Catholics and Health Care: A Note

I have found it interesting to watch the many responses of Catholics to the new health care bill.   Cardinal George has applauded the bill while maintaining some reservations:

We are apprehensive as we look to the future, even as we applaud much of the increased care that will be available.

I think it is important for Catholics to recognize both the applause and the apprehension.  The USCCB has been working on “universal” health care now for a long time.   They have been a constant advocate of reform.  The two primary reasons usually given for their apprehension about the current bill are first, that its language is vague about federal funds being used to pay for abortions, and second, it does not include illegal immigrants.  It is not “universal” enough.

This second point seems to be lost on certain Catholics.  For example, Deal Hudson has come out with much praise for the Bishops’ reservations.  But this is the same Hudson who wrote:

Criticism of the USCCB among lay Catholics, as well as many priests and bishops, has been a constant since its march to the political left in the years after its creation in 1966. Pastoral letters, including the ones on the economy (1986) and war and peace (1983), created a clear line of demarcation between the liberal politics of the conference (aligned with the Democratic Party) and the Catholics, both lay and religious, who interpreted the Church’s social teaching differently (in a way inclining them toward conservatism and the GOP.)

So as to avoid a serious divide among Catholics in America, we cannot take this approach.  The bishops are wise, and they desire both to promote “universal” health care, and, precisely so that it be “universal,” push for it to include the unborn.  We would be wise to follow their lead, and not select what we like and don’t like from them.  Cardinal George has made it clear that the Bishops are trying to steer away from politics on this matter.  We should try to give them the benefit of the doubt and listen carefully to what they are saying.


24 Responses to Catholics and Health Care: A Note

  1. Avoid a serious divide? There is no “avoiding” at this point. The “division” is clear and apparent. But there is hope. Our Pope Speaks to us about Socialism in SPE SALVI,

    Further, please read “The Great Lie: Pope Benedict XVI On Socialism”

  2. Pete Lake says:

    For the avoidance of doubt, it should be noted that Cardinal George did not applaud the BILL, he applauded the expanded coverage–the difference is vast. As Catholics we can support the latter (i.e., expanded coverage), but never the former (i.e, the bill), which permits taxpayer dollars to be routed to fuding community health centers which are really death camps for the unborn. This health care reform bill is an example of what Archbishop Sheen would call a product of society that has divorced Christ from his Cross. Why? Because it is a compromise that requires the doing of some evil (funding abortions) to try to reduce another evil (denial of health care to the poor). Because rather than take up the cross to reject this bill for its promotion of evil in funding abortions until we could come up with a bill that was worthy of Christ, we took the easy way out, laid down the cross, and accepted a bill full of morally unacceptable provisions. The President sold us this bill, fitting yet again, as Bishop Sheen warned us that evil will present itself as a philanthropist but never with scars.

  3. Anthony Lusvardi, SJ says:

    Just as a point of clarification, the bishops objected to the denial of Medicaid to legal immigrants, not just illegal immigrants.

    It might be worth including the USCCB statements themselves since they are carefully worded and not too long.

    Here’s from before the vote:

    And here’s from after:

    Your point is well taken, however. If Catholics or Catholic groups make statements that undermine the bishops on those issues about which the groups are not so enthusiastic, they also diminish the credibility the bishops have when they speak about causes which those groups support. No one wins when the Church is divided. (Well, someone wins, but he has horns and a tail…)

  4. Pete, I disagree with your distinction. I think a Catholic in good conscience can support the bill. That’s precisely what Sister Keehan and Bart Stupak and others have done. I think this is a matter of prudential judgment. I just that in either supporting it or not supporting it, we need to do so with a certain deference to the wisdom of the bishops, careful not to jump on board and off on a whim. They are our shepherds, and we should weigh carefully everything they say, not just a few things. But when I read the following part of the Bishops’ statement:

    “As bishops, we wish to recognize the principled actions of the pro-life Members of Congress from both parties, in the House and the Senate, who have worked courageously to create legislation that respects the principles outlined above. They have often been vilified and have worked against great odds.”

    I understand it to mean that Catholics can disagree on this. After all, several Bishops have also supported this bill.

