Monday, February 6, 2012

The Catholic Case For Single Payer National Health Insurance

I stopped practicing Catholicism when I started getting good at it.  I feel one should be careful not to take things too far.  I just wish the permanently unmarried men who run the Catholic Church felt the same way. 

For example, they should consider the difference between conviction and compulsion in terms of their religion's foundational teachings, and desist from their relentless doctrinal chaining and flogging of the flock.  I take as my texts today references from both the Old and New Testaments regarding free will, human dignity, and the inspiration to behave morally.  It is a modern parable, if you will, on the virtue of convincing the conscience versus the vice of compelling the flesh. 

In the beginning, so we are told, there was but one prohibition.  It was to refrain from eating of the tree of life.  Of course, we are then given to see that human nature comes equipped with a taste for experimentation and an inclination to step outside the bounds of strict instructions, no matter the source.  And we are encouraged to recognize that carelessly indulging these features of our condition carries the potential for quite unpleasant consequences.  Please notice, however, that the signal instructive Old Testament lesson here is entirely dependent on the fact that such a tree had been planted in the garden in the first place, and hence was available for sampling. Similarly, Jesus, according to the New Testament,  once offered a thought aimed at discouraging the practice of stoning.  Again, notice that He did not take away the stones, rather only counseled against seeing ourselves fit to punish others with them.   Surely, we would be forgiven for concluding the overriding message in both of these citations is that moral behavior can only be the product of free will.  Nothing else is morally worth a damn, or worth damning.

But the hierarchy of the Catholic Church apparently has another opinion on the matter.  They seem to have little faith in the efficacy or sufficiency of their mission to preach and persuade in the name of the Lord.  No, they insist on constraining their followers to behave morally, at least in the context of Catholic teaching, by denying them the wherewithal to do otherwise.  That is why they are currently campaigning for an exemption from the provision in federal law which requires employer supported health care insurance  to cover the cost of prescription contraception.  They assert this is an issue of religious liberty.  But is it?

Since religion is generally comfortable dealing in absolutes, let's say a few things about the law in absolute terms.  There is absolutely nothing in the law which restricts the Catholic Church or any other religion from holding and espousing any moral position or point of view, and proselytizing the whole world, including their own employees.   There is absolutely nothing in the law that requires hospitals operated by the Catholic Church to provide any particular health care service.  There is absolutely nothing in the law which requires any doctor to write prescriptions for contraceptives or to perform any particular procedure.  There is absolutely nothing in this provision of the law regarding religious faith or practice whatsoever.  So, where is the problem?

Well, it rests in the unfortunate fact that most working age people in this country receive health care insurance as a function of their employment compensation.  And the law has an interest in safeguarding the rights of employees who receive these benefits as a condition of employment.  In this matter, access to a particular medically approved and physician prescribed drug is guaranteed to all such employees, regardless of the identity of the employer.

The Catholic Church, however, not being content to simply enlighten its employees with admonitions regarding morally appropriate behavior, insists on the right to deny them the means to behave otherwise, on the grounds of religious liberty.  This quite ironically departs dramatically from respect for the essential role of free will in moral action, as discussed earlier.  And it seeks to replace the right to proclaim religious beliefs with the license to compel agreement.

All and all, it is at least another compelling argument for a single-payer national health care system.  Such would relieve employers from the burden of being expected to supply health insurance as part of employee compensation, it would finally guarantee universal coverage, and it would end the present confusion between the right to believe and preach religion freely versus the right to coerce behavior.  Moreover, the Catholic Church could continue to operate hospitals just as it does today, providing the services and level of care they see fit to provide, while being reimbursed just like all other hospital facilities.   In the end, we will have solved a serious problem that has for far too long bedeviled us.  But if the Catholic Church would wish to tackle any other exorcisms, I'd say they're on their own.


  1. Here's an interesting addendum. According to this recent poll 55 percent of Americans surveyed believe employer provided health plans should cover contraception. But Catholic respondents believe this at an even higher clip (58 percent) which suggests that Catholic parishioners are at greater variance with their spiritual leadership than Americans of other faiths.

    Not that the Catholic Church thinks much of democracy but it's worth noting.


  2. The statistics reveal 98% of Catholic women use contraceptives.That surely has to be a very telling figure. The Catholic Churh is run by unmarried men mostly. how could they possibly have an idea of the needs of their married parishiners?In my opinoin If 98%of their FEMALE parishiners are sinning,theN the church has alot to worry about!!1

  3. Will or should the Church be worried? I really doubt it because as Ignatius Loyola once said, "give me a boy until the age of six, and I'll give you a Catholic for life." Catholicism, as those of us raised in it can attest, exercises a very powerful hold on the human psyche. So, even with all the good and sound reasons to be both disdainful of and furious with their haughty and naughty ways, i.e. everything from callous disregard for the real life circumstances of the average person in society today to the disgusting willingness to tolerate and even protect pedofiles in their midst, most of us born and raised Catholics will always remain spiritually attuned to the Catholic cultural world view to some significant degree.

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