Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Catholic.org & Healthcare

In the last few months I found in my bing (& google) searches a nice little website called www.catholic.org. It’s a terrific website which combines a fairly large “catholic encyclopedia” which serves as a terrific reference for us all when we have questions about certain procedural aspects of our faith, as well as provides a host of great opinion pieces ranging from a review of Michael Bay’s latest disaster Transformers 2 to this little gem regarding a Catholic approach to considering the issue of Health Care reform.

What is rather unique is that this opinion piece, rather than offering us a conclusion and then trying to convince us why it’s right, rather serves as a frame work for beginning the process of forming a good well guided opinion on this very important topic. Anyone who knows me and particularly those who follow my blog (at all, if anyone still does lol I haven’t written about me much lately directly) knows where I stand on this issue. But for the sake of attempting to preserve the author’s original intent I’ll go ahead and post it below (linked as always) with out interjecting any of my personal thoughts about the subject save one, I pretty much agree with everything Deacon Keith Fournier has to say.


Our identity as Catholics grounds us in a vision for a new and true humanism rooted in the recognition of the dignity of every human person.

CHESAPEAKE, Va. (Catholic Online) - Catholic Christians never fit in with the “the religious right.” I maintain it is because some of the otherwise conservative or “neo-conservative” political positions which came along with the package did not comport with Catholic Social thought. Too often there was a failure to focus on the foundation of the entire Catholic Social vision, the dignity of every human life, and then operate in accordance with a hierarchy of values. However, what is becoming clear is that what is called “liberal” or “progressive” in contemporary political parlance is repugnant. It embraces the culture of death in its acceptance of intrinsic evils such as abortion and euthanasia while claiming to be compassionate!

Our identity as Catholics grounds us in a vision for a new and true humanism rooted in the recognition of the dignity of every human person. It also marries us to defending real marriage, as between a man and a woman, open to love and life, and the family built upon that lifelong relationship. These are non-negotiables to Catholics, at least if they understand the teaching of the Church. Our positions on life and marriage are not simply based upon our “religious” convictions or because we embrace what the Magisterium (teaching office) of our Church teaches, but because they are objectively true, revealed in the Natural Law, and promote the common good.

Catholics proclaim a vision of human freedom at odds with much of what is posing as freedom today. It affirms our obligation to choose responsibly, with reference to what is right and what is true. As to that important word “true”, Catholics reject moral relativism. We insist upon the existence of an objective morality which should guide all human behavior. We also stand in a social justice tradition which is not “left” or “right”, one which is pro-life, pro-family, pro-freedom, pro-poor and pro-peace. That is why we will never be captured by any political party. Catholic Social Doctrine is prophetic. In this age of political confusion and cultural collapse, Catholics must put the Catholic back in Catholic Action.

The dignity of every human person must be the lens through which we consider every public policy issue. Without the right to life there are no other rights. Human rights are goods of the person given to us by the Creator. When there is no person there can be no rights to be received or exercised. Our insistence upon this is not based solely upon our belief in Revelation, though it is certainly found in both Sacred Scripture and the Christian Tradition. Rather, this truth is written on every human heart and knowable by reason. This Natural Law claim is essential if we hope to overcome the false assignment of our position to our “religious conviction.”

This tactic has allowed the opponents of the fundamental right to life to minimize our influence by relegating our claim to the sphere of “private religious belief”. This effort to censor truth escalates as the contemporary secularist agenda advances. The truth concerning the dignity of every human person is not true because it is Catholic; it is Catholic because it is true. It must never be compromised. It is never a “private” conviction. Children are intentionally killed in every procured abortion.

Marriage as a lifelong union between one man and one woman, open to life, constituted for the good of the spouses and the good of children, is not our idea. It is also revealed by the Natural Law and has been recognized as such throughout our history. Marriage and family must be the lens through which we review governance because the proper application of the principle of subsidiarity demands nothing less. That is why so many Catholics (this writer among them) prefer small government solutions to public needs. However, we must be careful.

