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Health care Health care debate is another ‘teachable moment’

By Bishop Gerald Barnes
Bishop of San Bernardino, California, USA

Published on the SB Blog
August 20, 2009

In these summer months the debate over health care reform has become a lightening rod issue that has inspired a lot of strong feelings on all sides. It’s no wonder. This is a critical issue that affects every American in some way.

I must admit that I am quite dismayed at the tone of the discussion, which is actually a generous word to describe the way that words are often being exchanged. The television reports that highlight confrontational, anger-fueled conduct at town hall meetings do not set a good example for us as we attempt talk about what is a complicated issue.

We do not necessarily have to agree but our faith calls us to treat each other with dignity and respect. The words that we choose and the tone in which speak, regardless of the issue or circumstance, reflect the presence of the Spirit inside us. As our Lord, himself, tells us in Matthew’s Gospel, “from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks.”

Further, the emotion of this debate should not distract us from looking at health care from the perspective of our Catholic faith. Like other high profile social issues such as marriage and immigration, the debate of health care reform in the public square has provided us with a “teachable moment” about our own faith.

We have always believed and taught that health care is a fundamental right of all people. The Bishops of the United States have not proposed a reform package or taken a position for or against any proposed health care legislation, but we have offered that any reform should contain the following elements:

A truly universal health policy with respect for human life and dignity

Access for all with a special concern for the poor and inclusion of legal immigrants

Preserving the common good and pluralism including freedom of conscience and variety of options

Restraining costs and applying them equitably across the spectrum of payers

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has created a web site with more good resources about Catholic teaching on health care and suggestions for contacting policymakers to make your voice heard.

Please take some time to review this information. Then take some additional time to pray and reflect not only on your own stake in the discussion but that of all of our brothers and sisters who need and deserve quality health care.

Posted by SB Diocesan Blog


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