Bishop urges Catholics to speak out on health care

CHARLESTON — Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone has urged S.C. Cath­olics to let their voices be heard when it comes to national health care reforms.

The bishop sent a letter to priests of the Diocese of Charles­ton on Aug. 26 addressing the issue; stating that the church has ample experience in the health care arena so the Catholic voice can add a great deal to the national discussion. He asked his priests to post the letter in parish bulletins.

“It is quite evident that there is much discussion in many quarters about the proposed health care reform bills in the houses of Congress,” the bishop wrote. “There are many issues that people throughout our country are concerned about, but there are some issues that are critical for us as Catholics and it is imperative that our voices be heard.”

He expressed his gratitude to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops “for its competent leadership in making sure our institutional voice is heard.” In particular, the bishop acknowledged Cardinal Justin Rigali, chairman of the bishops’ Committee on Pro-life Activities, and Bishop William Murphy, chairman of the bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, saying they have eloquently, competently and forcefully made the Catholic position clear in their letters to Congress and congressional committees and in their personal testimony to committees on behalf of the conference.

However, Bishop Guglielmone said it is not enough for the USCCB alone to petition the Congress.

“If ever there was a need for the united Catholic voice to be heard clearly and strongly, now is the time,” he said in his letter. “After the August recess, Congress may very well act quickly on completing these bills and presenting  them for a vote. Our representatives and senators need to hear our voice and we have a voice that is credible because it deals with much experience in this field, is a moral voice and one that has centuries of experience in health care.”

Any plan of health care reform must include several principles, he said.

“First of all, the church has been involved with health care since our earliest days in this country and in very many cases has been and still is a solitary presence for the poor and vulnerable,” Bishop Guglielmone said. “We Catholics believe that universal health coverage should assure care for everyone, from conception until natural death, [everyone] deserves adequate health care to ensure a dignified human life.

“Secondly, we oppose any effort to expand abortion funding or mandate abortion coverage. There are presently too many opportunities for this to occur in current bills. Likewise we cannot condone any inclusion of embryonic stem cell research or usage.

“Thirdly, we need to see appropriate safeguards for adequately funded health care for the elderly, especially in those cases of serious or terminal illnesses. Present bills include too many possibilities for abuse of end-of-life issues,” he said.

In addition, Bishop Guglielmone said effective measures to safeguard the health of legal immigrants and their children must be clearly included in any health care reform.

“Lastly, we absolutely oppose any attempt to remove all conscience clauses for physicians, nurses and other health care workers and any attempt to force Catholic hospitals to provide services inconsistent with our teaching,” he said. “Likewise, mandating insurance coverage for employees of Catholic institutions that is not in conformity with our beliefs is not acceptable.

“These are critical times for our nation and for us as Catholics,” Bishop Guglielmone said. “This is an issue which needs to be addressed desperately and these criteria essential for us as Catholics are not presently guaranteed in any versions of the legislation now under discussion.”

Catholics must share their views  with those who represent them because any reform will have a major impact on American society, he said. “We as Catholics have a long and consistent tradition of health care ethics and have made tremendous contributions to life in this country through the teaching of this ethical system,” the bishop said in his letter. “We must be present to this vital debate.”

Bishop Guglielmone asked Catholics in the Diocese of Charleston to do two things.

“First, pray and learn,” he said. “Be knowledgeable and know the issues. You might check the USCCB Web site on a regular basis and certainly keep up-to-date with competent news coverage. Pray daily for a plan that will truly meet the needs of all people in our country.

“Secondly, let your voice be heard,” Bishop Guglielmone continued. “Contact your senators and representatives and let them know your thoughts; encourage friends and relatives to do likewise.

“Our government seems to be rushing into a plan that will not meet the needs of our citizens and a plan that will not reflect the values this nation has upheld in the past. We need time and a lot more dialogue before a plan acceptable and helpful to all can be presented. May the Lord bless our efforts.”

To read the full text of the bishop’s letter online, visit

Contact congressional leaders from S.C.

Sen. Lindsey Graham
290 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
(202) 224-5972

Sen. Jim DeMint
340 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
(202) 224-6121

Rep. Henry Brown
103 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
(202) 225-3176

Rep. Joe Wilson
212 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
(202) 225-2452

Rep. J. Gresham Barrett
439 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
(202) 225-5301

Rep. Bob Inglis
100 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
(202) 225-6030

Rep. John Spratt
1401 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
(202) 225-5501

Rep. James E. Clyburn
2135 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
(202) 225-3315