Some “conservatives” present the notion that any governance is some kind of concession, detracting from freedom. The fact is that God governs. So do all of us in our families. The question we must ask is where the governing occurs and whether it is truly “good”. We must articulate our convictions concerning the goods of marriage and its proper ends in a language which communicates to an age deluded by ideologies of self- centeredness. We are by nature and grace made for the other. Only in the giving away of ourselves to the other will we ever find the human fulfillment and flourishing which we all long for. The stability of marriage based families is integral to a just social order and furthers the real common good.

In the words of the late Servant of God John Paul, Freedom must be set free. We suffer from the aftermath of a counterfeit notion of freedom as a perceived “right” to do whatever one pleases. That is not freedom, it is license. True freedom brings with it an obligation to choose in accordance with what is right and what is true. ...

Only in choosing the good will men or women - or the societies which they form - ever flourish.

This assertion concerning freedom is fatal to the hedonism and materialism running rampant in the West. Our efforts to set freedom free will require a wrestling match in the field of ideas for the definition of freedom. It will further require our capturing the hearts and minds of the culture by reasserting that not only is there such a thing as morality but that it liberates us to flourish as human persons and become a truly good society.

Finally, solidarity is not an option; we are our brother’s (and sister’s) keeper. We must work for a public policy, economic policy and governing philosophy which rejects both atomist individualism and statist approaches in efforts to care for the poor. The Catholic vision of the human person, the family and society is true, we were created to love and to live our lives with and for one another. The Catholic teaching that we have an obligation to the poor lies at the core of true social and economic justice. While we can, and we will, disagree on how to best implement this obligation of social solidarity, we must begin by acknowledging that it IS an obligation.

The debate over health care reform in the U.S.A. is an opportunity for us to sort through how much of our public policy vision is rooted in our understanding what it means to be a Catholic first. There is plenty of room for disagreement on how to structure such a reform among good Catholics. This is evident in the running debate between people like Dr. Deal Hudson and others, including some Bishops, who have a different view. They all agree on the absolute unacceptability of public funding of abortion or euthanasia, passive or active. They agree on the obligation to extend care to the poor in our midst. They disagree on the application of the principle of subsidiarity. This is a good debate between good Catholics.

This dialogue, and the healthy debate it has brought about, is a good example of what it means to put the Catholic back in Catholic Action. It is focused on attempting to apply the principles of Catholic Social Thought to a very real social need and not to simply parrot the charged political rhetoric which has surrounded the public conversation surrounding health care reform.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Another great health care reform news item


Editor's note: Wendell Potter has served since May 2009 as senior fellow on health care at the Center for Media and Democracy, a nonprofit organization that says it seeks to expose "corporate spin and government propaganda." After a 20-year career as a corporate public relations executive, Potter left his job last year as head of communications for one of the nation's largest health insurers, CIGNA Corporation.

(CNN) -- Having grown up in one of the most conservative and Republican places in the country -- East Tennessee -- I understand why many of the people who are showing up at town hall meetings this month are reacting, sometimes violently, when members of Congress try to explain the need for an expanded government role in our health care system.

I also have a lot of conservative friends, including one former co-worker who was laid off by CIGNA several years ago but who nonetheless worries about a "government takeover" of health care.

The most vocal folks at the town hall meetings seem to share the same ideology as my kinfolks in East Tennessee and my former CIGNA buddy: the less government involvement in our lives, the better.

That point couldn't have been made clearer than by the man standing in line to get free care at Remote Area Medical's recent health care "expedition" at the Wise County, Virginia, fairgrounds, who told a reporter he was dead set against President Obama's reform proposal.

Even though he didn't have health insurance, and could see the desperation in the faces of thousands of others all around him who were in similar straits, he was more worried about the possibility of having to pay more taxes than he was eager to make sure he and his neighbors wouldn't have to wait in line to get care provided by volunteer doctors in animal stalls.

Friday morning my former CIGNA buddy sent me an e-mail challenging something he said his wife heard me say in a radio report about my press conference in the Capitol on Wednesday with Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-New York, chairwoman of the House Rules Committee.

"She heard you say that these protestors are funded by the insurance companies. Frankly, nothing would surprise me, but certainly not each and every person," he wrote. "If there was a meeting near me, I certainly would tell my local representative how I feel about this entire subject (and it wouldn't be pretty), and I certainly am not funded by anyone. So I am ultimately wondering what proof there is that seemingly ordinary Americans are finally protesting what is going in Washington and there are all of these suggestions of a greater conspiracy."

