The Corner

Cardinal Health-Care Virtues

Francis Cardinal George of Chicago has a new book out called The Difference God Makes: A Catholic Vision of Faith, Communion, and Culture. In a conversation with National Review Online earlier today he expressed his concerns about the health-care conversation going on. A key problem, of course, is that “we don’t know yet what we’ve got,” he said with some fatherly frustration in his voice.

He pointed out that the bishops’ conference has been watching the debate “in all its permutations” carefully, and has been in conversation with the Hill and the White House throughout the debate thus far.

The two principles, he said, that would make any final bill something “a Catholic in good conscience could support” are: “Everybody should be cared for” and “No one should be deliberately killed.”

How that exactly looks will be up to prudential judgments that are not the bishops’ job to craft chapter and verse of, he explained.

A violation of either of these would be “dealbreakers,” the cardinal said. He specifically expressed his concern that “the Democratic party not betray the president” who has vowed that any reform will include a “conscience clause” and will “leav[e] abortion unfunded” by the federal government as, he pointed out, it has long been in the United States.

Cardinal George said that the bishops “absolutely” will oppose a final bill that violates either one of these principles. A violation of either of these would “cross a line” about how society treats the human person.

In both his book and interviews associated with it (including my conversation with him today), the cardinal emphasized the role of bishops in elucidating Church teaching, working to make sure the Church and moral issues not be “coopted” by the political.

“We don’t play the political game well,” Cardinal George, the outgoing president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, told me in Manhattan earlier today. And he didn’t say that as an act of contrition but as a statement of fact. “That’s not our game,” he added. The role of the bishops and the Church is to be “part of the conversation” but not be “coopted” by one side or the other.

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