Catholic Hospitals Back Health Care

A group representing America’s Catholic hospitals announced last week that it would support the Senate's version of the health care bill, breaking rank with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops which opposes the Senate bill, and, perhaps, “providing political cover” for pro-life Democrats to support the bill.

David Kirkpatrick offered this analysis of the divide within the Catholic church:

Catholic scholars say their statement reflects a different application of church teachings against “cooperation with evil,” a calculus that the legislation offers a way to extend health insurance to millions of Americans. For the Catholic hospitals, that it is both a moral and financial imperative, since like other hospitals they stand to gain from reducing the number of uninsured patients.

Indeed, for all hospitals and health care providers, health care reform is a moral and financial imperative, which is why the rabid opposition to said reform has been puzzling when it comes from the public, and infuriating when it comes from religious leaders. The Catholic Church has advocated for universal health care for decades, but in the past few months, the A-word has been their only policy issue of interest. (This thanks to culture warriors on the far right intent on using the Catholic church as a pawn in their game.) As usual, Bart Stupak sounds like a petulant child:

Other abortion opponents argue that liberals are overstating the hospital association’s influence. “They don’t carry the same sway,” said Representative Bart Stupak, the Michigan Democrat who led the effort that resulted in the House bill’s including a full ban on abortion coverage in any subsidized health insurance plan.

Why is it that Catholic bishops have more authority than Catholic hospitals in the crafting of health care legislation? Why do Catholic bishops have any authority in legislation, at all? Why is Bart Stupak enlightening us on the relative sway of various Catholic lobbies? What is this bill about? Here’s a helpful reminder from the Catholic Health Association:

Health reform will provide the assurance that individuals and families can get the health care they need when they need it.


Health reform will help us move from a disjointed, expensive system to one that is coordinated, affordable, sustainable and fair.


Health reform will create greater access to and stronger emphasis on prevention and wellness to keep us from getting sick in the first place. Being healthy enables people to be productive in school, at work and in their communities. Healthier people also mean lower costs to the system and every one of us.

Bart Stupak loves talking about abortion; when was the last time he talked about people's health? I hope that the Catholic Health Association’s endorsement of the bill means that light is finally dawning on these past, dark months, when Americans all over the country, pious and secular, fought tenaciously against their own health. But I don’t know if hindsight will allow us to understand the behavior of the politicians who led this charge, particularly the hapless Mr. Stupak. Bizarre, inexplicable, and unfortunately, in this case, deadly.

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