Article

A Time to Heal, a Time to Move Forward

Health Reform Legislation Reflects Catholic Social Teachings

A comparison of Catholic social teachings and the current health reform legislation from Ellen-Marie Whelan and Marta Cook shows that the two align.

Rev. Philip Forlano and the Rev. Timothy C. Senior put ash on the foreheads of faithfuls during Ash Wednesday Mass at Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in Philadelphia. (AP/Matt Rourke)
Rev. Philip Forlano and the Rev. Timothy C. Senior put ash on the foreheads of faithfuls during Ash Wednesday Mass at Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in Philadelphia. (AP/Matt Rourke)

Fact sheet: A comparison of Catholic teachings and the current health reform legislation (pdf)

The Roman Catholic Church has been a longstanding advocate for health care reform in the United States, leading the effort for nearly a century. Given the Catholic Church’s social justice tradition—with its principles of human dignity, solidarity, special status of the poor, and concern for the common good—the Catholic Church’s commitment to a more accessible and affordable health care system for all is grounded in centuries-old teachings and traditions. Among these traditions is a commitment to stewardship, which calls for responsible rather than wasteful spending on health care.

The Catholic Church has stated it believes that government has a moral role in society—a duty to “assure opportunity, meet basic human needs, and pursue justice in economic life.” The Catholic Church also understands there are some measures of socioeconomic justice that are the government’s proper responsibility. Health care is one of these measures. Because of these beliefs, the Catholic Church has been a consistent advocate for comprehensive health care reform, with the government playing a key role in the organization and provision of services.

The Catholic Church is also a key player in health care delivery. In fact, the Catholic Health Association is the largest provider of nongovernmental health care in the United States. Given this longstanding commitment, CHA President and CEO Sister Carol Keehan recently sent a letter commending Congress for all of its efforts on behalf of those “failed by the current system” and urging it to “move quickly” to pass the legislation.

Much of the recent debate over health reform has focused on abortion funding and coverage, but it is helpful to consider how the current legislation satisfies the many other criteria presented by the Catholic Church for ethical health reform. It is also important to note that abortion is not the only legislative provision within the Catholic Church’s criteria under scrutiny. The Catholic Church also stresses the importance of universal coverage for everyone in the United States—including undocumented immigrants—which the pending legislation does not fulfill.

Not all members of the Catholic faith community may agree on whether the legislation takes adequate steps to address the concerns of those who have a religious or moral objection to abortion, but a growing number of Catholic and other pro-life leaders have announced that their concerns have been met, including a group of prominent Catholic and Evangelical religious leaders, as well as a group of more than 59,000 Catholic nuns.

This fact sheet lays out in detail how the health care legislation now under consideration in Congress reflects the eight criteria laid out by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops as important to health care reform. The criteria were taken from an official statement submitted by the USCCB to the Congressional Record on May 20, 2009.

Updated from "The Moral Dimensions of Health Care Reform"

Fact sheet: A comparison of Catholic teachings and the current health reform legislation (pdf)

See the health care policy page for more information on CAP’s proposals for health care reform.

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