  5. Thanks for the clarifications Anthony.

  6. Gregory, socialism has nothing to do with this.

  7. Donato Infante III says:

    Nathan, you can still oppose the bill for reasons other than refusing to listen to the bishops. I completely agree that we want to have some type of health insurance for everyone, but that does not mean that I’d go about doing it in any manner. As our Holy Father said in “The Ratzinger Report”, it’s not clear what (if any) teaching authority a bishop’s conference really has.

  8. Father Joseph LeBlanc says:

    Everyone seemingly is focused on the abortion issue, rightly so, but one important factor no one seems to be looking at is the tremendous cuts in Medicare and Medicare Advantage.

    The elderly have enough problems now seeing their doctors because of being on Medicare or Medicaid. Baby Boomers are going to realize this in days to come when it may “affect” the caring of their parents in long term care.

    I would hope that as a country and people we would have a great love for the elderly and give them all the health aide that they need.

    I also find it somewhat disturbing to cut medicare in order to pay for the other entitlement.

    One of the problems we get into from the USCCB is that do not speak with clarity to the laity. Just being a pastor speaks to that problem.

    A good debate, but the three issues of funding for abortions, cutting of medicare and the lack of a reasonable conscience clause for our medical professionals.

    Good debate and it will continue for sure here on the parish level and in Congress.

  9. therese says:

    “I think a Catholic in good conscience can support the bill. That’s precisely what Sister Keehan and Bart Stupak and others have done. I think this is a matter of prudential judgment.”

    So, Nathan, am I to understand that I can support the new healthcare law of the land & still not have to bring the matter up in confession since its a matter of prudential judgement?

    I’m honestly confused. I was taught that anything that I’ve done or been complicit to that ‘offends the goodness of God’ needs to be repented of & not repeated. Since $$ will be going from my paychecks to ensure medicaid availability of abortions (the executive order notwithstanding), I thought I’d be distantly complicit in this and an act of civil disobedience would be therefore logical and, really, necessary.

    To be upfront about it, it just doesn’t matter one iota to me what Stupak, Keehan, Pelosi, Biden et al think or do. I’m trying to find out what the teaching of the Catholic Church is in this matter. Thank you.

  10. therese says:

    This bishop doesn’t really make it sound like this is a prudential issue:

  11. Therese,

    Your money is supporting an unjust war and torture. We are all “distantly complicit” in all kinds of evil. We need to ask what contributes most to the common good. The Catholic Church doesn’t have a “teaching” in this matter. This is not a matter of “teaching” but of prudential judgment.

  12. Mason Slidell says:


    Nathan is right. Your tax money has gone to promote and fund moral evil for years. I’m not implying you shouldn’t oppose government-financed abortions, but you must also oppose government-financed unjust warfare and torture.

    One addendum: if you currently have private health insurance, then your money (paid in premiums and co-payments) is very likely already funding abortions. Close to 90% of all employer-based health care plans cover abortion services and have for decades.

  13. Lynn says:

    Where does the ‘common good’ fall in the hierarchy of truths?

    And since when have we become to blithe about our complicity with evil in any form that we can now justify complicity in the name of the “common good”? It seems we set that bar of the ‘common good’ ever lower and lower..

  14. therese says:

    Not to put too fine a point on it but I have to clarify: In saying that abortion funding = war funding, are you speaking for the Church or is that your opinion?

  15. therese says:

    This is what the present Holy Father wrote when he was the head of CDF in 2004 re: this topic:

    3. Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia. For example, if a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion. While the Church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace, not war, and to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia.

  16. Therese,

    First of all, Mason makes a good point that you should look into. Your money probably already supports abortion funding. This new plan, as Sister Carol points out may not actually end up allowing federal funds to pay for abortions and will probably also make abortion funding more difficult to afford since it will have to specifically chosen as part of a plan. And states will be allowed to reject subsidies for plans that include abortion.

    Second, Faithful Citizenship is very clear that unjust wars and torture are two examples of intrinsic evils, just as abortion is. Ratzinger seems to be discussing prudential judgments of when to use the death penalty and if war in itself is an intrinsic evil, which is an interesting discussion to have. But if a war is deemed unjust, it is intrinsically evil, and torture always is, so yes, I would put an equal sign there in regards to both being “intrinsic evils.” Abortion is the most important issue of our times, but that point does not detract from your money already supporting intrinsic evils.

