"If my people, who are called by My name, humble themselves and pray, and seek My face and turn from their evil ways, I will hear them from heaven and pardon their sins and revive their land." 2 Chronicles 7:14
|We pray that America will be “one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for al5l.”|
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement on health care reform May 21 urging protection of the lives of the vulnerable, fair treatment for immigrants, and guaranteed conscience protection for individuals and institutions.
Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, Chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Pro-Life Activities; Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Centre, New York, Chairman of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice, Peace, and Human Development; and Bishop John Wester of Salt Lake City, Chairman of the USCCB Committee on Immigration, presented the statement.
"Following enactment of the health care reform legislation, our challenge remains formidable but in some ways is simpler," the bishops said. "Since the battle over the bill is over, the defects can be judged soberly in their own right, and solutions can be advanced in Congress while retaining what is good in the new law. Indeed, any failure to do so would only leave these genuine problems as ammunition for those who prefer total repeal of the law."
The bishops said the current situation "provides a new opportunity for the Catholic community to come together in defense of human life, rights of conscience, and fairness to immigrants so we will have a health care system that truly respects the life, dignity, health, and consciences of all."
The statement follows:
As the Chairmen of the three committees most directly involved in the efforts of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on health care reform, we are writing to set the record straight on some important issues raised during and after final consideration of the "Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act" this spring.
From our first statement to Congress a year ago (http://usccb.org/sdwp/national/2009-05-usccb-health-care-statement.pdf) to Cardinal George's March 23rd, 2010, statement about the enactment of a "profoundly flawed" final bill, the position of our Conference has been unified and consistent. Reflecting decades of advocacy on behalf of universal access to health care, the bishops were clear in calling for health care reform as a moral imperative and urgent national priority. We called for reform that would make health coverage affordable for the poor and needy, moving our society substantially toward the goal of universal coverage. We were equally clear in stating that this must be done in accord with the dignity of each and every human person, showing full respect for the life, health, and conscience of all.
Specifically we insisted that the provisions of the Hyde Amendment and other longstanding current laws, which forbid federal funding of abortion and of health plans that cover abortion, must be preserved in this or any new legislation. Likewise, we sought to have longstanding policies of respect for rights of conscience applied to this legislation. Americans must retain in new legislation the rights they had before its enactment. These include the full range of protections regarding the right to provide and purchase health care in accord with their religious beliefs and moral convictions. In addition, since access to basic health care is a right inherent in each human person, as acknowledged both in Catholic social teaching and the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, legislation must not unfairly exclude immigrants from health coverage (January 26, 2010, Letter to the House).
We believe that all men are created equal because they are created in the image of God.
Harry S. Truman, Inaugural Address
Apparently, because we always presented these criteria together and insisted that each had profound moral implications, some thought the bishops might ultimately be persuaded to abandon one or the other in response to political pressures from left or right. Some hoped or feared that we would join with those who reject the need for vigorous government action to reform our ailing health care system. Others hoped or feared that, for the "greater good" of making progress on health care, we would neglect or deny the rights of the most vulnerable members of our society, including unborn children who have no voice and of immigrants.
There was never any chance that the bishops would do any of these things. We will never cease to advocate for everyone, beginning with the most needy, to have access to health care. We will never conclude that we must accept what is intrinsically evil so that some good may be achieved. Specifically we reject the argument made to us by some Catholics that expanding health care coverage justified setting aside our longstanding opposition to government participation in elective abortions or weakening rights to life and freedom of conscience. Catholic teaching rejects any idea that the weakest or "disposable" members of society must be forgotten to serve alleged "greater goods." Arguments of this sort undermine the common good. Our vision of the common good embraces the good for each and every member without exception, beginning with those who are weakest and most vulnerable.
