US Catholic Faith in Real Life

US Bishops GOP hacks on health care?

By Bryan Cones | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

Well, I didn't say it, but Nicholas Cafardi of Duquesne University did. In a column on the National Catholic Reporter's website, Cafardi has hard words for "a Midwestern bishop" who said that "the Catholic Church does not teach that ‘health care’ as such, without distinction, is a natural right" and argued that the role of the state was to regulate the private sector. Cafardi also mentions "nearby bishops" who wrote that "the teaching of the universal church has never been to suggest government socialization of medical services." To Cafardi's ears, these bishops are cribbing straight out of the Republican playbook.

Cafardi rightly points out that Pope John XXIII in Pacem in terris specifically lists health care has natural human right. Though the bishops in question--and it's odd that Cafardi lets them be anonymous, since the statements' authors are readily available (Bishop Walker Nickless of Sioux City, Iowa, and Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, Kan., diocese and Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City-St. Joseph diocese)--are correct that church teaching doesn't specify a mechanism for delivering health care, it is generally understood in Catholic social teaching as an element of the common good, the regulation of which usually falls to the government. It's weird to me that these bishops and others--Chaput of Denver, Doran of Rockfork, Ill., and Aquila of Fargo, N.D (good AP story here about it)--are for all practical opposing a policy goal the U.S. bishops have sought for decades.

It will be interesting to see the reactions of the bishops in general after the president's speech on health care tonight. Access to health care is, for many of us "seamless garment" Catholics, a key pro-life issue that will profoundly affect the health of the poor, of children, and of pregnant women and their unborn children. Barring some change regarding public funding of abortion, I don't see why any bishop would oppose it.