By Kathleen Gilbert

BAKER, Oregon, August 17, 2009 ( – A genuine need for more comprehensive health insurance coverage should not lead Catholics to join the push to pass President Obama's health care legislation, which is “fatally flawed” with respect to pro-life and other major issues, said Bishop Robert Vasa of the Baker, Ore. diocese.

Bishop Vasa weighed in on the push for health care reform in an email response to's (LSN) inquiry today.

“I think the pertinent question is asked by you: Should we therefore be openly opposing the bills, even if that means a delay in health care reform?” wrote Vasa.  “It is my belief that these 'changes' need to be made 'as a condition for support' and that there ought to be no support for the reform at all unless and until these very critical matters involving the care of pre-born human life, are satisfactorily resolved. 

“Without these changes (and significant changes in other medical, moral and conscience issues) the health care bill is fatally flawed and as such cannot be supported,” said the bishop.

Several Catholic organizations, including the Catholic Health Association and Catholic Charities USA, have joined the push for “health care reform” in the abstract, while remaining silent on the troubling aspects of the current legislation sponsored by the Obama administration.  Although the groups have responded with statements vowing not to support abortion-promoting legislation per se, none have backed down from their original July statement calling upon legislators to enact health care reform “immediately.” 

Vasa noted that he believes “the notion of providing more comprehensive health insurance coverage is a just and right thing to do.”  However, he said: “that does not mean that THIS health insurance plan, only because it promises comprehensive health insurance coverage, must be supported. 

“In effect, should we support giving poisoned water to the thirsty?  I think not.”

Bishop Vasa's sentiments reflect the words of two other prelates who have spoken on the issue: Cardinal Justin Rigali, head of the U.S. Bishops' pro-life office, and Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver.  All three have urged opposition to the bills in their current form, insisting that the bills' abortion expansion flies in the face of the Church's advocacy for more available health care.

“The Church is very clear in supporting health care, but these are absolute requirements,” Rigali told LSN in a telephone interview last week.  “So our message is very clear: support genuine health care reform that respects the life and dignity of all. That has to be made clear … for it to be acceptable to us.”

Chaput criticized the supposed “common ground” abortion language in the House bill as a “shell game,” and urged citizens to demand that abortion be taken out of the bill.

See related coverage:

Cardinal Rigali, Abp. Chaput Intensify Warnings Against Obamacare's Abortion Expansion

Catholic Charities Refuses to Oppose Obama Health Care Bill

Major Catholic Organizations Push for Healthcare Overhaul Despite Abortion Mandate