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The health care reform package nearing a vote in Congress has officially divided America’s Catholics: their hospitals endorse the plan, their bishops “regretfully” oppose it.

The president of the Catholic Health Association, which represents more than 600 hospitals, calls the bill a “major first step” that will “make the lives of millions more secure, and their coverage more affordable.” The legislation isn’t perfect, she notes, but the CHA is satisfied the bill will not federally fund abortions (patients would pay for the procedure’s insurance coverage separately), and will increase support for pregnant women and adoption assistance.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops disagrees, unmoved by more than 5,000 emails reportedly sent in by lay Catholics lobbying the group to drop its opposition to health care reform. The Archbishop of Denver calls the bill morally flawed for falling short in three areas: “the exclusion of abortion funding and services; adequate conscience protections for health-care professionals and institutions; and the inclusion of immigrants.”

Basically, the same concerns that have plagued politicians and other faith groups for more than a year — with President Obama and Democratic leaders now pushing for a vote by week’s end anyway. Stay tuned, and share your thoughts in the Comments section below.

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