August 14, 2015

Rejoice in the Lord

Health care should be affordable, accessible to all

Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin

For decades, the bishops of the United States have insisted that access to decent health care is a basic safeguard of human life and an affirmation of human dignity from conception until natural death. We are strong advocates for health care reform legislation and implementation that: 1) ensures access to high quality, affordable, life-giving health care for all; 2) retains long-standing requirements that federal funds not be used for elective abortions or plans that include them, and effectively protects conscience rights; and 3) protects the access to health care that immigrants currently have and removes current barriers to access.

In our recent pastoral letter, Poverty at the Crossroads: The Church’s Response to Poverty in Indiana, we write:

“We bishops in Indiana repeat the call for a genuine reform of health care that is accessible and affordable for all. We invite all Hoosiers to join us in working for health care systems that will:

  • Promote and defend human dignity from the moment of conception until natural death;
  • Attend to the whole person (body, mind and spirit), while pursuing a genuine pluralism that respects freedom of religion and conscience;
  • Care for poor and vulnerable persons, regardless of race, ethnicity, economic or social or legal status;
  • Practice a careful stewardship of resources by restraining costs and applying them equitably across the spectrum of those who must pay for health care.”

The Catholic Church is committed to following in the footsteps of Jesus, whose compassion for the poor was frequently manifested in his healing ministry. Jesus did not deny access to health care to anyone. His healing power was available to all who called his name, including members of the occupying Roman army, Samaritans and the unclean lepers who were required to exist on what Pope Francis would call “the peripheries.”

When we Catholics insist on the importance of providing affordable access to quality health care to everyone regardless of their social, legal or economic status, we are affirming our belief that every human being is a child of God who deserves to be treated with dignity and respect no matter what his or her situation in life. In our society today, health care should not be an option available only to those few who have the means to afford it.

In A Framework for Comprehensive Health Care Reform: Protecting Human Life, Promoting Human Dignity, Pursuing the Common Good, the American bishops support health coverage that is affordable for the poor and needy, moving our society substantially toward the goal of universal coverage. The bishops are equally clear in stating that this must be done in accord with the dignity of each and every human person, showing full respect for the life, health and conscience of all.

As Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI stated in his “Message to the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers” on Nov.15, 2010, in the health care sector “it is important to establish a real distributive justice which, on the basis of objective needs, guarantees adequate care to all.” Moreover, “if it is not to become inhuman, the world of health care cannot disregard the moral rules that must govern it.” We bishops in Indiana wholeheartedly commit ourselves to health care reform that achieves these worthy goals.

Poverty at the Crossroads does not offer practical legislative or public policy solutions to the many challenges that make affordable and accessible health care hard to accomplish. We know that health care is expensive and that government intervention, by itself, is not the answer to all our health care challenges. We are also keenly aware of the threats to religious freedom that have presented themselves along with recent “health care mandates.”

At the same time, we refuse to give up the fight for quality health care systems that are affordable and accessible to all. To do so would be to turn our backs on 2,000 years of the Church’s healing ministry and on our commitment to Christian charity. The Lord commanded us, his disciples, to heal the sick and to feed, clothe and shelter “the least of these,” his brothers and sisters. What’s more, he made it perfectly clear that if we fail to do these things for others, we fail to do them for him (See Mt 25:31-46)!

Poverty at the Crossroads commits us bishops to work with all people of good will to find workable solutions to the health care challenges facing us here in Indiana. I invite you to join us by your prayers, your advocacy and your charitable works as we strive to make the healing of ministry of Jesus available to all. †

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