The Catholic Bishop’s Complicity in Pushing ObamaCare

by Sal on November 9, 2009

in Bioethics,Politics,Religion,Right to Life

Every time I write a post that is critical of the Catholic Church, a part of me feels uneasy.  After all, I am a committed Catholic who believes in and follows the teachings of the Universal Church, and usually defer to the authority of the Bishops in most matters.  However, after serious consideration and reflection, I have come to the conclusion that the Bishop’s support of ObamaCare is not only wrong from a political/policy point of view, but is actually antithetical to Catholic teaching and Catholic social thought.

I cannot fault the Catholic church for pushing for the Stupak Amendment and abortion exception in the House bill.  To a  Catholic, the sanctity of life is the number one issue, to which all others must be subservient (for without life, what value is freedom, health care, taxes, or any other issue?)  What troubles me is the push from the Catholic Bishops to endorse and support ObamaCare as long as abortion is excluded.  First, while I agree that the passage of the Stupak amendment was a good thing, it remains to be seen whether the passage of the amendment becomes a permanent fixture of ObamaCare, or if it gets wiped out in conference, leaving the Catholic Bishops in the dust.

Leaving abortion aside, I’ve been hearing for the better part of the year that the Church supports “universal health care.”  This is a ludicrous statement that has no basis in Catholic moral theology or Catholic social thought.  That it has been uttered by many a Catholic Bishop is even more disturbing.  Catholics believe in the dignity of the human person, that all people are deserving of a good job, health, and a decent standard of living.  No one objects to these things in principle.  What the Bishops seem to miss is that the goal of every human being having access to medical care should not necessarily be tied to government. I’ve always maintained that it is the responsibility of individuals and the Church, as well as other charitable and religious organizations, to support those who are in need.  Government has always been a corrupt, inefficient organization that de-humanizes people (something Pope John Paul II saw and understood well as he lived under the most oppressive of governments that purported to stand for the people).  The goal of health care access to those in need should be fulfilled by the Church, not by the federal government through taxation.

Catholic Social thought includes two seemingly contradictory yet complimentary principles;  the principle of subsidiarity and the principle of solidarity.  The Bishops, and many other Catholics who tend to support Liberal economic policies, always seem to remember the principle of solidarity (as well they should) but neglect and completely forget about subsidiarity.  Solidarity states that all humanity is united, and that we all must look out for our fellow man (we are our brother’s keepers).  The mistake often made is that people apply Solidarity to the government, thinking that the government must necessarily be our brother’s keepers.  Yet solidarity can’t be understood without the principle of subsidiarity.  Subsidiarity states that nothing should be done by a larger and more complex organization than can be done by a smaller, simpler organization.

There is no more complex organization on this planet than the United States federal government.  Why the Bishops look to Washington to solve societal problems is beyond me.  The federal government has proven over the years that it is only good at creating layers of bureaucracy, which do little to help the individual and do more to consolidate power.  The proper balance in the principles of Solidarity and Subsidiarity must dictate that ObamaCare be defeated.  The Health Care problems can be solved by removing layers of burocracy in place today, and allowing smaller organizations to work to solve the problem.  Solutions such as Catholic Hospitals offering free care to the underprivileged, encouraging individual doctors volunteering to do clinic work, and local communities setting up a safety net to care for individuals within their midst who need it the most.

What ObamaCare does is set up a federal bureaucracy which will make health care worse for all, and help very few.  It creates a dangerous situation of rationed care, which harms the dignity of the human person by treating the individual as a statistic rather than a patient.  It will lead to more misery, more deaths, and fewer cures.  The American Bishops’ support of ObamaCare may have been a naive attempt to help others gain access to health care, but the Bishops’ have inadvertently become complicit in a piece of legislation that will have the reverse effect on human dignity.  While the abortion amendment victory was a good thing (for now) the issues surrounding human dignity will only get more troublesome as this bill gets implemented.

I do not question the Bishops’ motives.  I believe many of them truly want to help others obtain access to medical care.  I do, however, question their thoroughness.  Anyone who takes the time to look at this bill would realize what a horrific piece of legislation it is.  I am guessing that the Bishops did not bother to examine the bill in any detail, because if they did, they would see that it was an affront to human dignity.  The Bishops would be wise to stop blindly supporting liberal big government policies that are under the guise of helping others and reexamine the principle of subsidiarity.  By properly applying these two principles, one can understand the balance between helping others and limited government.  Government’s responsibility is to preserve freedom and opportunity, and it is up to smaller organizations to ensure that each individual’s basic human needs are met.  I just am disappointed and troubled that those simple truths are missed by the very people who are our spiritual leaders and shepherds.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Dee November 9, 2009 at 12:26 pm

“I am guessing that the Bishops did not bother to examine the bill in any detail, because if they did, they would see that it was an affront to human dignity.”
My own experience as a life long Catholic is that the Church examines everything before it supports, or condemns…so I am going to assume the Bishops knew exactly what they were doing. I also think the term “affront to human dignity” may be a little over the top.
“The Bishops would be wise to stop blindly supporting liberal big government policies that are under the guise of helping others…” The Bishops don’t employ secular labels like “liberal”, if they believe it helps God’s children, they support it blindly(to quote the author)…we should all be thankful that they do. I would only add that the hubris it takes to attempt to politicize being our brothers keeper surprises and disappoints me. Dee


Sal November 9, 2009 at 3:54 pm


I am not making this stuff up. What I am citing is official Church teaching, the principles of subsidiarity and solidarity. The Church herself teaches that big institutions are not the appropriate vehicles for caring for the least of our brothers and sisters. This has been reaffirmed in the social encyclicals since Rerum Nevarum was promulgated in 1891, through Caritas in Veritate, published just this year.

I agree that the Bishops don’t employ secular labels, but the Church does use terms to describe political philosophies. The encyclicals of Pope John Paul II used Communism, Captialism, and Socialism to describe poltiical philosophies. Since Liberalism is a term for a political philosophy, I felt it important to use it here.

If one reads the philosophy of Christian Personalism, which was defined in large part by Pope John Paul, one can easily see how a large buerocratic system *whic no one can deny that this health care system is) would be an affront to human dignity, because it takes the patient and the person out of it in favor of the collective whole (reducing costs, providing health care for all). Not to say that the insurance companies don’t do the same thing right now, but ObamaCare takes it a step further and institutionalizes the dehumanization.

I do think the Bishops have, in recent years, stopped really looking at Catholic Social Thought as taught by the Magisterium of the Church, and started instead to take their own feelings on social justice into account when reviewing government social policy (by the way, Obama used the phrase “brother’s keeper) often in the campaign, so will you accuse him of the same hubris that you accuse me of? I was merely pointing out that the command of being our “brother’s keeper” (one that I take very seriously) is not best accomplished by big government.

Finally, just a personal note. I have enjoyed sparring with you these past few weeks. Thanks for checking out (and coming back to) the site, and keep up the spirited debate!


Dee November 9, 2009 at 6:16 pm

This is an interesting site…keep it up!


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