By Cliff Kincaid
Calling health care a “right” to be guaranteed by the federal government, America’s Catholic Bishops are trying to save Obamacare, at a time when the legislation has been pronounced in limbo, dying or dead by most of the media.
The evidence of intensive Catholic Bishop lobbying activity suggests that liberal Congressional leaders are going to give the legislation a temporary respite so that liberal Catholics can be persuaded to pressure Congress to pass both national health care legislation and “comprehensive immigration reform” in the form of H.R. 4321, the “Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America’s Security and Prosperity” Act.
As we have documented, lobbying by the Catholic Bishops and their representatives, who worked closely with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, guaranteed passage of the health care bill in the House.
In a January 13 conference call and briefing, Kevin Appleby, a representative of the U.S. Catholic Bishops, explained in frank language why the Bishops are so desperate to pass the health care and immigration bills. He said that the Bishops want a federal health plan to absorb the costs being borne by the nation’s 600 Catholic hospitals to cover illegal aliens.
Appleby said, “We have Catholic hospitals throughout the country that experience the same things that Alan was describing and we serve undocumented immigrants in our emergency rooms and community clinics, etc. So we have a stake in this in that the burden will fall not just on our providers but as Alan described, taxpayers throughout the country.”
This was one of the clearest indications yet that support for national health care legislation is a means by which the Bishops can dump some of the costs of operating Catholic hospitals on the American taxpayers.
The reference to “Alan” was to Alan Aviles, President of the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation, another person on the telephone conference call.
Just four days after the annual January 22 March for Life, which featured many Catholic Bishops standing shoulder-to-shoulder with conservative members of Congress against President Obama’s pro-abortion policies, the Bishops have returned to their liberal ways, firing off a letter to Congress complaining that national health care bills pending in the House and Senate aren’t far-reaching enough. While the Bishops want the ultimate legislation to include “prohibitions on abortion funding,” they also want it expanded to include millions of more people, including illegal aliens.
Indeed, the Bishops say in their January 26 letter that the House and Senate bills should be expanded because they “leave between 18 and 23 million people in our nation without health insurance.”
In addition, the Bishops openly state in their letter that they want “undocumented persons” — illegal aliens “ to be able to purchase insurance in the new health care exchange established by the federal government.
Gabino Zavala, an auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles for the San Gabriel region, has written an article noting that the religious left, which he describes as “religious leaders and faith-based organizations,” have been pushing for a national health care system “for decades.” He adds, “Catholic bishops have been leading advocates for universal health care as a fundamental human right, not simply a luxury for the privileged few.”
The religious left, led by the Catholic Bishops, may represent the only way that liberals in Congress can ultimately succeed in passing Obamacare. But that assumes that conservative Catholics will not resist the push to use church resources to give amnesty and federal benefits to illegal aliens as a way to take Catholic hospitals off the hook for many of their health care costs.
Left-wing Huffington Post blogger John Gehring notes with pride and pleasure that the Catholic bishops have “signaled they will play a leading role in pushing for comprehensive immigration reform this year by using the power of their pulpits and bipartisan political influence on Capitol Hill” and that the recent briefing was designed “to outline plans for persuading the public and wavering members of Congress that fixing a broken immigration system is a moral and practical priority.”
Gehring is Communications Director and Senior Writer for Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, an organization funded by atheist George Soros. He is also a regular contributor to the God’s Politics blog run by Jim Wallis of Sojourners, which received $100,000 from the Soros Open Society Institute to support the “Christians for Immigration Reform” campaign.
That briefing in question was the January 13 “Turning a New Leaf in Health Care Reform” conference call that included a lot of discussion about how to revive and save health care legislation in Congress and pass immigration legislation as well. The call featured Jennifer Ng’andu, Deputy Director of the Health Policy Project at the National Council of La Raza; Sonal Ambegaokar, a health policy attorney at the National Immigration Law Center; Alan Aviles; and Kevin Appleby, whose official title is Director of Migration and Policy Services at the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops.
An audio recording and transcript of the conference call are available at the La Raza web site.
The Huffington Post’s Gehring said that Bishop John C. Wester of Salt Lake City and Bishop Howard Hubbard of Albany, New York, who are respective chairmen of the U.S. bishops’ committees on migration and international policy, have announced that over a million postcards “touting the need for immigration reform have been ordered by dioceses and parishes across the country” and that the cards will be sent to congressional offices.
The campaign is being run by the Justice for Immigrants campaign, an official project of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
The pre-written postcards say, “I am a concerned constituent and agree with the U.S. Catholic bishops that the U.S. immigration system is broken and is in need of repair. I ask that this year you support immigration reform legislation that keeps immigrant families together, adopts smart and humane enforcement policies, and ensures that immigrants without legal status register with the government and begin a path toward citizenship. Our families and communities cannot wait!”
The phrase “without legal status” means, of course, being illegal. It means they broke the law to enter the United States.
But the Bishops don’t seem to want members of their flock to understand this critical fact.