Monday, August 17, 2009

USCCB on Health Care Reform

The U.S. bishops believe we can have health care that covers everyone, respects human life and dignity, and doesn't violate anyone's conscience when it comes to abortion. Richard Doerflinger of the USCCB elaborates.

View this series of videos from the USCCB on Health Care Reform at


  1. The dignity of the human person is what provides that right to health care; however, healthcare itself has it's source in love of neighbor. Can love ever be a right? Only in the all loving society of heaven, or in a properly directed love of neighbor, would the response to the health care need always be yes.

    Postive Rights such as healthcare are unenforceable and if attempted to be enforced are doomed to exceed costs. Eduation & Health Care are classified as positive rights. One can have a right to access, but it is imposible to have force these rights upon people.

    For example, if Healthcare were a "right" then the stars of the series "JackA--" would have the right to mutilate themselves, and then force the people to pay for it. Declaring health care in and of itself to be a right, is a violation of subsidiarity. Access to health care, just like access to education, based on the principles of love for neighbor and the command of Jesus to "care for the ill" is an obligation for Christians.

    We must also take care to not compare the reality of this world with the ideal and all loving world of heaven. In heaven socialism would work because love for neighbor would be lived out perfectly, and authority would be rightly ordered. Not so on earth were love of neighbor is corrupted and authority is even further corrupted.

  2. I noticed that too, JohnnyK. When Doerflinger says "everyone has a right to basic healthcare," he's saying that each one of us has a rightful claim on all other members of society, and satisfying that claim implies an underlying threat of force. That's how I understand the notion of positive rights. I don't know if that's a problem in Catholic moral teaching. Maybe Al knows.

    You mention education. Are you against public funding of education, including vouchers, because it is intrinsically coercive?

  3. Hi Mauman,

    I like you comments, but it all depends on what is determined to be basic, or what has also been called "necessary". It's the balance between subsidiarity and a right to health care that I would like a little discussion on. I tend to side towards subsidiarity based on the direction in the bible that draws out the humanity and personal connection that Jesus draws us to when providing care. Health care cannot get more personal than providing it for the very person of Jesus. Treating health care as a right can be damaging to love of neighbor as the healthcare becomes an end rather than the dignity of the human person who is an end unto himself.

    In regards to public funding and vouchers, I don't feel the proper approach is to de-fund education given our current situation. However, the per-student cost of private vs. public education is glaring and makes us wonder if public education is the best solution for educating the next generation. Do better ways exist? Are we so tied up in public education that no resources are left to properly provide private education? Vouchers would be a huge move in this direction.

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  5. You can force a student into the classroom, but you can't force them to learn and become educated. You can force a patient into a doctor's office, but you cannot force them to follow the doctor's orders, eat healthy, exercise, and not smoke.

  6. JohnnyK: I got the impression from your first comment that you opposed positive rights, instead favoring voluntary human action based on love of neighbor. I guess I jumped the gun. Your later comment indicates that you currently support public funding of education, although you suggest that public funding could be eliminated in the future, and vouchers could help us get there. Anyway, at this time you do support a positive right to education, i.e. we can compel our neighbors to help finance our children's education -- a form of income redistribution. If they refuse to pay, they will be thrown in jail.

    Enter the principle of subsidiarity. I looked up subsidiarity in the index of the Catechism. It is defined and explained in paragraphs 1878 - 1885. The index also cites paragraph 2209, and that's the one I'm interested in. Here's what paragraph 2209 says:

    "The family must be helped and defended by appropriate social measures. Where families cannot fulfill their responsibilities, other social bodies have the duty of helping them and of supporting the institution of the family. Following the principle of subsidiarity, larger communities should take care not to usurp the family's prerogatives or interfere in its life."

    So what does paragraph 2209 really say? The term "social measures" seems to open the door for government intrusion. Then again, the last sentence seems to warn against it.

    I'll give you my take on it in regard to education. Paragraph 2209 suggests to me that the family has the responsibility of educating its children. Certainly most families have the capacity to fulfill that obligation -- they can homeschool for example. When homeschooling is not possible, the family has the responsibility to pay someone else to educate their children. If they cannot afford it, "social bodies" such as the local church or charities should help out. I bet there are plenty of competent adults, especially retirees, willing to accept a nominal fee, or freely donate their time, to teach children from families lacking the resources to send their kids to a regular school.

    I suppose it's open to interpretation, but when 2209 says that "larger communities should take care not to usurp the family's prerogatives or interfere in its life," I think it's talking about government. Forcing families to pay for public schools, or to pay for vouchers, usurps the family's prerogatives and interferes in its life.