- The Washington Times - Monday, November 16, 2009

BALTIMORE — Cardinal Francis George, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, defended the bishops’ involvement in national health care legislation Monday, saying the church must be “leaven” in the debate.

Speaking at the opening of the bishops’ annual business meeting, “to limit our teaching or governing to what the state is not interested in would be to betray both the constitution of our country and, much more importantly, the Lord himself,” he said.

Not only did USCCB staff and individual bishops play a vital role in getting abortion restrictions into the recently passed House version of the health care overhaul bill, they served notice Monday they will influence the bill’s future.

“We will work to persuade the Senate to follow the example of the House and include these critical safeguards in their version of health care reform legislation,” Cardinal George said.

Other prelates expressed jubilation at how the USCCB’s lobbying proved crucial to the House bill’s passage earlier this month as well as anger at some of their critics.

“This is a principled position, not a political position,” Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Centre said.

In a reference to the New York Times, “The grey lady of New York has continued to misrepresent this as a fundamental change to the availability of abortion in this country being curtailed because of the nefarious bishops,” he added. “That is not the case.”

• Julia Duin can be reached at jduin@washingtontimes.com.

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