Put the Church Back into Healthcare Debate

So says Phil Fox Rose in this post on Bustedhalo, entitled "For I Was Ill and You Cared for Me": 

People of faith are not of one political party or the other — not all conservative or all progressive, all right or all left. But most people of faith believe as a core principle that we should love one another and care for one another — that this is how we express Divine Love.

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Can we agree on this: Can we agree that it’s a scandal that tens of millions of Americans live in fear of getting sick, because of the ruin it might bring to their lives? And that many of the rest of us are only a layoff away from the same situation? This is not a statement of rights. This is not an argument for exactly how to extend to those people the security of universal coverage. But can we agree that it is for the Common Good that this be done?

It upsets me how little I’ve heard from religious leaders. Most notably, what I’ve heard from the U.S Council of Catholic Bishops. While the council has gone on record multiple times in favor of universal coverage, its recent focus on attacking the current proposals gives the impression it is hostile towards the whole effort. I know the bishops want universal coverage. I’ve read the urgency of their words on the subject. But that’s not the message that’s reaching politicians or the general public. I know the bishops want universal coverage. I’ve read the urgency of their words on the subject. But that’s not the message that’s reaching politicians or the general public…

Part of what called me to the Catholic faith was the centrality of the messages that God is Love and that we have a responsibility to care for those who are suffering. So I am especially frustrated and pained by this impression.  As someone who converted to Catholicism, I’m a little biased. Part of what called me to the Catholic faith was the centrality of the messages that God is Love and that we have a responsibility to care for those who are suffering. So I am especially frustrated and pained by this impression — all the more striking in the immediate wake of Pope Benedict’s latest encyclical on charity and social justice.

Read the rest here.

James Martin, SJ

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8 years 3 months ago
I believe we are missing the point here.
We all agree we are our brothers keeper and should do all we can to help those without insurance  Those that WANT it. The point is the MAJORITY of the insured are happy with their insurance . So why  does the President want to change EVERBODY's insurance(Although he denies it, it WILL happen). We should be addressing the problem of the UNINSURED  period .
Ruth Burr
8 years 3 months ago
My impression is that the Catholic Bishops are somewhat overly influenced by a certain strain of "pro-lifers" who limit their vision to opposing "federal funding of abortion". The thing is the federal government does fund abortions - all grants to schools that teach abortion and their faculties who support abortion are federally funded; as are the medical students and the doctors who later perform abortions. And furthermore, it is private health insurance that pays for most abortions.
So, driving people into the hands of private health insurance will simply drive people into a system that is highly motivated to encourage abortions. An abortion costs $300 and avoids the thousands of dollars that pre-natal care and the birth would cost; to say nothing of the tens of thousands of dollars that child care will cost. The insurance companies have a bottom line motivation to provide abortions.
So, why don't the "pro-lifers" concentrate their efforts against private health insurance? Because they sell this health insurance, that's why! The other question is, why do they have such great sway with the Catholic Bishops? Because they are, "pro-life", I guess!
8 years 3 months ago
I am appalled at the silence of the church in the current
health care debate. My own sense is that the hierarchy is so much a right-wing
leaning group that they find it impossible to enter into a serious engagement
with the Democratic Party. They are throwing out the baby with the bathwater.
 
In doing this they are missing a potentially historic moment
to influence for the good our nation's public policy. It seems that we have an
"attack from the outside" model instead of a good faith entering into
the creation process as a partner who is politically mature and understands
that multiple stakeholders are involved. I think the Bishops appear
fundamentally anti-democratic. It is my way or the highway with them and kiss
my ring on your way out.
 

