Honesty & the Health Care Debate

John Gehring, senior writer at Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good (CACG), does a fine job taking on the arguments of Rev. Michael Orsi, research fellow at uber-conservative Ave Maria University. The title of Orsi’s article "Bishops Wrong: Health Care Not a Right" has at least the virtue of forthrightness, rather like "Mater Si, Magister No," the most famous example of cafeteria Catholicism on Right heretofore.

Do not undervalue forthrightness. Many who are raising their voices in concern about how health care reform will affect our nation’s abortion policy need to make explicit that they will support health care reform provided the legislation is abortion-neutral. The Knights of Columbus, who are keen to demonstrate their loyalty to the bishops, issued a document that would have you think the whole purpose of health care reform is to advance abortion. I looked in vain for the sentence in their resolution that said something to the effect of, "Provided the reforms do not promote abortion in any way, we pledge our whole-hearted support to health care reform."


The Knights also raised the issue of euthanasia, which is odd because the legislation does not raise it. I previously pointed out that nowhere and in no way do any of the health care reform proposals promote euthanasia. There is a proposal to allow Medicare to cover consultations between patients and doctors about end-of-life issues. I also said it was politically unwise of Rep. Earl Blumenauer even to raise the issue of paying for consultations at this time precisely because I feared those intent on killing health care reform would seize on the proposal to scare seniors. Still, the Knights should know better and they should not be party to this dishonesty.

CACG was most recently in the news when Catholics for Choice attacked them for being too faithful to the Church’s teaching on abortion. They are part of a coalition of progressive faith-based organizations that is lobbying hard for health care reform. On a conference call yesterday, representatives of the coalition reiterated their position that health care reform should be neutral on abortion and they understood that while people of good faith can disagree on funding mechanisms or whether there should be a federal option, abortion is different. In general, religious leaders should stay out of the particulars of achieving a goal like universal health insurance, but with abortion, the particulars have explicit moral consequence and there is no getting around that. Abortion is not like funding mechanisms and there cannot be any too-cute-by-half measures that involve "review boards" making decisions that lawmakers lack the courage to make.

Honesty and clarity are needed now more than ever. Over the winter months, I questioned why the USCCB was spending so much time and money on a postcard campaign to defeat the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) when the bill had not even been introduced. It appeared to me that the USCCB had fallen for a GOP canard, a straw man of a talking point that had nothing to do with reality. Indeed, FOCA still has not been introduced. But, there are ways to achieve its goals in piecemeal fashion and the large, complicated health care bill is one of those vehicles. The pro-choice forces are very, very active in their lobbying efforts: Congressman Waxman did not bring back the Stupak Amendment and have it rejected because he had nothing better to do with his time.

Next week the progressive coalition of which CACG is a part will sponsor a nationwide call-in among faith leaders with President Obama to discuss health care reform. I hope the coalition reaches out to Bishop William Murphy, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Policy. Or, to Cardinal Justin Rigali, head of the USCCB pro-life committee. One of these bishops should be in the national call-in. These men, and the bishops they represent, have it right: Health care reform is a moral imperative but abortion is a deal-breaker. It would be nice if everyone on the Catholic Right would admit publicly the first-half of that equation and everyone on the Catholic Left would applaud the second-half. CACG and the coalition they are working with have followed the Bishops’ stance and they should be applauded for it. Let’s hope the President and members of Congress will follow too.



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10 years 3 months ago

"'Mater Si, Magister No,' the most famous example of cafeteria Catholicism on Right heretofore."
Buckley's actual column that addressed Mater et Magistra criticized the timing of the encyclical as being too late. To call this cafeteria Catholicism is ridiculous. Do some research to check this out to find that this bit of propaganda is totally false.

10 years 3 months ago

Thank you for this post which keeps us up to date on some of the health care reform happenings; I too was amazed to see the Knights of Columbus' statement and also to read that 80 bishops attended their convention in Phoenix. They seem to be somehow a tool of those who don't want any health care reform; but remember, these are the type of guys who work for insurance companies! In fact, isn't their big drawing the fact that they offer various types of insurance to their members? I remember once thinking of joining just to get some insurance!