If the radio report had carried more of my remarks, he might have a better understanding of how the health insurance and its army of PR people are influencing his opinions and actions without his even knowing it.

Until I quit my job last year, I was one of the leaders of that army. I had a very successful career and was my company's voice to the media and the public for several years.

It was my job to "promote and defend" the company's reputation and to try to persuade reporters to write positive stories about the industry's ideas on reform. During the last couple of years of my career, however, I became increasingly worried that the high-deductible plans insurers were beginning to push Americans into would force more and more of us into bankruptcy.

The higher I rose in the company, the more I learned about the tactics insurers use to dump policyholders when they get sick, in order to increase profits and to reward their Wall Street investors. I could not in good conscience continue serving as an industry mouthpiece. And I did not want to be part of yet another industry effort to kill meaningful reform.

I explained during the press conference with Rep. Slaughter how the industry funnels millions of its policyholders' premiums to big public relations firms that provide talking points to conservative talk show hosts, business groups and politicians. I also described how the PR firms set up front groups, again using your premium dollars and mine, to scare people away from reform.

What I'm trying to do as I write and speak out against the insurance industry I was a part of for nearly two decades is to inform Americans that when they hear isolated stories of long waiting times to see doctors in Canada and allegations that care in other systems is rationed by "government bureaucrats," someone associated with the insurance industry wrote the original script.

The industry has been engaging in these kinds of tactics for many years, going back to its successful behind-the-scenes campaign to kill the Clinton reform plan.

A story in Friday's New York Times about the origin of the absurdly false rumor that President Obama's health care proposal would create government-sponsored "death panels" bears out what I have been saying.

The story notes that the rumor emanated "from many of the same pundits and conservative media outlets that were central in defeating Bill Clinton's health care proposal 16 years ago, including the editorial board of The Washington Times, the American Spectator magazine and Betsy McCaughey, whose 1994 health care critique made her a star of the conservative movement (and ultimately, the lieutenant governor of New York)."

The big PR firms that work for the industry have close connections with those media outlets and stars in the conservative movement. One of their PR firms, which created and staffed a front group in the late '90s to kill the proposed "Patients' Bill of Rights," launched a PR and advertising campaign in conservative media outlets to drum up opposition to the bill.

The message: President Clinton "owed a debt to the liberal base of the Democrat Party and would try to pay back that debt by advancing the type of big government agenda on health care that he failed to get in 1994."

The industry goes to great lengths to keep its involvement in these campaigns hidden from public view. I know from having served on numerous trade group committees and industry-funded front groups, however, that industry leaders are always full partners in developing strategies to derail any reform that might interfere with insurers' ability to increase profits.

So the next time you hear someone warning against a "government takeover" of our health care system, or that the creation of a public health insurance option would send us down the "slippery slope toward socialism," know that someone like I used to be wrote those terms, knowing it might turn many of the very people who would benefit most from meaningful reform into unwitting spokespeople for the industry.

Friday, August 14, 2009

So we’ll have death panels just like England?

Whoops, England doesn’t even have Legal Euthanasia ;) But anyway, one thing I find interesting about those criticizing “national health care” systems like England’s is that they’ve probably never asked a British person what they think of the NHS. Now of course no one is even proposing single payer right now, what’s being proposed is more akin to the Post Office. But anyway, CNN has a story about a sizable national response from the UK regarding comments made by Sarah Palin and other Conservatives:


LONDON, England (CNN) -- Britons including Prime Minister Gordon Brown have leapt to the defense of their creaking healthcare service after President Barack Obama's plans for a similar system in the United States were branded "evil" by Republicans.

Tens of thousands of people have joined a Twitter group expressing pride in the UK's National Health Service (NHS), which offers free taxpayer-funded medical care to all British residents, while leading politicians have spoken out in support.

Republican former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin earlier this week condemned Obama's plans to introduce a public heath insurance scheme as an "evil" move that would result in "death panels" deciding who would live or die.

Her criticism has been echoed by fellow Republicans in direct attacks on Britain's NHS. In an article, Former House of Representatives Speaker Newt Gingrich said British healthcare was run by "Orwellian" bureaucrats who put a price tag on life.

