US Bishops Outline Goals for Congress Advocacy

Emphasize Moral Criteria for Health Care Reform

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WASHINGTON, D.C., JAN. 19, 2011 ( The U.S. bishops outlined priorities for working with lawmakers, emphasizing in particular the need to protect life, defend marriage, and find morally acceptable policies for health care.

Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, sent a letter on Friday to members of congress to outline the «principles and priorities that will guide the public policy efforts» of the conference.

He expressed the hope that «this newly elected congress will advance the common good and defend the life and dignity of all, especially vulnerable and poor persons whose needs are critical in this time of difficult economic and policy choices.»

The prelate affirmed, «We continue to seek ways to work constructively with the administration and the new congress and others of good will to pursue policies which respect the dignity of all human life and bring greater justice to our nation and peace to our world.»

«Most fundamentally,» he continued, «we will work to protect the lives of the most vulnerable and voiceless members of the human family, especially unborn children and those who are disabled or terminally ill.»

«We will consistently defend the fundamental right to life from conception to natural death,» the archbishop stated.

He added: «Opposed to abortion as the direct killing of innocent human life, we will encourage one and all to seek common ground, reducing the number of abortions by providing compassionate and morally sound care for pregnant women and their unborn children.

«We will oppose legislative and other measures to expand abortion.»


Archbishop Dolan affirmed, «In close connection with our defense of all human life and particularly the most vulnerable among us, we stand firm in our support for marriage which is and can only be a faithful, exclusive, lifelong union of one man and one woman.»

«No other kinds of personal relationships can be justly made equivalent or analogous to the commitment of a husband and a wife in marriage,» he asserted, «because no other relationship can connect children to the two people who brought them into the world.»

«For this reason, we will continue to vigorously support the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and strongly oppose legislative or executive measures that seek to redefine or erode the meaning of marriage,» the prelate stated.

Addressing the issue of health care, the archbishop emphasized three moral criteria: «Ensure access to quality, affordable, life-giving health care for all; retain longstanding requirements that federal funds not be used for elective abortions or plans that include them, and effectively protect conscience rights; and protect the access to health care that immigrants currently have and remove current barriers to access.»

Another letter was sent Tuesday to congress members by three bishops who head conference committees related to health care and its reform.

The letter was signed by Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, chairman of the Committee on Pro-life Activities, Bishop Stephen Blaire of Stockton, California, chairman of the on Domestic Justice and Human Development, and Coadjutor Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles, chairman of the Committee on Migration.

The prelates also emphasized the same three moral criteria for health care reform, affirming that this is a «vitally important issue.»

They stated, «Rather than joining efforts to support or oppose the repeal of the recently enacted health care law, we will continue to devote our efforts to correcting serious moral problems in the current law, so health care reform can truly be life-affirming for all.»

The letter concluded, «We will advocate for addressing the current problems in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, as well as others that may become apparent in the course of its implementation.»

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