by Joe Bollig
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — One of the foundations of Catholic social teaching is the common good — and that’s why the church is interested in health care reform, said Bill Scholl, archdiocesan consultant for social justice.
“As citizens, we are not just called to look out for our own private interests, but rather to use our gifts and talents to serve the interests of all. Health care is one of those things needed for basic human dignity,” he said.
Speaking for the U.S. bishops was Bishop William F. Murphy, chairman of the USCCB committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development. He sent a letter on July 17 to the U.S. Congress, the president, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, outlining the conference’s criteria for fair and just health care reform:
• A truly universal health policy with respect for human life and dignity
• Access for all, with special concern for the poor and inclusion of legal immigrants
• Pursuing the common good and preserving pluralism, including freedom of conscience and a variety of options
• Restraining costs and applying them equitably across the spectrum of payers.
“When it comes to human dignity, the bishops are saying we already have very sound policies on federal funding regarding abortion,” said Scholl.
“Taxpayer dollars for the most part are not spent on abortion,” he continued. “And also we have a lot of really good provisions and laws that protect the conscience of individuals in religious institutions, such that they are not compelled or forced to participate in acts that go against their conscience.”
This is a crucial time for Catholics to be engaged in the health care reform debate, said Scholl, and the bishops have outlined the basic principles that should guide the discussion.
“Catholic social teaching is not a specific list of public policies that Catholics are morally obliged to follow, but rather a moral framework by which they are to use their reason and discernment to make their best prudential judgments to advocate for the common good,” he said.
“There is room in the church for disagreement and debate, and I think the bishops have been very clear about laying out the moral principles that should guide us,” said Scholl. “We should look at this issue in terms of the dignity of the human person and protecting life from conception to natural death.”
Scholl said that Catholics should also seek to embrace the principle of the common good, which includes accepting sacrifices that need to be made for the common good.
“We should also bring in the value of subsidiarity,” he added, “and insist that whatever policy we come up with, that it respects the dignity and rights of patients under the advice of their doctors to make decisions.”
The time has come for us, as Catholic Americans, to take a look at our health care system and ask how can we fix it so it produces the best possible good for the most possible people, said Scholl.