Murphy also reiterated the churchs strong demands that illegal immigrants be covered in the legislation, but he said the issue is not on equal footing with abortion. The Long Island bishop said the doors of his dioceses five hospitals are already open to anyone, regardless of their immigration status.
Abortion is the taking of innocent life ... and killing is different from having as much access to health care as we want ... anybody who comes to any one of my hospitals is given health care, he said. In a sense, while we want everyone to be covered and were not compromising this but it doesnt have the same moral immediacy that abortion does.
But Murphy also said that bishops are vigilant about making sure their strong statements in the current health care debate do not threaten the churchs tax-exempt status with the Internal Revenue Service. Paraphrasing former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, the bishop reflected on the seductive qualities of political power.
We have to be careful that we never lose who we are. Were voices of conscience and, in our case, Catholic teachings, he said. Were not Democrats, were not Republicans, and we cannot be co-opted by Democrats or by Republicans.
Murphy also declined to respond directly to the question of whether Catholic lawmakers would be denied religious sacraments if they ultimately vote for health care legislation that does not include church-sanctioned abortion prohibitions.
I think its kind of like asking a confessor how hes going to deal with a specific sin when someone comes into confession, he said. Its between him and me, or her and me.
Each bishop is responsible for his own diocese, Murphy continued. While we will have these discussions that we will have here in conference, each bishop has to deal with people who are politicians in their own diocese.