Ultimately the House of Representatives approved a health care reform bill that the bishops welcomed for substantially meeting most of the principles and goods we were espousing. We hoped to address final concerns as the legislation moved forward. However, the Senate rejected the House legislation, including the key elements that we supported, and produced a bill that abandoned the very principles that we espoused: no expansion of abortion, protections for freedom of conscience, and the rights of immigrants. With these foundational principles rejected, it was then announced that no further substantive changes were possible. From that moment on, the bishops were clear and consistent in saying that this "take it or leave it" offer was morally unacceptable and politically divisive. Whatever might be the positive aspects of the Senate bill, we had no choice but to oppose the Senate version as a matter of principle. As bishops we must faithfully proclaim the truth. We must defend the rights of the unborn and the weakest and most vulnerable among us. We must oppose the advance of elective abortion in our society, especially the use of government authority and funding to advance it, and we must speak out in favor of the rights of freedom of conscience for persons and institutions. We urged Congress to vote against this version of the bill, with the hope that together we could find a way to address our legitimate concerns in a bill which would thus have broader appeal and greater support. Unfortunately, the political will to do so did not emerge.
The final result is legislation that expands health care coverage, implements many needed reforms, and provides welcome support for pregnant and parenting women and adoptive families. Unfortunately it also perpetuates grave injustices toward immigrant families and makes new and disturbing changes in federal policy on abortion and conscience rights. We have documented the legislation's serious flaws in several analyses available on the bishops' web site, www.usccb.org/healthcare.
Since final passage of the legislation, we have been disturbed and disappointed by reactions inside and outside the Church that have sought to marginalize or dismiss legitimate concerns that were presented in a serious manner by us. Our clear and consistent position has been misrepresented, misunderstood, and misused for political and other purposes. Our right to speak in the public forum has been questioned. Our teaching role within the Catholic Church and even our responsibility to lead the Church have come under criticism. All of us must be open to different points of view and recognize the legitimacy of serious criticism. However, whether from within or without the Catholic community, very often these critics lacked an understanding of these particular issues or of the moral framework that motivated our positions. Others did grasp the seriousness of the issues we were attempting to address. Yet other priorities, in our judgment, led them to accept an inaccurate reading of the proposed legislation. They gave credence to analysis by those who were likewise dedicated to minimizing important concerns so as to pass the legislation. In the end, they made a judgment that the moral problems in the new law – for example, the fact that the federal government, for the first time in decades, will now force Americans to pay for other people's elective abortions – simply are not serious enough to oppose a particular health care reform bill.
We regret that this approach carried the day, as some overlooked the clear evidence or dismissed careful analysis and teaching on the morality of these matters. But making such moral judgments, and providing guidance to Catholics on whether an action by government is moral or immoral, is first of all the task of the bishops, not of any other group or individual. As Bishops, we disagree that the divergence between the Catholic Conference and Catholic organizations, including the Catholic Health Association, represents merely a difference of analysis or strategy (Catholic Health World, April 15, 2010, "Now That Reform Has Passed"). Rather, for whatever good will was intended, it represented a fundamental disagreement, not just with our staff as some maintain, but with the Bishops themselves. As such it has resulted in confusion and a wound to Catholic unity.
Following enactment of the health care reform legislation, our challenge remains formidable but in some ways is simpler. Since the battle over the bill is over, the defects can be judged soberly in their own right, and solutions can be advanced in Congress while retaining what is good in the new law. Indeed, any failure to do so would only leave these genuine problems as ammunition for those who prefer total repeal of the law. In this context we do not need agreement among lawmakers that the problems are serious enough to oppose the legislation – we only need agreement that the problems are real and deserve to be addressed. This provides a new opportunity for the Catholic community to come together in defense of human life, rights of conscience, and fairness to immigrants so we will have a health care system that truly respects the life, dignity, health, and consciences of all. We urge Catholics, members of Congress of all parties, and others of good will to join us in advancing this worthy goal.
In a May 21 address to a meeting of the Pontifical Association of the Laity in Vatican City, Pope Benedict XVI emphasized the special contribution the lay faithful can make to their countries.
