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What’s Wrong with the World is dedicated to the defense of what remains of Christendom, the civilization made by the men of the Cross of Christ. Athwart two hostile Powers we stand: the Jihad and Liberalism...read more

Health care: getting clear on the premises

For the past several days, I've watched the debate on this blog about Obamacare in particular, and the economics of health care in general, with growing frustration. I am frustrated because, to my mind, there's little use in debating such questions without achieving some clarity about what the pertinent moral premises ought to be. So much is, or ought to be, obvious; and many of the participants have indeed expressed their moral premises. But I see no agreement on what it would take to resolve the disagreements at that level, or even an awareness that reaching such an agreement is important. Since I believe it is important, I shall suggest a way of reaching, or attempting to reach, such an agreement.

To that end, the point of departure is the question is how we would reach agreement about formulating the goal of a national health-care policy. Personally, I see the goal as ensuring quality health-care for everyone at a cost the nation can both afford and accept. But making that our goal makes sense only if some level of health care must be treated as a politically enforceable right, not just as a market-priced commodity. Libertarians would not agree that health care should be treated as such a right at all, and non-libertarians do not agree on the extent to which health care should be treated as such a right. So the next question to be addressed is how resolve such disagreements.

I believe that question can and ought to be resolved in contemporary America. To that end, there are two points to consider: what citizens in general actually believe, and how their beliefs need to be modified in order to make possible a political resolution.

Americans in general believe that nobody should be forced, just by their inability to pay, to go without the health care they need for living life with a modicum of human dignity. Both our political policies and our private practices reflect that belief. It follows that Americans in general agree that health care should be treated as a right to some extent. So the libertarians have already lost the debate. The main point of contention is just how that extent can be defined and respected in a manner consistent with what I claimed is the goal: "quality health-care for everyone at a cost the nation can both afford and accept." That is largely a question of politics and economics: specifically, what politically feasible means of delivery would best attain the stated goal. Like most conservatives, I believe that Obamacare would fail miserably on that score, even aside from such intractable moral issues as abortion and euthanasia. But more importantly, not even conservatives can answer the main question without first gaining more clarity about our moral premises.

To that end, the chief moral question is what it means to "live life with a modicum of human dignity." That in turn requires that we get clear about our philosophical anthropology; for we cannot resolve major disagreements about what "a modicum of human dignity" entails without a clear, self-consistent answer to two other questions: what is the human person, and what is the human person for? In a blog post, of course, nobody can answer such questions to the satisfaction of all. What I suggest for general consideration, however, is the proposition that the principles of solidarity and subsidiarity, as expounded in Catholic social teaching, are those best suited to addressing the health-care debate in contemporary America as well as many other domestic-policy debates.

I say so because most Americans would agree that both principles are valid and mutually compatible. I say "would" agree because most Americans are unfamiliar with the terms, and still fewer know the philosophical and theological background for the corresponding concepts, but nonetheless hold beliefs that are fairly close to each. Accordingly, I suggest that the empirical debate about the economics of health care be conducted as a debate about how to balance solidarity and subsidiarity in heath-care provision. What I propose thus far is of course a framework for the debate, not a particular resolution of the debate.

I also propose clarifying that framework in one crucial respect: the morality of rationing. In a world of finite resources, any system of health-care delivery—be it purely market-oriented, socialized, or some hybrid of the two—is going to allocate health-care resources in such a way that some people get less care than they believe they need for living life with a modicum of human dignity. So the rationing question boils down to the question on what basis some people will have to get what they believe to be "the shaft." This seems to be the most morally and politically contentious question in the health-care debate.

Consider the fact that, under the current system, Medicare is variously estimated to spend 40-60%—i.e., roughly half—of its budget on care for people in their last three months of life. No doubt some of that expense is justified; but there should also be no doubt that some of it is not. Much of it is driven by the unwillingness of clinicians, elderly patients and/or their families to accept the impending fact of death. Unless and until that attitude changes, no large-scale reform of our national health-care system will be both attainable and affordable. People who can afford to buy a bit of time for themselves or their loved ones, however wretched that time may be, should of course have every right to do so. But should their fellow citizens be forced to subsidize such choices? If we're going to achieve national health-care reform at all, the answer has to be no. That is not only a self-consistent but an inevitable way of balancing solidarity and subsidiarity.

