"Genuine health care reform that protects the life and dignity of all is a moral imperative and a vital national obligation" - Bishop William F. Murphy
USCCB Position on Health Care Reform
In our Catholic tradition, health care is a basic human right. Access to health care should not depend on where a person works, how much a family earns, or where a person lives. Instead, every person, created in the image and likeness of God, has a right to life and to those things necessary to sustain life, including affordable, quality health care. This teaching is rooted in the biblical call to heal the sick and to serve "the least of these," our concern for human life and dignity, and the principle of the common good. Unfortunately, tens of millions of Americans do not have health insurance. According to the Catholic bishops of the United States, the current health care system is in need of fundamental reform. To learn about Catholic teaching on health care in more detail, read the full statement by the United States Catholic Bishops, A Framework for Comprehensive Health Care Reform, at usccb.org/sdwp/national/comphealth.shtml.
Health Care Reform and a Dispute About Dying
Congress’s effort to enact health care reform legislation has sparked a vigorous debate. From a Catholic viewpoint the underlying issue is clear: Tens of millions of Americans lack basic health coverage; many more risk losing what they have as costs rise. And this is a matter of justice. As Pope John XXIII said almost half a century ago: “Man has the right to live. He has the right to bodily integrity and to the means necessary for the proper development of life, particularly food, clothing, shelter, medical care…” (Pacem in Terris, no. 11). A society that does not ensure basic life-affirming health care for those in need is failing in a basic responsibility.
Since the right to health care is based on the right to live, it is also clear that what attacks life is not health care at all, and not a legitimate goal of health care reform. The Church insists that reform is too important and legitimate a goal to be hijacked by destructive agendas such as government-mandated abortion coverage.
Lines in the Sand
As members of Congress head home for their August recess, we now have a better picture of where everyone stands on health care reform. While the U.S. bishops support genuine health care reform, there is a clear line in the sand between our bishops and some congressional leaders.
On July 17, Bishop William Murphy, Chairman of the bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, wrote to Congress saying: “The USCCB looks forward to working with you to reform health care successfully in a manner that offers accessible, affordable and quality health care that protects and respects the life and dignity of all people from conception until natural death.” Then Bishop Murphy drew a line, declaring that “no health care reform plan should compel us or others to pay for the destruction of human life, whether through government funding or mandatory coverage of abortion.”
Getting Health Care Reform Morally Right
Fr. Douglas Clark
The patient is clearly ailing. Because he is consuming an increasing amount of the resources available to him, he is getting fatter all the time. His vital signs are erratic. His attending physicians cannot agree on a diagnosis and therefore are squabbling about the best course of treatment. And they are under increasing pressure to hurry up, diagnose and cure the patient before it’s too late.
The patient is the American health care system.
Walking the walk amidst the health care talk
Sr. Mary Ann Walsh
At Providence Hospital, barely five miles from the U.S. Capitol, a broken arm gets you a cast -- and a new pair of shoes. A pain in your right side leads to an appendectomy -- and a new shirt.
At Providence, homeless patients find quality medical care and practical assistance at the Sister's Clothes Closet, which provides everything from new shoes and undergarments to lightly used or new shirts and pants. Providence Health Foundation buys them or collects them from donors for patients who need them.
That's typical of the care provided through the Catholic Church and its nationwide network of hospitals. The Catholic Church walks the walk on health care. Its voice deserves to be heard.