COMMENTARY: Election Quandary for Catholics, Part Two: Health Care
reporting on the views of what some supporters of Obama believe makes a moral case for his candidacy.Several readers misread what I wrote, attributed these viewpoints to me, and sent in abusive and vitriolic replies. Sadly, some folks are just a bit too “quick to the trigger”!
1.)Health Care. Roughly 50 million Americans right now cannot afford health insurance. This is an outrageous social injustice. Obama pledges to provide health insurance for the poor and underprivileged. McCain's plans don't even come close. McCain, therefore, by omission, supports the continuation of this intrinsically evil, life-threatening neglect of the plight of the poor in our society. As the U.S. Bishops stated in their 2007 document on "Faithful Citizenship": "A basic moral test for our society is how we treat the most vulnerable in our midst ... we will be judged by our response to 'the least among us' (see Mt 25: 31-46)."
2.)War and Peace in the Middle East. We now know that the war in Iraq was really started as a reckless War for Oil by Bush-Cheney, the moral equivalent of an intrinsically evil "war of conquest." It led to the needless loss of hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi lives and the needless deaths of more than 4,000 U.S. soldiers. Obama was (rightly) opposed to this war from the start, and he promises to get us out in 16 months. McCain (wrongly) supported this unjust war from the start, and he predicts we will need another five years to finish it. So McCain will extend indefinitely this unjust war. Also, given their positions on the Iraq War, McCain is more likely than Obama to drag us into another reckless, unjust war in the future (perhaps with Iran). On the life-and-death issue of war and peace, therefore, McCain fails another basic moral test.
3)Abortion, Health Care, and War and Peace. These are surely the most crucial life-and-death issues facing America today (and not the price of gasoline, although we are all feeling the pinch from that fiasco, right at the moment!). Obama clearly fails the moral test on abortion. Does McCain clearly fail one of the other two? That would clearly make a vote for Obama at least possible. Does McCain clearly fail both of the other two? That might make a vote for Obama even preferable.
So that is where I left off last time, promising to take a closer look at the Health Care issue in this installment,and War and Peace next time.
(1)Health Care: the Obama people might have a strong moral advantage here if Sen. McCain was merely defending the status quo, and pledging to keep the U.S. health care system as it is, with about 50 million people unable to obtain health insurance, and relying mostly on the hospital emergency rooms for what intermittent care they can find. Despite the fact that we are one of the most prosperous countries in the world, millions of Americans cannot afford the prescription drugs or the surgeries they need. It is a morally unacceptable situation, and a direct violation of Matthew 25: 31-46, and Catechism 2448: “[Human misery elicited the compassion of Christ the Savior…. Hence, those who are oppressed by poverty are the object of a preferential love on the part of the Church.”
However, Sen. McCain does not seek to maintain the status quo on this matter. Like Sen. Obama,he proposes major changes to the health care system designed to make it more accessible to the poor, and to keep people from losing their health insurance when they lose their jobs. Thus, Sen. McCain cannot be charged here with maintaining an “intrinsic social evil” on par Sen. Obama’s support of the legal permission to kill unborn children. There is just not a moral equivalence here that I can see.
Now, one may legitimately debate about whose health care plans will actually work the best, especially for the poor, and I will add some thoughts on that below. But these are thoughts of a practical and factual nature, requiring a prudential judgement to be made — they are not details on which Catholic Social Teaching can give much firm guidance.
Our present health care system, and McCain’s response to it, was well described in an article by Clive Crook of the National Journal on May 3:
“ At present, most Americans are covered through employer-based plans. This arrangement is under-written, so to speak, by the tax break that employers get for their health insurance costs. Workers have limited choices among insurance providers, and little reason or opportunity to press suppliers for lower prices….Employer insurance not only neuters the forces that would otherwise press down on costs, it also locks workers into jobs they otherwise might not want and multiplies the sense of insecurity that so many Americans complain of lately. If you lose your job, your health insurance is at risk as well. Thrown on your own resources under the current system, you might not be able ...
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