Fact Checking for the Common Good

It is strange that there is so much crossfire on what is or is not in health care reform proposals! And why all the name calling? And for heaven’s sake, at the end of the day, why are we trusting the government to do this anyway?

Here a few facts about the matter, some numerical, some philosophical and some simply profound.
For example, have you ever heard of FactCheck.org ? Thanks to LifeSiteNews.com and LifeNews.com ,  we heard about it two days ago. So we went to the source to find out what an organization that describes itself as “a nonpartisan, nonprofit ‘consumer advocate’ for voters that aims to reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics” is saying about health care reform.

In its front-page analysis of whether abortion coverage is included in the various health care reform bills, titled “Abortion: Which Side is Fabricating?” author Brooks Jackson makes this stunning observation:

The truth is that bills now before Congress don’t require federal money to be used for supporting abortion coverage. So the president is right to that limited extent. But it’s equally true that House and Senate legislation would allow a new "public" insurance plan to cover abortions, despite language added to the House bill that technically forbids using public funds to pay for them. Obama has said in the past that "reproductive services" would be covered by his public plan, so it’s likely that any new federal insurance plan would cover abortion unless Congress expressly prohibits that. Low- and moderate-income persons who would choose the "public plan" would qualify for federal subsidies to purchase it. Private plans that cover abortion also could be purchased with the help of federal subsidies. Therefore, we judge that the president goes too far when he calls the statements that government would be funding abortions "fabrications."

Clearly, in one way or another, abortion is in there. Case closed!

So, my next question is how many Catholic bishops have clearly defined what the Church has to say about this? Here are quotes from the three we were able to identify.

Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver, the latest Catholic prelate to weigh in on health care reform,  wrote a remarkable editorial in which he makes several salient points:

No system that allows or helps fund — no matter how subtly or indirectly — the killing of unborn children, or discrimination against the elderly and persons with special needs, can bill itself as "common ground." Doing so is a lie…

Health care reform is vital. That’s why America’s bishops have supported it so vigorously for decades. They still do. But fast-tracking a flawed, complex effort this fall, in the face of so many growing and serious concerns, is bad policy. It’s not only imprudent; it’s also dangerous. As Sioux City’s Bishop R. Walker Nickless wrote last week, "no health care reform is better than the wrong sort of health care reform."

If Congress and the White House want to genuinely serve the health-care needs of the American public, they need to slow down, listen to people’s concerns more honestly — and learn what the "common good" really means.

And, as referenced in Archbishop Chaput’s excellent summary of the facts, Bishop R. Walker Nickless of Sioux City, Iowa, was equally articulate in his remarks:

[T]he Catholic Church does not teach that “health care” as such, without distinction, is a natural right. The “natural right” of health care is the divine bounty of food, water, and air without which all of us quickly die. This bounty comes from God directly. None of us own it, and none of us can morally withhold it from others. The remainder of health care is a political, not a natural, right, because it comes from our human efforts, creativity and compassion. As a political right, health care should be apportioned according to need, not ability to pay or to benefit from the care. We reject the rationing of care. Those who are sickest should get the most care, regardless of age, status, or wealth. But how to do this is not self-evident. The decisions that we must collectively make about how to administer health care therefore fall under “prudential judgment.”

Third, in that category of prudential judgment, the Catholic Church does not teach that government should directly provide health care. Unlike a prudential concern like national defense, for which government monopolization is objectively good – it both limits violence overall and prevents the obvious abuses to which private armies are susceptible – health care should not be subject to federal monopolization. Preserving patient choice (through a flourishing private sector) is the only way to prevent a health care monopoly from denying care arbitrarily, as we learned from HMOs in the recent past….

…Only if we again foster a culture of life can we perpetuate the economic justice of taxing workers to pay health care for the poor. Without a growing population of youth, our growing population of retirees is outstripping our distribution systems. In a culture of death such as we have now, taxation to redistribute costs of medical care becomes both unjust and unsustainable.

We also have Bishop Robert Vasa of Baker, Oregon, responding to LifeSiteNews.com after it approached him for an e-mail interview. A portion of that interview reads,

Vasa noted that he believes "the notion of providing more comprehensive health insurance coverage is a just and right thing to do." However, he said: "that does not mean that THIS health insurance plan, only because it promises comprehensive health insurance coverage, must be supported.

"In effect, should we support giving poisoned water to the thirsty? I think not."

The insights of these holy men of God, who understand the stakes and are willing to spend their moral capital on God’s justice rather than man’s feckless, ever-changing attitudes, should be acknowledged, reflected upon and understood within the full breadth of Catholic social teaching.

As Bishop Nickless points out, some have argued that abortion is a fundamental human right. In a sense, the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church addresses that notion. Here is the quote:

166. The demands of the common good are dependent on the social conditions of each historical period and are strictly connected to respect for and the integral promotion of the person and his fundamental rights. These demands concern above all the commitment to peace, the organization of the State’s powers, a sound juridical system, the protection of the environment, and the provision of essential services to all, some of which are at the same time human rights: food, housing, work, education and access to culture, transportation, basic health care, the freedom of communication and expression, and the protection of religious freedom. Nor must one forget the contribution that every nation is required in duty to make towards a true worldwide cooperation for the common good of the whole of humanity and for future generations also.

The teaching is not that a state or federal government should be controlling or dictating health care for those in need, for the Compendium teaches in Section 351, “The action of the State and of other public authorities must be consistent with the principle of subsidiarity and create situations favorable to the free exercise of economic activity. It must also be inspired by the principle of solidarity and establish limits for the autonomy of the parties in order to defend those who are weaker.”

Therefore, for those who have recognized the folks currently in charge of the U.S. government for what they are, based on their partnership with Planned Parenthood, the abortion industry and the “death with dignity” proponents, we can conclude that health care reform in the hands of federal lawmakers is a very bad idea.

And that’s a fact!

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  • DWC

    Well stated. I’ve argued before that health care is not a natural right — but this point lays it out spendidly …. food, air, water, shelter, clothing … those are the natural rights we rally behind in God’s name. Let’s not get snookered into lumping more into that point.

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