With the 112th Congress opening last month, members received a letter from the U.S. bishops outlining their “principles and priorities” for the legislature. 

New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, named nine priorities specifically, with an emphasis on the defense of human life and dignity. Here are excerpts from each topic: 

Society’s most vulnerable 

“We will oppose legislative and other measures to expand abortion. We will work to retain essential, widely supported policies which show respect for unborn life, protect the conscience rights of health care providers and other Americans, and prevent government funding and promotion of abortion.” 

Traditional marriage 

“We will continue to vigorously support the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and strongly oppose legislative or executive measures that seek to redefine or erode the meaning of marriage. ...”

Economy 

“We will work with the administration and Congress for budget, tax and entitlement policies that reflect the moral imperative to protect poor and vulnerable people. We advocate a clear priority for poor families and vulnerable workers in the development and implementation of economic recovery measures. ...” 

Education 

“We call for a return to the equitable participation of students and teachers in private schools in programs funded through the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. When students in private schools are counted in order to determine the total amount of federal education funds a public school district receives, the funds generated by these students should benefit them and their teachers. ...”

Faith-based groups 

“We will continue to work ... to strengthen these partnerships in ways that do not encourage government to abandon its responsibilities, and do not require religious groups to abandon their identity or mission.”

Internet access 

“We support legislation and federal regulations that ensure equal access to the Internet for all. ...” 

Health care for all 

“The Catholic Bishops of the United States have worked for nearly a century to assure health care for all, insisting that access to health care is a basic human right and a requirement of human dignity. Basic health care for all is a moral imperative, not yet completely achieved” (see sidebar below). 

Immigration reform 

“We realize that reform must be based on respect for and implementation of the law and for the legitimate and timely question of national security. Equally, however, it must defend the rights and dignity of all peoples, recognizing that human dignity comes from God and does not depend on where people were born or how they came to our nation.”

International affairs

“[W]e urge a greater emphasis on human rights, especially religious freedom, which we view as an essential good so intricately tied to other human rights and to the promotion of peace.”

Read letter at osv.cm/gd89cE.

Health Care Reform (sidebar)

In addition to Archbishop Dolan’s letter, three prelates shared their concerns regarding health care reform. Here is part of what Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, Coadjutor Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles and Bishop Stephen Blaire of Stockton, Calif., wrote Jan. 18: 

“We have urged and continue to urge that legislation on health care reform reflect the following three moral criteria: 

◗ Ensure access to quality, affordable, life-giving health care for all; 

◗ Retain long-standing requirements that effectively protect conscience rights and that prohibit use of federal funds for elective abortions or plans that include them;  

◗ Protect the access to health care that immigrants currently have and remove current barriers to access.  

“Rather than joining efforts to support or oppose the repeal of the recently enacted health care law, we will continue to devote our efforts to correcting serious moral problems in the current law, so health care reform can truly be life-affirming for all.”