Friday, October 16, 2009

On Health Reform, the Chief Speaks

Continuing the rollout of his new tome, Cardinal Francis George of Chicago gave an interview to the National Catholic Register's Edward Pentin (he of "Coup of the Century" fame), in which the president of the US bishops offered his first public comments on, among other things, the continuing debate over health-care reform:
[Register:] What is your analysis of how the conscience clause and the health-care debate is going forward? Are you confident it will move ahead in the Church’s interests?
[George:] Well, you know, it’s two steps forward and one and a half — or three — back. It’s a moving target, so we just don’t know. We’ve been promised by the president that it will respect the consciences not just of health-care workers, but of taxpayers who don’t want to see their money spent for abortion. So we’ll see how that works itself out. It’s the Congress that’s creating the legislative instrument to [reach] the goal.
The bishops have two goals: Everybody should be taken care of, and nobody should be deliberately killed. It’s up to the politicians, the lawyers and legislators to see what the mechanism for doing that is. It’s complicated, and the people in Congress are following it step by step, day in day out, and it keeps shifting — the ground keeps shifting as you talk, so you have to meet each shift. What it’s going to look like in the end — your guess is as good as mine, at this point.

Having an administration that appears to be open to all points of view, yet will at the same time pursue its own agenda, must make it very difficult.
Yes, so we’ll have to see what comes out at the other end. We’re hoping that they’ll keep that promise, but if they don’t, then it will be very hard for us to say a good word about it even though parts of it will undoubtedly be good — that people will be covered who weren’t covered before. The abortion issue will vitiate the whole project if it’s not attended to.

But you’re hopeful?
I would like to be hopeful.
Following the Senate Finance Committee's 14-9 vote Tuesday in favor of a bill -- the first universal measure to clear committee scrutiny -- officials of the US bishops voiced disappointment in the green-lighted text, repeating the prelates' earlier warning that if the church's three "priority criteria" are not included before the proposal reaches the Senate floor, the bishops "will have no choice but to oppose a final bill."

George's promotional tour for The Difference God Makes reaches the States next week; its author in attendance, the book will be presented Wednesday evening in New York.