Comments in this post refer to the article, “Despite Church’s Push on Issue, Some Bishops Assail Health Plan” in the New York Times, Friday August 28, 2009, pages A1 and A12
I begin at the end of the article, with a quote from Bishop Nickless (oh, that divine sense of humour!) of Sioux City who wrote "The Catholic Church does not teach that government should provide health care..." adding that "Any legislation that undermines the vitality of the private sector is suspect."
I will talk about each of these statements in turn, but his Lordship should know up front that, Jamaican ginnal that I am, I long time spot what him up to.
If it is true that “The Catholic Church does not teach that government should provide health care..." then equally, “The Church does not teach that the government should not provide health care.” B cancels A. As I say, a likl Anansi business there. As for the second statement, his Lordship (I bet you he’s known among his friends as “tricky Nicky”) puts it beside the first to make us think that it too has the force of Church teaching (or Church not-teaching). I know, just as he knows, and just as you know: that is merely his Lordship’s opinion, nothing more or less!
But let's presume for a moment that the Bishop is correct and that "The Catholic Church does not teach that government should provide health care..." then all I can say is that the Church should check the Gospel. What has Jesus to say about health care? As I was at pains in my last post to point out, Jesus not only led by example but his teaching on this matter is unequivocal. He carried his hospital in his healing hands and his prayerful faith in the power and purpose of his father: "I have come that you might have life and have it more abundantly." I can't think of a better description of a health program -- "Life more abundant"!
Jesus always fed and healed people first, and then he taught them. And among the things he taught them was their responsibility for one another’s physical, economic, social and spiritual welfare. [Please see my last post, and my exchange there with FSJL.] So I don't know which Catholic Church Bishop Nickless is talking about, but if any such Church exists, it needs to go back to reading the Gospel as well as revisit Catechism class.
As for his Lordship’s comment about legislation and the private sector, surely he jests? If he doesn't, then I can only say the good Bishop has a lot of nerve, given a world economy callously, carelessly and utterly shattered by the very private sector that he's concerned that legislation shouldn't undermine! Who's been doing the undermining here? I remind his Lordship too of a furious Jesus chasing the buyers and sellers (the ‘private sector’ of the day) out of his house of prayer, accusing them of making it into a den of thieves. It’s the only time Jesus is portrayed as angry in the Gospels, isn’t it?
The New York Times article also reports that Cardinal Rigali of Philadelphia calls the proposed division of government funds (according to which funds are segregated to ensure that federal money does not finance abortions) "an illusion," insisting that taxpayers' money would still indirectly help cover abortions. I respectfully submit, Your Eminence, that there is lots of evidence that taxpayers' money has gone and still goes to cover sins every bit as heinous as abortion. What kinds of sins? What about unjust war that takes the lives of innocent non-combatants as well as of those young men and women in the army who are ordered to do that dirty work? [Please see, for example, my post of April 28 2009.] What about all those secret service activities designated as 'covert operations'? Does the Cardinal imagine for one moment that they do not include murder from time to time?
My Granny, that wise lady, would say that, in this case, the Church "making argument to suit itself". How well I remember being told as a child that we could give donations to 'non-Catholic' churches (after all, they supported our raffles and church fairs and festivals, so we had to do our bit for them in return), if we made the intention that the money we donated was to go to any 'tearing down' that those churches did, so that we could not be said to be supporting their misguided non-Catholic efforts.
Why don't we just make the intention that any money that goes to abortions is not from taxpayers?
It's specious, really, and has to do with the letter of the Law and not the spirit. Kudos then to Bishop Murphy of Rockville Centre who went on record as opposing inclusion of abortion as part of the national health care plan but emphasized the priority that the church placed on coverage for the poor and called health care, “not a privilege but a right”. Plaudits too for Catholic Charities and the Catholic Health Association who endorsed the President’s plan without reservation.
I come now, finally, to FSJL’s remarks in the post before this one. This health care plan benefits two groups of American people: those who have no health care and those whose health care is inadequate. (I don’t think the President and his family are underprovided in this regard.) Whatever people’s qualms – and the concern about abortion is an important issue – a solution can be found if well-meaning, serious people work together to find one. President Obama has hit a serious roadblock on a matter upon which all Americans with conscience should be agreed. It saddens me to think that the so-called ‘religious right’, waving the flag of Christianity and Jesus’s concerns, may at heart be motivated by the fact that this is the proposal of an uppity black man, already far too big for his britches, and that he needs to be put in his place.
Is prejudice still the engine that drives America, never mind the Black Man in the White House?
Americans need to examine their consciences and their motivations on this issue. It is almost autumn. There are resistant strains of H1N1 and we have no idea of what they may bring, nor of what else awaits us in North America and the world. Jesus’s teachings on this matter are clear. It would be wise not to provoke him and his father, for God is merciful but he can also be very severe. Selah!