BISHOPS DON’T WANT TO SEE REFORM DIE…. I suppose it can’t hurt.

Theology can make for confusing politics, especially in partisan Washington.

Just a few weeks ago the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops was threatening to oppose the proposed health care overhaul because it could expand health insurance coverage of abortion.

Now that the legislation appears to be near death, the bishops are on the other side. They have sent a letter urging Congress to keep it alive.

Well, sort of. The Bishops’ letter is online (pdf), and while they “strongly urge” lawmakers to “come together and recommit themselves to enacting genuine health care reform,” and lament the fact that the debate “seems to have lost its central moral focus and policy priority,” the USCCB sketches out a vision for what reform ought to look like.

* Ensures access to quality, affordable, life-giving health care for all;

* Retains longstanding requirements that federal funds not be used for elective abortions or plans that include them, and effectively protects conscience rights; and,

* Protects the access to health care that immigrants currently have and removes current barriers to access.

The Bishops’ position hasn’t changed at all, but recognizing the human suffering that will result from health care reform’s demise, the USCCB insists, “Now is not the time to abandon this task.”

They want, in other words, policymakers to keep trying to find a solution that would make the USCCB happy.

Since the alternative is watching the Bishops trying to kill reform, I suppose this is preferable.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.