Pope says universal health care an “inalienable right”
B16′s address to the 25th annual conference of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry broke no new ground in Catholic teaching, but summarized the church’s position on health care quite firmly — and also implictly challenged those Catholic conservatives in the GOP who are about to take over the House with a vow to repeal Obamacare.
“It is necessary to work with greater commitment at all levels so that the right to health is rendered effective, favoring access to primary health care,” Benedict said in a message on Thursday to the 25th annual conference of the Vatican office that promotes health care ministry.
“Health justice should be among the priorities of governments and international institutions,” he added.
The pope said that establishing this goal requires “a true distributive justice that guarantees to all, on the basis of objective needs, adequate care,” and he said “the social doctrine of the Church has always evidenced the importance of distributive justice and of social justice in the different sectors of human relations.”
Benedict’s secretary of state and second-in-command, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, read the papal statement to the annual conference of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry and then delivered remarks that were even clearer than the pontiff’s.
“Justice requires guaranteed universal access to health care,” Bertone said, adding that the provision of minimal levels of medical attention to all is “commonly accepted as a fundamental human right.”
WWJBD? What will John Boehner do? Not much, is my view, given that papal statements rarely effect Catholic politicians of either stripe, not even the pope-ier-than-thou Catholics on the right.
But I do note that there are conservative pro-life Catholic voices that take a line more in keeping with that of the pope’s, notably Valparaiso University law professor Richard Stith and R.R. Reno, who have both taken some heat at First Things for their columns proposing to remedy HCR rather than repeal it.
They say that alleged abortion funding in HCR (a position of some dispute, as we know) should be eliminated, and then they’d be good with it, like Benedict. The standard conservative Catholic/GOP position, however, is that the whole principle of federalized health care policy is wrong.
Still, I wonder if the Stith-Reno-Benedict position would give Republicans cover if they fail on a full repeal, which they seem likely to do. That could work out well for them, as most Americans still favor HCR, and strong majorities favor almost all of its elements, except the individual mandate.