This suggests that our national health-care policy should be a hybrid: socialized care for those who cannot pay for what they truly need "for living life with a modicum of human dignity," and free-market solutions for those who can. It is at that point, and only at that point, that debating economics becomes central. But we will not be able to reach that point unless the reality and necessity of rationing is generally accepted. And no such acceptance will become general unless we get our philosophical anthropology—i.e., the basis for solidarity and subsidiarity—straighter than we've got it.

Cross-posted at Sacramentum Vitae.

Comments (166)

It follows that Americans in general agree that health care should be treated as a right to some extent.

I would disagree with your statement above.... and would phrase it "that Americans in general agree that we should do what we can to help those who cannot afford health care."

Wanting to help people in need and agreeing that people in need have a federal government-backed right to part of your income are two different things. Solidarity need not come at the point of a gun and, in fact, is not solidarity from a Christian point of view. Solidarity, like all virtues, can only come through a free choice.

Good post - thank you. I would only add that, in our advanced state of political and social decay, we should not attempt a solution of any kind on a national level.

To Alan: The language of "rights" is always problematic, but I'm afraid Americans are permanently stuck with this category of thought. It may not hurt anything to think of a minimal standard of health care as a political "right" so long as it is defined clearly.

Alan:

If it's a duty to help those in need, it follows that some people in need have a corresponding right to be helped. And it has always been Catholic teaching that some help for the needy is a requirement of justice, and therefore a duty, as distinct from charity. It is also a constant of Catholic social teaching that rights which obtain as a matter of justice should be recognized as such by the state and treated accordingly.

That of course does not settle the question whether a specific right to health care ought to be "backed" by the "federal" government in America. That question is left open by both the principle of subsidiarity and the economics of the issue.

Best,
Mike

People who can afford to buy a bit of time for themselves or their loved ones, however wretched that time may be, should of course have every right to do so. But should their fellow citizens be forced to subsidize such choices? If we're going to achieve national health-care reform at all, the answer has to be no.

Great post Mike! You are aware of course, that the portion of your argument quoted above cannot be made without first shifting this debate from the material to the spiritual plane? Otherwise, all we've done is given moral cover to the qualitarians and the "time to go" ghouls posing as concerned ethicists? More context and insight is needed.

You are aware of course, that the portion of your argument quoted above cannot be made without first shifting this debate from the material to the spiritual plane? Otherwise, all we've done is given moral cover to the qualitarians and the "time to go" ghouls posing as concerned ethicists.

Of course I'm aware of that, Kevin. I wrote my post to encourage others to focus on precisely that. In my experience, conservatives are better able to do so than liberals.

Best,
Mike

I've been saying for a while that as long as some people thought providing universal healthcare was a moral imperative and others thought it was morally pugnacious to do so, then discussions of pragmatics are useless. Glad to see someone agrees with me. I'd be more amenable to public schemes if the government showed the willingness to make even the most basic distinctions regarding who benefits. If you're going to spend my money, don't waste it on fools.

And it has always been Catholic teaching that some help for the needy is a requirement of justice, and therefore a duty, as distinct from charity.

I think your post deserves better than to hang by this particular point, so I would like to carve it out and set it aside. It has always been a Catholic teaching that some help for the needy is a requirement. It has also always been part of that teaching that this obligation lies in a different category than that of commutative justice. It has NEVER before been a part of such teaching as to exactly how to draw the line (either conceptually or practically) between distributive justice in terms of sharing goods, and group charity. As a result, there has never been a coherent Catholic teaching that clearly identifies the meaning of "justice" or "charity" in the sense that you use it so as to clearly distinguish them. If what you mean is that people should view the obligation to the poor as something more serious than, say, the obligation to return such social niceties as parties, yes we can agree. If you mean that the obligation to consider the needs of the poor is a matter of justice under exactly the same sense of justice as that whereby I fulfill my contract to pay my mortgage, no, I don't see that in Catholic teaching.

