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Pope Is No Tea Partier: Benedict Backs Guaranteed Health Care For All

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As newly empowered Republicans prepare a congressional agenda topped by a promise to repeal health care reform, Pope Benedict XVI has strongly reiterated Catholic teaching that universal health care is an "inalienable right" that must be guaranteed by every nation and society.

"It is necessary to work with greater commitment at all levels so that the right to health is rendered effective, favoring access to primary health care," Benedict said in a message on Thursday to the 25th annual conference of the Vatican office that promotes health care ministry.

"Health justice should be among the priorities of governments and international institutions," he added.

The pope said that establishing this goal requires "a true distributive justice that guarantees to all, on the basis of objective needs, adequate care," and, "The social doctrine of the Church has always evidenced the importance of distributive justice and of social justice in the different sectors of human relations."

Benedict's secretary of state and second-in-command, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, read the papal statement to the annual conference of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry and then delivered remarks that were even clearer than the pontiff's.

"Justice requires guaranteed universal access to health care," Bertone said, adding that the provision of minimal levels of medical attention to all is "commonly accepted as a fundamental human right."

According to a Catholic News Service report, Bertone also said that private health insurance companies should conform to human rights legislation and see to it that "privatization not become a threat to the accessibility, availability and quality of health care goods and services." And he said pharmaceutical companies -- a powerful lobby in the U.S. health care debate -- should not be driven by "profit as the only objective" in the creation and distribution of medicines.

Phrases like "distributive justice" and "guaranteed universal access to health care" are anathema to Republicans (and might send Glenn Beck into apoplexy), but they are especially problematic for many conservative Catholic Republicans such as incoming House Speaker John Boehner. These Republicans are often cast as more loyal to the pope than Catholic Democrats, even though they oppose universal health care and other church priorities, such as immigration reform.

Many Republicans did cite claims (widely disputed) that health care reform would fund abortion as one reason for their opposition. In his message Thursday, the pope specifically objected to any health care policies that would include abortion coverage, in-vitro fertilization (which can entail the destruction of embryos) or "legalized euthanasia." But Republicans, and most Catholics among them, opposed health care reform because of its expansion of government regulation, a position that put them at odds with the Catholic bishops of the United States, with Catholic teaching, and with the pope.

Still, papal statements that go against political positions have rarely altered Republican policies (or those of Democrats), and it's unlikely that Boehner or other GOP congressman are going to be Tweeting the pope's latest words to their caucus. (Though incoming freshman Republican Rep. Andy Harris, a conservative Catholic from Maryland's Eastern Shore who campaigned on repealing health care reform, may want to heed the pope's words after his widely publicized complaints that his new, gold-plated government health care wouldn't kick in for a month.)

But there is an emerging argument among conservative pro-lifers that more closely represents the pope's view.

Writing this month in First Things, the conservative journal of religion and culture, Valparaiso University law professor Richard Stith argued that Obamacare is far more "pro-life" than the market-oriented health care system and that it should only be amended to ensure that there is no abortion funding.

"My disagreement [with other pro-lifers and Republicans] stems not just from the fact that the health care law includes various pro-life provisions, such as new help for pregnant women, which may make them less likely to choose abortion," Stith wrote. "I think that even if these good aspects of the legislation are outweighed by its bad aspects, that is, if the net effect of the legislation at the moment is to advance abortion, it should not be repealed."

Senior editor R.R. Reno made a similar argument in the magazine last summer in an article titled "Reforming the Health-Care Reform." When Reno endorsed Stith's article on the magazine's website last week, he got hammered by many commenters, as did Stith. But Reno stood by his argument for "federalizing health insurance policy."

"A pro-life position is not a 'limited government' position, nor is it a 'free market' position," Reno wrote. "On the contrary, the pro-abortion crowd are the ones in favor of limited government, as in limiting the government's ability to have any say in what pregnant women do or don't decide to do."

Whether that view, or the pope's, will gain any traction with the GOP as the repeal debate revs up seems doubtful. But the argument could provide useful cover should Republicans, as expected, be unable to repeal health care or be unwilling to do so since so many of its provisions are popular with the American public.

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35 Comments

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Deacon

Most priest know what The Catholic Relief Service is.

December 13 2010 at 1:41 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
drakecennedig9

The real fix for the abortion issue is to let hospitals have their own morality. Allow the Catholics to not abort. No doctor would force an abortion on an unwilling patient, so why force an abortion on unwilling doctors or institutions? As long as abortions are allowed for those who wish it, why force it on those who don't? Tolerance of religion extends to all Christianity, as it does to all religions. That is the only true way to protect our "Freedom of Conscience."

November 20 2010 at 4:03 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to drakecennedig9's comment
buggeroffyou666

Because when I am on the job I have to do my job not do what I want and say god said I don't have to.

November 25 2010 at 9:47 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
monroelaw

It is important to remember that for Catholics, the Pope is only considered to be infalible in matters of faith. His opinions on social justice and other topics are respected and powerful but not dictates. If one wants an in depth lesson in politcicans who don't understand the Catholic Church, I direct you to Nancy Pelossi and John Kerry...

