Cardinal George on Health Care Reform

His Eminence, Francis Cardinal George, Archbishop of Chicago and President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, issued an excellent statement on the current health care reform debate.  It is well worth reading, and I encourage you all to do so.

small image of PDF IconCardinal George’s Health Care Statement

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27 Responses to “Cardinal George on Health Care Reform”

  1. Amy P. says:

    A good statement, but I wish to see more focus on the notion of subsidiarity, and the fact this current form of legislation will greatly increase costs (both taxes and insurance premiums) for a significant portion of the population; many of whom are already on the brink of financial collapse.

    There is also the provision of jail time for failure to buy adequate health insurance coverage. Surely this is antithetical to the notion of justice – especially as it will burden the low income population.

    As a Catholic, I believe in the need for better access to health care. I believe Catholics have, throughout the centuries, provided such services out of charity and love of Christ. This health care legislation will not only refuse to recognize this good work, but make it difficult for us to continue doing so with mandates on abortion, end-of-life care, and irresponsible spending (offset by irresponsible rationing of care, as in the recent reversal over mammogram screenings and early detection of breast cancer).

    There are many concerns in this legislation, including abortion, that make it unappealing to me.

  2. I appreciate the statement. However, the damage that will be done to seniors should not be underestimated. Medicare will receive cuts close to $500B. This translates to reductions in reimbursements to physicians and hospitals who most probably will limit the number of Medicare patients (an actual rationing of care). Further, the cuts in the Medicare Advantage plans will cause insurers to withdraw these plans which are most helpful to seniors of limited means. I feel that the final bill will continue to contain these dreadful changes for the elderly.

  3. L Cooper says:

    As we now have seen, Sen. Reid’s bill will include the use of Federal funds for abortions.

    The left wing agenda belies the meaning of health care reform. Their plan negates the need for the Hippocratic Oath taken by doctors through the ages. They will be the arbiters of life and death.

  4. Peter Hartwick says:

    I was eager to read Cardinal George’s letter, hopeful that the many serious moral issues that have surfaced in the daily reports of various fragments of the House-passed bill and its Senate counterpart would be addressed is a direct, cogent way. Of course, I expected to see commentary regarding abortion funding and “conscience provisions.” As I slowly read the letter and got to the end, a incredible sadness overcame me. — the opening tone that sets the apparently obligatory, obsequious eagerness to praise the political class, even when it requires a myopic search for a grain of truth on a beach of unacknowledged land mines…… once again I read a comment on this topic — this time by perhaps the most educated group of people of its size in the entire country — and there is no mention made of the FACT that even at this late hour, the “problems” with health care have STILL not been defined. How can any problem be solved if the problem is not clearly defined and agreement stated? Instead, we are inundated with platitudes (Affordable Health Care for All) that are usually framed deliberately to mislead or manipulate emotions. Who but the bishops could call attention to the moral dimensions of things like how does one decide how much intrusion into a person’s life is OK? What are the moral components of excessive debt, the satisfaction of which will presumably be transferred to generations not yet born? Does the power to tax, to confiscate and punish for lack of compliance, have limits defined by moral considerations? Who but the Catholic bishops can raise these questions and insist that they be part of the public debate?

    I make my last point to merely to illustrate the frustration of experiencing Yet Another incomplete and misleading comment on this subject by people who do know better: Certainly the Catholic Hospital Systems of New York and Chicago very well know that for almost 30 years now, there’s been a federal law in effect that requires that ANYONE who shows up at an emergency room seeking medical treatment MUST be treated – for FREE if necessary. If the person is an illegal alien. If the person is a wanted criminal. No matter what the situation or circumstances. Isn’t that “Affordable Health Care for All”? We’ve already got it. We’ve had it for a long time. How much has it cost the Catholic hospitals in the US to comply with this law?

    Etc. etc. etc.

    The bishops may not be experts on health care, but they sure ought to be experts on morals, ethics and logic, just to name a few. Why is it, then, that your public statements seem crafted always and only to say only that “We Care About Everyone” and we oppose abortion and the other things that Catholics are known to oppose. Mostly.

    I’m saddened beyond words that my successors to the Apostles don’t want to take on the full range of moral and ethical issues in a way and with a rigor that no other group in the country can come close to, let alone match.