In his speech, the Pope stated:
". . . The theme of your Assembly: 'Witnesses to Christ in the Political Community,' takes on a special importance. Of course, the technical formation of politicians is not part of the Church's mission; various other institutions exist for this purpose. Rather, the Church's mission is to 'pass moral judgments even in matters relating to politics, whenever the fundamental rights of man or the salvation of souls requires it. . . [T]he only means it may use are those which are in accord with the Gospel and the welfare of all men according to the diversity of times and circumstances' (Gaudium et spes, n. 76). The Church concentrates particularly on the formation of the disciples of Christ, in order that they may ever increasingly become witnesses of His Presence, any and everywhere. It is up to the lay faithful to demonstrate concretely in their personal and family life, in social, cultural, and political life that the faith enables them to see reality in a new and profound way, and to transform it; that Christian hope broadens the limited horizon of mankind, expanding it towards the true loftiness of his being, towards God; that charity in truth is the most effective force that is capable of changing the world; that the Gospel gives a guarantee of freedom and a message of liberation; that the fundamental principles of the social doctrine of the Church such as the dignity of the human person, subsidiarity, and solidarity are extremely relevant and valuable in order to support new paths of development in service to the whole person and to all humanity. It is also the duty of the laity to participate actively in political life, in a manner consistently in accordance with the Church's teaching, bringing their well-founded reasons and high ideals into the democratic debate, and into the search for a broad consensus among all those who care about the defense of life and freedom, the safeguarding of truth and the good of the family, solidarity with the needy and the crucial search for the common good. Christians do not seek political or cultural hegemony but, whatever their work, they are animated by the certainty that Christ is the cornerstone of every human structure (cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Doctrinal Note on some questions regarding The Participation of Catholics in Political Life, November 24, 2002).
"In taking up the words of my Predecessors, I too can affirm that politics is a very important field in which to exercise charity. It calls Christians to a strong commitment to citizenship, to building a good life in one's country, and likewise to an effective presence among the international community's institutions and programs. There is a need for authentically Christian politicians but, even more so, for lay faithful who witness to Christ and the Gospel in the civil and political community. This demand must be reflected in the educational programs of ecclesial communities and requires new forms of presence and support from Pastors. Christian membership in faith-related associations, ecclesial movements, and new communities can provide a good school for these disciples and witnesses, sustained by the charismatic, communitarian, educational, and missionary resources of these groups.
This is a demanding challenge. The times in which we live confront us with large and complex problems, and the social question has become an anthropological question at the same time. In the recent past, the ideological paradigms have been shattered that proposed to be a 'scientific' response to that question. The spread of a confused cultural relativism and of a utilitarian and hedonistic individualism weakens democracy and favors the dominance of strong powers. We must recover and reinvigorate authentic political wisdom; be demanding in what concerns our own sphere of competency; make discerning use of the research of the human sciences; face reality in all its aspects, going beyond any kind of ideological reductionism or utopian dream; show we are open to true dialogue and collaboration, bearing in mind that politics is also a complex art of equilibrium between ideals and interests, but never forgetting that the contribution of Christians can be effective only if knowledge of faith becomes knowledge of reality, the key to judgement and transformation. What is needed is a real 'revolution of love.' The new generations have immense demands and challenges before them in their personal and social life. Your Dicastery looks after them with special care, particularly through the World Youth Days, which have for 25 years been producing rich apostolic fruits among young people. Among these challenges is also the social and political commitment, founded not on partisan ideologies or interests but rather on the choice to serve man and the common good, in the light of the Gospel . . ."
On May 12, Pope Benedict XVI offered the following prayer at the Church of the Most Holy Trinity in Fatima:
in this place of grace,
called together by the love of your Son Jesus
the Eternal High Priest, we,
sons in the Son and His priests,
consecrate ourselves to your maternal Heart,
in order to carry out faithfully the Father's Will.
We are mindful that, without Jesus,
we can do nothing good (cf. Jn 15:5)
and that only through Him, with Him, and in Him,
will we be instruments of salvation
for the world.
Bride of the Holy Spirit,
obtain for us the inestimable gift
of transformation in Christ.
Through the same power of the Spirit that
making you the Mother of the Saviour,
help us to bring Christ your Son
to birth in ourselves too.
May the Church
be thus renewed by priests who are holy,
priests transfigured by the grace of Him
Who makes all things new.
Mother of Mercy,
it was your Son Jesus Who called us
to become like Him:
light of the world and salt of the earth
(cf. Mt 5:13-14).
through your powerful intercession,
never to fall short of this sublime vocation,
nor to give way to our selfishness,
to the allurements of the world
and to the wiles of the Evil One.
