"Common ground" is a phrase that President Obama and some of his supporters have been using to describe their efforts to work for health care reform. But Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver is taking them to task for abusing the Catholic concept, calling any labeling of the current reform proposals as common ground "a lie."
In his weekly column for the Denver Catholic Register—to be published online this afternoon—Archbishop Chaput tackles the health care debate by recalling an editorial in the British Catholic newspaper The Tablet that insisted the U.S. bishops must back Obama's reform effort.
The editorial also claims that America’s bishops "have so far concentrated on a specifically Catholic issue – making sure state-funded health care does not include abortion – rather than the more general principle of the common good."
This diatribe against the bishops raises some interesting observations, says Chaput.
"First, it proves once again that people don’t need to actually live in the United States to have unhelpful and badly informed opinions about our domestic issues. Second, some of the same pious voices that once criticized U.S. Catholics for supporting a previous president now sound very much like acolytes of a new president. Third, abortion is not, and has never been, a 'specifically Catholic issue,' and the editors know it. And fourth, the growing misuse of Catholic 'common ground' and 'common good' language in the current health-care debate can only stem from one of two sources: ignorance or cynicism."
"No system that allows or helps fund – no matter how subtly or indirectly -- the killing of unborn children, or discrimination against the elderly and persons with special needs, can bill itself as 'common ground,' Archbishop Chaput insists, adding that, "Doing so is a lie."
As lawmakers and President Obama push to have their health care reform bill passed by the fall, Chaput writes that they are disregarding the experiences of concerned parents in their haste.
The Denver archbishop relates an email that he received from a mother on the East Coast who has a daughter with Downs Syndrome. Three-year-old Magdalena has to see doctors on a regular basis and "‘consumes’ a lot of health care," her mother told the archbishop.
What worries Magdalena's parents the most is: "On paper, maybe these procedures and visits seem excessive. She is, after all, only 3 years old. We worry that more bureaucrats in the decision chain will increase the likelihood that someone, somewhere, will say, 'Is all of this really necessary? After all, what is the marginal benefit to society for treating this person?'"
The best way to make policy decisions, her parents say, is to make them "as close as possible to the people who will be affected by them."
But when it comes down to it, Magdalena's mom—who can't seem to forget the comment President Obama made about the Special Olympics—just doesn't "trust them to mold policy that accounts for my daughter in all of her humanity or puts 'value' on her life.
Last March, the president joked about his poor bowling score with Jay Leno on "The Tonight Show" saying that it's "like the Special Olympics or something."
Admitting that leaders occasionally make gaffes, Archbishop Chaput writes that "what’s most striking about the young mother’s email -- and I believe warranted -- is the parental distrust behind her words."
"In fact, I’ve heard from enough intelligent, worried parents of children with special needs here in Colorado to know that many feel the current health-care proposals pressed by Washington are troubling and untrustworthy," he adds.
Insisting that health care reform is vital, the Denver prelate urges "Congress and the White House want to genuinely serve the health-care needs of the American public."
Lawmakers need to "slow down and listen to people’s concerns more honestly -- and learn what the 'common good' really means," Chaput says.
Archbishop Chaput's full column can be read at: http://www.archden.org/index.cfm/ID/2440/Archbishop's-Column/.