Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City-St Joseph MO and bishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City KS have released a joint pastoral letter clarifying the Church's stand on health care. It is fair to legitimate concerns on both sides of the debate, but firmly warns that the bill as it exists, cannot be supported by Catholics due to violations of human life and dignity.
It begins by praising President Obama for making health care a priority and lists the shortcomings of the current system; 47 million uninsured, high cost of benefits, pre-existing conditions, Medicare will be insolvent by 2012, and the fact that employer who can't afford to provide benefits hire only part time employees. The strengths mentioned by the bishops are: a majority of Americans are happy with their health care plan, 85% are covered by insurance, 40% of the uninsured are between the ages of 19 and 34, US doctors and scientists are esteemed and are the envy of the world, our advanced technology, and the fact that Medicare and Medicaid while in trouble are a safety net for the elderly and poor. The bishops then point out, "change does not guarantee improvement" while warning of diminished protection of human life and dignity, and a costly insensitive bureaucracy violates the principle of subsidiarity. This principle says that the lowest reasonable level of government should meet human needs to make sure the individual is best served. The injustice of Catholic hospitals, which make up one fourth of the hospitals in the US, being excluded from the health care plan if they refuse to provide abortions, and the fact that taxpayers will be forced to fund abortions were cited as major objections to the plan. The injustice of compulsory end of life counseling for the elderly and disabled, "place undue pressure on individual or guardian to opt for measures which end life". The plan also interferes with individual rights to make health care decisions and provide care for the family, stating while health care is a right that it is NOT the government's role to provide health care.
Here is the powerful closing statement, which should be read in parishes across the country; "These last two principles: Solidarity and the Promotion of the Common Good cause us to say that we cannot be passive concerning health care policy in our country. There is important work to be done, but “change” for change’s sake; change which expands the reach of government beyond its competence would do more harm than good. Change which loses sight of man’s transcendent dignity or the irreplaceable value of human life; change which could diminish the role of those in need as agents of their own care is not truly human progress at all. A hasty or unprincipled change could cause us, in fact, to lose some of the significant benefits that Americans now enjoy, while creating a future tax burden which is both unjust and unsustainable. We urge the President, Congress, and other elected and appointed leaders to develop prescriptions for reforming health care which are built on objective truths: that all people in every stage of human life count for something; that if we violate our core beliefs we are not aiding people in need, but instead devaluing their human integrity and that of us all. We call upon our Catholic faithful, and all people of good will, to hold our elected officials accountable in these important deliberations and let them know clearly our support for those who, with prudence and wisdom, will protect the right to life, maintain freedom of conscience, and nurture the sense of solidarity that drives us to work hard, to pray, and to act charitably for the good of all. We place this effort under the maternal protection of our Blessed Mother, Mary, who was entrusted, with Joseph in the home at Nazareth, with the care of the child Jesus. We ask Our Lord Jesus Christ to extend His light and His Mercy to our nation’s efforts, so that every person will come to know His healing consolation as Divine Physician."
Most Reverend Joseph F. Naumann - Archbishop of Kansas City in Kansas Most Reverend Robert W. Finn - Bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph