Here is a remarkable piece by Donald Wuerl, the archbishop of Washington, in Politics Daily (which sounds almost like a homily) reminding readers that health care is an issue that has long been part of Catholic social teaching (h/t to Grant Gallicho at Dotcommonweal):
We teach that health care is a basic human right, an essential safeguard of human life and dignity. Here in the Archdiocese of Washington, the Catholic community serves nearly 600,000 people in our hospitals and other health care facilities and over 120,000 persons through Catholic Charities, including its Family Centers, and even more through parishes. It is this direct, frontline experience that has guided the Church's efforts for decades to expand and improve health care coverage in our nation and our work for genuine health care reform today.
Hard on the heels of Wuerl's article come these comments from Cardinal Renato Martino, head of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, and who, as the CNS blog points out, lived in the US for 16 years:
The health of their own citizens belongs to the authorities, to the central government. And so I have been 16 years in the States and I was wondering why a big portion of the American people is deprived, have no health assistance at all. I could never explain this…
And you know that everywhere in the world it is a concern of the government first of all, and after there are possibilities also on the private sector, but those who are without anything… the central government must provide to that. So I cannot but applaud this initiative.
And in our editorial today we make the same case:
As people of faith we can be guided by a long tradition of Catholic social teaching that unambiguously supports public initiatives to ensure access to health care when markets alone fail to achieve universal coverage. Those who express exaggerated fears of a government takeover and bureaucratic centralization tend to portray government as somehow a threat to the people and their freedom, but Catholic social teaching consistently reminds us that public authority is the ordinary mechanism by which people undertake collective action. The principle of subsidiarity provides a check against needless centralization, but it must not be misinterpreted as an excuse to forgo truly necessary national initiatives.
Catholic social teaching offers a distinctively organic view of society that calls all parties to be open to sacrifice for the good of the whole. That common good springs from true cooperation, not merely the competitive interaction of self-interests. Reforming health care should not be reduced to a partisan issue, with the eyes of negotiators distracted by the goal of scoring political advantage. We will achieve the aims of reform—extending coverage to the uninsured, rationalizing procedures and policies and lowering costs—only if all parties check their egos and partisan interests at the door and work together.