The Bishops and Health-Care Reform PDF Print E-mail
Written by Bishop Paul S. Coakley   
Wednesday, 26 August 2009 10:02

In the course of the current national health care debate (too often shrill and overheated) the bishops of the United States have offered several principles and priorities to help shape public policy and evaluate whatever legislation is proposed. The motivation and message of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is clear and principled.

Why is the Church involved in this debate? Simply put, concern for the poor and the sick is an integral part of the Church’s mission because it was an integral part of Jesus’ mission. “At sunset, all who had people sick with various diseases brought them to (Jesus). He laid his hands on each of them and cured them” (Lk 4:41). Jesus has entrusted his mission of reaching out to the poor and the sick to us.

The Catholic Church has an extraordinary history of involvement in health care here in the United States and around the world. We have trained innumerable doctors, nurses and other health-care providers. We have established and operated hospitals and clinics, which have provided health care to all regardless of creed or even the ability to pay. This commitment is based on our recognition of the fundamental dignity of every human person. We have an important and credible voice in this debate that must be heard.

While the Church claims its own role, we also recognize that the government has a rightful role in assuring basic access to health care for all. The bishops do not propose how such access should be achieved, whether through the private sector alone or through a public option. We are not proposing or supporting any particular legislation.

The bishops do propose the following principles and criteria to help shape our public policy:

  • We support universal health coverage which assures access to basic health care that protects the life and dignity of all from conception until natural death.
  • We oppose any efforts that would expand abortion funding, mandate abortion coverage or endanger the conscience rights of health-care providers, religious institutions or any individual.
  • We need a flexible plan that controls health-care costs so that it is affordable for all.
  • We need to guarantee that the poor and the vulnerable, including legal immigrants, are included in this plan.

Now is the time to contact your legislators and be heard. Ask them to employ these principles in evaluating whatever legislation is proposed. Pray that the Lord gives them the wisdom and the prudence to enact real and effective health-care reform in keeping with human dignity and which truly serves the common good.

The USCCB has launched a special Web site to provide information and updates on health-care reform at

The Register
August 28, 2009

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