The possibility of picking up a newspaper or watching the evening news without an article appearing or mention being made of health care reform is minimal.  A variety of bills and amendments are working their way through both Houses of Congress in the hopes that comprehensive health care reform will be enacted in the near future.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has been a leading advocate for universal health care for decades.  Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Centre is the Chairman of the Committee on Domestic Social Justice and Human Development.  He states succinctly: “Genuine health care reform that protects the life and dignity of all is a moral imperative and a vital national obligation.”  Our efforts to reform health care must begin with the principle that health care is a right that should protect the life and dignity of every person.  In his landmark encyclical, Pacem in Terris, Pope John XXIII delineated rights that should be available to everyone.  These universal rights include the right to food, clothing, shelter, medical care, rest, and the necessary social services.  In consequence, a person has the right to be cared for in the event of ill health.(#11)

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that the political community has a duty to honor the family, to assist it and to ensure especially, the right to medical care, assistance for the aged and family benefits.  (#2211)   Concerns for the health of its citizens requires that society help in the attainment of living conditions that allow people to grow and reach maturity: food and clothing, housing, health care, basic education, employment, and social assistance.  (#2288)

With this in mind, the USCCB urges all citizens to be aware of the health care debate and to advocate for authentic health care reform.  We need to work together to achieve comprehensive health care reform that respects our Catholic Faith.

Authentic health care reform requires our common effort. The reform should provide for protection of every human life, most especially the child in the womb.  It should exclude mandated coverage for abortion and incorporate long-standing policies against abortion funding. Likewise, it should protect conscience rights. No one should be required to pay for or to participate in abortion.  It is essential that the health care reform legislation clearly stipulate the long-standing and widely supported federal restrictions on abortion funding and mandates, and uphold protection for the rights of conscience.  No current bill meets this test.

Authentic health care reform should adopt measures that protect and improve people’s health care.  Reform should make quality health care affordable and accessible to everyone, particularly those who are vulnerable and those who live at or near the poverty level.

Authentic health care reform should include effective measures to safeguard the health of immigrants, their children and all of society.  It should ensure that legal immigrants and their family members have comprehensive, affordable, and timely access to health care coverage.  It should maintain an adequate safety net for those who remain uncovered.

I hope that you will join me in becoming aware of the various health care proposals by visiting the USCCB website,  Please let your Congressional representatives know of your concerns and advocate for authentic health care reform which ensures full human dignity and preserves a fundamental right of every human being.

Most Rev. Robert J. Cunningham
Bishop of Syracuse

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