immigrants be treated fairly and not lose the health care coverage that they now have.

According to their website, CU wants Catholics to lend their full support to a bill that is still in transition. Nobody can be sure what the bill will look like when it emerges from the Senate. We can rejoice that the House version did contain some strong safeguards for the unborn, thanks to the USCCB and Congressman Stupak. But it is premature for Catholics to give their blessing to any legislation before it is clear what the bill will look like in the end.

One article on the CU website for heath care reform criticizes pro-life Catholics who were adamant on the Stupak up/down vote. CU wants to know why those who were so vocal in their support of the Stupak Amendment would be silent now that it has passed:

Nonetheless, some Republican-affiliated groups who claim a Catholic orientation – including the American Life League — have broken with the Bishops’ Conference by opposing the legislation. Others, like the Catholic League and Family Research Council, remained silent Saturday after attacking the legislation for months.

While CU is wondering why pro-life Catholics are silent now that the Stupak Amendment has passed, pro-life Catholics are wondering why the CU was so quiet with regard to the Stupak Amendment, before it was clear Speaker Pelosi would permit a vote on it. Where was the outcry from CU when the USCCB was working diligently to get those provisions and safeguards in the bill? And why was CU adamant in their support of the bill before these safeguards were established through the Stupak Amendment?

And now, Catholics United wants all Catholics to throw their support behind the health care bill — with “full-throated support” for reform. Let’s see why it would be a serious mistake for Catholics to do this.

First, the USCCB has not even done what the CU wants all Catholics to do. We cannot give blind support to a bill that is still in transition. The USCCB is thankful that the Stupak-Pitts Amendment was added to the House bill, but the bishops know that the Senate can change all that -– and in fact the White House has given assurances to pro-abortion factions that it will be pushing to make that change. It is still too early to give our blessing to the bill.

If we truly want a just reform of our health care system, then we must do full and thorough research to uncover what the final bill contains — or does not contain. People like Peter J. Smith and Kathleen Gilbert are working hard to uncover some of the troubling aspects that remain in the bill. At LifeSiteNews.com, Smith and Gilbert have listed a number of problems that still exist with the bill. Many others are working hard to keep up with the changes the Senate makes to the bill. Some of these concerns are summarized below. It is not an exhaustive list.

Will the final bill protect life from conception to natural death?

  • Will seniors be subjected to rationed care in an effort to keep costs down? Will this new plan cover services for the gravely ill to the same degree that private sector insurance does?
  • Will reform protect the unborn? What happens if the Stupak Amendment is omitted from the Senate version? Will Congress force the bill to a vote even then? Will the CU continue to support reform if that happens?
  • Will this bill cover artificial contraception and abortifiacient drugs? Will it fund public school programs that encourage school staff to counsel girls to seek the “help” of “reproductive specialists” like Planned Parenthood?
  • Will this bill cover other reproductive services that are not specified in the Stupak Amendment – services like IVF and other infertility services? According to a Q&A at the Center for Reproductive Medicine(CRM), this is anybody’s guess. Sean Tipton, spokesperson for the American Society of Reproductive Medicine believes that infertility may be covered under the new reform bill. He believes that Congress will probably leave out specific wording on the things they want covered the most (like abortion, contraception, and IVF). They will not name these things, but rather leave such reproductive matters to the discretion of the HHS Secretary.

Will this bill help or hurt health care workers?

  • Will there be sufficient conscience protection for doctors and medical professionals?
  • While there are some safeguards in place, what will happen to doctors, pharmacists and hospitals who are morally opposed to prescribing and dispensing contraceptives?If the Stupak Amendment is omitted from the Senate bill, what will happen to doctors and facilities who are morally opposed to providing this service?
  • Will this bill curb unnecessary litigation? If not, how can the bill claim to bring true reform and justice for all?

Does this bill provide access for immigrants?

  • Our bishops are concerned because the bill, as it stands, does not address their concerns for immigrants.

Without a doubt, we do have a segment of the population that needs our help. There are those who stand to lose insurance coverage if they lose their jobs or they are diagnosed with an illness that becomes a “pre-existing disease” and renders them uninsurable. There are others who need insurance but who are unable to obtain it through their employers. While we must work to help them, we cannot lose the soul of our nation in the process. Many worry about the cost of this bill, fearing that we will go bankrupt if it passes. That’s not a light concern, but it’s even worse if our nation goes morally bankrupt.

We must renew our efforts to protect the unborn, to ensure conscience protection for medical workers, and to establish coverage for immigrants and safeguard against any reduction in the services for the elderly and seriously infirm. Giving our full support to the bill at this point in the process is a lot like agreeing to sign a contract before it is written.

