Why Are the Bishops Forcing the Issue of Health Care?

If ever there were a time when Catholics should not trust the United States government, it is now. The president, his administration, and the congressional leadership are removing all the abortion restrictions put in place since Roe v. Wade. And yet, the bishops are backing a proposal to give the federal government complete control over the healthcare of every American citizen.
Abortion is not the only reason Catholics should have deep misgivings about giving the government even more control over their lives. The healthcare bill itself provides evidence of how “reform” will extend that control in ways contrary to the basic tenets of faith.

In addition to abortion coverage, which the bishops have publicly opposed, there is the “end-of-life” coverage, a nice euphemism for potential euthanasia counseling, and the voluntary “Home Visitation Programs for Families with Young Children and Families Expecting Children” in section 440.

This federal program is another version of the Education Begins at Home Act, which was introduced in 2008 and 2009 by Rep. Danny Davis (D-IL) and Sen. Kit Bond (R-MO). It provides “parents with knowledge of age-appropriate child development in cognitive, language, social, emotional, and motor domains… modeling, consulting, and coaching on parenting practices; [and] skills to interact with their child….”
The idea of encouraging government to teach us “parenting skills” is abhorrent. The Church emphasizes the primacy of parents in raising their children. In Familiaris Consortio, Pope John Paul II wrote:
The right and duty of parents to give education is essential, since it is connected with the transmission of human life…. It is irreplaceable and inalienable, and therefore incapable of being entirely delegated to others or usurped by others….
Anyone who thinks programs like home visitation are benign should note what Phyllis Schlafly points out: One of the stated purposes of home visitation is “increasing birth intervals between pregnancies,” which “reminds us of China’s policies to reduce childbirth by married couples.” It also addresses “child abuse, neglect, and injury,” thus “giving more authority to the already too powerful Child Protective Services.”
The healthcare takeover is the perfect vehicle for extending government control of the lives of individuals and families. It took the healthcare debate to wake people up. Only then did the public react to the sudden surge in government control that began with the takeover of many banks.
The boisterous town hall meetings around the country are not only about healthcare per se; they are a resurgence of the long-held American fear of governmental power and control. This fear is integral to Catholic social teaching as well, and articulated by its core principle of subsidiarity. In Centesimus Annus, John Paul II argued that the government assistance state”leads to a loss of human energies and an inordinate increase of public agencies which are dominated more by bureaucratic ways of thinking than by concern for serving their clients and which are accompanied by an enormous increase in spending.”
It appears that members of Congress are now listening to these protesting voices, but are the Catholic bishops? As a friend wrote to me, “The good bishops have also ignored the mounting discontent in the streets with Catholic hierarchy pushing this most unpopular federal takeover of healthcare.” There is increasing evidence on the Internet and in the media that Catholics are feeling the same sense of frustration and anger we are witnessing at the town hall events.
Many Catholics are asking, “Why are the Catholic bishops trying to force this issue?”


  • Deal W. Hudson

    Deal W. Hudson is ​publisher and editor of The Christian Review and the host of “Church and Culture,” a weekly two-hour radio show on the Ave Maria Radio Network.​ He is the former publisher and editor of Crisis Magazine.

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