.- Health care reform must be based in the recognition of the basic dignity of every person, Bishop James V. Johnston of Springfield-Cape Girardeau, Missouri told his flock. It must also safeguard human life while creating âvery clearâ conscience protections for individuals and institutions.
Writing in a September 4 column, Bishop Johnston said Catholics should understand the principles at the heart of the âdelicate workâ of health care reform.
âThe provision of health care is rooted in our recognition of the basic dignity of every human person, made in Godâs image,â the bishop wrote, noting the Catechism of the Catholic Churchâs teaching that society must help provide health care.
Bishop Johnston also noted Catholicsâ centuries-long work in health care, adding that one in six hospital beds in the U.S. today are in a Catholic hospital.
âEach person should have access to basic, affordable, adequate health care. This is a goal that should be supported by our nation. However, the goal becomes more complex because there is a variety of opinion as to what âbasic, affordable, and adequateâ means,â he continued.
He emphasized that health care reform must not include policies that âdeliberately attack human life,â such as provisions for taxpayer-funded abortion or euthanasia. Such procedures would be inconsistent with âtruly legitimateâ reform proposals, the bishop commented.
He quoted the U.S. bishopsâ statement âLiving the Gospel of Life,â which said the failure to protect and defend life in its most vulnerable stages renders âsuspectâ positions in other matters affecting the poorest and least powerful people.
Bishop Johnston then said that some procedures such as in-vitro fertilization, voluntary sterilization, sex-change operations and the provision of contraceptives should not be considered basic health care, because they are in violation of âthe moral law and human dignity.â
The violation of conscience is a real threat, the bishop added, citing the Equal Employment Opportunity Commissionâs action against North Carolinaâs Belmont Abbey College for removing coverage for abortion, contraception and sterilization from their employee insurance plan.
âThis action sets a dangerous precedent and highlights the dangers that await if very clear conscience protections are not included in health care reform proposals,â the bishop wrote.
Discussing other concerns, Bishop Johnston said there are âthorny questionsâ about the role of the federal government and its duties to complement, not replace, subsidiary communities.
The governmentâs role does not necessarily mean that it should be the sole provider of health care, he added. Government can remove abuses and regulate the health care industry, and also ensure care for the working poor and âthe most destitute and forgotten.â
âThe essential element of the principle of subsidiarity is the protection of individual freedoms from unjust micromanagement and manipulation by the state,â he explained.
He concluded his column by saying he cannot support the current Congressional proposals because they do not adequately incorporate the âessential principlesâ he has described.
The Bishop of Springfield-Cape Girardeau also encouraged Catholics to exercise their roles as citizens and to communicate with elected officials.
âMay all those engaged in this issue craft a plan that provides universal health care that is affordable to all, distributes costs equitably, and above all, safeguards human life from conception to natural death and the freedom of conscience,â Bishop Johnston wrote.