Preserve us with your purity,
guard us with your humility
and enfold us with your maternal love
that is reflected in so many souls
consecrated to you,
who have become for us
true spiritual mothers.
Mother of the Church,
we priests want to be pastors
who do not feed themselves
but rather give themselves to God for their brethren,
finding their happiness in this.
Not only with words, but with our lives,
we want to repeat humbly,
day after day,
Our "here I am".
Guided by you,
we want to be Apostles
of Divine Mercy,
glad to celebrate every day
the Holy Sacrifice of the Altar
and to offer to those who request it
the sacrament of Reconciliation.
Advocate and Mediatrix of grace,
you who are fully immersed
in the one universal mediation of Christ,
invoke upon us, from God,
a heart completely renewed
that loves God with all its strength
and serves mankind as you did.
Repeat to the Lord
your efficacious word:
"They have no wine" (Jn 2:3),
so that the Father and the Son will send upon us
a new outpouring of
the Holy Spirit.
Full of wonder and gratitude
at your continuing presence in our midst,
in the name of all priests
I too want to cry out:
"Why is this granted me,
that the mother of my Lord should come to me?" (Lk 1:43).
Our Mother for all time,
do not tire of "visiting us,"
consoling us, sustaining us.
Come to our aid
and deliver us from every danger
that threatens us.
With this act of entrustment and consecration,
we wish to welcome you
more deeply, more radically,
for ever and totally
into our human and priestly lives.
Let your presence cause new blooms to burst forth
in the desert of our loneliness,
let it cause the sun to shine on our darkness,
let it restore calm after the tempest,
so that all mankind shall see the salvation
of the Lord,
Who has the name and the face of Jesus,
Who is reflected in our hearts,
for ever united to yours!
Fred H. Summe is Vice President of Northern Kentucky Right to Life, P.O. Box 1202, Covington, Kentucky 41012
In the fall of 2009, the U.S. bishops revised their ethical guidelines on the issue of the withdrawal of artificial nutrition and hydration (ANH) to individuals diagnosed as being in a "persistent vegetative state" (PVS), in order to bring them in line with papal teaching. The following is a summary of the article which appeared in the Pentecost 2010 issue of Voices, written by E. Christian Brugger and William E. May, Senior Fellows at the Culture of Life Foundation and professors of moral theology.
These authors first define the term "vegetative state" as being a condition characterized by alteration of sleep/wake cycles. It is a set of observable behaviors and not a specific anatomical abnormality or injury.
As the authors noted, many people view what has been characterized by some as the "forced-feeding" of patients in a "vegetative state" (VS) as repugnant and consequently do not want themselves to be fed in this way. Not wanting to be a burden to their family, they consider it ethically right to let them die peacefully by not giving them food and hydration by artificial means.
The authors dispel the first myth by noting that VS patients are not actually dying, nor, as recent research has shown, are they completely unconscious. They do not require technical support, nor can they be in any way considered terminal or in immediate danger of death.
The authors stress the key ethical principle that human bodily life, however burdened, is still a good of that person, and that it is always gravely immoral to intentionally kill an innocent human being.
"One can never measure the worth of a human life because it is of incalculable worth and not capable of being measured. One cannot put a price on it because it is priceless."
In 2009, the U.S. bishops revised the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, or ERDs. "An unsettling debate had raged for 30 years in Catholic moral theology over the question of whether providing artificial nutrition and hydration (ANH) to persons diagnosed to be in a 'persistent vegetative state' (PVS) was morally required," noted the two authors.
In his March 20, 2004, Address, Pope John Paul II clearly and categorically resolved any dispute in his address, Life-Sustaining Treatments and Vegetative State: Scientific Advanced and Ethical Dilemmas, in which he stated, in part:
"I should like particularly to underline how the administration of water and food, even when provided by artificial means, always represents a natural means of preserving life, not a medical act. Its use, furthermore, should be considered, in principle, ordinary and proportionate, and as such morally obligatory...
"If you want equal justice for all, and true freedom and lasting peace, then
America, defend life!"
— Pope John Paul II —
"The obligation to provide the 'normal care due to the sick in such cases' includes, in fact, the use of nutrition and hydration.
