Thursday, August 20, 2009

Health care debate is another ‘teachable moment’

By Bishop Gerald Barnes
Diocese of San Bernardino

In these summer months the debate over health care reform has become a lightning 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 to 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.


  1. Thank you Bishop Barnes!
    From a Catholic Christian perspective, we certainly have to appraoch health reform in a respectful, constructive manner. However, it's difficult when we read in the documents that abortion will basically have no restrictions. This has been the intent of President Obama, and his promise to Planned Parenthood since before his election. It has been impossible for him to implement FOCA because of the diligence of Pro-Life groups, but he has crafted His cabinet and subsequent reforms to that end. It will be tempting to favor reform that addresses the needs of the poor, but abortion is not negotiable. We do have absolute values in the church. We can disagree without hurting each other, but our goal should be to protect the most innocent because they "deserve quality health care" too. Peace

  2. My dear friends, perhaps it is time once again in Catholic history to devote ourselves the to the healing ministries.

    For many centuries the hospitals were Catholic the free clinics were Catholic.

    Maybe now is the time for us in the Catholic Church to provide the health care ourselves and not depend on the U. S. Government.

    In this Diocese we do have the Parish Nurse Program which is a good place to start. Let us pray for health care professionals to come forward and support this important ministry of the Catholic Church.

    Peace and joy to all who read this.

    Susan t Skora

  3. Dear Bishop Barnes,

    Thank you for resetting the tone of an emotional debate. If one reads the priorities you listed, and in the order you set them, they reflect well what the Church needs in order to support healthcare reform. With regard to candidates, we are not a one issue Church; but neither can we side with evil to produce a good result in actual government action. Clearly if abortion is provided by the government in this bill, it vetoes the bill for Catholic support, and that will be a very emotional circumstance for all Christians who want to ensure health care to all, from the womb onward.

    Rick Howick

  4. Thank you Bishop Barnes!
    Since we have seen that the proposed bill has some truly evil inclusions we should vigorously reject it, but... instead of just protesting against the proposed healthcare reform we should offer a Christian alternative. Anger does not solve anything, kind Christian responses does wonders toward building bridges.
    We should be gentle with our response and offer a good Christian alternative to the proposed legislation.
    We need to rediscover our wonderful Catholic faith that nurtured Catholic clinics, hospitals and seek ways to revitalize\share comprehensive access to healthcare for the less fortunate among us. How do we promote the parish nurse program in our Parish?
    Larry G.

  5. Why would we have to include that legal immigrants be included when it is already the law. Also the anger is that the people trying to pass the bill seem not to care at all about are feelings on the matter.I went to the libary to day to look at the bill it is about 4 to five inchs thick . I tried to read some of it , but it continuely refers back or forward to another sections for the section you are reading , I beleive you would have to read it two or three times in hope of understanding it . I seriously doubt that thirty present of the people voting on it have read it.


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