US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Gaillardetz on the bishops and health care

By Bryan Cones | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

Richard Gaillardetz of the University of Toledo has provided the clearest, most well-reasoned, and compelling account of the role of the bishops in the health care debate, responding somewhat to remarks made by USCCB president and Chicago Cardinal Francis George. You can read it here at Commonweal's website. And kudos to Commonweal for inviting Gaillardetz, among our finest North American theologians, to write it.

Gaillardetz's main contention is that the authority of the bishops is graduated: highest in matters that pertain directly to revelation, lowest in matters of direct application to the realm of public policy. That doesn't mean the bishops can ever be ignored, but it does mean that the faithful must weigh the bishops' judgments differently depending on the particular situation being addressed. I would extend that caveat equally to papal teaching.

Gaillardetz in effect demands more rigorous moral discernment on the part of the faithful, and he finds it in the vibrant debate that surrounded the heatlh care legislation. I have to agree that the energy and even disagreement expressed in those months is a sign that Catholicism is still a viibrant force in our nation's public life.