US Catholic Faith in Real Life

"Fake" Catholics, Round 3

By Bryan Cones | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

Deal Hudson found my argument in favor of health care reform posted here and here uncompelling--and said so on his blog. Deal get points from me for his intelligent and charitable response. I'm still not sure he got my main point: I don't argue that all Catholics must support health care reform as it is; I just argue that those of us who do are not "fake" Catholics and don't deserve to be addressed as such.

Hudson argues that federal funding will lead to more abortions, citing a Guttmacher study that showed that 18 to 35 percent of poor women who would have had abortions didn't because state Medicaid funding was cut off. I argued that making abortion illegal doesn't necessarily prevent it, though I didn't cite my source: A 2007 study conducted by Guttmacher and the World Health Organization that found similar rates of abortion regardless of whether the procedure was illegal, though the rates of death due to unsafe abortion were much higher where it was illegal.

Hudson says that any federal funding of abortion must be opposed because it amounts to direct cooperation in a serious moral evil. Hudson is off on the "direct" part, which is limited only to the doctor, woman, and person who directly pays for the procedure by an individual act of the will (in other words, writing the check). We all indirectly cooperate in funding abortion through our tax dollars, which fund Medicaid (which provides abortions in some states), and through our health insurance premiums. If your company offers abortion coverage, or the insurance company that insures your company does, you are indirectly cooperating in the same way you would through federally paid abortions.

It is, of course, indirect cooperation, which is still troubling. So here are some other serious evils Catholics, including me and Deal Hudson, contribute to through our tax dollars: the production and use of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction that cause indiscrimate casualties; the large and small arms trade, which fuels brutal wars throughout the world, notably in Africa; capital punishment; human rights abuses in Guantanamo; the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, which have cost the lives of tens of thousands; a prison system that incarcerates African Americans at much higher rates than whites and punishes the innocent and ill (drug addicts, the mentally ill, women forced into prostitution) much more severely than the truly guilty ("white collar" criminals).

That's just the beginning of what we knowingly participate in (but say little about). Hudson, I imagine, will want my answer to whether health care reform will mean more abortions. The answer: We can't know, but we do know that the tens of thousands of people who die at the hands of our grossly unjust health care funding system will have a new lease on life: children, mothers, working families, older adults, you name it.

Health care reform is the right thing to do, and the Catholic thing. It may not be pretty, but nothing short of heaven is perfect, and what the House and Senate have passed is a step--and only a step--in the right direction.