Friday, June 29, 2012

The Supreme Court, the U.S. Catholic Bishops and the Fortnight for Freedom

Yesterday, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) does not violate the Constitution and should be upheld.  

Where does this leave Catholics in the national healthcare debate and in the midst of the Fortnight for Freedom? 

Well, from my reading at least, it leaves us where we have been in our support of rights of conscience and it leaves us hopeful that the HHS mandate (a component of ACA) can be rectified. 

It is important to sift through the political partisanship regarding this issue and remind ourselves that the U.S. Catholic Bishops and the Catholic Church has been supportive of the idea of comprehensive health care reform for close to a century, especially reform that would aid the poor and the most vulnerable in our society.  The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has not joined in efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act in its entirety rather the bishops have chosen to focus on correcting three fundamental flaws that are found within the ACA. 

1. Failure of the ACA to provide for adequate conscience protection (i.e. the HHS mandate). 
2. The ACA allowing use of federal funds for abortion which contradicts longstanding federal policy.
3. The unfair treatment of immigrant workers and their families who are not allowed to purchase health care coverage under ACA. 
(Please refer to the below statement by the USCCB which lists these three areas of concern.) 

From statements made by different justices in yesterday's ruling we can be hopeful that the attempt to repeal the HHS mandate stands a good probability of being successful.  (Please refer to the article linked below.) 

So, we remain where we have been and we will continue the work that needs to be done.  The lawsuits launched by the forty plus Catholic dioceses, hospitals, charity offices and universities will go forward.

Finally, it is important to note that the Supreme Court ruling does not state that the Affordable Care Act is good law in itself; it just states that the Affordable Care Act does not violate the Constitution of the United States.  The Supreme Court recognizes its role and its limits.  It is up to others - politicians and the people who elect them - to make good law.  The ongoing work of the USCCB in this regards and the Fortnight for Freedom are attempts to rouse the conscience of our nation to make and establish good law.   

Statement by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

"Court Ruling allows Religious Freedom lawsuits to proceed with hope"    


1 comment:

  1. Father Michael,
    Thank you for these considered comments. I agree that thinking with the mind of the Church can only lead us to support the most basic aims of this law, a law approved by both houses of our democratically elected Congress, and thankfully, not struck down by an unelected court. This law may need work, but a legislative act is surely not a proclamation of the Gospel. I'd say that it's for the bishops and their priests to keep up the hard work of forming the Catholic electorate, and to teach them to dialogue with other citizens. It's not an easy process, but better than just having a few judges sort things out.
    --Fr. J.B. Shelton, Townsend, TN, USofA


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