Let us continue to watch and pray.  We need to hold our politicians’ feet to the fire and take seriously what the Church teaches about life and law. In short, we have to take seriously our moral obligation to be informed and prudent citizens in assessing the full range of consequences this bill could have.

Denise Bossert


Denise Bossert is a convert and a syndicated columnist. Her column has been published in 60 diocesan newspapers. She attends Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in the Archdiocese of St. Louis, Missouri.

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  • Our bishops should be more than concerned about a bill which does not hold up to the principle of subsidiarity. I ask you why do our bishops want to pass their responsibilities on to the state? Do they feel that the Federal Government should be a church, so as to take on these responsibilities. Do they feel that if we take on these responsibilities that we will become poor. Yes, it is we the Catholic Church which should be taking on these responsibilities, even though it means we will be poor, for I would rather be poor and taking on these responsibilities, than not walking with my Lord, who walked in Heavenly poverty.

  • Donald, when I consider the efforts the USCCB put behind the Stupak vote (and also in voicing the full range of their concerns to the laity, to the country and to Congress), I don’t see it as passing off responsibility – quite the contrary. I see their efforts as being Salt of the Earth. As for your complaint against Mother Church, again I must stand up for our Church. No other group or organization or faith community has worked so hard – in every age – to be the hands and feet of Our Lord.

    I do agree with you that the laity can and should do more to take on the burdens of those around us. We shouldn’t leave it to the government. If the government is about to step into that role (as they are doing), then the Church should be there to counsel and pressure when necessary. I think our bishops did precisely that when they demanded an up/down vote on Stupak – and they have stated that they will continue this effort (see quotes from their website).

  • m7wij

    All the questions posed in your article are good, even if rhetorical.
    I warn your readers: The final bill supported by Obama will:
    1. Federally fund abortion on demand.
    2. Ration care to all, not just seniors.
    3. Limit services (or eliminate some) for the gravely ill, i.e., the health unterfuhrer will dictate who lives and dies.
    4. Will not protect the rights of the unborn, because their rights and choice are mutually exclusive under liberal law.
    5. Artificial contraception and abortifacient drugs are “accepted” methods of birth control, which the abortionists and “choice” folks feel is a right protected by the Constitution, just as they feel is the right to “equal access to health care for all.”
    6. Won’t provide equal access to health care for all, any more than is provided in European, Former Soviet Union, or Canadian models.
    7. Our public schools already have staff that counsel girls about seeking Planned Parenthood “services.” (I shudder to consider using the title “Planned Parenthood” in the same sentence with the word help, which would be an oxymoron.)
    8. Again, IVF is protected under the liberal interpretation of the Constitution, or what is left thereof. Think of it: Implant 14 embryos expecting one will survive, right off the loss of 13 lives to, as Bill Clinton likes to call it, “unintended consequences” and it no longer can be considered mass murder! Major Hasan would be proud?
    9. “Sean Tipton, spokesperson for the American Society of Reproductive Medicine [expects] that infertility [will definitely] be covered under the new reform bill. He [knows] that Congress will [almost certainly omit] specific wording on the things they want covered the most (… abortion, contraception, and IVF). They will not name these things, but rather leave such reproductive matters to the discretion of the HHS Secretary.” What discretion? I mean, really!
    10. Will not protect conscience, as long as, the ACLU gets its way.
    11. Will increase litigation, since the liberals are heavily funded by the trial lawyers.
    12. Will look like re-form, but will not be just. Justice and reform are convenient buzz-words like “it’s the economy, STUPID.” It worked for Bill and Hillary, it just HAS to work for Barrack.
    13. And last, but certainly not least. Ah, those pesky immigrants. As long as they work hard and keep their mouths shut at the right times, and raise the Mexican flag over the Stars and Stripes when shock effect is needed, they will get what they deserve. But, not necessarily what they need. Don’t worry, you and I will gladly pay for it.

    Now, why does Jonathan Swift come suddenly to mind? Maybe because the bill has taken us so far from our Catholic roots.

    Oh, and here is the Axelrod quote linked in the original article above:
    “The president has said repeatedly, and he said in his speech to Congress, that he doesn’t believe that this bill should change the status quo as it relates to the issue of abortion,” said Axelrod. “This shouldn’t be a debate about abortion. And he’s going to work with Senate and the House to try and ensure that at the end of the day, the status quo is not changed”

    We should be frightened, very frightened. This president is dragging us down the dark paths of Hitler and Stalin. The abortionists argue in favor of their right to kill as protecting them from religious persecution, while those who adhere strongly to their pro-life views, including Catholics, other Christians, Jews, and even devout Muslims, are actually the ones being persecuted!

