The Deacon's Bench

The Deacon's Bench

Pope calls for health care for all

This may raise a few eyebrows. Details:

Pope Benedict XVI and other church leaders said it was the moral responsibility of nations to guarantee access to health care for all of their citizens, regardless of social and economic status or their ability to pay.

Access to adequate medical attention, the pope said in a written message Nov. 18, was one of the “inalienable rights” of man.

The pope’s message was read by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican secretary of state, to participants at the 25th International Conference of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry at the Vatican Nov. 18-19.

The theme of this year’s meeting was “Caritas in Veritate – toward an equitable and human health care.”


The pope lamented the great inequalities in health care around the globe. While people in many parts of the world aren’t able to receive essential medications or even the most basic care, in industrialized countries there is a risk of “pharmacological, medical and surgical consumerism” that leads to “a cult of the body,” the pope said.

“The care of man, his transcendent dignity and his inalienable rights” are issues that should concern Christians, the pope said.

Because an individual’s health is a “precious asset” to society as well as to himself, governments and other agencies should seek to protect it by “dedicating the equipment, resources and energy so that the greatest number of people can have access.”


“Justice in health care should be a priority of governments and international institutions,” he said, cautioning that protecting human health does not include euthanasia or promoting artificial reproductive techniques that include the destruction of embryos.

Read the rest.

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posted November 18, 2010 at 11:57 am

Amen to the Holy Father! It will be entertaining to see how certain elements on the right in the American Church will try to spin this one….

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posted November 18, 2010 at 12:33 pm

Put me down as an element on the right who’s glad to see state-provided health care for the poor but is nevertheless troubled by today’s statement. It poses a great many questions left unanswered. Standards of care vary widely among rich and poor countries; presumably a local standard of adequacy should apply? Indeed, standards of what constitutes being rich or poor also vary from one place to another. In very backward places, presumably the rich have a duty to raise health care standards, not simply maintain them. How is this to be achieved, and to what degree?
Second, if health care is an inalienable right, adequate nutrition must be so a fortiori. Again — I am very serious about seeing the hungry of the world fed, but life-threatening hunger is almost always a politically-caused emergency that will be with us so long as war and tyranny persist.
What puzzles me most of all is the notion of individual health as an asset in which society at large has a proprietary interest. I hope I understand what the Holy Father is trying to say, but nevertheless it’s unfortunately expressed.
IMO, the only approach to such prudential questions is to look upon the recipients as Jesus among us, serving them for that reason, as Mother Teresa would have done. Applying that principle, the standard of care gives way to its motive, which teaches us what we need to know about practical application.

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posted November 18, 2010 at 12:39 pm

Well, why don’t you ask them:

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posted November 18, 2010 at 2:24 pm

How short sighted the ‘Healthcare is a Right’ people are!
A caregiver has a right to choose whether or not to provide care and whether or not to accept payment for the care. Otherwise, they are nothing but a slave. Forcibly taking somebody’s time or property under threat of punishment cannot be a right.
If you agree with that, then how should caregivers be paid by people who cannot afford to pay? Should they steal money from other people? That is what Universal Healthcare does…it is nothing but theft under duress. Whether they call it taxes makes no difference. If they forcibly take something from you it is theft.
The Pope should encourage people to act of their own free will to help others, not coerce them. This is what Jesus did.

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Red Green

posted November 18, 2010 at 2:26 pm

Great idea from the Pope. Maybe he, the cardinals, bishops and the Church in general could take a real vow of poverty and cough up some additional cash to provide medical care for the poor. That goes for all the other religious organizations as well.

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posted November 18, 2010 at 2:46 pm

I agree with Pope Benedict XVI as long as we are not paying for the murder of unborn children, or rationing healthcare treatment based on age of the patient.
Just the Facts.
Abortion is Murder.

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posted November 18, 2010 at 3:12 pm

Yes, I agree with the Pope—everyone deserves basic health care. As long as he doesn’t try to put the Churches restrictions on it, things could run smoothly.

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posted November 18, 2010 at 5:00 pm

Re Paul’s Comment: “The Pope should encourage people to act of their own free will to help others, not coerce them. This is what Jesus did.”
Dear Paul:
I’m a big fan of free will but the words of Jesus sound pretty intimidating to me.
Matthew 25:31-36 – The Last Judgment
Luke 6:17-26 – Sermon on the Plain
and especially,
Luke 16:19-31 – The Rich Man and Lazarus

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Donna G

posted November 18, 2010 at 6:32 pm

It raises no eyebrows at all if you don’t come from the US, if I may so generalise based on myself and my own experience.

