Health Care Reform


Bishop John Kinney


Published on the Diocese of St. Cloud website

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

“If you’ve got your health, you’ve got everything.”

That old saying reminds us that our health profoundly affects how we experience God’s other blessings in life. My own experience of surgeries and therapy this past summer brought this truth into sharp relief. I am so grateful to those who prayed and worked on my behalf. Dependence and diminishment are not easy for us, but they teach us how interconnected our lives truly are.

During those weeks of my recovery, I could not help but think of the thousands of our sisters and brothers, many in our own communities, who are not so fortunate in this land of abundance. They live with pain, or disability or anxiety about their families, one illness or mishap away from ruin, because they do not have access to the quality, affordable health care that some might take for granted.

A basic human right

For almost 50 years, our church has spoken out about the need to guarantee adequate health care for all. In his 1963 encyclical “Pacem in Terris” (“Peace on Earth”), Pope John XXIII declared that health care is a basic human right, essential to respect for life and dignity and a condition for achieving true peace in the human family. My brother bishops and I have spoken about this issue often since then, not in political terms, but as a matter of morality, justice and concern for the common good.

Since the church is a significant provider of health care in our country, we recognize the urgency and the complexity of reforming a system that hasdeveloped in inconsistent stages over the past 150 years. Beginning as a charitable response to the Gospel, largely by communities of women religious, the healing mission of Jesus remains at the heart of our work, often serving those who have no other help.

As you well know, health care reform has been daily news in recent months. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and our Minnesota Catholic Conference and their staffs have been actively engaged in this issue from the beginning. This has been difficult work because of the rapid changes and multiple proposals under discussion.

Our clear and consistent message remains: Health care that genuinely respects human life in its most dependent and vulnerable conditions is a basic right and a condition for true justice. Health care reform must protect all human life, must prohibit mandatory funding of abortion (directly or indirectly), must uphold existing conscience protections and must give effective access for all persons to basic health care that enhances and never destroys life.

Contacting legislators

Now that the final versions are ready for public debate, it has become clear that no current bill meets these moral requirements of life-affirming reform. As a result, the USCCB has communicated to every member of Congress, “If acceptable language in these areas cannot be found, we will have to oppose the health care bill vigorously.”

I join my brother bishops throughout the country, and many others of good will, to urge you to contact your legislators. This weekend you will receive information in your parish indicating how every Catholic can participate to send a consistent message to those who represent us in Congress.

We have worked too long and too hard to settle for any reform that does not lead to better health care for every person, made in the image of God. Please make your voice heard, for the voice of Christ, our Healer, reminds us, “Whatever you do for the least, you do for me” (Matthew 25:40).

+John F. Kinney
Bishop of St. Cloud