  • I deliberately wrote the concerns in the form of questions because we cannot know at this time what the final bill will look like. Let us not make the same mistake as Catholics United. Wait and pray. Stay informed.

    Gain wisdom and hope from today’s Morning Prayers (Lauds), when Judith tells her people to “Begin a new song to him, extol and call upon his name. You are the God who crushes battle-lines. . .”

    We should not be frightened. Again, think of Judith. Her story is very appropriate right now.

  • noelfitz

    I read in this post a quote from Cardinal George:
    “We support measures to make health care more affordable for low-income people and the uninsured. We remain deeply concerned that immigrants be treated fairly and not lose the health care coverage that they now have.”

    I am pleased to read this.

    I am also pleased to read in this article:
    “without a doubt, we do have a segment of the population that needs our help. There are those who stand to lose insurance coverage if they lose their jobs or they are diagnosed with an illness that becomes a “pre-existing disease” and renders them uninsurable. There are others who need insurance but who are unable to obtain it through their employers.”


    The bishops may not be a Catholic as you, but I imagine they are doing their best. You wrote “it is we the Catholic Church”. The bishops are also part of the Church and do not really need to be reprimanded by you. You might like to look at http://usccb.org/prolife/programs/rlp/staff02.shtml and http://www.usccb.org/prolife/index.shtml.

  • We have made our Catholic institutes public by accepting public funds. All the hospitals built upon our fathers backs are now public because of this, now who to blame laity or bishops, that is a good question, one I will bet, we will never answer in one posting. We all can get in line here, for I want got in the way, something that was not supposed to happen to Catholics, but has often been our downfall.

  • hsmarc

    How could the Bishops be so naive. What has Obama ever done that would lead Cardinal George to utter the absurd statement about President Obama’s “committment” to anything that doesn’t further abortion. Whose backs has Obama had throughout his career and community organizing? I’ll tell you planned parenthood, radical left wing idealogues. Let me ask the USCCB this. Has Obama ever done anything to make you truly believe he will not push through a bill which declare open season on the unborn? Their ignorance is appalling. This does shows that USCCB from supporting ACORN, groups that fund abortion is out of touch with Church teachings and the faithfil laity. I for one will not be supporting them this weekend.

  • I cannot disagree strongly enough. It is not our place to bite the hand that feeds us (the Eucharist). It is not our place to reprimand the mouth that speaks the words of absolution to us. The gift of Apostolic Succession and Church Authority means that we must entrust the guidance of the Shepherds to the Holy Father. It’s just not our job. Once upon a time, one man became angry with Church leadership, called for them to see things his way, and ended up bring schism down upon us. Pray for our Bishops. Offer them up at the Mass. Beg for God to pour grace upon them. Rarely, very rarely, God uses a very holy person to instruct Church leaders on some necessary change of course. But that person rarely wants the job, usually would rather die a thousand deaths than speak out. I simply do not understand the ease with which so many Catholics (on both ends of the spectrum) pass judgement on God’s annointed ones.

  • denise

    The bishops do the best they can with what they have, that is use, the stones of the church which move around so much, it hard to keep the wall from falling. We understand this and prayer is the answer, it is a difficult job.

  • Here’s the latest: http://apnews.myway.com/article/20091120/D9C39JS81.html
    Pray for our Bishops; they are standing in the gap. They deserve our prayerful support.

  • m7wij

    “The disciple of Christ is constantly challenged by a spreading ‘practical atheism’–an indifference to God’s loving plan which obscures the religious and moral sense of the human heart. Many either think and act as if God did not exist, or tend to ‘privatize’ religious belief and practice, so that ther exists a bias toward indefferentism and the elimination of any real reference to binding truths and moral values. When the basic principles which inspire and direct human behavior are fragmentary and even at times contradictory, society increasingly struggles to maintain harmony and a sense of its own destiny. In a desire to find some common ground on which to build its programs and poicies, it tends to restrict the contribution of those whose moral conscience is formed by their religious beliefs.” Pope John Paul II (The Great) in his Ad Limina address to bishops from New Jersey and Pennsylvania, 11/11/1993

    Also, let us not forget that indifference is the exact opposite to love.

  • m7wij


    Some of us conservative Catholics actually believe that we shouldn’t be so open minded, as are the radical liberals, that our brains fall out! (-to paraphrase G. K. Chesterton)

    I pray for our Church leadership daily, and I pray for our lay leadership, especially those like the president, who appear furthest from Christ in their daily actions.