But I think that is beside the point. I believe that we can get a lot more people on board with fulfilling an obligation to take care of health care for the poor out of the goods of the not-poor, if you can solve these problems: (1) identify the deserving poor who will get some of this largess without creating a system that encourages people to be classed as poor so they can get this benefit, (and without encouraging unhealthy behaviors on account of free care being available) (2) leave it practically possible for people to give more than their fair share without being treated as insane, (3) do not shift so much of the overall health-care dollars to taking care of the poor that we stifle research into new medicine, (which would be, in effect, refusing to take care of the future sick whose ailments we do not yet have solutions for), and (4) not effectively curtailing those who have more money from purchasing health care over and above what is available on the rationed basis.

Here is a modest start: Make primary care visits covered for all persons regardless of ability to pay. This is a gateway to further care in most cases, without itself being terribly expensive (so even the rich who could afford to pay the full cost of such visits are not getting all that much out of the system).

Then create a national-state-private organization database of willing donors and needy recipients. Part of the government's job is to create and maintain the database (including refereeing disputes) and auditing all sides of the coin for fraud and effectiveness. The database matches up people who need care with orgs who have received donations from members - to their church, or the American Cancer Society, or whatever, to be used for people who need tests, or medicine, or hospitalization. The database and the organization tells the recipient who their money came from individually. People who need long-term assistance are matched up with donors who put themselves down in the lists as contacts for long-term needs. The database keeps track of assistance obtained by the people in need and shows up any people falling through the cracks (to see where more resources, and more donors) are needed. States and communities get involved in those areas where persistent gaps show up, either indirectly by offering additional tax breaks for donation in those areas, or more directly by ad campaigns (like the Red Cross does for blood) about specific needs, or by simply paying for certain types of care that nobody else is paying for.

I know that there is reason to believe that the amount of giving will be much too low to cover the costs of the needy. Sure, at start. But the point here is more of a culture change than a fiscal technique: get people looking out for their fellow man. Who knows how far that might go?

Mike, the question you raise is this: who does the rationing, and by what criteria. In my scenario, each individual donor (and recipient, when he considers the thank-you note he will eventually send to the donor), along with the charitable org that generally acts as a collector and oversight mechanism, all help to make the decisions to ration the care. The state and national parties alert everyone to gaps, and rich people's response to those alerts, also determine the rationing decisions. In all of these, the choice to donate for, and to receive, care is made by a person thinking about another person , rather than by a systems analyst, or a bureaucratic policy.

And this obviously promotes both solidarity and subsidiarity.

Tony:

Your general stance seems reasonable to me, but I wonder to what extent one can persuade even conservatives to adopt it without the sort of extended philosophical discussion I've called for.

Best,
Mike

Well if conservatives are better able to do so than liberals then this; If you're going to spend my money, don't waste it on fools suggests we abandon each school when it comes to inculcating a healthy acceptance of death that isn't exploited. The so-called "right to die" movement benefits immensely from two powerful currents; the fear of spending one's last days suspended in a cold, mechanical twilight and the other of being an unnecessary burden to one's family.

I guess, Mike your saying no fruitful discussion of healthcare can occur without the Resurrection being front and center in the conversation.


Dear Michael,

While I agree that questions of philosophical antropology undergird the discussion about health care, these issues will not be settled, anytime soon, because they are being asked to a crowd that lacks any sort of consistant view of not only personhood, but also the very means to explore such questions. Beyond that, one must factor in the loss of wisdom that sin has caused in American society, today, and I fear that the best we can do is hope to stumble upon a temporarily workable solution. In sad truth, many people are deriving their thoughts on anthropology while sitting in movie theaters, watching the latest propaganda.

Fifty years ago, such a discussion might have been possible. Today, I fear it would stall starting with questions about rights from the womb, let alone end-of-life issues. Even in a perfect Catholic society, some of these questions must be left to prudential judgment.

If only we could bring about a conversion of heart on the life issues, the sort of discussion you want and which is needed would be much easier.

I wish we could create toy universes to study. I would like to see if a totally pro-life country would have an easier time with the issues you raise.

The Chicken

Your general stance seems reasonable to me, but I wonder to what extent one can persuade even conservatives to adopt it without the sort of extended philosophical discussion I've called for.

Yeah, I agree. How about this argument for conservatives: you either agree to this, or you get Obamacare! In other words, the threat of failure to agree on something like this is threat of something much, much worse to conservatives. Philosophical argument short-circuited.

But that's a political maneuver, not real honest justification, I know.

