As the U.S. bishops called on Congress and people in the Catholic community to make sure promises are kept that new health care legislation will not expand abortions in the United States, Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki stated two reasons why he opposes the health care bill.

Writing in his weekly March 23 “Love One Another” communiqué to people involved in parish and diocesan ministries, the archbishop stated, “First, I am not convinced that there are sufficient provisions to protect federal funds from their use in supporting abortions (the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops was right in their opposition). Second, the price tag on the current legislation will severely cripple the already fragile United States economy placing on the backs of our future generations a terrible financial debt.”

Archbishop Listecki acknowledged a need for health care reform but said “passing flawed legislation … will turn the most advanced national medical environment into a profession that is satisfied with the adequate rather than the excellent.”

He said he was not convinced that the poor would be better served as a result of the legislation, but added that time will determine that.

“Until then we all must be vigilant that abortions are not the product of the new health care reform; that doctors and nurses will be able to exercise their right to conscience; and that the poor will have access to adequate health care,” Archbishop Listecki wrote.

Noting that people of faith were responsible for those in need, the archbishop said that some are trying to characterize the term “social justice” as “an offshoot of a socialist or communist agenda.”

“Social justice is the responsibility all of us have to cooperate with each other to further the common good that is individually, locally, nationally and even globally. Social justice finds its root in the Gospel and holds us accountable before the Lord for our responsibility to others. The Gospel is the ultimate criteria by which our actions are judged,” Archbishop Listecki wrote.

He noted that  “any social legislation claiming it furthers the common good, consideration must first be given to the dignity of all human life.”

In a statement issued moments after President Barack Obama signed the Senate version of health care reform legislation approved by the House of Representatives by a slim margin, March 21, Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, said the bishops applauded “the effort to expand health care to all.”

However, he noted concerns about the legislation, including that “the statute forces all those who choose federally subsidized plans that cover abortion to pay for other people’s abortions with their own funds.”

Cardinal George pointed to President Obama’s executive order that said “it is necessary to establish an adequate enforcement mechanism to ensure that federal funds are not used for abortion services.”

The need for such an order underscores deficiencies in the bill, Cardinal George said.

“We do not understand how an executive order, no matter how well intentioned, can substitute for statutory provisions,” he said.

President Obama and others claimed the bill does not expand abortion, Cardinal George noted.

“We and many others will accompany the government’s implementation of the health care reform and will work to ensure that Congress and the Administration live up to the claims that have contributed to its passage. We believe, finally, that new legislation to address its deficiencies will almost certainly be required,” he said.

The statement was approved unanimously by the 32-member Administrative Committee of the USCCB.