Despite what the USCCB apparently maintains, there is no right to national health care in authentic Catholic doctrine

It is important to emphasize that this is not a mere pragmatic consideration. For a central government, or any level of government, to intervene when it is unnecessary for it to do so is not merely not required. It is not merely unwise. It is, in the words of Pius XI, nothing less than an “injustice,”“gravely wrong,” a “grave evil and disturbance of right order.” It is disturbing, then, that the USCCB does not balance its emphasis on the Church’s teaching about the “right to medical care” with equal emphasis on the principle of subsidiarity – a principle which has a longer history in Catholic social teaching than the (very recent) affirmation of a “right to medical care,” and which has a much more sophisticated and worked out theoretical basis in Catholic moral theology and natural law theory than the latter right has ever been given. (Astonishingly, the USCCB’s online summary of the basic principles of Catholic social teaching includes no reference to subsidiarity at all; and its more extended online overview of Catholic social teaching mentions subsidiarity only once, in passing, without explaining what it means.)

In particular, it is disturbing that no consideration of subsidiarity or the rights of the family seems to have informed the USCCB position on the health care bill, which, as I have noted already, seems to allow that the bill is acceptable or even required by Catholic teaching apart from the elements concerning abortion and coverage of illegal immigrants. How does respect for a “right to medical care” justify the federal government forcing every citizen to buy insurance, of a kind the government (rather than parents or individuals generally) decides the citizen needs? How does it justify increasing government power to determine for citizens what sorts of treatments are worth paying for? How does it justify moving towards a de facto monopoly as health insurance companies are transformed into heavily regulated government contractors? How does it justify the bill’s “marriage penalties”? Even apart from considerations of subsidiarity and the independence of the family, it is hard to see how such policies could be justified; in light of those considerations the policies seem positively immoral. Add to that the bill’s staggering increase to the already crushing debt we are facing, the dubious constitutionality of some of its components, the rushed and irresponsible way a transformation of one-sixth of the economy was cobbled together for political reasons without sufficient attention to unforeseen consequences, and the bill’s Rube Goldberg system of bribes and special breaks – as well as the USCCB letter’s admission that the bishops are “not politicians, policy experts or legislative tacticians” and thus without any special competence vis-à-vis the practical side of health care policy – and it becomes mystifying why the USCCB should think that, apart from the matter of abortion, the bill is something to “applaud” (as Cardinal George put it). The bill is not even an improvement on the existing system; it’s not even equally bad. As Steve Burton points out, it takes what is already wrong with the existing system and doubles down on it.

Read the article by Edward Feser

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