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In a Jan. 14 letter to Congress, Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), outlined the “principles and priorities that will guide the public policy efforts” of the Bishops’ Conference during the new legislature. Archbishop Dolan said he “hopes that this newly elected Congress will advance the common good and defend the life and dignity of all, especially vulnerable and poor persons whose needs are critical in this time of difficult economic and policy choices.”

Dolan wrote: “As bishops, of course we approach public policy not as politicians but as pastors and teachers. Our moral principles have always guided our everyday experience in caring for the hungry and homeless, offering health care and housing, educating children and reaching out to those in need.”

From renewed opposition to public funding of abortion and support for pregnant women to carry out their pregnancies, to health care for all, and the serious human consequences and significant moral dimensions of the economic challenges our nation faces, the bishops’ priorities touch on a wide variety of issues. “We offer this outline as an agenda for dialogue and action,” the archbishop said.

Bishops also signaled that they were not going to become involved in recent congressional efforts to repeal last year’s health care reform package. “Rather than joining efforts to support or oppose the repeal of the recently enacted health care law, we will continue to devote our efforts to correcting serious moral problems in the current law, so health care reform can truly be life-affirming for all,” wrote Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, Coadjutor Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles, and Bishop Stephen Blaire of Stockton, California in a January 18 letter to the House of Representatives. The bishops chair the USCCB Committees on Pro-Life Activities, Migration, and Domestic Justice and Human Development, respectively.?

The bishops wrote that any action taken by Congress on health care reform should reflect the following moral criteria:

    • Ensure access to quality, affordable, life-giving health care for all.

    • Retain longstanding requirements that effectively protect conscience right and that prohibit use of federal funds for elective abortion or plans that include them.

    • Protect the access to health care that immigrants currently have and remove current barriers to access.