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Deacon John M. Bresnahan

posted November 18, 2010 at 7:49 pm

The debate on health care in the United States is not just about health care itself, but about health insurance–in many ways a whole different debate, but you would never know it from media accounts.
There is a federal law that emergency rooms must provide health care to those who need health care. Noone can be turned away, as I understand it.
The last time I was in our local big city hospital, I think our family was the only one in the emergency room which was covered by insurance, but all there were getting the same care and all were getting beds for further treatment if called for.
Also, there are a lot of subtexts to the healthcare debate that are very important to that debate that those for jamming the bill through Congress without even reading it didn’t want to closely analyze(it seems only those against the bill took the time to actually read it while people like Speaker Pelosi bragged about not knowing specifically what was in it) –like the issue of government power over life and death for the unborn and the elderly.
I notice that the president has given a key health care position-on a recess appointment (thus no Senate confirmation–and cross-examination– needed) to someone who has the reputation of being very anti-life.
Unfortunately, the liberal media frequently, unfairly, and simplistically played the story as one about those against the Obama bill being callous and against providing medical care for those who need it and those for the bill being the compassionate ones concerned with seeing that all get decent medical care.

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posted November 18, 2010 at 8:28 pm

“The last time I was in our local big city hospital, I think our family was the only one in the emergency room which was covered by insurance, but all there were getting the same care and all were getting beds for further treatment if called for.”
But, there is more to health care than happens in an emergency room!

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posted November 19, 2010 at 8:06 am

Yes, there is far more to health care than happens in an emergency room, and the ER solution is far more expensive than an intelligent single-payer policy would be. But “conservatives” (who are no such thing) would rather bankrupt people than allow the hated government to create intelligent solutions.

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posted November 19, 2010 at 10:06 am

The crux, of course, is what would be an intelligent solutions.
I recall when in nursing school a doctor telling me the story of a woman who had a heart condition that required she take daily medication. The medication cost $90/month. She couldn’t afford it, so she didn’t take it. She had a heart attack, someone called 911 and the ER spent upwards of $20,000 over the course of thirty minutes trying unsuccessfully to resuscitate her. Humanly speaking, it’s a tragedy. Financially speaking, it’s stupid.
There are plenty of people out there with smark ideas on how to solve this problem. They probably won’t be listened to because the smart solutions are not politically tenable. Which only means that they won’t garner the necessary votes for the politicians entrusted with enacting them into law.
There is “universal health care” in every ER. There are many community clinics where the services of a NP or PA is much less expensive than that of a private physician, many of which are in rural and poorer communities, or even at the local Walgreens. This isn’t a bad idea for those who are generally healthy and don’t often need professional care. Paying several hundred dollars a year in insurance premiums is dumb if you only require the services of a professional health care provider once every year or two. Each individual would need to ascertain their own risk vs benefits equation.
I suspect much of the answer will come from the private sector, when business owners and just plain joes and janes put their heads together and figure out what works for them, much like homeschooling became the answer for many families tired of the dismal public schools. Hopefully, the government will learn from them, or at least stay out of their way.

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Dale Netherton

posted November 19, 2010 at 11:23 am

There is nothing moral about wealth redistribution. Wealth redistribution negates property rights, penalizes productivity and rewards sloth. socialistic countries have all failed to provide “universal” health care ( at whose expense ) most notably the grand socialist experiment conducted in the former Soviet Union. Even the Catholic church cannot provide such a monstrosity if it melted its statues and sold off its cathedrals. The pope’s dictates are obsolete and absolutely wrong .

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Grumpy Old Perrson

posted November 19, 2010 at 12:48 pm

“Health care for all”
Per the Tea Baggers, that’s a socialist/marxist/communist/nazi evil plot against Amurrika.
Jesus would weep.

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posted November 19, 2010 at 1:27 pm

You can’t just look at this from an exclusively American perspective. The pope is not necessarily endorsing “Pres. Obama’s health care program”…he is talking about general healthcare. He’s got the WHOLE WORLD to worry about!
That is one of the blessings of the Catholic church…it forces you into a broader perspective…asking you to consider yourself as a member of a world-wide community.

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posted February 2, 2011 at 8:39 pm

The Catholic church over the past 2000 years has done a lot in the way of caring for the poor and the sick. Through their Catholic charities and organizations they operate thousands of hospitals around the world. In the United States alone, there are over 600 Catholic health care institutions (making up 12% of the total in the US) where about one in 6 Americans are treated each year. According to the American Hospital Association, there were more than 15.4 million emergency room visits and more than 86 million outpatient visits to Catholic hospitals in 2003. Given that, their charitable work was not meant to substitute the efforts of private institutions, but rather to supplement them. Because of their work and dedication, I wouldn’t knock the Catholic Church for asking world governments to help with the cause.

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