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Kennedy's Olive Branch

Patrick Kennedy and the Catholic Church got in an ugly spat over health care reform last week. And the diocese has invited Kennedy in to meet. From the Congressman's office, a letter back to the church. An olive branch? Sort of:

Thank you for your letter requesting a meeting with me to discuss the church’s position on comprehensive health care reform. Your letter follows my comments regarding the church’s opposition to the health care reform bill being considered in Congress and your own public response. I would welcome the opportunity to meet with you to discuss this or any other important issue facing our country and our community. I am pleased you wish for us to discuss this issue on its merits.

I wish to express to you that my comments were never intended to slight the church.  Certainly, I recognize that the church has always stood for health care reform as is evidenced by the statement of the US Council of Catholic Bishops. My hope is that our church will be true to its millennia-old mission of feeding the hungry, clothing the poor and caring for those less fortunate than ourselves.  My Catholic faith is based on these foundation principles.

While I greatly respect the Catholic Church and its leaders, like many Rhode Islanders, the fact that I disagree with the hierarchy of the church on some issues does not make me any less of a Catholic.  I embrace my faith which acknowledges the existence of an imperfect humanity.

Prior to our meeting, so there is no further confusion about my own position, I’d like to state for you what I believe about comprehensive health care reform.

At long last, our nation is poised to embrace a landmark human rights initiative that will improve the health, well-being and economic security of tens of millions of Americans.  The debate surrounding health care reform has been robust and vigorous, and certainly my fervent passion for this issue has been well publicized since being elected to Congress.  This passion stems from the simple belief that in the richest nation in the world, every citizen should have access to comprehensive, affordable, quality health care. 

As an elected representative, I am working for a consensus that will move us toward achieving this important outcome for people from all walks of life. When attempts are made to impose absolutes on the legislative process, very little or nothing is achieved, and progress and justice are rarely realized by the population at large.

No one entity is getting everything it wants in this piece of legislation. The Catholic Church has every right to promote its position on issues it feels are important. However, the issue before us is that of access to health care and nothing else. If any stakeholder seeks to impose absolutes on the debate, we are left standing idle instead of moving our nation forward. I do not believe we can risk more of the status quo when it comes to the health and well-being of our families, friends, neighbors, and fellow Americans.

We should not lose sight of the opportunity at hand - to pass comprehensive health insurance reform and ensure access to affordable, quality health care for all. We must continue to work and stay at the table for the best outcome possible for all Americans.

It remains my hope and prayer that the Catholic Church, my church, will stand together with all of those who believe that this is an issue of fundamental human dignity and right.

I will have my office contact your assistant and look forward to arranging a time and place that is mutually convenient for us to continue our discussion.

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