Health-care reform is crucial for Catholics - Catholic Courier
Matthew H. Clark Matthew H. Clark

Health-care reform is crucial for Catholics

As Catholics, we are called to carry on the healing ministry of Jesus so beautifully described in the Gospels, to care for the sick and reach out to the most vulnerable among us.

We continue this ministry today in a variety of ways. The care provided at Catholic facilities is a very direct way of continuing the healing work of Christ. In addition, the structures that we citizens create through our government and private industry to develop, fund and provide health care also are important ways of manifesting the love of neighbor that Jesus mandates for his disciples.

We are indeed fortunate to live in an area with excellent hospitals and an adequate number of physicians and other health-care professionals. Yet the ability of many people in our community to pay for and access health care has diminished over the past decade. This unfortunate circumstance is due to many factors, including fewer jobs that include employer-based health care, dramatic increases in health-care costs and escalating insurance costs. All of these factors contribute to the fact that more people than ever find health care and insurance coverage out of financial reach.

In fact, one out of three Americans under the age of 65 went without health insurance for some period of time during 2007 and 2008. Of these, four out of five were from working families. Sixty-four percent of the uninsured are employed full time, year round. This state of affairs is unacceptable to our Catholic moral beliefs and tradition.

Thus my brother bishops and I support health-care reform so that every person who needs medical attention may receive it. It is our fervent hope and prayer that any reform, however, respects and upholds the values and beliefs we hold dear as Catholics, and includes the weakest and most vulnerable of our society under its protective umbrella.

Health-care reform is very much a “Catholic issue,” not just a political one, because its importance transcends politics. In a recent letter to all members of the Congress and the White House, Bishop William F. Murphy of Rockville Centre and chairman of the bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development wrote: “Health care is not just another issue for the Church or a healthy society. It is a fundamental issue of human life and dignity.”

By now, you have most likely seen the varied positions of the many groups who also are interested in the outcome of health-care reform. Savvy commercials and political commentary abound in the media. This is to be expected because the outcome of the Health Care Reform Act, currently before Congress, will influence how medical treatment is accessed and paid for in this nation for years.

To ensure that you better know and understand the church’s position, we distributed a series of articles for parish bulletins about health care in the last weeks of August. They present important details and principles about the Health Care Reform Act that are of greatest concern to the U.S. bishops.

Included are the following:

  • Does universal coverage respect human life and dignity from conception to natural death?

  • Is health care available for all citizens with special concern given for the poor, including coverage for legal immigrants?

  • Is the common good recognized and pluralism preserved by including conscience protections and a variety of options? That is, will there be inclusion of the right of individuals and Catholic institutions to be exempt from performing practices that disrespect human life, among these abortion, euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide? Are costs restrained and applied equitably across the spectrum of payers?

    You may be asking, what can you do?

    For one, I ask that you stay informed about this critical issue. Please read the information sent to your parishes. Please speak or write to your congressional representatives and our two U.S. senators. If you missed an article, you will find the complete series on our diocesan Web site (www.dor.org), along with information on ways to contact the lawmakers who represent you.

    You will certainly come across some commentary in the popular media that disagrees with the church’s viewpoint. As you well know, some in our society object to excluding from the Health Care Reform Act life-taking procedures such as abortion and physician-assisted suicide. Other groups would limit which citizens and legal immigrants may avail themselves of health-insurance coverage. And not everyone agrees with us that we must protect the rights of institutions and individuals to refuse to perform morally objectionable procedures

    Such disagreement on this very complex issue is to be expected; one would hope that dialogue can be constructive, honest and open. For our part as Catholics, we must continue to work to ensure that heath-care reform is something we can live with: life-giving, compassionate, equitable, inclusive, fair and wise.

    Peace to all.

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