Sunday, November 29, 2009

Health Care: A Recent Article Published

Published September 19 in the Delaware County Times:

In the debate that is occurring in our country today regarding health care and health insurance reform, the usual loud and frequent voice of Christian leadership seems to be missing. But this issue, more than some in recent years, is demanding of the attention of all those responsible for leadership in the Christian communities.

Jesus himself spent much of his ministry healing the sick and comforting those in pain. In the Gospel according to Matthew, Chapter 25, Jesus says that those who comfort the sick are among the just who will enter eternal life. And, Jesus makes it very clear that we, in fact, are our brother’s keeper.

In the Jewish rabbinical tradition there is a teaching that the measurement of a society’s moral and political strength in light of the covenant relationship with God can be seen in how well they care for, treat, and include those who are on the margins of the society. In fact, it is believed that when Israel was most faithful to this teaching she was strong against all foes, but when greed and ambition took away from the community care of those on the margins, all of the society suffered weakness and she fell to her enemies.

As the details of legislation are worked out over the next weeks, there should be some principals that guide the passions, energies, and ministry of Christians in this regard:

Respect and civility. Questions can not be answered if no one is listening, or enabled to listen. The tactics of shouting and belittling others at meetings should never be encouraged, and is not Christian.

Hope trumps fear. A message based on fear is not one that is Christian. Nowhere in the proposed legislation are there any provisions for government monies for abortion, death panels for the elderly or sick, or plans for rationed care based on age or ability. Those who preach only fear are preaching a false gospel, often for their own political gain.

Christians have an obligation to inform their conscience. Read the legislation. Go to the White House Web site, contact the AARP, the AMA and other informed groups to find the truth. Listen to more than just one source.

Stay focused on the important moral issues:

+ Coverage for all Americans;

+ Care given based on need, not cost of treatment or amount of coverage;

+ No prejudices against pre-existing conditions or caps on coverage;

+ Transferability of coverage;

+ Decisions made by patients and health care professionals not insurance companies; and finally,

+ Measures that ensure real regulation or competition to keep costs reasonable, and corporate and executive greed in check.

Recently on the news, someone stated that health care is not a right, but a privilege. Once again, nothing can be further from the Christian moral perspective of life’s dignity. Health care is a common good derived from the benefits of God’s gifts: Nature, intelligence, and reason and thus is a right for all.

Christians need to remember that we are a religion based on “socialist” ideas. In Acts we read that the early Christian community was of one mind and heart and they each turned in their possessions for common distribution by the apostles to all according to need. Socialism is not a dirty word. Medicare/cade, Social Security, and unemployment insurance are among socialist programs in our democratic, American republic with a capital driven economy.

How well does our society care for those on the margins? How are we comforting the sick? Is our society morally and politically strong or are we on the brink of our great decline, like that of Rome, which fell to greed 15 centuries ago?

The answer to those questions might very well be linked to what we do in this very small window of opportunity regarding real health care and insurance reform. Christians need to respond and be included in how we answer those questions with informed consciences.

The (Very Rev.) Father Joseph Augustine Menna, AIHM, is pastor of St. Mary of Grace Independent Catholic Church in Media.