Obamacare and the Church



Mother Teresa                                                                     photo by Mary Ellen Mark   


Cornelius Sullivan

Naples, Florida

The Italian Insider Newspaper, Rome, November 15, 2013


Obamacare is based on Redistribution of Wealth. Mother Teresa's care is based on Christian Charity.


The two ideals, redistribution and charity are not intrinsically antithetical, but in practice they are as radically different as mandatory is from voluntary. 


The physical care of the sick and dying, "the poorest of the poor", by Mother Teresa involves physical care and also what may be her greatest gift, the recognition of the dignity of the individual person created in the image and likeness of God. To the dying she brought death with dignity.


The Post Modern Pope, my article published in March about Pope Francis  presented two distinct ways of seeing the poor -  http://corneliussullivan.com/The%20Postmodern%20Pope.htm



He cares about the poor. But he rejects the Marxist Liberation Theology meta-narrative where “the poor” are a class. He knows and has helped poor people in familial ways as individuals. For Pope Francis the beauty is in the details, the white cassock, the small car, riding the bus, carrying his own luggage.


This Pope is not an ideologue who has a vision for a new world order. It’s the Gospel, the Gospel lived locally. Subsidiarity has been a Catholic theory or organizing principle that says that political and economic matters ought to be handled by the smallest, lowest or least centralized competent authority. The question is, since the encyclical Rerum Novarum of 1891 by Pope Leo XIII, has there yet been an example showing how to live it?


Christian Charity works at the local level : in the family, in the Parish, and in the Diocese.


When I was a boy growing up in Boston Richard Cardinal Cushing built hospitals and schools at a pace that seemed like one a week. The hospitals that he built and the universities that had existed for centuries became integral parts of the civic and humanitarian structure of the society. It was understood that their Catholicity in the form of dedication to service brought them into existence and sustained them. Now that same Catholic identity is under attack from the government's secular zeal that acts like an intolerant religion.


If being Catholic means that you can only act in faith while worshipping in a church, then the basic tenets of the faith are nullified. For believers, salvation is a product or faith and works. And Catholic social justice has a long history of accomplishments, both personal and institutional. Obamacare has not recognized freedom of conscience for religious hospitals, universities, or social agencies. Churches (places restricted to private worship) are the only organizations not forced to pay for health care plans that include contraception and abortion-producing drugs.


A young man who works in finance in New York explained to me how subsidiarity can work. The town that he lives in outside the city needed a new high school building. The residents voted for a real estate tax increase on themselves to fund the needed construction. They controlled and were able to see how their taxes were used. The larger the government, the greater the disconnect is from the citizens.


Insurance can be a safety net for catastrophic illnesses like cancer, but now in primary care and in preventative medicine, doctors are seeking ways to connect directly with patients. New technology bypassing insurance companies and government is allowing doctors to reestablish one to one relationships with patients. As Obamacare fails, the government has characterized evil insurance companies as the cause of the failure. Next, they have begun to attack doctors for their own monumental failure.


Governmental power was not challenged by the acts of Mother Teresa. They were so individual, so personal, that government authority was not  threatened by them. Although the little saint had no ambitions for such things, hospitals have come out of her work. When complimented on her successes she would always respond, it is not my job to be successful, rather to be faithful.


We can expect that The United States Government will mandate that The Sisters of Charity be required under penalty of law to pay for contraception and abortion inducing drugs in health care plans.


We can not assume that the extraordinary acts of kindness of Mother Teresa were a product of her personal character strengths, determination and will driven by idealism. She has told us otherwise. Up close beholding the dying she said she sees each one of them as Jesus Christ.  


The creation of the institutions, the missions around the world, and the hospitals, that came out of Mother Teresa's caring for the sick was not her primary goal. Her focus was always on the individual person, and her successes are a direct consequence of this.


The Post Modern Pope ended with some hope quoting an Italian language newspaper piece indicating how The Catholic Church can benefit the secular world at large-


The Priest Came from The New World to Give Back Faith to Old Europe by Gian Arturo Ferrari in the Sunday edition of the Italian newspaper, Corriere della Sera. 

Ferrari emphasizes that Papa Bergoglio is a priest and that he is from the new World. He recalls that Montini (Pope Paul VI), Wojtyla, and Ratzinger were Europeans in culture and in vision of the world from the war and cold war years. He says Bergoglio has simplicity, honesty, and humility, and he is a Jesuit like the ones who converted the Indians in the Americas. Europe is in decline, not only religiously, but also geopolitically. It is bleary eyed and no longer has the clarity of vision that was once its glory. And pessimism is the work of the devil.


He ends by proposing that there is a message of hope for Europe and Italy. Pope Francis will “have a great gift for everyone, whether believers or not.”


Christian charity as practiced by Mother Teresa is as far from government

run health care as you can get and still be talking about the care of the sick.


With each day it becomes more apparent that Obamacare is imploding. It is becoming clear that big government does not know how to run a business so enormous and complex. Healthy young people who are supposed to support the system will not sign up. Some families are facing increases in costs that they will not be able to pay. Doctors are bailing out.


As health care goes away from the one to one relationship like Mother Teresa and of doctor and patient and is replaced by government panels, the concept of care disintegrates. 


There is a clash of worlds because Obamacare proposes the care of all linked with the death of some in abortion. The common good is a vague ideal, and it does not contain within it the concept of the ultimate worth of the individual person. Because of this it cannot succeeed. There has to be care in healthcare.