By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
The president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) expressed apprehension about whether or not the President’s executive order would adequately prevent federal funding of abortion and said he was concerned about the divisions in the Church that became apparent during the health care debate.
In an interview with the Catholic News Service (CNS) shortly after President Obama signed the recently passed health care reform bill into law, Cardinal Francis E. George of Chicago said the Catholic community would be on the alert for signs that the new plan will provide taxpayer funds to abortion.
“We are apprehensive as we look to the future, even as we applaud much of the increased care that will be available,” he said. “So we will watch basically and try to continue to enter into conversations as a moral voice — never as a political voice; we’ve been very careful to insist upon the moral principles that everybody should be cared for and no one should be deliberately killed.”
He also said that it remains to be seen whether the executive order promised by Obama would be enough to keep taxpayer money out of the abortion industry.
“The president’s executive order puts in some administrative protections that we are very grateful for, but an administrative order doesn’t substitute for a statute,” he said.
As for conscience protection problems that Church-run healthcare facilities may face as a result of the new law, the cardinal said. “We’ll see how that plays out in the courts. . . .I suspect that there will be court challenges to Catholic medical practice.”
He also expressed concern about the lack of unity among Catholics in the health care debate that became apparent in the weeks leading up to the vote when the Catholic Health Association and a group of nuns publicly backed the bill in spite of the USCCB’s opposition.
“We are certainly concerned about division in the church, because bishops have to be the people who are concerned about its unity, about keeping people together around Christ,” he said.
“The bishops know that they don’t speak for every one of the 61 million Catholics in the country, but what we do is we speak for the Catholic faith itself,” he said. “And those who share the faith will gather around.”
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