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By Kathleen Gilbert

ST. PETERSBURG, Florida, March 16, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Bishop Robert Lynch of St. Petersburg has stepped into the row between the Catholic Health Association (CHA), on whose board he is a member, and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), siding with the bishops in fighting the CHA-endorsed abortion-expanding Senate health care bill.

The CHA sparked controversy over the weekend by throwing its weight behind the vastly pro-abortion Senate health bill. CHA president Sr. Carol Keehan had issued a letter to lawmakers urging them to “move quickly to enact health care reform,” and characterized the legislation as “a major first step” – despite not being “perfect” on life issues.

Days later, USCCB president Cardinal Francis George directly disagreed with CHA's assessment, affirming that the bill's flaws on life issues are “so fundamental that they vitiate the good that the bill intends to promote.”

“As a member of the Board of the Catholic Health Association, I too want universal access to health care in this country to all our inhabitants,” wrote Lynch, also a member of the USCCB, on his blog Tuesday. “But I do not wish it through a vehicle that expands abortion rights or weakens conscience clause protection.

“So I side with the USCCB on this one.”

Lynch, who was recently hospitalized, noted: “During the time of my confinement, I have been led to believe that CHA and USCCB were working together to eliminate any language in the health care proposals which threatened the effectiveness of the long standing Hyde amendment.”

While Lynch said CHA supported the Stupak language, which reflected the Hyde amendment in the House health care bill, he says the organization “prefers” the vastly more pro-abortion Senate version “as they deem it ultimately more successful, more efficient, and more effective than the House passed version.”

Defending the bishops' condemnation of the Senate bill, Lynch said: “Were the bishops’ conference asking for new legislation, further tightening access to abortion or writing new abortion language law, it would have trouble. From the beginning the bishops have said only we must insure (sic) that we keep what we have.”

“If this were a tennis match, it would not yet be 'game' but 'advantage bishops,'” said the bishop. “However, the game is still not over although it is approaching match point.”

“I hope and pray that in these final decisive days, the Congress will see the wisdom of the Church’s position on abortion in health care as articulated by the bishops and the experience and wisdom of the Catholic Health Care providers who yearn for a reform of a system which is failing and becoming incredibly expensive – to maintain and to access,” he wrote. 

Lynch ended by expressing hope that “both CHA and the USCCB can unite in general support” of health care reform with pro-life protection.

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