Guest Opinion: Is Universal Health Care What Jesus Had in Mind?
The government does not have a pot of gold, nor a goose to create it, and if there was one, it was killed by the current economic situation
Medical care is limited in supply. This is because facilities, equipment, personnel, and financial resources are all in short supply. The government cannot create any of these things out of thin air, although the Fed appears to be trying to do just that with the last item.
RICHMOND, VA (Catholic Online) - "There has been a lot misinformation in this debate and there are some folks out there who are frankly bearing false witness." "You've heard that this is all going to mean government funding of abortions. Not true." "This notion that somehow we are setting up death panels that would decide on whether elderly people get to live or die. that is just an extraordinary lie." (President Barack Obama, Bristol, Virginia July 29, 2009)
We all know that, Biblical-sounding verbiage aside, the first and second statements have proven to be manifestly untrue. Obamacare is all about contraception and abortions, just as promised in the Democratic Party platform. But what about the third claim, that "death panels" will not be established and therefore old people will receive whatever is medically possible to prolong their lives?
There are two levels at which this question can be explored - the spiritual and ethical, and the practical and economic. The former involves understanding our duty to our fellow man as God has given it to us, and the latter involves determining what is possible in carrying out that duty.
To address the ethical question, we must first understand what God calls us to do for our neighbor. Everyone knows that Jesus taught us to "'Love your neighbor as yourself" (Mk 12:31). Taken at face value, that is a rather broad admonishment, and when practical examples are cited, becomes difficult to apply. For example, does this mean that you should turn your house key over to your neighbor with a cheery, "Help yourself"?
St. Paul clarifies what this means in Romans 13:9-10: "The commandments, 'You shall not commit adultery', 'You shall not murder', 'You shall not steal', "You shall not covet,' and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law."
Thus, a truer understanding of what our Lord commanded us to do is that "Love your neighbor" is a positive statement that includes the specific negative prohibitions given in the Ten Commandments but expands their scope. That is why one can use the Commandments as an outline for an examination of conscience, as they include far more than simply the specific deeds mentioned. For example, not bearing false witness is not limited to testimony in a court of law; it includes lying, not keeping sworn oaths, plagiarizing others' work, gossiping, revealing secrets, and calumny.
Where in the Commandments, or in Jesus' teaching, is there reference to healthcare? The truth is that, apart from Jesus, and later the disciples, healing many sick people, healthcare is not really mentioned. The focus, actually, is much more on spiritual than physical health, which is why the Presbyter says in 3 John 1:2, "Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers." Our reliance should be on God, as is says in Proberbs 3:5-8, "Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the LORD and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your body, And refreshment to your bones." This does not mean that we are to turn our backs on modern medicine, but it does mean that we must put it, and our own mortality, in perspective.
After all, one of our primary purposes on earth should be to prepare ourselves for Heaven, not to see how long we can resist death. In St. Paul's first letter to the Corinthians, he says, "Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body (6:19-10)." Note that the temple is of the Holy Spirit, not of ourselves. We lose track of that when we mistake contraception and abortion for health care, and embryonic stem cell research for medical care.
Still, we do have a responsibility to be charitable, as charity is one of the three Theological Virtues. Charity is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit, given to those possessing sanctifying grace. Those who possess this grace also perform spiritual and corporal works of mercy, among which are feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, visiting the sick, and burying the dead. There is nothing in there, however, about paying their medical bills, or providing them contraception.
We do, however, have the story of the Good Samaritan, who in Luke 10:34-35, went to the injured man ". and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. 'Look after him,' he said, 'and when I ...
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