Consider the fact that, under the current system, Medicare is variously estimated to spend 40-60%—i.e., roughly half—of its budget on care for people in their last three months of life. No doubt some of that expense is justified; but there should also be no doubt that some of it is not. Much of it is driven by the unwillingness of clinicians, elderly patients and/or their families to accept the impending fact of death. Unless and until that attitude changes, no large-scale reform of our national health-care system will be both attainable and affordable. People who can afford to buy a bit of time for themselves or their loved ones, however wretched that time may be, should of course have every right to do so. But should their fellow citizens be forced to subsidize such choices? If we're going to achieve national health-care reform at all, the answer has to be no.

I am absolutely full of problems with this paragraph, and I can't even begin to say what I think of the rest of the post until I get off my chest some of my many problems about this paragraph. In no particular order...


--The statement that we can't even begin to achieve national healthcare reform until we agree with what comes earlier in the paragraph seems to imply that it is absolutely crucial to national healthcare reform that we make sure that people with less than three months to live get less medical care than they currently get. That may be a brutal paraphrase, but it's what I'm hearing. If this doesn't worry you when you find yourself writing it, Mike, it should.

--The mere fact that Medicare spends so much of its budget on the end of life does not in itself faze me. Nor should it in itself faze anyone, especially anyone pro-life. So what? People are usually sickest when they are going to die. No news there. Perhaps the little old lady scarcely put any burden on the system at all until she started going rapidly downhill, needed home care, and finally died. So the biggest percentage of what she got from the Medicare system came in the last three months of her life. This tells us _zip_ about how morally and medically justified that care was.

--This paragraph is extremely vague about why we should believe that the majority of these expenses are unjustified and constitute some sort of illegitimate grasping at life and refusal to accept death. Get specific. What care, exactly, do you suggest people should be involuntarily denied at the end of life? Chemotherapy? Radiation? Breathing assistance? Feeding and hydration?

--The assumption that huge percentages of American people are doing some sort of wild and unjustified things to extend their lives in the last three months is one we hear from pro-death-ers. Why should pro-lifers accept anything from that source?

--The idea that "buying time" is in and of itself illegitimate as a "refusal to accept" reality simply because one's life during that time is "wretched" is dangerously close to the notion that certain kinds of "quality of life" are "unworthy of living." We should certainly not buy into that entire quality of life philosophy, as pro-lifers.

--Finally, and most crucially, it isn't going to be Mike Liccione and his fellow faithful, pro-life Catholics who understand (I presume) that food and fluids are ordinary care and euthanasia is wrong who are going to be making rationing decisions if the philosophy articulated in this paragraph is accepted. It's the pro-death people of the world, who think that Terri Schiavo should have died fifteen years sooner, that the Dutch system is just ducky, that it's no problem that the State of Oregon offers its poor euthanasia but won't pay for certain types of chemotherapy, and who will certainly want to deny tube feeding and hydration to people unable to eat for themselves as part of forcing them to accept the fact of impending death and not try to stretch out their "wretched" existences more than the 10-14 days it takes them to die by dehydration. Hence, a call for rationing in end-of-life care is exceedingly reckless in the present political and moral context.

Okay, end of rant. Back to making supper. Sorry, Mike. Hope you don't take this amiss.

Tony,

What you seem to be proposing is entirely anti-free market which is the best mechanism for charity to work and be effective for the most people at the least cost. Government should not be involved in any of this except for slight business regulations to protect against fraud, deceit, and abuse.

I want to address another aspect of faith and social policies, though. The question of charity itself and how we practice it.

I don’t know how many others reading W4 have done much charity work such as working in soup kitchens or centers which service indigents, vagrants, and poor with various options like travel tickets, motel vouchers, bus passes, and referrals to various agencies.

I’ve done a bit of it, and I had to quit at a certain point because I found the work fruitless and counter productive.

At the food kitchen, nothing was required of able bodied people in exchange for the food which enabled many to maintain a dissolute lifestyle and it increased the sense of entitlement in many. Nor was any evangelization attempted. In fact, the directors would have found that gauche, déclassé, and cruel. No come to Jesus, ever.

No, they would know we are Christians by our love and of course repent their losing ways in due time.