  5. Irene Baldwin says:

    I’m delighted by the Cardinal’s support for health care reform and his emphasis that we need to provide affordable health care for poor and moderate income people as well as immigrants. I think it is also just wonderful that the bishops’ urge that the new law also extend coverage to undocumented immigrants, noting that this is the morally right thing to do. I look forward to advocating as a Catholic for my representatives to pass this important legislation.

  6. Amy P. says:

    And, Irene, what about all of the teachings on abortion and euthanasia?

    This bill will require us all to fund abortion – a violation not only of Catholic teaching, but the Hyde Amendment which prohibits taxpayer funded abortion. It also strips conscience clauses, thus forcing Catholic doctors, nurses, and hospital facilities to close up shop rather than kill innocent unborn children.

    Why do people who profess to be Catholic overlook this?

  7. Irene Baldwin says:

    Amy- See the letter from the US Conference of Catholic Bishops urging passage of comprehensive health care reform (with appropriate restrictions on taxpayer funding of abortion as covered by the Hyde Amendment). Here’s the link:

  8. Irene Baldwin says:

    Sorry, the link above doesn’t work. Just go to the homepage and scroll down to the statement titled “Bishops to House: Keep Abortion Funding Out of Health Care Reform, Make Health Care Available to Vulnerable”. I think it’s important to note that there is so much emphasis in these blogs on what the Church is against (abortion) that what gets lost is what the Church is for: health care reform which includes affordable health coverage for the poor and underserved.

    It also bothers me a little that the conversation sometimes becomes uncivil: where some folks question the Catholic-ness of people who disagree with them. A Catholic News Service article reported on a recent meeting of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications where it discussed need to communicate more charitably when we speak as Catholics. “A recurring theme during the meeting Oct. 26-29 was what constitutes Catholic communications and what, if anything, can be done about those who use the word Catholic to describe themselves while using all sorts of nasty adjectives to describe anyone who doesn’t agree with them.”

    The link for that article (I hope it works!) is:

    I think the Archdiocese will establish some ground rules for this blog, to help us communicate in way in which we can all respectfully hear each other.

  9. Irene Baldwin says:

    Sorry that last sentence should have read” I think the Archdiocese should establish some ground rules…”

  10. KathyM says:

    Dear Archbishop Tim, I’m really glad to see that you started up this blog. I hope you read all the responses. Many times I’ve thought about what I’d say if I ever sat down with you in person.

    Concerning Cardinal George’s letter, I share the same thoughts as Peter Hartwick (up thread), especially:

    “I’m saddened beyond words that my successors to the Apostles don’t want to take on the full range of moral and ethical issues in a way and with a rigor that no other group in the country can come close to, let alone match.”

    Who will fight for us, if not our Shepherds? With all due respect, and filial obedience, to you my Archbishop, I can only say that most of the Bishops of this country seem to live in an alternate universe. Like the politicians, they are not in touch with the majority of Americans, and legal residents. They’re out of touch with what is actually happening in this country. They are emphasizing the abortion issue, but saying little or nothing about healthcare rationing, and the dangers of euthanasia for the elderly and medically fragile. They’re saying nothing about the danger of our freedom to make our own healthcare choices being taken away from us.

    Once again, with all due respect, ask Cardinal George or Cardinal Rigali who is going to foot the bill for “universal” healthcare. Would they say “the government?” How would the government get the money? By taxing the American worker. And the next thing to come up will be “cap and trade,” which is a bogus scheme to “save the environment” – the American consumer will be hit hard with increased energy costs. And on and on it will go.

    Justice is not a zero sum game. What is justice for one group must *include* justice for the other. Justice for the poor *must* also be justice for those who work for what they have, as well as justice for seniors who have paid into the Medicare system for all of their working lives. This government intrusion into peoples’ healthcare is justice for no one.

    We American Catholics just celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Upper Church of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Our Blessed Mother under the title of Our Lady of America requested that the Bishops have a procession and installation of the Lady of America statue in the Shrine, to be a safeguard for our country. She promised miracles greater than Lourdes and Fatima if her requests were honored. What perfect timing it would have been if this installation coincided with the anniversary, but the American Bishops sleep.

