Sunday, November 08, 2009

News flash: Catholics in favor of caring for the sick and poor

I was right! I've been telling people for a while that, as far as I know, the Catholic Church would be fine with US health care reform, if abortions weren't covered. People kept telling me that the Church is simply opposed to "public health care", as if that makes any sense; as far as I know, they've been pushing for universal health care for about nine decades now. Anyway, the US Conference of Bishops has announced support for the bill. Or, at least, one part of it. Naturally, the Bishops wanted assurance that funding won't go to abortions, which they feel is now provided by the Stupak-Pitts-Kaptur-Dahlkemper-Lipinski-Smith Amendment (to be sung to the tune of "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious").

But what people are going to miss about their statement is this:
"For the Catholic Church, health care is a basic human right and providing health care is an essential ministry. We pick up the pieces of this failing system in our emergency rooms, clinics, parishes and communities. This is why we strongly support Congressional action on health care reform which protects human life and dignity and serves the poor and vulnerable as a moral imperative and an urgent national priority."
And that's what I thought! As Andrew Sullivan notes:
"It's important to note what the theocons will never mention. Catholic teaching very, very strongly backs universal health insurance as a moral imperative."
Right. It wasn't just the hippies saying that. I actually remember this from when I was a kid.

The people in the Politico comments are freaking out about how the Church is now "Socialist". My favorite comment was this one: "Looks like the weekly church donations will be going to pay for additional cost of healthcare and taxes instead, if dems get their way." Maybe it's just me, but I sort of thought some of those donations were already going to "healthcare".

Look, I'm not saying that Catholics should support health care reform. Far from it. My own personal opinion is that the government will likely screw it all up and make things worse. That seems to be the norm. However! There are two things that have irritated the life out of me in watching this endless debate from abroad:

1. I live in a country with universal health care, a democratic government, and a very health economy. So, the conviction of some US conservatives that, if reform passes and like 5% of the working poor start buying their insurance from the government, the country will cease to be free and democratic strikes me as oh, a bit hyperbolic.

2. The near-constant conflation of religion and politics, so that, if you're an American Christian, you can be relied upon to support whatever dumb thing the Republican Party wants and to oppose whatever dumb thing they oppose strikes me as deeply offensive. When Catholics are opposed to tax dollars going to abortion, that makes sense to me. Of course they are.* But, when I hear people saying that Catholics need to oppose "the public option" because of the deep injustice of their tax dollars going to care for the lazy, worthless poor, it strikes me as nonsense.

*By which I mean, okay, we can argue amongst ourselves about the ethics of abortion. But, the fact that the Catholic Church is opposed to abortion shouldn't really come as a surprise to anyone.


The Pagan Temple said...

I'm not one hundred percent sure about this, but I am almost certain that, in reality, most lay Catholics couldn't care less about abortion. It's the Priests and Bishops who lead the charge and parrot the Vatican line about the subject. And even they are by no means monolithic about the matter, certainly not when it comes to the American Catholic clerics.

As for the average practicing Catholic, the most vociferous opponents of abortion tend to be the most recent converts to the religion. Most so-called "cradle Catholics" don't really give it a lot of thought, at least by comparison.

Democrats tend to win the Catholic vote in national elections. I think Kerry might have lost it to Bush, though I'm not sure, but it was still close, regardless, and if he did lose, he was the exception, not the rule. It's just not that big a deal with most of them.

And you are definitely right, the government will screw it up. They already have. Their meddling is what has got the system in the shape it's in where it needs reform to begin with.

It's sort of like encouraging your kids to join the toughest street gang in the worse neighborhood in the city so they'll have protection from all the gangbangers, thugs and dope dealers.

Rufus said...

Eh, I don't know about them having created the problems. The insurance companies really have done a good job on their own of making it look like their model is dysfunctional. You know, we've only had health insurance since about the time of World War I, and most countries in the West decided the system was dysfunctional by the mid-60s for very similar reasons.

The real problem- and one that the reforms don't address at all!- is price. In Canada, we get all the same services, but they all cost less. I'll give you an example- a doctor's visit costs $30 in Canada and usually about twice that in the US, depending where you are. My father actually spends something like $100 per visit.

The reason for the price difference is simple- in Canada, the government is the one that pays the bill and they just won't pay more. The way the doctors make money in spite of that is they don't screw around and chew the fat when you go to see them. I don't know if I've had an appointment here that lasted more than about 10 minutes. But, they do the same things: ask what's wrong, check you out, give you a prescription, and say goodbye.

In the US, it's all figured out between the insurance companies and the doctors trying to decide what the insurers are willing to pay and what the doctors want to get paid for each service. They literally have staff, on both ends, calling each other back and forth and entering in codes all day- 'we will pay that', or 'we will not pay that'. The result is that every price for every service is artificially inflated- just by having insurance.

Like I've said before, it's exactly the same in my profession. Everyone knows that a college education costs way too much money. But, the loan officers are willing to pay the price and administrators at universities, in turn, can convince themselves that any price is fair. It sure seems like people are still paying tuition.

So, the problem with the reforms is that they have no intention of doing anything about the inflated prices. Everything will still cost about twice as much as it should, and that problem is what's driving all of the other problems. It's like they're treating the symptoms but not the disease.

I couldn't say how the average Catholic votes, of course. I would say that, in my experience, cradle Catholics tend to find it easier to quietly disagree with the Pope or Bishops and not think much of it. Converts are more vociferous because they're still trying to prove themselves, as it were. There's a woman in England who is a very public crusader for the Catholic Church, and I was unsurprised to hear that she's been a Catholic for about two years.

As for abortion, of course it's a touchy subject with a lot of people. But, going by the Catholics in my family, I'd say that they're not exactly "pro-choice"; however, they're also not convinced that it's the most pressing issue. Also, I think as you get older, you start thinking that other people's sin or salvation are really their business.

And, you know, come to think of it, the most devout Catholics in my family tended to be New England liberals, although I have no idea what the connection could be. There is a sort of do-gooder "social justice" streak in Catholicism that the Republicans don't try very hard to appeal to. So, maybe that's it.

hair extensions said...

Actually, i don't know that they've been pushing for universal health care for about nine decades now...

but now I can say it's a meaningful universal health care reform..

Rufus said...

I'd really have to look it up- you might be right that it wasn't the same thing. It was about 1916 that people really started talking about even having insurance for medical treatments, in the same way people already bought insurance for their houses. In the US, there was something of an outcry about the fact that teachers, who were usually young women, often couldn't afford to give birth in hospitals. That was when people started talking about having a huge pool of money for health care, and I know the Church issued a statement. But, indeed, it might not have been towards the same thing. I do though remember them talking about universal health care back in the 70s, when I was a wee child.

An interesting fact: Catholic hospitals perform a certain number of procedures a year purely as charity. I've actually known people that went to Catholic hospitals when they were completely broke because, if you're completely broke, they won't charge you.