"The evaluation of probabilities, founded on waning hopes for recovery when the vegetative state is prolonged beyond a year, cannot ethically justify the cessation or interruption of minimal care for the patient, including nutrition and hydration. Death by starvation or dehydration is, in fact, the only possible outcome as a result of their withdrawal. In this sense it ends up becoming, if done knowingly and willingly, true and proper euthanasia by omission.
". . . such an act is always 'a serious violation of the law of God,' since it is the deliberate and morally unacceptable killing of a human person. (Italics are those of the Pope.)
The two authors reported:
"The U.S. bishops resolved to bring ERD 59 into line with this papal teaching. The original formula read: 'There should be a presumption in favor of providing nutrition and hydration to all patients, including patients who require medically assisted nutrition and hydration, as long as this is of sufficient benefit to outweigh the burdens involved to the patient.'
"The bishops knew that this directive was being interpreted by many health-care providers and ethics committees, including at Catholic facilities, as consistent with removing or withholding ANH from patients in the VS. Consequently, their deaths were resulting not from their brain injuries, but by starvation and dehydration. Americans are all too familiar with the sensational cases of Karen Ann Quinlan, Nancy Cruzan and Terri Schiavo, all of whom were diagnosed to be in a PVS and each of whom became a cause célèbre for the right-to-die movement.
"In order to prevent this misinterpretation, and to bring the ERD in line with the papal teaching, the U.S. bishops reformulated directive 59 to read as follows (it is now numbered 58):
'In principle, there is an obligation to provide patients with food and water, including medically assisted nutrition and hydration for those who cannot take food orally. This obligation extends to patients in chronic and presumably irreversible conditions (e.g., the "persistent vegetative state") who can reasonably be expected to live indefinitely if given such care.'"
These two authors quoted three important points of correspondence between this reformulation and the teaching of Pope John Paul II. First, ERD 58 made it clear that the purpose of providing food and water is to preserve a patient's life, and it must be provided whether it does or does not improve the patient's condition.
Secondly, the directive excludes the removal of food and hydration from patients who need it to survive, and who would die without it.
Thirdly, ANH may be discontinued when it is no longer proportionate to its end or its administration is gravely burdensome to the patient. For example, when a person is dying, their body sometimes rejects artificial feeding. ANH may be then in fact futile, in that the patient's body can no longer assimilate food and fluids, and thus ANH cannot sustain that patient's life.
ANH may also be withdrawn in cases where the administration is excessively burdensome to the patient or causes severe discomfort to the dying patient.
The two authors stress that the directive is not saying that food and hydration may be withdrawn if a person judges that his life on a feeding tube is too burdensome, but the burden refers to the administration of ANH itself to the dying patient.
"In principle, the directive should not be interpreted as permitting the removal of food and water from patients who are not dying."
The two authors point out that the ERD revision is grounded on the principle that "the life of the body is intrinsic to the life of a person; so if one's body is alive, even if severely disabled, the person is alive. Thus, sustaining a patient's life is never meaningless."
The two authors also note that one is not obligated to do everything possible to sustain the life of a PVS patient. "Removing forms of life-support that promise no reasonable hope of recovery, or that are scarce, costly, or extremely invasive can be legitimate. One should do what reasonably can be done to care for a loved one suffering from PVS without feeling that one must do everything that can be done."
The question arises: Will individual bishops bring their teachings and their hospitals in line with the U.S. bishops' directive and papal teaching?
For example, in September 2005, the four Kentucky Catholic bishops issued a statement on advanced healthcare directives, in which they published a living will directive, by which one could authorize the withdrawal of artificially provided food and water, or one could authorize someone else to decide to withdraw food and hydration. The bishops stated that this advance directive is acceptable for Catholics.
Thus, such advance medical directives, or "living wills," continue to be distributed and promoted in Catholic medical facilities, and taught to be morally acceptable by some who teach under the authority of the Catholic Church.
As Pope John Paul II stated in his March 2004 address:
"However, it is not enough to reaffirm the general principle according to which the value of a man's life cannot be made subordinate to any judgment of its quality expressed by other men; it is necessary to promote the taking of positive actions as a stand against pressures to withdraw hydration and nutrition as a way to put an end to the lives of these patients." (Italics are those of the Pope.)
