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Published April 17, 2010, 12:00 AM

Catholic teaching is clear

George B. Sinner is right about one aspect of the health care reform law (commentary, April 7). It does try to make improvements in our health care system, and it does provide new programs to help pregnant women, encourage adoption, and authorize funding for abstinence-only education. These are provisions that, when offered separately, the U.S. Catholic bishops supported.

By: Christopher Dodson, Bismarck

George B. Sinner is right about one aspect of the health care reform law (commentary, April 7). It does try to make improvements in our health care system, and it does provide new programs to help pregnant women, encourage adoption, and authorize funding for abstinence-only education. These are provisions that, when offered separately, the U.S. Catholic bishops supported.

Sinner fails to understand, however, that in Catholic teaching no amount of good can justify something that is morally wrong. Thus, torture cannot be justified by the results it might produce. Intentionally killing civilians in combat is never right, even if it brings a quicker end to war. Economic hardship cannot make acceptable the aborting of an unborn child.

In this case, one of the evils that cannot justify the new law is the funding of abortion. Sinner dismisses that possibility, but he appears to rely solely on the language of the bill and ignores four decades of court decisions on abortion funding.

According to these decisions, prohibitions on abortion funding only exist when Congress expressly enacts the prohibition. Rather than going to “great lengths” to enact a comprehensive prohibition, the new law expressly prohibits funding in just two circumstances. This leaves the other funding streams in the bill subject to the court-mandated funding decisions.

This is not just Bishop Samuel Aquila’s interpretation, but the conclusion of legal advisers to the U.S. bishops, who have vastly more experience in the issue than Sinner. (For further explanation of the problems, see: http://ndcatholic.org/FAQs/index.html)

In his commentary, Sinner says he is pained by Bishop Aquila’s position. All of the nearly 200 bishops of the United States, however, are pained that legislation they desired for decades was fatally tainted by the lack of a complete ban on abortion funding, incomplete conscience protection and unfair treatment of immigrants. As longtime advocates of greater access to health care, the bishops would have liked to have supported the final bill. But adherence to the teachings of the church and the principles they set out for genuine reform left them no choice.


Dodson is executive director/general counsel, North Dakota Catholic Conference.

The April 7 letter was written by George B. Sinner, who is son of the former governor.

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