Anecdotally speaking, I went to a potluck last night
of folks working hard to influence Rep. Dennis Moore and Senators Roberts and
Brownback from Kansas to get on board for universal coverage. I was the only
Catholic there.
8 years 3 months ago
"But most people of faith believe as a core principle that we should love one another and care for one another — that this is how we express Divine Love. Can we agree on this: Can we agree that it’s a scandal that tens of millions of Americans live in fear of getting sick, because of the ruin it might bring to their lives?"
I can't speak to the USSCB intentions, but if what I hear after Mass on Sundays is any indication, Catholics do not "believe as core principle that we should love one another and care for one another."  I don't sense that there is a desire among average church-going Catholics to extend healthcare to the uninsured and underinsured. While these folks, including many friends, might be first in line to send a casserole to a family in need, they don't see reforming the system as in line with their beliefs. This is a difficult reality for me to absorb. More teaching is needed.
8 years 3 months ago
It must be remembered that the Church has a legitimate concern that the poor get proper health care. It is none of the Church's business whether that is done through government or the public sector. In a similar vain, the Church should be concerned about helping the poor through social services. Whether that is done by a big and bloated federal government or at the local level is none of the Church's business.  This is yet another example of America Magazine following the Democratic Party like lemmings.
8 years 3 months ago
Fr. Martin and others:
I am more and more leaning toward the following reading of this situation: the closer we get to real health care/insurance reform the closer we get to delivering an indictment on laissez faire capitalist economies to adequately and justly address the basic needs of a society that cares for all its citizens. The consequences of such an indictment are frightening to the majority of people who have, for so long, put so much faith and trust in the current economic system. While the Obama administration is trying its best to protect our overall economic security, understanding exactly that fact - that there are pockets of every economic system that falter human beings at one point or another - the need for a "public" option would be yet another nail in the coffin of blind trust of unbounded capitalism. It would be the second affront in the past year to some of the basic myths of this nation, the myth that self-reliance, rugged individualism, and hard work should be sufficient to provide for oneself and one's family along with the myth that America is past its problems with racial difference simply because we elected a black president.
Blessings,
MT
8 years 3 months ago
There are probably a variety of reasons as to why the Bishops are silent:
-All or nothing attitudes by reformers "if you do not support vaguely defined Health Care reform, then you do not care about the poor. Thus, you are immoral". Or claims that church teachings command one to support health care concept "A" instead of "B".
- It is very difficult for a Bishop to be "for" or "against" healthcare reform when the specifics have no been presented.
-The sex abuse scandals have cost the Bishops alot credibility and alot of clout on offering moral or policy guidiance. Some Bishops may still fear ridicule.
-Desire to avoid fights. I have personaly seen a parish impacted by conservative and progressive activists constantly wanting parishioners "guided" through sermons  or distributed "educational" material. There was no end to it.
8 years 3 months ago
For most of my adult life the American bishops have been advocating for universal health care.  Where are they now?  Why aren't they speaking in support of reform?  As another poster noted, insurance plans already cover abortions.  The bishops  can teach, they can inform, they can try to persuade the public about the integrity of the pro-life position.  They step on their own message when they align themselves with right wing forces, extremely rich right wing forces, to cast suspicion on this country's best chance in years to get all our people covered by health insurance.  They aren't just disppointing .  They are appalling.
8 years 3 months ago
Maybe the Republican bishops are silent now because they embarrassed themselves so thoroughly during their Notre Dame debaucle.  Or, maybe even for the bishops it's conservative ideology first and social justice second.
8 years 3 months ago
Amen Fr. Martin.  I have been saying this for weeks - that as Christians it is our moral obligation to care for our brothers and sisters.  Where are the heads and hearts  of all of these Christians out there resorting to hate speech?  Don't they realize that if they are followers of Christ, they must be concerned for the welfare of others?  I am so disappointed that we have not heard from many religious in recent weeks asking those spewing hatred and opposition what would Jesus do?  If we need to pay higher taxes so that the less fortunate, and those without inusrance can be covered, so be it.  I am willing to make that sacrifice.  Why does the idea of allowing those without healthcare coverage to be covered bring out such hatred in people?  Its extremely disappointing.  I hope that at least in churches across the country priests, ministers and pastors are preaching the love of Christ and showing those consumed with hatred the error of their ways.  God help us all.
8 years 3 months ago
The problem of the under-insured is just as acute, although it damages providers more than the uninsured, since it is the providers who don't get paid after they have done their work and paid their staffs.  This is a public issue because they transfer these costs to everyone.  For example, we have a large hospital bill for two ER visits and a high deductible policy with a Health Savings Account.  The hospital is holding the bag until the HSA payments come in.  Everyone else who uses the hospital pays more because we can't pay right away.

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