Friday, October 02, 2009


Okay – regular posting is back a little earlier than I’d planned.

Both of the following columns are from today’s Union Leader. Understand that these men are religious leaders in their respective communities, and their priorities may (or may not) be different than yours, mine, or our elected representation. That said, I think the contrasts are interesting to consider: one leans conservative, the other liberal. Just the same, their opinions are likely shared – in either direction – by many of us.

Definitely not a waste of time in reading and thinking about both of these columns. Feel free to comment.


Core moral principles for health care reform


With more than 45 million uninsured in the United States, and even more who are in danger of losing their coverage because of job loss, the national dialogue about health care reform is much needed. Obviously, there is no consensus on the fundamentals of how health care and the government should interact.

The Catholic community can offer a unique perspective about health care reform. Christ cured the sick, made the blind see and opened the ears of the deaf. From his example flows the church's healing mission.

In addition to purchasing health care for our employees in our parishes, schools, charities and health care institutions, we offer health care services throughout the United States to as many people as we can, including the poor, the uninsured and the underinsured, literally from the womb until the end of life.

The Catholic Church is one of the largest health care providers in the United States, with nearly 2,000 Catholic hospitals, nursing homes and other health care facilities. In New Hampshire alone, there are two Catholic hospitals that serve more than 500,000 people every year, through their inpatient, outpatient and community benefits programs. In the past year, New Hampshire Catholic Charities served nearly 25,000 people through its rehabilitation and nursing centers, counseling services and services to the disabled. Through its parishes and New Hampshire Catholic Charities, the church also offers other forms of support to the poor, the vulnerable and those whose needs are not met by the existing health care system. Based on its care and concern for the people of every status and persuasion, the Catholic Church has something to say about the reform of the current health care system.

I believe that health care reform -- whatever form that may take -- should include some basic principles. These principles are not based on any partisan or ideological platform, but on sound moral foundations:

-- There should be universal coverage that ensures access to basic health care for all people. All people have the right to health care, regardless of their stage in life, how much they earn, where they live, what illnesses or disabilities they have or where they were born.

Unfortunately, so many low-income families are left with the impossible choice of either paying for necessary medication and medical treatment or paying for food for the family. Too many of the poor, vulnerable, disabled and legal immigrants cannot afford insurance premiums without forgoing other basic human needs, like food, shelter and clothing. As a civil society, we need to ensure that no one is left without the ability to obtain needed medication or medical treatment or obtain emergency care when health is at risk.

-- Any plan passed by Congress must respect human life and dignity from the time of conception until natural death. No health care plan should compel taxpayers to pay for the destruction of human life, either at the beginning or the end of life, whether through government funding or mandatory coverage of abortion or other procedures that terminate human life.

Moreover, no health care plan should violate the right of health care providers to decline involvement in the destruction of human life through abortion or abortion referrals, without exception. Health care plans managed by the government or paid for by taxpayer dollars ought to be designed to preserve and protect human life and not violate the rights and consciences of citizens.

How to put these principles into effect is open to legitimate debate. I do not propose or support any particular federal bill. What I do propose is that we fashion a plan in which we remember that, "(unless the Lord build the house, they labor in vain who build." (Psalm 127)

As the debate about health care reform continues, we will not go wrong as long as we consistently keep in mind that we are all called to support the ultimate purpose of health care reform: the protection and enhancement of human life and dignity.

John McCormack is the Roman Catholic bishop of Manchester


Where is the Christian perspective on health care?


Health care is in the news — but you have to wonder where all the Christians are. This is one of the biggest issues facing our country and our people, yet no one seems to be bringing a Christian voice or tone to that debate. Have you noticed?

During the presidential campaign, there was much talk about the 50 million or so who have no health care insurance, many of whom who forgo care altogether and then wind up in emergency rooms with more serious, more fully developed illnesses than would have been the case had they sought preventive care. There seemed to be considerable outrage that the greatest nation in the world would allow one-sixth of its people to be without access to care. What happened to "no red states or blue states, but rather the United States?" Political partisanship threatens to short-circuit any progress on providing health care to all.

Now that we are finally having the debate, you never seem to hear from (or about) those 50 million people — women and men who (roughly) equally span all the age groups. Nor do we hear from the voiceless 10 million children so affected.

Listening to the angry public hearings being held by congressional members, one wonders how many of those objecting to health care reform are among those without insurance or care. Rather, we are hearing from those who already have insurance, don't want it to change and don't want it to cost them anything to insure all those without.

Has there been a single person at one of these hearings that has said, "I lost my insurance a year ago when I lost my job, but I don't think we should change the system we have."?

According to the Hebrew and Christian scriptures, God judges us by how we care for the most vulnerable among us. Where are the Christian voices calling for care for all of us?

There is much talk insisting that we in America have the best medical care on earth. Actually, that's not true. What is true is that a few of us have the best medical care on earth, while the rest have some portion of that care, and some only at the hands of charity work by hospitals and caregivers. In truth, our "best medical care on earth" gets us a ranking of 23rd in infant mortality, 20th in life expectancy and 67th in immunizations (just behind Botswana). To our shame, race and income prove to be the most trustworthy indicators of how bad your health care will be.

The tone of the "debate" is equally concerning. Rancor, rudeness and hostility mark these hearings (not to mention those openly toting guns), and instead of issues, approaches and strategies being discussed, our elected officials and the President are maligned and vilified. There is no sense that "we are one," as human beings and as Americans. It seems to me that instead of "every man, woman and child for themselves," the Christian argues that we can treat no other human being as anything less than a child of God, equal in every way to every other.

There are many strategies and issues to be debated. Honest disagreement is entirely appropriate. And I am not arguing for one plan or another. What is not acceptable, from a Christian standpoint, is "I've got mine. To hell with you!"

As Christians, we are called to be in constant conversation with the world. It's time we weighed in as Christian voices to demand progress on this vital issue which threatens the lives of so many vulnerable people — many of them sitting beside us in the pews, just one illness or operation away from bankruptcy, disgrace and tragedy. As Christians and citizens, we must decry the hostile tone of this debate and call for a return to the goal of the common good.

Members of the early Church gave up all their goods to the community, and then those resources were re-distributed "as each had need." Surely, we can sacrifice a little for the good of all. Can't we?

V. Gene Robinson is the Episcopal bishop of New Hampshire

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