    If things continue on this path, there will be no money for the faithful to give to their parishes. There will be no money to contribute to all those USCCB second collections, or for Bishop’s appeals.

    On that day when the Bishops see that there’s no more money, that’s when the Bishops will wake up. Maybe.

    I sincerely thank you for your kind attention.

  11. chaz says:

    There is no need for a government in a highly developed free market society to appoint itself as “provider of healthcare coverage.” None, whatsoever. The proposition would be identical to the government taking control of the restaurant and grocery businesses because there are some people who, regrettably, cannot afford to eat. To do so would undermine the market mechanism of distribution, which is quite an effective mechanism. I believe the discussion of “subsidiarity” speaks to this.

    Furthermore, New York City once was a shining example of what Catholicism, when practiced, can do to generously overcome and “shortcomings” — temporary or otherwise — in the market mechanism.

    It is interesting to me, indeed — in a grotesque way — that the Bishops are inclined to welcome government interference into the operation of the market mechanism when the Church itself has witnessed the destructive effect government intervention has on the delivery of charitable services. For it is my understanding that Catholic schools in NYC currently are “permitted” to operate in disobedience of a court order to hire those who not only don’t agree with the Church, but in fact demonstrably live in rebellion to her (as practicing homosexuals, for example) in proportion to the number of such people in society at large. I believe His Emminence Cardinal O’Connor addressed this in the book he co-wrote with Mayor Ed Koch, “His Emminence and Hizzoner.”

    Finally, I was dismayed to be asked, during the Prayers of the Faithful at a recent Mass, to “amen” this: “that congress would act to provide healthcare for all….[with disclaimers for protection of life and acknowledgment of conscience]. It was repulvsive on many grounds, and bizarre for the reasons given above: why pray to enlarge government which is not only an offense to the principle of subsidiarity, it ignores the effectiveness of the market mechanism, is contrary to the virtue of personal responsibility, likewise contrary to the principle of limited government, which quenches the spirit of charity and indeed may even outlaw it, and which has set itself up in legal opposition to the Church.

  12. Health Care Reform in the Senate worries me because it does not cover much long term care.

  13. Does health care reform cover long term care insurance?

  14. Jim Orr says:

    I’m very encouraged by the remarks I have read here. I would like someone to point out in the Bible where Jesus came To Get Us, who believe in Him, To Get Governments To Do His Works for the poor and less fortunate. I’d like the bishops to explain how they can believe it is GOOD to have Government Confiscate Working Peoples’ Earnings To Pay For Someone Else’s, “Needs” who may or may not be capable of paying for them themselves.

    No politician is going to heaven for what he or she does as a politician. And no person is going to go to heaven for voting for any politician. So why do the bishops think they are caring out “God’s Will” in supporting this legislation even if funding for abortion is prohibited in it?

    If this bill’s purpose is honestly intending to reduce cost so everyone can afford health care insurance and get good quality health care treatment, why aren’t the lawsuit trial lawyers in the equation to reducing the cost? I’ve heard estimates of 40% of health care cost go to cover malpractice insurance and excess testing to prevent against possible lawsuits, yet, not one dime is saved in that cost caused by lawyers.

    It will be ironic and tragic if public payment for abortions is included in the final bill and Obama signs it into law. That very well may mean the Church will get out of the health care providing business rather than have abortions and birth control part of the services they would be required to provide. The irony is that the Democrat passed legislation will cause the bishops to shut down their hospitals putting all those people out of work, and they will have nobody else to blame for it but themselves because they expanded the definition of the word ProLife to mean things other than what the word was created to do – be a counter to the proabortionist calling themselves “pro-choice.” The other new “prolife” issues they included (one of which was the “right to health care,” another – housing; i.e., sub-prime loans and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac) had nothing to do with the Evil of Murdering unborn children. As a result of their diluting the meaning of the word “prolife,” half or more of the church-going Catholics felt comfortable continuing to give their names to the pro-abortion Democrat Party, believing it to be “the more caring” party, and continued voting for their candidates, such that 55% of Catholics voted for President Obama, a man who said that knowing when a baby should be given human rights “was above his pay grade,” a man who voted as a Illinois State Senator against the “Baby born alive” legislation.