Microfinancing is nothing new. Catholic Relief Services has over 30 years experience at making small loans to the world's poorest communities. CRS's microfinance activities are an outgrowth of Catholic social teaching, which unlike traditional banking institutions, promotes the sacredness and dignity of the human person.
CRS's microfinance programs target the self-employed poor, seventy percent women, reaching more than a million clients in 36 countries, typically with loans as low as $40.
They work, not relying on a client's collateral, but linking the loan to savings, repayment of past loans, and getting clients directly involved as is CRS, from start-up to sustainability.
In Gambia, for example, 18 women formed Sutura to save money. Soon, however, they began to work to eradicate malaria from their village. They got nets and instructed neighbors in their proper use.
"My most cherished possession I wish I could leave you is my faith in Jesus
Christ, for with Him and nothing else, you can be happy, but without Him and
all else, you'll never be happy."
In Guatemala Fortaleza (Strength) brought together HIV patients. Catalina Gomez says for them all, "More than anything, I want to live, I want God to keep giving me life."
In Rwanda neighbors who barely talked joined SILC (Savings and Internal Lending Communities) and Yvonne and Francois, for example, found they enjoy each other's company as much as the loans. They found they shared more in the aftermath of the genocide than separated them.
The EnComun de la Frontera microfinance project helped Patricio and Guadalupe buy a car for their tortilla business in Sorona, Mexico. "It used to take about five hours, now it takes me a little less than an hour. That means I can cover a greater area and have more clients."
Haoua Mamoudou is president of a sesame seed union of 250 growers in Nigeria. "Before the program started," she says, "we used to go to bed hungry. Now we have enough money to eat rice regularly and meat once a week."
When Taheya's husband passed away, leaving her with an astonishing debt of over $7,000, six times Egypt's average annual salary, she started a grocery business with her aunt Taheya and Hana's families'. Their lives has improved tremendously. Hana's family can now afford to eat meat twice a week instead of only once. She has also been able to buy a bicycle, telephone, refrigerator, and other items.
Some other organizations, like Kiva (kiva.org), give more direct links between individual lenders and clients. It reports on each entrepreneur's progress, posts both lenders and lendees' photos, provides weekly statistics. It can be linked to the lenders' facebook pages. There is even a journal link with the clients' own stories, often in their own languages. Every week they report about a million dollars in loans to 3,000 entrepreneurs by 16,000 lenders.
The Serigne Mansour group in Senegal, for example, is through the CRS partner, CAURIE (Caisse Autonome pour le Reinforcement des Initiatives Economique) which became independent of CRS in 2005. This added information, however, does increase costs and reduces the 95% efficiency rating that CRS rates.
The Josephina Yasay's group is seven women who raise pigs in San pedro, Philippines. They have 30 lenders and have six more months to pay back the $1,925 loan through ASKI (Alalay sa Kaunlara, Inc.).
The Virgen de Fatima communal bank in Huancavelica, Peru, received $6,715 through FINCA to finance small animal sales. The 29 entrepreneurs were backed by 14 individual lenders (four anonymous).
Jivan Baghasaryan has received $3,000 for barber shop expansion in Yerevan, Armenia, from 97 lenders through SEF ( Small Enterprise Foundation), a partner of World Vision International. Of this, $300 is still needed with repayments continuing until July 2012.
The 13-member Yesu Amala group in Kampala, Uganda, took a loan to finance charcoal sales. They have 121 lenders for their $3,625 loan, an average of $30 each.
In answering why he does this, one featured lender, Percy, quotes Mark Twain: "Broad, wholesome, charitable views cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth." Since 2007 he has helped back 50 loans in 19 countries, and as Kiva says, "changed lives."
Because we are sons and daughters of God, saved by Jesus and empowered by the Holy Spirit, we do not merely read the news but make the news. We direct the course of world events by faith expressed in action and intercession. Please pray for the stories covered in this paper. Clip out this intercessory list and make it part of your daily prayer.
Published by: Presentation Ministries, 3230 McHenry Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45211, (513) 662-5378, www.presentationministries.com