November 20 2010 at 8:29 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to monroelaw's comment
lcnorthon

Not correct. You left out "morals," as in "faith and morals." Social justice issues would certainly fall under the latter. The Pope here is also not invoking his personal infallibility. That only happens when he defines an issue heretofor in doubt or dispute. What applies here is the infallibility of the CHURCH, which occurs when the bishops of the world and the Pope hold that a particular principle must be accepted and lived by all the faithful, which is certainly the case with the teaching that we must see to it that everyone can receive needed medical care. That is nothing more than an elaboration on the parable of the Good Samaritan, and we cannot deny that Christ is infallible. The correct criticism of the AOL story is that Pope Benedict and the Church do not require that universal health care be free of charge, or tax-supported, or government-run, or even run by any onerous central bureaucracy. In fact such bureaucracies often deny certain procedures to certain patients based on cost-benefit analysis for SOCIETY, which in itself is a violation of the teaching which the Pope is proclaiming here.

November 20 2010 at 10:37 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
pebel62

Thank you. I sometimes feel that the Catholic Church forgets two major Commandments. Thou shalt not steal. and Thou shalt not covet thy neighbors goods.

November 20 2010 at 8:09 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
truefix71

I read articles like these and wonder "Why cant the writer realize his or her views are obstructed?" It's clear to me that this an article is not based upon a well-rounded view-point, but from a view-point that builds on position strengthening. All good standing Catholics are for health care for all, and the Pope is right for stating the Church's beliefs. It would be the will of Jesus Christ for all to receive health care. However, Jesus would not endorse a health care bill that promotes the destruction of life at any level. Here's an analogy Mathew 21,12-13 "Jesus entered the Temple(Health care) and drove out all who in engaged in selling and buying there.(Abortion) My house should be a house of prayer(Life) But you make it a den of thieves(Murder)." The Pope doesn't support a universal health care bill with provisions supporting abortions...Very simple.

November 20 2010 at 8:29 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to truefix71's comment
truefix71

I would like to add that the title of this article is misleading "Pope Is No Tea Partier: Benedict Backs Guaranteed Health Care For All." "Guaranteed Health Care For All" is lazy statement. Pope Benedict is an highly intelligent, articulate speaker, with the gift to relay his message, so for all who listen, can understand. He has not once, came out and proclaimed "The Catholic Church" supports Obama care in it's current form. The Church has stated it believes in a "Universal Health Care" for all nothing less, nothing more. Let's stick with the absolutes.

November 20 2010 at 9:28 AM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
Curt Bockey

Since my FULL response will not fit in the comment box I've linked to it: http://www.curtbockey.freeiz.com/Popes_message.html Here's a taste: This article basically picks out a few quotes to make Gibson's point that the Holy Father is in favor of Obamacare. Since I actually took the time to READ the message from Pope Benedict it is very clear that Gibson is off his mark.

November 19 2010 at 11:40 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
John

I believe the Pope is speaking from a perspective of compassion. That as human beings we have a moral obligation to provide health care to all and not just to those that can afford it. Many countries do just that. Americans are too greedy in that respect. Everytime this issue comes up, The fear mongerers scream, Socialism!!!. Hell, we have been half-socialists since 1930.

November 19 2010 at 8:07 PM Report abuse +8 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to John's comment
honey/vinegar

John....Do you really think the Pope has the right to say what is best for America? Does any foreign government or population think they have the right? If you're not a legal citizen of the United States of America, mind your own business. Foreigners, Pope or otherwise, don't pay taxes nor send monetary aid to the United States. It's nobody's business when it comes to our country and how we take care of or services we provide to the citizens. Beside, I would think the Pope has more than enough troubles in the Catholic church to occupy his time. Plus, contrary to popular belief the Pope doesn't speak for all people in the world, let alone the United States.

November 19 2010 at 8:36 PM Report abuse -3 rate up rate down Reply
dirtpusher1954

seperation of church and state.............i think the church should start paying taxes for that right

November 19 2010 at 7:19 PM Report abuse -9 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to dirtpusher1954's comment
John

Tell that to Congress which generations ago implemented 25 IRS code sections under which any organization can be tax exempt if it answers the questions just right on the application for tax exempt status. Let's start taxing all the PACs who have money left over in the bank after the elections are over.

November 19 2010 at 8:01 PM Report abuse +9 rate up rate down Reply
monroelaw

Freedom of Speech. Some of the most annoying people on AOL are those who rant about the Constitution without ever having read it. We DO NOT have a STATE RELIGION. That was the point. Religious expression is encouraged, no Founding Father ever intended that we be free from religion. You also haven't got a clue what constitutes a "right." Download a copy of the Constitution before making any more constitutional pronouncements.

November 20 2010 at 8:33 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
Colin Janus

No the Pope is saying Republicans are mean spirited.

November 19 2010 at 6:34 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
3 replies to Colin Janus's comment
Michael Keohane

The Pope is infallible when he speaks "ex cathedra" on matters of faith and morals. To the best of my knowledge, the "right" to health care is not an article of either faith or morals. To proclaim a "right" to health care implies that someone has a "duty" to provide that health care. I , personally, believe in a "right" to wine, women & song." Now, who has the "duty" to provide the wine, women & song?

November 19 2010 at 5:34 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to Michael Keohane's comment
honey/vinegar

Michael...There seems to be many "good" Catholics reading this article who think it is a terrible thing to object to what the Pope says. He's wrong and should keep his nose out of the USA's business when it comes to how our tax dollars are spent.

November 19 2010 at 9:16 PM Report abuse -3 rate up rate down Reply
monroelaw

Nice to see someone else gets it. Catholic bashing remains a popular American pastime...

November 20 2010 at 8:34 AM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
Dan

Glenn Beck gonna' get all in a snit..

November 19 2010 at 5:20 PM Report abuse -3 rate up rate down Reply

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