Health Care Reform Bill and the Common Good

With the passage of the health care reform bill, many are left with a great deal of ambivalence. Yes, there are many others of sharp opinion both pro and con, but many of us simply really don’t know what the details are and how they will play out in the short and long run.

Catholic social teaching speaks of the common good. We all would do well to pick up a copy of the Compendium of Catholic Social Teaching and become familiar with this term and its meaning.

I want to share an excerpt from an email I received on March 23, 2010, from Marie T. Hilliard, Ph.D., JCL, RN who is the Director of Bioethics and Public Policy at the National Catholic Bioethics Center. Thank you, Dr. Hilliard for this message.

“When the common good¬† takes back seat to political and corporate interests, all, especially the vulnerable, are at risk. As the largest provider of non-governmental, non-profit health care in this country, the Catholic Church, and those who work as Catholic agencies and organizations, have a special obligation to vulnerable populations, such as the unborn, those with disabilities, and those at life’s end. These populations cannot be compromised in an effort to secure “the greater good.” This is utilitarianism, seeking the greatest good for the greatest number, and never equates to the common good.

“It is undeniable that the enacted Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act includes public funding of programs that provide abortion on demand…. Furthermore, there is no restriction on converage of assisted suicide costs. President Obama’s executive order cannot override federal law…… There is no evidence of conscience protections for individuals or employers…. There is limited evidence of conscience protections for providers, and the legislation does not provide for protection against coercion of health care providers and employers related to contraceptives or abortifacients….

“One is left to ask, does this health care legislation truly advance the common good? More importantly, when members of a divided house make compromises with principle, has the common good been advanced? The answer is contained in Caritas in Veritate, within which all of the hallmarks of a sound health care reform policy are contained: integral human development; fundamental rights to life and religious freedom; charity in truth; humanistic synthesis; the common good; earth as a gift to humanity to use and protect; civilizing the economy; subsidiarity; a person-based and community oriented culture; people-centered development programs; cooperation on the human family; recognition that every migrant is a human person; and bioethics and human responsibility in human technology. As the encyclical states, in charity and truth, “when a society moves towards the denial or suppression of life, it ends up no longer finding the necessary motivation and energy to strive for man’s true good.” (N.28)

(Caritas in Veritate is Pope Benedict’s recent encyclical)

About Deacon Bob

Moderator: Deacon Bob Yerhot of the Diocese of Winona-Rochester, Minnesota.
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