Monday, October 17, 2011

(The Republican) (Part 1)

Google search any combination of variants of ‘Catholics’ and ‘voters’ (i.e. “How should Catholics vote?”) and at the very top of the list will appear the website Once there, you will be shrewdly instructed on the platform of the Republican Party— under the guise of official Church teaching.
     Having created a blog called The Catholic Left, it would certainly be hypocritical of me to condemn those on the opposite side of the political spectrum for putting a rightward slant on issues pertinent to Catholics. And I won’t do so.
     But what I do take exception to is the way the site promotes itself as non-partisan while ignoring or misrepresenting a myriad of issues that the Vatican and U.S. bishops have placed at the front and center of global and national politics, respectively.
     The site lists “Are you liberal or conservative, Republican or Democrat?” as a question frequently asked about them, and they answer this way (my emphasis added): is Catholic. As Catholics we know our home is in heaven, not in a party platform. Being non-partisan allows us to approach issues and candidates with an open mind, and with a clear conscience formed by the principles of our faith. At the same time, being non-partisan preserves Catholics from being “owned” by any party or movement. With this freedom we will be able to more effectively pursue the common good which all people should seek.
     Great answer, in the abstract. But it simply does not accurately portray the views advocated by the site’s creators or bloggers. Predictably, they forcefully and consistently promote the Church’s teaching on abortion and “protecting marriage.” (I have a duty to admit that I’m not so keen on the latter, as I’d like the writers at to acknowledge their obvious disagreements with Church teaching.) And while capital punishment doesn’t exactly receive copious attention, they do take a stand against it. Indeed, all of these positions are in keeping with their dual claims of obedience to the teaching Magesterium of the Church” and of non-partisanship.
     But when it comes to social justice, healthcare, and the environment, they are patently out of step with Church proclamations from Vatican II through Benedict XVI's Caritas in Veritate. Seeking to convey an ethos of absolute orthodoxy, much of their divergence with Catholic doctrine is masked by a preposterously narrow selection of details and blatant omissions. For now, I’ll highlight just one example from their ‘Issues’ page.           
     Under an icon for “Healthcare” is featured an essay by Dr. William G. White, who writes this (again, my emphasis):
The Church’s social teachings refine our understanding of the role of medicine in society.  The Church teaches, for example, that society has an obligation to provide basic care to all the sick, regardless of their economic status.  Some assume that this responsibility requires government-run programs not only for the poor, but even for everyone.
This extrapolation of Catholic teaching is invalid.  Catholic social teaching does not require ignoring economic principles.  If private endeavors are more effective and more efficient than government, society may employ those means without neglecting its obligation to address basic human needs.  In fact, there is ample evidence that government involvement in medicine leads to lower quality, less responsive, more expensive care.
      Yes, the Church does teach, in essence, that if private means truly address this responsibility, government should stay out of it. But by what standard could that claim possibly be made? Is Dr. White unaware of the nearly 50 million uninsured? Clearly, the emergency room care that is obligatory to all is neither ‘effective’ nor humane. And is it acceptable that those with pre-existing conditions—who are of course most in need of health insurance—have, prior to Obamacare, been routinely denied coverage?
      As for efficiency, let's let the facts speak for themselves. The United States boasts the most privatized health system in the developed world. In contrast, Canada’s health insurance system is entirely state run; Great Britain has both socialized insurance and medicine; Japan relies on government price controls to keep a lid on costs; the French system is a public and private mix, with heavy government mandates. All feature much more governmental control than the United States’ model—even after Obamacare.
      And how do these nations, and many other similar ones, fare? Well, measure Dr. White's statement about government's ineptitude in providing health care against the following statistics:
      1) The U.S. spends significantly more on health care than any of them (We're No. 1!):

2) Each of the aforementioned countries (and many others) boasts longer life expectancy than the U.S.:

3) Each of these socialized healthcare systems is ranked higher than the United States' (We're No. 37!) system by the World Health Organization:

            So to sum up, we spend more, live shorter lives, and are ranked lower than most of the countries that deliver universal care through substantial governmental controls. Yet Dr. White trumpets "the success of voluntary private medicine." Dr. White’s essay is essentially Republican apologetics, not the primer on Catholic theology it espouses itself to be. is certainly under no obligation to endorse a specific piece of legislation like the Affordable Care Act. But they should give a full-throated endorsement of the goal of universal coverage while acknowledging that the federal government is going to play a substantial role. A non-partisan site would have no trepidation about doing so; a definitively conservative site, apparently, will not.
In an upcoming post, I'll give more examples of's theological equivocations, and I'll end this one by quoting that great socialist, Pope Benedict the XVI. In an address to the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry last year, he said the following (my emphasis):

Important also in the field of health, integral part of each one's existence and of the common good, is to establish a true distributive justice that guarantees to all, on the basis of objective needs, adequate care. Consequently, the world of health cannot be subtracted from the moral rules that should govern it so that it will not become inhuman. As I stressed in the encyclical "Caritas in Veritate," 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 (No. 35). Justice is promoted when one receives the life of the other and one assumes responsibility for him, responding to his expectations, because in him one grasps the face itself of the Son of God...
Health justice should be among the priorities of governments and international institutions.


  1. Hey Joe, curious, do you have any info on how Catholic run hospitals navigate the U.S. Health system? more specifically, how they lobby for or against universal health care?

  2. The Catholic Health Association, the large network of Catholic hospitals, endorsed "Obamacare", though they object to the contraceptive mandate rules recently proposed. This NY Times article lists some of the other Catholic groups that also endorsed the new health care law: