By Lou Baldwin
Special to The CS&T

Contrary to charges circulated mostly on the Internet, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul (SVDP), Catholic Charities USA and the Catholic Health Association do not support any health care reform bill in Congress that would run counter to Catholic teaching, all three insist.

What they do support is health care reform consistent with Catholic teaching.

“The Society of St. Vincent de Paul does not support nor will it support any legislation provision or amendment that fails to uphold the sanctity and dignity of human life,” said Joe Flanigan, the national president of the U.S. Society. “Further, we will continue to work with the Catholic Health Association, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and Catholic Charities USA to ensure that any legislation will continue to support the conscience protection clause protection to health care workers and the Hyde exception [which] continues to ensure no abortion can be funded with federal funds.”

The controversy began in late July when the three national organizations jointly issued an action alert asking people to telephone members of Congress to let them know they supported health care reform.

It said in part, “Catholic social teaching affirms that every inspanidual is entitled to a life of dignity and opportunity. Accordingly, access to health care is a basic human right. Health care reform must put special attention to the needs of the poor and vulnerable.”

Because the action alert did not specifically address the life issues, this was interpreted by some to be an endorsement of a health care bill that would weaken protection of all human life.

The Virginia-based American Life League (ALL) put out a July 29 news release that has been widely quoted by other groups. It charged the three Catholic organizations “have spanorced themselves from Catholic teaching by supporting the Obama health care plan, which would foster a culture of mandatory abortion coverage, contraceptive services and permissive sex education, euthanasia and eugenics.”

“Unfortunately, the Society’s desire to support health care available to the poor has been distorted into a view that we support abortion,” said Philadelphia SVDP Board President Dom Visco. “Nothing could be further from the truth. The Society of St. Vincent de Paul is a Catholic organization, and we fully support the beliefs of the Catholic Church. We would never support such a bill.”

Similar denials were issued by the other two groups.

“These attacks appear to be politically motivated by opponents of health care reform,” said Father Larry Snyder, president of Catholic Charities USA. “They are distortions of the truth and disingenuous. Catholic Charities USA will continue to work to reform health care in a way that is consistent with the teachings of our faith.”

In an unsigned statement, the Catholic Health Association said, “The debate over health reform needs to be conducted with integrity and truth. Despite continued allegations to the contrary, what is true is that the Catholic Health Association is working closely with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to bring about health care reform that respects the life and dignity of every human person, from conception until natural death.”

Lou Baldwin is a member of St. Leo Parish and a freelance writer.