Patrick Kennedy: Catholic Church Fanning ‘Flames of Dissent and Discord’ by Opposing Health Bill Over Abortion Funding

October 22, 2009 - 3:50 PM
Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.) told CNSNews.com that the Catholic Church is doing nothing but fanning "the flames of dissent and discord" by saying it will oppose the health-care bill unless it is amended to explicitly prohibit funding of abortion.
(CNSNews.com) - Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I) told CNSNews.com that the Catholic Church is doing nothing but fanning “the flames of dissent and discord” by taking the position that it will oppose the health-care reform bill under consideration in Congress unless it is amended to explicitly prohibit funding of abortion.

“I can’t understand for the life of me how the Catholic Church could be against the biggest social justice issue of our time, where the very dignity of the human person is being respected by the fact that we’re caring and giving health care to the human person--that right now we have 50 million people who are uninsured,” Kennedy told CNSNews.com when asked about a letter the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) had sent to members of Congress stating the bishops' position on abortion funding in the health-care bill.

“You mean to tell me the Catholic Church is going to be denying those people life saving health care? I thought they were pro-life?” said Kennedy. “If the church is pro-life, then they ought to be for health care reform because it’s going to provide health care that are going to keep people alive. So this is an absolute red herring and I don’t think that it does anything but to fan the flames of dissent and discord and I don’t think it’s productive at all."
 

 
On Oct. 8, the USCCB sent a letter to all 535 members of Congress saying that the Catholic bishops would “vigorously” oppose a final health care bill unless it were changed to include language that explicitly prohibits the use of taxpayer funds for abortions. According to the bishops, no current version of the health-care bill meets that standard.

“If final legislation does not meet our principles, we will have no choice but to oppose the bill,” the bishops said in their letter.

One of the principles stated in the letter is: “Exclude mandated coverage for abortion, and incorporate longstanding policies against abortion funding and in favor of conscience rights. No one should be required to pay for or participate in abortion. It is essential that the legislation clearly apply to this new program longstanding and widely supported federal restrictions on abortion funding and mandates, and protections for rights of conscience. No current bill meets this test."

“We sincerely hope that the legislation will not fall short of our criteria,” the bishops wrote to the members of Congress. “However, we remain apprehensive when amendments protecting freedom of conscience and ensuring no taxpayer money for abortion are defeated in committee votes. If acceptable language in these areas cannot be found, we will have to oppose the health care bill vigorously.”
 
The letter was signed on behalf of the USCCB by Bishop William F. Murphy of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, who is chairman of the conference’s committee on domestic justice and human development; Cardinal Justin Rigali, archbishop of Philadelphia, who is chairman of the conference’s committee on pro-life activities; and Bishop John Wester of the Diocese of Salt Lake City, who is chairman of the conference’s committee on migration.
 
Here is a transcript of the exchange between Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D.-R.I.) and CNSNews.com:
 
Nicholas Ballasy: "There’s a letter written by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops to Congress saying that they believe all of the health care proposals right now – the one in the House and the ones in the Senate – they all fund abortion as it stands and unless there’s an amendment or a change to those bills that specifically prohibits it, they’re not going to support it. Do you agree with them or is there something – "
 
Patrick Kennedy: "I can’t understand for the life of me how the Catholic Church could be against the biggest social justice issue of our time where the very dignity of the human person is being respected by the fact that we’re caring and giving health care to the human person – that right now we have 50 million people who are uninsured. You mean to tell me the Catholic Church is going to be denying those people life saving health care? I thought they were pro-life. If the church is pro-life, then they ought to be for health care reform because it’s going to provide health care that are going to keep people alive. So this is an absolute red herring and I don’t think that it does anything but to fan the flames of dissent and discord and I don’t think it’s productive at all."