Remember human dignity in health care reform Print
Bishop Morlino's Column
Written by Bishop Robert C. Morlino   
Thursday, Jul. 30, 2009 -- 12:00 AM

Dear Friends,

under the gospel bookThank God and thank you, my brother priests, deacons, our Sisters, and our whole diocesan family, for your prayerful support during these days. My period of rest and recovery from heart arrhythmia is almost complete.

I do expect to ordain our three new priests, from the Society of Jesus Christ the Priest, for our diocese this coming Friday. As with all ordinations, that day will be a great joy for me and, please God, it will do my heart good. But I must say, I am especially happy to be back in this occasional form of communication, my column.

Time for prayer and recreation

I hope that you and your families have had time for quality prayer and recreation together, even though our unusual July weather has posed its own difficulties. God blesses all of us so generously,that it would be a shame to let the weather dampen our spirit in Christ in any way.

This time of rest and recovery has been difficult for me — it is hard for me really to sit still — but I give thanks to God for reminding me, once again, that I am not indispensable and I am certainly not made of iron, though on some days I wish I were.

I thank God for the opportunity to think of those whose illness or other difficulty is so much more burdensome than my own. And I thank God for the closeness to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Our Blessed Mother, and St. Raphael, which is surely its own gift.

Health care reform is needed

I would like to say a few words, I hope briefly, about the topic of the day: health care reform. We should be mindful of certain aspects of the health care proposal, presently moving through the House of Representatives.

In the first place, I believe every American knows that we need a reform in our health care. Basic health care is a human right, and men, women, and children in this country should not, in large numbers, be without that care — we must always remember that certain people could afford quality health care but choose not to. We should also remember that people without health insurance have no choice when illness or injury strikes, except the hospital emergency room, which kind of treatment results in far greater expense for all involved, including you and me — the taxpayer.

In an earlier form, there was a provision in the bill, moving through the House of Representatives, that put a cap on the deduction that one could take, from his or her income tax, for charitable gifts. So many of us try to do our best in terms of charitable giving and in particular in giving to our Church — a special thanks here to all who have chosen to participate in our first Annual Catholic Appeal. Fortunately, that particular provision was squashed early on.

We know that some of our major benefactors, Catholics and non-Catholics who are blessed with great wealth, are incentivized in part by the income-tax deduction possibility. To cap that deduction would certainly decrease the income of many fine charitable organizations, including our Church, and possibly make us all more dependent on the government. But even though this particular provision was rejected, it does reveal a certain mentality in some of our elected representatives.

Requiring coverage of abortion

Secondly, there is a provision currently on the table that would, in effect, require all agencies who pay health insurance for their employees to include coverage for abortion in their package of health benefits.

Such a provision could have a devastating effect on Catholic hospitals. The provision included a mandate that those agencies who pay for their employees’ health benefits and choose to exclude abortion coverage would have to pay an extra two-to-eight percent in tax, which clearly could be quite burdensome.

End-of-life options

Thirdly, there is a provision in the legislation, moving through the House of Representatives, that senior citizens receiving health care with government involvement would have to receive, every five years, a visit from a government consultant, to consider their “end-of-life options.” Somehow, I cannot get comfortable with what that might mean, or that a government counselor would necessarily get involved in the process of making responsible end-of-life decisions.

Be concerned, stay informed

All of us believe that we need health care reform and we welcome that reform, as soon as possible. Yet, there are some land mines hidden in the lengthy current proposal, moving through the Congress, that ought to cause us, both as Catholics and as reasonable people — followers of the Natural Law — great concern.

Please do your best to keep informed on what is actually happening in this legislation, so that the uninsured, the poor, those who suffer will get the care that they need, while at the same time every other demand of human dignity is also strongly upheld. The human dignity of the uninsured, the poor, and the needy demands this response of us, but care for the unborn and for our senior citizens is based on that same commitment to human dignity.

Thank you for reading this, God bless you, have a great rest of the summer, and extend to our young people who might be returning to college my own prayers and hopes that they will have a blessed and successful academic year.

Praised be Jesus Christ!