The political and moral ramifications of providing health care for the people have become inseparable.

NRO’s Kathryn Jean Lopez sees the entanglement as a confrontation between President Obama and the Catholic Church.

“You’ve heard this is all going to mean government funding of abortion,” the president said. “Not true.”

He added that the “fabrications” were “put out there in order to
discourage people from meeting what I consider to be a core ethical and
moral obligation.”

And with that, the president inadvertently began to pull away the
vestments from the eyes of Catholics who had thought he was a perfectly
acceptable representative of their views.

The Catholic bishops have been persistently warning that the bills
as proposed have unacceptable language that threatens human
life. Denver’s Charles Chaput has been one of the most prominently engaged in the public debate.

Last week a British Catholic journal, in an editorial
titled “U.S. bishops must back Obama,” claimed that America’s bishops
“have so far concentrated on a specifically Catholic issue—making sure
state-funded health care does not include abortion—rather than the more
general principle of the common good.”

It went on to say that if U.S. Catholic leaders would get over their
parochial preoccupations, “they could play a central role in salvaging
Mr. Obama’s health-care programme.”

The editorial has value for several reasons. First, it proves once
again that people don’t need to actually live in the United States to
have unhelpful and badly informed opinions about our domestic issues.
Second, some of the same pious voices that once criticized U.S.
Catholics for supporting a previous president now sound very much like
acolytes of a new president. Third, abortion is not, and has never
been, a “specifically Catholic issue,” and the editors know it. And
fourth, the growing misuse of Catholic “common ground” and “common
good” language in the current health-care debate can only stem from one
of two sources: ignorance or cynicism.

That’s clarity. The terms ‘common ground’ and ‘the common good’ have
been reconstructed deftly for political purposes. But Catholic teaching
on subsidiarity and true social justice is not relative to political
winds.

Health-care reform is vital. That’s why America’s
bishops have supported it so vigorously for decades. They still do. But
fast-tracking a flawed, complex effort this fall, in the face of so
many growing and serious concerns, is bad policy. It’s not only
imprudent; it’s also dangerous. As Sioux City’s Bishop R. Walker
Nickless wrote last week, “no health-care reform is better than the
wrong sort of health-care reform.”

If Congress and the White House want to genuinely serve the
health-care needs of the American public, they need to slow down,
listen to people’s concerns more honestly—and learn what the “common
good” really means.

Sheila Liaugminas

Sheila Liaugminas is an Emmy award-winning Chicago-based journalist in print and broadcast media. Her writing and broadcasting covers matters of faith, culture, politics and the media....