The pro-life provisions are laudable and must be kept if the bill is amended, the bishops added.
Miller explained that the bill raises important questions for American Catholics: when a Catholic is considering health care policy, what are the principles of health care that the Church teaches, and how should a Catholic understand statements by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, as well as other Catholic groups?
When the U.S. bishops' conference releases a statement on a "prudential application of the Church's teaching," there is "more leeway" to respect a statement without feeling obliged to assent to it, Miller said.
However, while bishops' conferences themselves do not "share in the Church's magisterium," he said, typically they "draw from what is already the established teaching of the Church" on topics like human rights.
When Catholic groups of laity issue a statement on policy, he said, "less deference is required, because by definition you're not dealing with the magisterium at that point."
On the question of health care, "the Church really, clearly teaches that health care is a right," Miller said, and Pope St. John XXIII clearly stated this in his encyclicals Mater et Magistra (1961) and Pacem in Terris (1963).
Paragraph 2288 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church also lists providing health care as among the obligations of a society to its citizens:
"Concern for the health of its citizens requires that society help in the attainment of living-conditions that allow them to grow and reach maturity: food and clothing, housing, health care, basic education, employment, and social assistance."
If one cannot work to obtain these essential things, Miller said, "you have a right to have these provided for you in some other way." And, he said, "I think the same thing would easily apply to health care."
This doesn't necessarily mean one has a "right" to the "most advanced, most expensive forms of treatment," Miller said, but it would probably mean one has a right to care "typically available to those who have kind of normal health insurance."
The Church does not state how, specifically, health care must be made available to everyone, Miller said, and so the question to be decided is "what's going to work?"
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Also significant, the Church does not say that the state cannot be involved in the financing of health care, Miller said. "The Popes have sufficiently made it clear," he said, "that at least sometimes, the state has a necessary role to play in these kinds of matters."
He pointed to Pope St. John Paul II's encyclical Centessimus Annus (1991) in which the Pope said that the state had, "under certain kinds of circumstances," a role in providing "Social Security-type assistance for its citizens," and this "would include in the area of health care."
Governments in many countries are heavily involved in health care financing, and the Church has not spoken out against those policies, he said.
Although the Church does not endorse a certain system of health care, it teaches that such a just system should involve various sectors of society, and should make a "typical standard of health care available."
If one cannot obtain this care, "then, morally-speaking, we have a problem," he said.
Regarding the principle of subsidiarity of Catholic social teaching, it is "widely misunderstood," especially in the health care debate, Miller said.