Catholic Bishops Nix Healthcare For All

by Tommi Avicolli-Mecca on September 9, 2009

What part of “there are over 46 million Americans without healthcare” don’t Catholic bishops in this country get? What part of “there are people who die everyday because they don’t get healthcare” don’t these leaders of one of the country’s major religions comprehend? Doesn’t their concept of the sanctity of human life extend to those who suffer and die because they can’t afford to go to a doctor?

Obviously not. Catholic bishops have been speaking out of late against a government option in the healthcare reform being discussed by President Obama and members of Congress. They apparently think it’s a bad idea because of one reason and one reason alone: Abortions might be part of that government health plan, and healthcare workers who object to these procedures won’t be able to opt out of providing them.

“The bishops want to support health care reform,” Bishop William Murphy, chair of the Domestic Justice and Human Development committee for the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops, wrote to Congress. “We have in the past and we always must insist that healthcare reform excludes abortion coverage or any other provisions that threaten the sanctity of life.”

Some bishops have gone beyond the abortion issue and promoted good old American capitalism.

Bishop Walker Nickless of Sioux City, Iowa wrote, “the proper role of government is to regulate the private sector to foster healthy competition and curtail abuses. Therefore any legislation that undermines the viability of the private sector is suspect.” That private sector has left 46 million people uninsured!

Nickless says that the church “does not teach that healthcare as such, without distinction, is a natural right.” Would he say the same thing about freedom of religion?

Bishop Robert Finn of the Kansas City-St. Joseph diocese went even further into right field: “The right of every individual to access healthcare does not necessarily suppose an obligation on the part of the government to provide it … The teaching of the universal church has never been to suggest a government socialization of medical services.”

If the government doesn’t have the obligation, then who does? Will “Holy Mother Church” shell out the millions needed to cover those without insurance? No way.

Of course, the ironic thing about all of these bishops speaking out so passionately against “socialized medicine” is that they are recipients of it themselves. Who ultimately pays for their health insurance? Parishioners.

Maybe if they had to pay for their own, they’d be singing a different tune.

Tommi Avicolli Mecca is co-editor of Avanti Popolo: Italians Sailing Beyond Columbus, and editor of Smash the Church, Smash the State: The Early Years of Gay Liberation, which has just been nominated for an American Library Association award. His website is

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