Sound off: What do you think of the British healthcare model?

The comments caused a storm of protest in the United Kingdom, with Prime Minister Brown wading into the argument via micro-blogging site Twitter, where a conversation chain, "#welovetheNHS", is generating huge online traffic.

A posting on the 10 Downing Street Twitter site on Wednesday read: "PM: NHS often makes the difference between pain and comfort, despair and hope, life and death. Thanks for always being there."

The message was followed by another, from Brown's wife Sarah, adding: "#welovetheNHS -- more than words can say."

Professor Stephen Hawking, author of "A Brief History of Time", also spoke out in favor of the British system, telling the Guardian newspaper that he owes his life to NHS treatment for the neuro-muscular dystrophy he has suffered from for 40 years.

"I wouldn't be here today if it were not for the NHS," he said. "I have received a large amount of high-quality treatment without which I would not have survived."

Despite the support, the 51-year-old NHS is regularly the target of criticism at home, with opposition politicians accusing Brown's government of mismanagement resulting in long waiting lists and a "lottery" in deciding who gets life-saving drugs and surgery.

Nevertheless, opposition Conservative Party leader David Cameron also added his voice to the defense campaign with a posting on his party's Web site.

" Millions of people are grateful for the care they have received from the NHS -- including my own family.

"One of the wonderful things about living in this country is that the moment you're injured for fall ill -- no matter who you are, where you are from, or how much money you've got -- you know that the NHS will look after you."

His statement followed comments from one of his own party members backing the Republican criticism of the NHS. Dan Hannan, a Conservative member of the European Parliament reportedly said in an interview that "he wouldn't wish it on anyone."

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Religious right finally weighs in on Healthcare

Officially making me thank god for Christianity :) Ok, so you can’t exactly count me as the religions right…. I guess you might say I’m more the “religious left” more often than not if that makes any sense to you. Anyway, finally we have an all important, absolutly critical issue in which real change can actually be affected in which my own personal “religious left” voter block (comprised of my one vote lol) and the religions right can get together on, HEALTHCARE!!! Thank god almighty Protistant Churches all over the nation are coming together to promote the necessity of healthcare, and reframe the debate in it’s proper context, as a moral issue plain and simple.


(CNN) -- Religious groups in favor of health care reform have launched a national campaign to offset the loud opposition to President Obama's plan to overhaul the nation's health care system, organizers announced.

"This is as much a crisis of faith as it is a crisis of health care," said the Rev. John Hay Jr., senior pastor of West Morris Street Free Methodist Church in Indianapolis, Indiana.

"We just believe there is a better way."

He and others spoke in a telephone news conference Monday announcing the campaign.

"As a pastor, I believe access to health care is a profoundly moral issue," said the Rev. Stevie Wakes of Olivet Institutional Baptist Church in Kansas City, Kansas.

The campaign, called "40 days for Health Reform," includes a national television advertisement, a "sermon weekend," prayer meetings and a nationwide call-in with Obama on August 19, organizers said.

Prayer meetings emphasizing health care as a moral issue were taking place Tuesday in 45 cities across 18 states, organizers said. They expected about 4,000 people to participate.

"Healing and health are fundamental religious issues," said the Rev. Jim Wallis of Sojourners, one of the sponsors of the campaign along with PICO National Network, Faith in Public Life, Faithful America and Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good.

Wallis stressed that participants in the campaign are not going to weigh in on particular policy questions. "It isn't political in a partisan way," he said. "This is a fundamental moral issue. ... You're going to hear the moral drumbeat of the faith community."

Rabbi David Saperstein of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, who also spoke on the conference call, said the current system "doesn't work for everyone."

Other groups, such as the Christian Coalition of America and the Family Research Council, are strongly opposed to Democratic proposals to overhaul the health care system, saying, among other things, that they would lead to government-funded abortion.

"We don't want abortion to enter this debate and sabotage health care reform," Wallis said. He noted the legislation now being discussed on Capitol Hill is far from a final version.

Opponents of health care reform proposals have confronted U.S. lawmakers at town hall meetings in recent days, drawing heavy media attention with their boisterous protests.