Cardinal Defends Church’s Right to Speak on Health Care Reform

By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Staff Journalist
Despite threats from lawmakers to punish the Church’s involvement in health care reform by revoking its tax-exempt status, Cardinal Francis George defended the Church’s right to enter this debate because it is their responsibility “to insist as a moral voice . . . that everyone should be cared for and that no one should be deliberately killed.”

According to a report by the Catholic News Agency, these remarks were made by Cardinal George, the president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, in his opening address to the full assembly of bishops on Monday.

Remarking on the recent attempts to silence the bishops, he noted, “issues that are moral questions before they become political remain moral questions when they become political.”

The Cardinal was referring to a threat made by Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) to investigate the Church’s tax-exempt status because of the role played by the bishops in having abortion funding removed from the House health care reform bill. 

A similar tactic is being undertaken in Maine where gay activists have launched a website that enables people to send letters to the IRS protesting the role played by the Church and other Christian denominations in overturning a gay marriage law earlier this month.

While it is not the place of the bishops to speak to particular means of delivering health care, it is their responsibility “to insist as a moral voice concerned with human solidarity that everyone should be cared for and that no one should be deliberately killed,” the Cardinal said.

In order to govern pastorally and effectively on issues such as health care, priests and bishops need to be able to speak in “public without being co-opted and (be) who we are without being isolated,” he said.

“We approach every issue from the perspective of the natural moral law and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. . . . To limit our teaching or governing to what the state is not interested in would be to betray both the constitution of our country and much more importantly, the Lord Himself.” 

He concluded his remarks by saying: “Jesus Christ is the savior of the whole world, our public lives as well are our private lives, of our business concerns and the recreational outlets of our families, and our institutions of the living and of the dead. In His name and as bishops of his church we gather now to seek his will for ourselves our priests and our people, and with His authority we govern.”
The Cardinal received a standing ovation upon completion of his address.
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