….the state will take its place. Shudder the thought.

Cardinal Francis George, president of the USCCB, has issued a new letter
urging citizens to make their voices heard by the government that says
its listening, on the threat to remove the traditional physicians
conscience clause from the practice of health care.

George warns that this country will go straight from democracy to despotism if that happens.

“No government should come between an individual person
and God — that’s what America is supposed to be about,” said the
president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in a videotaped
message available on the USCCB Web site [here] and on YouTube [here].

“This is the true common ground for us as Americans,” he
added. “We therefore need legal protections for freedom of conscience
and of religion — including freedom for religious health care
institutions to be true to themselves.”

You have until April 9 to comment on the plans by HHS to remove the long-standing rule that

codifies several existing federal statutes prohibiting
discrimination against health professionals who decline to participate
in abortions or other medical procedures because of their religious or
other moral objections.

President Bush put that protection in place in his final days.

The cardinal said the issue centers on “two principles
or ideas that have been basic to life in our country: religious liberty
and the freedom of personal conscience.”

He noted that conscientious objection has been allowed for those
opposed to participating in a war, “even though it’s good to defend
your country,” and for doctors who do not want to be involved in
administering the death penalty.

“Why shouldn’t our government and our legal system permit
conscientious objection to a morally bad action, the killing of babies
in their mother’s womb?” Cardinal George asked. “People understand what
really happens in an abortion and in related procedures — a living
member of the human family is killed — … and no one should be forced by
the government to act as though he or she were blind to this reality.”

He urged Catholics to tell the Department of Health and Human
Services “that you stand for the protection of conscience, especially
now for those who provide the health care services so necessary for a
good society.”

This is so clear a violation of democratic principles and the free
exercise of our rights, as Cardinal George points out. This
administration has already, in Obama’s first few days in office,
extended federal funding to abortion outside this country by reversing
the Mexico City Policy, and last week by executive order, expanded
embryonic stem cell research. If this move to strip health care of
conscience protections goes through, medicine in America will
drastically change.

No doubt Cardinal George made that point, diplomatically, in his brief meeting today with Obama in the White House.

Sheila Liaugminas

Sheila Liaugminas is an Emmy award-winning Chicago-based journalist in print and broadcast media. Her writing and broadcasting covers matters of faith, culture, politics and the media....