  15. BronxGuy says:

    I’m happy to use my tax dollars to support other peoples’ health care needs.

  16. Jim Orr says:

    BronxGuy, all well and good. But, first, what does that have to do with the teachings of Jesus? I can’t find any place in the Bible were Jesus came into the world to get government to do what He taught his followers to do, voluntarily.

    So, why are the bishops spending money on offices and employees lobbying Congress to provide health care to all?

    There’s no Constitutional Right to health care. If the bishops believe there should be one then they should not get the cart before the horse; i.e., they should lobby Congress to see if they can get Congress to pass a Constitutional Amendment for a Right to Health Care and, if so, see if 3/4 of the State Legislatures agree. If they do, then we are in business and can start proceedings on how to go about to provide it. What is happening now is a political power grab that is insane, one that is going to make everybody’s healthcare worse, and still will leave millions of people uninsured. The bishops should not be in anyway supportive of this PROCESS – it’s dirty.

    Second, the government is behind whatever is wrong with the healthcare today. When they jumped into healthcare as a payer they paid the care providers less than what a patient’s health insurance would have paid. In fact, the government paid the care providers less money than it cost the care providers to treat the patient. To make up for the lost money, the care providers raised their fees to insurance companies who started paying more for their clients’ treatments. Each year, the less government paid for individual treatments, the more insurance companies were billed to make up for the losses. This cycle continued for years with the insurance premiums going up accordingly for both the private clients, and employers providing health insurance for their employees. Finally, the insurance companies put caps on what they would pay out on claims which then forced the patients to pay a higher co-pay. The less the government would pay for care, the more the patients had to pay for insurance and/or higher co-payments for their care.

    Government’s intrusion into the healthcare delivery system coupled with the individual states’ rights regulating health insurance requirements in each state is what has caused the cost of healthcare to rise as much as it has. Also included in the rise in the cost for healthcare is the cost of malpractice lawsuits and insurance, again an area that government has its fingers in.

    The Democrat legislation we hear about today will only make it more expensive for everyone who now has health insurance, while lowering the quality of the health care delivered, and still leaving tens of million uninsured. So, why are the Democrats trying to shove this down our throats? Why are the bishops even going to support it with abortion funding removed? They should be protecting their flock, not offering us up to the wolves in a political party that is so heartless as to support the murder of over a million unborn babies a year.


  17. Debbie says:

    Healthcare should definitely be available to more people. Mor people should have access to affordable health care. This is an issue that the government needs to stay out of completely. This is not something that should be handled by the federal government.

  18. Irene Baldwin says:

    The government is already involved in health care: Medicare. I think Medicare works well and it would be wrong for the government to drop out of it. It’s interesting that all of the attacks on the current health care reform proposal are very similar to the attacks that were made on Social Security and on Medicare before those laws were passed.

    All throughout the New Testament, Jesus tells us over and over, we must take care of other people. The voluntary donation approach Mr Orr supports isn’t working; too many people still don’t have access to health care, tens of thousands of people die needlessly in America each year because of this. So, government must step in to fix this crisis.

  19. Jim Orr says:

    Irene , you are saying Jesus’ teachings to take care of one another was wrong? Are you saying God made a mistake, that He should have sent Jesus into the world to build a government to fulfill the beliefs of Barabbas?

    Let me ask you, Irene, do your really believe that a political group of people (the Democrat leadership) who are the only reason abortion on demand remains the law of the land in our country, and who are responsible for over 50,000,000 babies being murdered whose lives were given by the Holy Spirit, the Lord, according to our professed beliefs recited every Sunday in Mass, can be trusted to enact a major piece of legislation that will overhaul our current, relatively prolife health care system? Do you really trust a Democrat presidential candidate who when asked in the context of abortion “when do you think a baby should be given human rights” said “the answer to that question was above his pay grade” – a man who is a highly touted Constitutional lawyer from Harvard doesn’t know what the Constitution says about bestowing human rights? A man who described the pregnancy of an unmarried, young woman as punishment, “by God for a mistake.”? A man who voted and argued against the Baby Born Alive legislation when he was an Illinois State Legislator? Do you really think a political organization that elected such an individual as their leader has the philosophy and character to create legislation that will really be prolife in its enactment, and really provide good care for each and every individual? A group of people who are bribing and threatening their members to get them to support this legislation that no one has seen yet, but is said to be over 2000 pages long, drafted in the back room without allowing the representatives of the other party in this country to be involved? You find such behavior in such people trustworthy?

