I have found it interesting to watch the many responses of Catholics to the new health care bill. Cardinal George has applauded the bill while maintaining some reservations:
We are apprehensive as we look to the future, even as we applaud much of the increased care that will be available.
I think it is important for Catholics to recognize both the applause and the apprehension. The USCCB has been working on “universal” health care now for a long time. They have been a constant advocate of reform. The two primary reasons usually given for their apprehension about the current bill are first, that its language is vague about federal funds being used to pay for abortions, and second, it does not include illegal immigrants. It is not “universal” enough.
This second point seems to be lost on certain Catholics. For example, Deal Hudson has come out with much praise for the Bishops’ reservations. But this is the same Hudson who wrote:
Criticism of the USCCB among lay Catholics, as well as many priests and bishops, has been a constant since its march to the political left in the years after its creation in 1966. Pastoral letters, including the ones on the economy (1986) and war and peace (1983), created a clear line of demarcation between the liberal politics of the conference (aligned with the Democratic Party) and the Catholics, both lay and religious, who interpreted the Church’s social teaching differently (in a way inclining them toward conservatism and the GOP.)
So as to avoid a serious divide among Catholics in America, we cannot take this approach. The bishops are wise, and they desire both to promote “universal” health care, and, precisely so that it be “universal,” push for it to include the unborn. We would be wise to follow their lead, and not select what we like and don’t like from them. Cardinal George has made it clear that the Bishops are trying to steer away from politics on this matter. We should try to give them the benefit of the doubt and listen carefully to what they are saying.