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Catholic Leader Calls For Evaluation of Cardinal Egan’s Position

March 15, 2001

Washington, DC–Catholics for a Free Choice President Frances Kissling yesterday welcomed the participation of Cardinal Egan in the political process surrounding pending legislation in New York state that would require health plans to provide contraceptive coverage in prescription benefit plans.  At the same time, she called for state legislators to evaluate the cardinal’s policy positions based on the same standards they would apply to any organizational head’s policy positions.  “The cardinal has a right to express his views and those of the institutional church. As a lobbyist, he even has the right to stretch a point or two in an effort to convince legislators to adopt his opinion. Of course, legislators should welcome the cardinal and give him a fair hearing,” said Kissling.

“The big question is how elected or appointed public officials evaluate and act on the information and positions presented to them by the cardinal—or any religious leader. The obligation to protect the common good, to legislate in a way that protects the religious freedom of all people in the state, and not to legislate on the basis of the religious views of one group is paramount,” Kissing said.  Among the steps she said that legislators should take to evaluate any public policy position is to consider whom the group claims to represent and if that constituency agrees with the group’s position.  Another consideration is the accuracy and validity of the facts presented by the group.  Finally, the policy suggestions of the group should respect the rights of all within society and serve the common good, as well as be respectful of other religions, pluralism and tolerance.

On the issue of contraception, the views of Cardinal Egan and the Catholic hierarchy are at odds with the majority of Catholics, noted Kissling.  Some 96% of all Catholic women who have ever had sex have used modern contraceptive methods.  Like the general population, three-quarters of Catholics support legislation that would require health insurers to cover contraceptives in their prescription drug plans. “I hope that when the cardinal talks to legislators, he makes it clear that the Catholic people do not agree with the church’s position on the very public policy matter that most urgently brings him to Albany—contraceptive coverage in health insurance plans,” she concluded.

–Statement Ends–