AP: in a rare public disagreement that will reverberate among the nation’s 70 million Catholics, leaders of religious orders representing 59,000 nuns sent lawmakers a letter urging lawmakers to pass the Senate health care bill.
Expected to come before the House by this weekend, the measure contains abortion funding restrictions that the bishops say don’t go far enough.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the National Right to Life Committee have denounced the bill as a backdoor subsidy for abortion. But the nuns and the Catholic Health Association – representing some 600 hospitals – say restrictions in the Senate bill would still prevent taxpayer funding for abortion, although the legal mechanism for doing so is different from what the bishops prefer.
“This is politics; this isn’t a question of faith and morals,” said Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of Network, a national Catholic social activism lobby. “We are the ones who work every day with people who are suffering because they don’t have health care. We cannot turn our backs on them, so for us, health care reform is a faith-based response to human need.”
The letter says in part,
The health care bill that has been passed by the Senate and that will be voted on by the House will expand coverage to over 30 million uninsured Americans. While it is an imperfect measure, it is a crucial next step in realizing health care for all. It will invest in preventative care. It will bar insurers from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions. It will make crucial investments in community health centers that largely serve poor women and children. And despite false claims to the contrary, the Senate bill will not provide taxpayer funding for elective abortions. It will uphold longstanding conscience protections and it will make historic new investments – $250 million – in support of pregnant women. This is the REAL pro-life stance, and we as Catholics are all for it.
The letter is signed by leaders of women’s religious orders.
Addendum. David Waters writes, At a time when American sisters are under investigation by the Vatican, a direct challenge of the public position of the bishops is likely to raise a few eyebrows in the Church hierarchy. (Priests for Life is already responding.)