Whether or not the White House and Congress are really seeking to find common ground on health care reform legislation will be discovered in the details of the plan put forth, Archbishop Charles Chaput said today, warning against any attempts to place an abortion mandate in the reform bills.
The "common ground" message, Archbishop Chaput wrote, is "a very welcome theme" and along with the concept of the "common good" comprises a central message of Catholic social teaching.
"This is why the Church always seeks to work cooperatively with people of other faiths and no faith to secure the basic elements of human dignity for all our citizens—decent housing, a living wage, justice under the law and adequate food and health care," he explained.
Promoting human dignity has also been the impetus behind the U.S. bishops’ push for national health care reform "for the past several decades," Chaput said. "It’s also why the Church, in principle, supports current efforts to craft legislation that would ensure basic health care coverage for all Americans."
That being said, the Archbishop of Denver cautioned that "God, or the devil, is always in the details. As Scripture says, ‘You will know them by their fruits.’"
"The test of White House and congressional honesty about seeking ‘common ground’ will be the details of the health care plan being worked on this summer and fall," he wrote, saying that any plan that involves mandated abortion access or abortion funding would contradict the meaning of health care.
"The reason is obvious. Killing or funding the killing of unborn children has nothing to do with promoting human health, and including these things in any ‘health care’ proposal, no matter how shrewdly hidden, would simply be a form of lying," Chaput charged.
Noting that both Bishop William Murphy and Cardinal Justin Rigali have already voiced strong concerns about "a possible stealth mandate for abortion" being placed in the reform bills, Archbishop Chaput dismissed a "compromise" solution put forward by Rep. Lois Capps as a "shell game."
The Capps proposal would "seemingly ban abortion coverage as part of a federally mandated minimum benefits package. But it would require at least one insurance plan in each ‘premium rating area’ to cover abortion," the Colorado prelate explained.
However, the net effect of the Capps approach would lead to "elective abortion being covered under a government-operated public plan by allowing federal subsidies to flow to private insurance plans that cover elective abortion. This isn’t a compromise," he wrote.
Urging Colorado Catholics to contact their federal lawmakers immediately, Archbishop Chaput said that they should insist that "abortion and abortion funding be completely excluded from any national health care plan."
He also offered a few key principles that any health care reform legislation should abide by, "especially in light of the mixed and sobering track record of national health plans in other countries." Among the principles listed by Chaput are access to basic, quality health services for all persons, from conception to natural death, the protection of the conscience rights of individuals and religious institutions, the exclusion of "all so-called ‘services’ that involve violence against the dignity of the human person and that the reform measures should be "economically realistic and sustainable," spreading costs equitably across all taxpayers.
Archbishop Chaput closed his column by exhorting his flock to get involved in the political discussion, saying, "Catholics can’t afford to be absent or silent. Please get involved and make your convictions and concerns known now. We’ll have only ourselves to blame if we don’t."