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Headline Conversations
--bringing the news of today into dialogue with our Catholic faith

February, 2010

Headline News
“Health Care’s Share of U.S. Economy Rose at Record Rate in 2009.” “Congress Fights Health Care Fatigue.” “Health Bill Stalled in Senate.”

Health care reform was the central focus of President Obama’s domestic agenda his first year in office. For over a year, debate has raged in the halls of Congress and in communities across the country over what kind of change is needed, its scope, and the role of the government in health care. Even as the debate appears to be stalled, key questions continue to frame the issues and the debate: Should there be a public option or not? Should it be mandatory for small businesses to provide health coverage for their employees? Should low income households be entitled to tax credits in order to cover the cost of health insurance? Should tort reform be a central focus of health care reform? How involved should the government be in influencing an individual’s health care decisions? Should illegal immigrants receive health care? Should the federal government finance abortions with taxpayers’ dollars? Should the government counsel people who are elderly about end-of-life issues? Should insurers have the power to deny coverage for pre-existing conditions? Is it right for health insurance providers to cancel coverage when a person gets sick? How much is an overhaul of our health care system going to cost? Who will pay for it?

For some of these questions, there is widespread consensus as to the answers. For others, the country seems split in two, along both partisan and moral lines, depending on the issue. What everyone can agree on, however, is that the system is broken, and the issues are serious.

  • What is your reaction to the current debate about health care reform? How would health care reform affect you?  


The Heart of the Matter
Reflect on what is most significant to you about this issue.

  • What question do you have? Identify a tension, or an issue, theme, or problem that is emerging for you. In other words, what is the most significant aspect of health care reform for you?
  • What central image emerges that symbolizes what is at most important to you about this issue? This may be a word, a phrase, or picture, or other image.

The Catholic Conversation
To place your own experience in conversation with the wisdom of our Catholic faith, reflect on one or two passages from sources such as Scripture, Catholic Social Teaching, or Church doctrine or writings.

What, in our Catholic heritage, addresses “the heart of the matter” for you? Here are several examples:
“Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness.” (Matthew 9: 35)

“For I was ill … and you cared for me.” [Matthew 25:35-36]

“11. But first we must speak of man’s rights. Man has the right to live. He has the right to bodily integrity and to the means necessary for the proper development of life, particularly food, clothing, shelter, medical care, rest, and finally, the necessary social services.” [Pacem in Terris, Pope John XXIII, April 11, 1963]

[Selected excerpts from A Framework for Comprehensive Health Care Reform: Protecting Human Life, Promoting Human Dignity, Pursuing the Common Good, A Resolution of the Catholic Bishops of the United States, June 18, 1993]

  • Our nation’s health care system serves too few and costs too much.
  • Our call for health care reform is rooted in the biblical call to heal the sick and to serve the ‘least of these,’ the priorities of social justice, and the principle of the common good.
  • Key Policy Priorities:

Priority Concern for the Poor/Universal Access: “Genuine health care reform must especially focus on the basic health needs of the poor (i.e., those who are unable through private resources, employer support, or public aid to provide payment for health care services, or those unable to gain access to health care because of unlimited resources, inadequate education, or discrimination).

Respect for Human Life and Human Dignity: ”This is why we must insist that every human being has the right to quality health services, regardless of age, income, illness, or condition of life … Neither the violence of abortion and euthanasia nor the growing advocacy for assisted suicide is consistent with respect for human life.”

Pursuing the Common Good and Preserving Pluralism: “A reformed system … must also respect the religious and ethical values of both individuals and institutions involved in the health care system.”

Restraining Costs: “We insist that any acceptable plan must include effective mechanisms to restrain rising health care costs.”

Now is the time for real health care reform. It is a matter of fundamental justice. For so many, it is literally a matter of life and death, of lives cut short, and dignity denied. We urge our national leaders to look beyond special interest claims and partisan differences to unite our nation in a new commitment to meeting the health care needs of our people, especially the poor and the vulnerable. This is a major political task, a significant policy challenge, and a moral imperative.

[From the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2011]
The political community has a duty to honor the family, to assist it, and to ensure especially:
- the freedom to establish a family, have children, and bring them up in keeping with the family's own moral and religious convictions;
- the protection of the stability of the marriage bond and the institution of the family;
- the freedom to profess one's faith, to hand it on, and raise one's children in it, with the necessary means and institutions;
- the right to private property, to free enterprise, to obtain work and housing, and the right to emigrate;
- in keeping with the country's institutions, the right to medical care, assistance for the aged, and family benefits;
- the protection of security and health, especially with respect to dangers like drugs, pornography, alcoholism, etc.;
- the freedom to form associations with other families and so to have representation before civil authority.15
2288Life and physical health are precious gifts entrusted to us by God. We must take reasonable care of them, taking into account the needs of others and the common good.
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.
[Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2011]


“Whatever the legislative process and vehicle, the U.S. Catholic bishops continue to urge the House and Senate to adopt legislation that:
- Ensures access to quality, affordable, life-giving health care for all;
- Retains longstanding requirements that federal funds not be used for elective   abortions orplans that include them, and effectively protects conscience rights; and,
- Protects the access to health care that immigrants currently have and removes current barriers to access. “[Letter of U.S. Bishops to United States Senate, January, 2010]

Questions for Reflection:
What teaching of the Church on these issues is the easiest for you to understand and accept?

Which aspect of the Church’s teaching challenges you the most?

Which of these teachings of the Church would you like to know more about:?

Inspired to Prayer and Action
What is the fruit of your reflection?

  • Perhaps it is to learn how the core beliefs of our Catholic faith frame the Catholic response to the various health care reform options being proposed.
  • Perhaps it is to let your Catholic voice be heard. Write your senators and congressmen and women expressing your views on this issue.
  • Perhaps it is to get involved in your parish or in your community with efforts that fulfill the Gospel mandate: “For I was ill … and you cared for me.” (Matthew 25:35-36)
  • Perhaps it is the simple decision to reach out to a person who is suffering because of sickness or poor health, or to a family that is dealing with the health crisis of a family member. Offer that person or family love and prayers, and practical assistance.

What will you do?

{You will find much more information on this very important topic at Please visit their site to continue your reflection.]






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