Friday, September 18, 2009

Ask the Archbishop: Help reform health care

DEC member Helene Dudley, from the Shenandoah neighborhood of Miami, has written Archbishop of Miami John C. Favalora asking that the church take a strong role in passing legislation to reform health care. She suggests other Catholics (and ex-Catholics) should do the same.

The address is:

The Archbishop Edward A. McCarthy Pastoral Center
9401 Biscayne Boulevard
Miami Shores, FL 33138

Her suggested (and condensed) message to the Archbishop:

Unfortunately, tens of millions of Americans do not have health insurance. According to the website of the Catholic bishops of the United States, the current health care system is in need of fundamental reform. Why is the Catholic Church not speaking out loud and clear to encourage passage of meaningful health care reform?

She also included the full text of what she wrote, as follows:

Your Excellency,

I write you as a life-long Catholic and a member of RESULTS, a grassroots organization committed to ending world poverty. A top priority on RESULTS’ domestic agenda is the passage of significant health care reforms that will extend affordable quality health care to all those who are below 150% of the poverty line. We believe this basic human right is a moral imperative, one that religious organizations should work zealously to promote.

In searching for allies to ensure that health care reform becomes a reality, I visited the website of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and was pleased to see their position stated as follows: “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.”

Bishop William F. Murphy is further quoted as saying that "Genuine health care reform that protects the life and dignity of all is a moral imperative and a vital national obligation" The page also includes an excerpt from Pacem in Terris, in which Pope John XXIII writes of a fundamental human right to affordable or even free health care. This all makes me wonder why the Catholic Church is not a vocal proactive proponent of the type of health care reform that the Church purports to support.

Interest groups that have fought health care reform for over 50 years are using every trick in the books to stop the current effort at reform. Lies and scare tactics drown out civil debate and turn morality on its ear. Real morality dictates that moral people reform a system that allows 20,000 people to die each year due to lack of medical insurance. Morality dictates we work to reform a system that allows insurance companies to act as virtual ‘death panels’ that deny and delay necessary medical care. Morality dictates that we amend a system that excludes those in the lowest economic tier from preventive and early intervention medical care.

Since it is far easier to spread lies and misinformation than to get at the truth, those who seek to confuse the issues in an effort to again defer health care reform have the advantage. The August 26th Wall Street Journal noted the difficulties that even the independent Fact Checking organizations are having with the abortion implications of health care reform. This suggests to me that the proposed health care reforms will have little if any impact on abortion policy in this country and that is at it should be. Abortion legislation, like immigration reform warrant dedicated efforts and should not be interjected to further complicate the health care discussion.

Please don’t let abortion be used to kill the health care reform that our country clearly needs and which the church claims to support. Since most people will not visit the website to read the Church’s position on health care reform, I ask that the Church be proactive in stating the Bishops’ and the Vatican’s positions to their congregations, acknowledging that there is still work to be done with regards to birth control. Washington will discard ‘politics-as-usual’ and get down to the real business of developing meaningful health care reform if public opinion demands that they do so. The Catholic Church has the opportunity to help ensure that public opinion comes from moral rather than political considerations.

I am a practicing Catholic but I often ask myself why. I watched as the Church stood virtually silent in the face of an unjust war, capital punishment, illegal tortures and renditions and a decline in social services. I stopped donating when I heard priests rant from the pulpit that a moral vote in the presidential elections of 2004 could only support a continuation of this platform rather than one that might allow for stem cell research, gay marriage and abortion. Over the years, the Church stood by as its own priests preyed upon the young in parish after parish. A vigorous anti-abortion stand does not trump this litany of failings. I do not ask the Church to abandon its stance on abortion, but I do ask that it use its power and influence to encourage the type of negotiation and compromise that will ensure passage of meaningful health care reform that the Church can support. It is possible to create a more just and moral health care system in our country and it is imperative that we do so. Can we count on you to work zealously for reform?

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