    Psalm 1 Happy the man who follows not the counsel of the wicked –
    Nor walks in the way of sinners, nor sits in the company of the insolent,
    But delights in the law of the Lord and meditates on his law day and night.

    I don’t think the Democrat leadership is happy for the above stated reason, and I don’t think they delight in the law of the Lord. As a result, I don’t want them to have anything to do with my health care or anyone else’s, even the poor’s. And I don’t want my bishops, who, as the USCCB, are representing all of us Catholics, to support this theft of our right to life being shoved down our throats by this renegade group of legislators and this megalomaniac that thinks he deserves a solid B+ for his first year in office as President.

  20. Irene Baldwin says:

    I’m a little distressed about letters trying to make the case that government-supported health care somehow violates tenets of Christianity. I think it’s fine to disapprove of subsidized health care for political or personal reasons, but to say it goes against our Catholic faith contradicts everything I ever learned in Church or in Catholic school. I appreciate the Bishops’ support for health care reform, and I will respectfully disagree with my fellow Catholics like Mr. Orr, and will instead follow the guidance of my bishops’ on this.

  21. Jim Orr says:

    Irene, all I am asking is for someone to show me where, in the New Testament, Jesus instructed us to get governments to do what He came and taught individuals to do. My concern, Irene, is that taking a Christian action and pushing it into the political arena takes our eye off of the Christian works Jesus instructed us followers to do and, doing so, empowers charlatans to pick it up and run with it. Certainly, the argument for my case is being played out in front of our eyes today with what the Democrat Party is doing, and using un-Christian tacts to get it done. You have a bunch of men and women, who, in general, as leaders of a major political party, defend and advocate for abortion on demand. They do everything possible to prevent our Church’s position on the “right to life,” which IS a constitutional right, from becoming law. The “right to life” and “prolife” slogans came about because of Row v Wade’s striking down all laws in this country that prohibited the medical procedure of abortion. How could any Christians, especially Catholics, who profess to believe “in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life” trust such people in the Democrat Party Leadership to undo an entire health care system, which is mostly prolife, in which 85 percent of the people like what they have, and replace it with something that is “supposed to be better and more fair (“Christian’) to the poor?” It doesn’t make sense. And they are blatanly lying in the process of what it’s going to cost.

    I raised five kids and put them through 12 years of Catholic schooling. I also taught them that in leaning anything in life, things have to make sense. If something doesn’t make sense, then start looking around to try and find out why it doesn’t before accepting it just because somebody said so. That goes for the bishops as well and I am committing no sin in doing so.

    Look what the bishops are having to do just to keep the Hyde Amendment in place with what the Democrats are proposing in their so called healthcare over haul. Look what the Democrats want to do to our fellow Catholics working in the healthcare field who are protected from having to participate in abortions, sterilizations, and dispensing birth control with existing law. If the proabortion party gets their way they will shut down Catholic hospitals and force faithful Catholics to find work in fields other than healthcare. This is a direct attack on our Church members and our faith. How could the bishops trust any political party that would be willing to try and do that to us.? It doesn’t make sense.

    Please help me understand?

  22. sam says:

    Hopefully, this healthcare bill will fail. Giving the government more power is foolish. This kind of a program has failed miserable wherever it has been tried. This will actually make matters much worse.

  23. Mel Case says:

    I do not think health reform is anything close to reform. I know we have probelms in this country but come on.

  24. Your post is an inspiration for me to study more about this subject. I must confess your clarity broadened my views and I will right away grab your rss feed to remain up to date on any succeeding articles you might write. You are due, thanks for a job well done!

  25. chaz says:

    “BronxGuy says:
    December 14, 2009 at 3:22 pm
    I’m happy to use my tax dollars to support other peoples’ health care needs.”

    You have to be kidding. If not, why don’t you just move to Canada?

  26. chaz says:

    Say, Bishops: I thought you were in the Charity business. If there’s a “problem” with healthcare, shouldn’t you prodding your flocks to charity, instead of the government to redistribution?