By Patrick B. Craine

BALTIMORE, Maryland, November 16, 2010 ( – In his parting address as president of the U.S. Bishops’ Conference, Cardinal Francis George of Chicago defended the bishops’ effort to protect unborn life against President Obama’s abortion-funding health care legislation and criticized those Catholics who placed politics ahead of their faith in backing the bill.

The Cardinal reiterated the bishops’ position that Obama’s health care legislation “explicitly” excluded the long-standing Hyde amendment, which prevents public funding of abortion except in cases of rape, incest, or a threat to the life of the mother.

The U.S. bishops have “consistently” condemned “the sin and crime of abortion,” he said, and have done so “ever more insistently” since it was legalized in 1973.

Acknowledging that the means of achieving universal health care – whether public, private, or a combination – is properly the domain of lay people, he said the bishops nevertheless had a “moral obligation as teachers of the faith to judge whether the means pass moral muster, whether or not the proposed legislation uses public funds to kill those living in their mother’s womb.”

The aftermath since the bill’s passage has shown that the bishops'”analysis of what the law itself says was correct, and our moral judgments are secure and correct,” he said.

“The act [of abortion] is immoral; and the laws that have permitted now fifty million children of our country to be killed in their mother’s womb are also immoral and unjust,” he insisted. “The laws are destroying our society.”

The Cardinal noted that some have suggested the bill’s complexity meant the Bishops “shouldn’t pretend to judge it.” But according to him, “This implies either that no one can understand or judge complicated pieces of legislation, in which case it is immoral to act until sufficient clarity is obtained, or it is to say that only bishops are too dense to understand complicated pieces of legislation!”

He criticized those who subordinate their faith to politics, making the latter “the ultimate horizon of their thinking and acting.” He said the health care debate revealed that there were some who made their political choices within the context of their faith, while for others politics was primary and “the Church was judged useful by whether or not she provided foot soldiers for their political commitment.”

Bishops must be the “voice of Christ,” he said, which “speaks always from a consistent concern for the gift of human life, a concern that judges the full continuum of technological manipulation of life, from the use of artificial contraception to the destruction of human embryos to the artificial conception of human beings in a Petri dish to genetic profiling to the killing of unwanted children through abortion.”

“If the poor are allowed to be born, then the voice of Christ continues to speak to the homeless and the jobless, the hungry and the naked, the uneducated, the migrant, the imprisoned, the sick and the dying,” he continued. “Our ministry is consistent because the concerns of Jesus Christ are consistent.”