So, how can it be that "abortion" is the deal-breaker when it most certainly is clear that there then will be no deal in that case? As long as Roe vs Wade stands and abortion is declared a private right,(something I disagree with) then the abortion issue becomes simply a hammer to nail the coffin shut on health care access. To many people this is equivalent to saying that diabetics ought not to be covered. They can't make a distinction. Of course this is what you (abortion issue is deal-breaker lobby) want to emphasize - that there is a great distinction. But, is this the way to do it - over access to health care for millions of people. You will sacrifice many millions over a procedure that is a procedure of choice with absolutely no medical reasons for it being performed and therefore need not be performed if nobody chooses it? Might as well  say that new born babies will be denied nutrition as the argument will fall on mostly  deaf ears.

The Knights of Columbus don't want federally funded abortions, but even more they don't want  health care reform, that is clear. In fact, almost nobody wants health care reform except the voiceless for one, the huge corporations that have to pay health insurance insurance on their workers and who hope to get out of the burdern, and a few people who think health care is a right and a matter of justice. Just think, do you think this almost totally corrupt business system and government could run a health care operation? Do you think doctors want to get just decent salaries? That pharmaceutical companies want to make less than obscene profits? That anyone would accept less care or rationing so that others could get a share of health care? Nope, it is a hopeless situation. So, maybe making abortion the deal-breaker has it's uses - it seems to illustrate the extent of concern of the anti-abortion lobby; but, they are really mostly the anti-health care lobby and they are sailing with the prevailing wind of selfishness. So, ask, with abortion not funded and health care not reformed, where will we be? Right where we are - abortion funded anyhow somehow and health care accessible no-how!

10 years 3 months ago
Some more. Here is a picture of the brand new just finished Aflack (duck of Aflack insurance tv ad) house In Angel Fire, New Mexico. It is 10,000sq ft. and since construction costs there exceed $200/sq ft. it must have cost 2million. This in a time of bailouts! 
Now, I'm not against insurance in principle as in its simplist terms it is sharing the risk. However, it sure seems easy to skim off huge sums of the risk money when there are huge amounts of money involved.
And, for another example, the president of Pfizer Pharmaceuticals recently built an even more obscene 24,000 sq. ft. house up in Montana. He didn't build this by passing out aspirins. Sorry, no picture. 
Full disclosure - These are just hints to investigate; I really don't know of the details of the finances of how these houses were built or where the money came from or how they will be used or by whom.
10 years 3 months ago

Regarding Euthanasia:  While it is true the current information (however vague it may be) does not include euthanasia, per se, in the  plan this does not alleviate the real framework that does appear to be being constructed for this development. There is a section that "provides" for end of life counseling.  It is vague and troublesome in that vary vagueness.  This is enhanced by  by the reality that the President's key advisors on this reform have a history of favoring and advocating extreme population control and management.

Obama, his chosen advisors are very clearly in opposition to what the Catholic Church teaches on the sacredness of life. President Obama is profoundly eloquent but a quintessential politician of the oldest school in his ability to say so much with so little real substance.

10 years 3 months ago
Health care reform is a moral imperative but abortion is a deal-breaker.
That line sums up Catholic teaching on the issue very well, but I don't see anybody much taking such a stand in this debate-except, thankfully, our bishops and Michael Sean Winters.  I would be delighted to see Sojourners or Catholics in Alliance take a similar position, but what I hear instead is that abortion is a ''side issue''-a distraction, if you will-from what really matters: universal coverage of medical expenses.  I don't think a faithful Christian can take a position like that without denying our most basic moral values.
10 years 3 months ago
The health care bill does not mention abortion because it doesn't have to. Abortion is considered a medical procedure and is therefore covered in the bill.
Euthanasia will be a policy. "cost effective" treatments means that the elderly will have to wait for treatment as their value to society is not a high as someone who is working. Check out the statment of those who are operating the medical database being proposed. Obama himself has said tha he would have deinied his grandmother a hip replacement at her age. Watch for QALY - Quality Adjusted Life Years", these are the terms of the cost effective medical treatments. Obama and his doctors (Singer and Emanuel's brother in law) believe that the last few years of a person's life account for 80% of their medical treatments. If they let them die what a savings - how cost effective is that? 
Check out what has happened in Oregon and what the state of Washington is proposing. It is all passive euthanasia.


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