  17. therese says:

    Thanks, Nathan. I’m guessing when you say that you would put an equal sign between these two things that you mean you are speaking your own opinion, which is fine & fair enough. In my opinion, the Church (& Cardinal Ratzinger) is not putting an equal sign there. This is why: people who die in unjust wars, because of torture or by whatever horrific means men can think up to kill them, still were able, at some point, to have a life…to take a breath. Kids who are still in their mother’s womb have never had this chance, so they are obviously must vulnerable & voiceless people in the world. This is obviously not an “equal” situation.

    As far as the argument that my dollars are already supporting intrinsic evil….how in the world does that justify supporting another instrinsic evil?? Or maybe this is truth is just too simple for great minds to comprehend.

  18. Not my opinion. The Bishops’ opinion. Like I said, the equal sign is in terms of intrinsic evils. They are both intrinsically evil. One cannot be more intrinsically evil than an other. Abortion is a graver issue because of its magnitude. Nor does the Church = Cardinal Ratzinger. Careful with your own equal signs. Babies in the womb still had a life before they were killed too. Killing is killing. You just said that kids in the womb never had a life. Careful.

    As for your second point, your money may support intrinsic evils under this new bill to a lesser extent than the old system. That would be great, wouldn’t it? That’s my point. The important thing is to read the fine print.

  19. Here is the best response to Catholics and Healthcare so far:

    Father Newman, true shepherd of his flock, is alive and well and preaching truth from the pulpit.

    Most of you remember he is the priest who told his congregation to go to Confession before receiving Holy Communion if they voted for Obama.

    Here’s the link to his homily last Sunday, the day healthcare was rammed down our throats. God bless and hope in our Risen Lord!

    This is a really good Homily for the Fifth Sunday of Lent.

  20. Yes, well thanks for your opinion Gregory. I think Father Newman is terribly wrong as do most of the bishops, but you are entitled to your opinion.

  21. Mason Slidell says:

    I would make the case that the best way to end communal funding of abortion services (either through taxation or insurance premiums) is to have a single-payer system.

    It is a simple fact that the largest funder of abortion services in this country is and will continue to be health insurance companies. With their dominance of the health care market, simple supply and demand will ensure that individuals will continue to be forced to fund abortion regardless of personal opposition. As long as there is demand for abortions, health insurance companies will to take your money and my money to fund it.

    Single-payer is the only option I see to end all communal, involuntary funding for abortion. If the government is the single payer for all health care services, then political pressure can be exerted to stop coverage for abortion.

    There is no doubt that in a single-payer system those medical procedures deemed elective (such as elective plastic surgery) would be excluded from coverage, meaning individuals would have to pay out of their own pocket if they wished to have the elective procedure. Abortion would very likely be put in that category of elective procedures, meaning that never again would anyone be involuntarily forced to fund abortion.

    Now, it is my assumption that abortion would be placed in the elective category. Given the fact, however, that the Hyde Amendment has remained in place for decades by the robust political pressure of the pro-life movement, it does not seem a stretch that such language can be inserted into a single-payer system. Imagine for one moment if the pro-life movement would say the progressive movement: exclude abortion from coverage and we will support a universal, single-payer system. Call me a dreamer, but I think that compromise would work.

    Maybe my scenario misses something, but if those here really want to ensure that neither government or insurance companies will take their money to fund abortions, this seems the best option.

  22. Gregory Benedict says:

    Serious Divide among Catholics in America? Hmm, No The Divide is bigger than America, its worldwide and It not limited to abortion and healthcare either. Traditionalist have a valid complaint against Liberals( Jesuits included) and personally after the way they were treated after Vatican II, and the destruction of the Faith life of many, I would fight like hell for the faith and the traditional values. Our current Pope gives a fighting chance and hope.

    Here read these two articles.

    Gerald Warner in the UK:
    It’s the Pope’s turn to retaliate in Catholic civil war

    How anti-Catholic is Newsweek? They published Fr. Richard McBrien.

  23. Mason Slidell says:


    So advocacy for health care reform is part of the grand conspiracy against beleaguered “traditionalists?” Right…

    Paranoia may be getting the best of you.

  24. Gregory Benedict says:

    I have no idea about paranoia…..
    Its above my paygrade…

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