Wednesday, November 27, 2013

I Was Sick and Imprisoned and You Ministered to Me

I recently switch insurance companies.  It had nothing to do with Obama Care.  I have had a change of employment and that means a change of coverage.  I had a great policy before.  I never had a deductible or a co-pay.  My new policy is good—but not that good.  And so last Saturday I went to the drugstore to pick up my medications.  I had a co-pay of 157.00.  It came as a shock after my years of just saying “thank-you” and moving on.  I have no idea what those same meds would have been had I not had insurance but this bring us the necessity—the absolute necessity—of having universal health care.  And it brings up my puzzlement at why our bishops are so opposed to universal health care.
Yes, I understand that from a Catholic perspective there are problems with the Affordable Care Act, but those problems are fixable—or would be fixable if our bishops had not lost their credibility over opposing universal health care per se. I can’t help but wonder if their opposition to the Affordable Care Act is not because of the moral murkiness of coverage for contraceptives and other procedures that are contrary to Church doctrine, or if their objection isn’t that as employers they don’t want to be saddled with having to provide good health coverage to all Church employees. 
And while we are on the subject of objection to providing coverage for contraception, I am amazed at the hypocrisy of employers in the private sector who are arguing that it is against their conscience to provide health care that includes contraceptives.   How many of these men practiced contraception in their own marriages?  Not all, I am sure, but more than didn’t if the national polls are any indication.  Moreover, I really don’t see it as the moral high-ground that an employer determines the conscience-choices for his employees.   I may be cynical but this isn’t about conscience—it is about indifference to the needs of the least of Christ’s brothers and sisters.  Minimize expense, maximize profits—regardless of the human cost 
No, I have good insurance.  I can see my doctor when I need to.  He has me doing many preventative therapies to forestall serious health issues from which I could suffer.  I think the least of Christ’s brothers and sisters deserve good health coverage too.  If we had been honest from the beginning and embraced the idea of universal health coverage we would have had the political leverage to come to honest resolve on this issue of contraceptive coverage.  But having sold out to forces political and medical establishment—the bishops’ credibility is in huge disarray.  And to try to peddle this off as a crisis in “religious liberty” is about the most cynical move one could make. 
Several years ago I found myself sitting across a lunch table from Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, retired auxiliary of Detroit.  Gumbleton was named a bishop in 1968 and was one of the great Paul VI bishops—an outspoken advocate for the poor and the disadvantaged.  I asked Bishop Gumbleton what had happened that so many bishops today lacked this social conscience.  His response was interesting.  “The bishops at the time came from families where the father was a bricklayer, an electrician, a garbage-collector.  They understood the centrality of the Church’s social teaching because it gave their families hope.  Today most of the bishops—their fathers were doctors or lawyers.  They come from the rising middle class and they see the world through the lenses of privilege.” 
Last week Pope Francis sent a message to the American bishops about the type of man he was recommended for the episcopacy.  Let’s hope this will make the difference that we as a Church need.   

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