Some of the reasons why I can't support the health care bill.
In particular, I've been asked (even by fellow Catholics) “As a Catholic how can you not support health care reform?” After all, the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) says:
“2288 Life and physical health are precious gifts entrusted to us by God. We must take reasonable care of them, taking into account the needs of others and the common good.
Concern for the health of its citizens requires that society help in the attainment of living-conditions that allow them to grow and reach maturity: food and clothing, housing, health care, basic education, employment, and social assistance.”
What they fail to realize is that I do support health care reform, just not the kind of health care reform being pushed on the American people right now. Why not? Because it will lead to the destruction of human life, and is therefore immoral legislation.
Why do I say it will lead to the destruction of human life? Because it will result in universal funding for abortion (proponents of the bill keep voting down any amendment that would put that in writing that it won't, which tells me that I can't believe them when they say it won't). Even if it did not directly fund direct abortion procedures in a clinic, it will fund abortifacient contraception (aka abortion), in-vitro fertilization (IVF, which involves killing the unborn), embryonic stem cell research (ESCR, which involves killing the unborn, and euthanasia (again, we have verbal claims that “end of life choice” does not mean euthanasia but they will not put that in writing).
“But we need to give health care to all, even if it means compromising on other issues” is the argument I am given. I don't buy it. Here are some reasons:
“Any politics of human dignity must seriously address issues of racism, poverty, hunger, employment, education, housing, and health care. Therefore, Catholics should eagerly involve themselves as advocates for the weak and marginalized in all these areas. Catholic public officials are obliged to address each of these issues as they seek to build consistent policies which promote respect for the human person at all stages of life. But being 'right' in such matters can never excuse a wrong choice regarding direct attacks on innocent human life. Indeed, the failure to protect and defend life in its most vulnerable stages renders suspect any claims to the 'rightness' of positions in other matters affecting the poorest and least powerful of the human community.” – USCCB, Political Responsibility: "The application of Gospel values to real situations is an essential work of the Christian community"
“Above all, the common outcry, which is justly made on behalf of human rights -- for example, the right to health, to home, to work, to family, to culture -- is false and illusory if the right to life, the most basic and fundamental right and the condition of all other personal rights, is not defended with maximum determination.” – Pope John Paul II, The Vocation and the Mission of the Lay Faithful in the Church and in the World (Christifideles Laici)
“When American political life becomes an experiment on people rather than for and by them, it will no longer be worth conducting. We are arguably moving closer to that day. Today, when the inviolable rights of the human person are proclaimed and the value of life publicly affirmed, the most basic human right, 'the right to life, is being denied or trampled upon, especially at the more significant moments of existence: the moment of birth and the moment of death'” – USCCB, Living the Gospel of Life: A Challenge to American Catholics
“Good people frequently disagree on which problems to address, which policies to adopt and how best to apply them. But for citizens and elected officials alike, the basic principle is simple: We must begin with a commitment never to intentionally kill, or collude in the killing, of any innocent human life, no matter how broken, unformed, disabled or desperate that life may seem.” – USCCB, Living the Gospel of Life: A Challenge to American Catholics
I don't think it can be more clearly stated that as Catholics we cannot in good conscience compromise our defense of human life, even to promote social good. Hence I can't support the current health reform legislation.
So, what health care legislation would I support? As Bishop James V. Johnston of Springfield-Cape Girardeau Diocese in Missouri points out
“One might legitimately ask if giving a large, inefficient, but powerful bureaucracy like the federal government control of health care is a wise move. For one, this runs counter to the well-known principle of subsidiarity, so prominent in Catholic social teaching: “a community of a higher order should not interfere in the internal life of a community of a lower order, depriving the latter of its functions, but rather should support it in case of need and help to coordinate its activity with the activities of the rest of society, always with a view to the common good."
'The principle of subsidiarity is opposed to all forms of collectivism. It sets limits for state intervention.' (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, nos. 1883,1885). One might consider this the principle of social dignity.
How much of a role the government should have is a matter of prudential judgment. However, there are ethical dimensions to this question. Certainly, it has a role to play, but that does not necessarily mean that it should be the sole provider of health care. The government can act to remove abuses, and to regulate the health care industry so that the markets efficiently serve all the people.
Government may also be needed to see that no one, especially the working poor and the most destitute and forgotten, falls through the cracks. But the essential element of the principle of subsidiarity is the protection of individual freedoms from unjust micromanagement and manipulation by the state.” – Rev. James V. Johnston, Skinning the 'Health Care Cat'
As usual, someone else puts it better than I could (then again, I can't compete with a bishop!). Proper health care reform should focus on correcting inequities and inefficiencies of the current system to ensure that it is fair and reasonable. It should not support and perpetuate an admittedly broken system. If all you're looking for is a way to pay for care for people who can't afford it, and you don't care how that is accomplished, we already have that. It's called charity. The funny thing about charity is that it's your responsibility, not your government's. Oh wait! I have to pay my own money for someone else's health care!? Yes. After all, that's what this bill does that you want me to support.
If you feel health care for the poor is a moral imperative (like I do), please write your legislators (as I have) and ask that sensible health care reform be proposed in place of the current bill.
If, however, you are in favor of the current health care bill, there is a way to do things without violating your conscience. Simply take the $3,000 or so a year that I've heard is the estimated health care budget per capita (more, since not every capita pays taxes), and give it to your local parish with a note asking that the money be used to care for the sick. I guarantee the money will be used more efficiently and justly than it would be under the proposed heath care legislation, and it won't go to support abortion, ESRC, IVF, etc.