Also, I know a number of Christians who will serve the poor (let’s use that as a catchall) and no matter how they are abused by the poor, will “offer it up”.

Are we really obligated, a la Mother Theresa, to find Jesus in the most abusive, manipulative, grasping ne’er do well, or do we have an inherent dignity which is worth preserving and demanding respect for?

Tony mentions the undeserving poor, and I’ve heard this distinction before, but it’s one that Gov’t is entirely incapable to making (since it is always open to gaming the system). Local charities are in a better position to judge between a reprobate and a mere unfortunate, but I have found they prefer not to judge (and thus resources may be squandered on the many and do little good rather than used for a few and do actual good).

(For example, I help support Bishop Quinn Cottages which offers discipline and small homes for the homeless. They graduate a few people every year into the mainstream of self-support, but this program only affects a very few compared to general number of street people in Sacramento.)

I think it fundamentally disrespects a person to accept their nastiness and return it with goods and services. It is not an example of unconditional love, but false charity and harms a brute who doesn’t receive the lesson of a natural consequence for bad behavior when another enables it.

People need to suffer the consequences of their actions. Of course, none of us would ‘scape whipping if judgment were ruthlessly applied, but wisdom demands of us both kindness, understanding, prudence and sternness.
We don’t give the alcoholic another liver unless we’ve a surplus of livers and so on. But if he can afford to buy one, that’s his business (if it’s legal).

I don’t just believe, I am certain that if Americans were allowed to keep their money instead of having it stolen from them for supposedly charitable purposes (that shalt not steal, thou shalt not covet), we could easily provide good and kind health care to all who need it. We’re doing so now except that it’s incredibly inefficient, squandered, stolen, pilfered, gamed, and so on.

Imagine the good Americans would do if they could keep their own hard earned money and spend it as they chose.

Dear Mark Butterworth,

You wrote:

People need to suffer the consequences of their actions... and ...Imagine the good Americans would do if they could keep their own hard earned money and spend it as they chose.

What actions of mine caused two congenital conditions? Even should I spend all of my money on health care, I still would not get the same level of care as someone on Medicaid, even though I have almost never used the health care system in the last twenty years and have neither abused it nor been a burden to it.

Also, unfortunately, at least some of the poor you describe are addicted to crack. They would love to get off and so not burden the system. I have, yet, to see a system that actually works. The statistics show that twelve-step methods have the same rate of recidivism as any other method.

I do think your major point is right - I have not seen any convincing statistics that health care should not be universally possible, given the resources this country possesses, but this is also a greedy country, more and more, or rather, selfish. I, personally, am for a smaller, community-driven way to pay for health care. I haven't heard of any good suggestions, yet.

The Chicken

Mark,

I agree with your point. I have had a little involvement with some of the nonsense you are talking about, some with refugees, some in other areas. I agree that there is a lot of waste and abuse, even in the private charity area. That's one of the reasons I indicated that any real solution needs to not form a motivation for people to class themselves as the poor in need of assistance, and to not reward destructive behavior. (And one of the reasons why I suggested that all primary care visits be covered for everyone - that way there is no motivation to hide income or make pretense about your need. Though I admit that I may be feeding the problem some other way with this.)

I believe that there are better and worse ways of managing such operations as soup kitchens, and taking care of the homeless. The "Cottages" you mention are surely a more humanly supportive idea than the typical homeless shelter. Real solutions can't look at a mass of homeless and aim primarily at reducing the statistic. They have to look at a homeless person and aim at raising him up so that the way he wants to live is in accordance with social, moral, personal, and spiritual reality, and the resources available made to him to meet that desire are in conformity with the need. This change is not likely to be met by a governmental program, since a governmental program is not generally able to concern itself with his internal formation.

Lydia,

I just watched my Mom die of cancer, and saw the "system" up front and personal. I saw the doctor be very careful in showing only a slight preference for not aggressively treating the cancer, on various grounds - some of them medical. I saw also my mom refuse the aggressive approach, preferring to let the cancer kill her in 6 months with relative dignity, (relative: that means having relatives change your diaper for you, instead of a stranger) instead of it taking her in 14 months with much more intervention, tubes, chemo, etc. It was totally obvious to all of us that she made the right choice in terms of treating a human being as a person - as a being made to live in this world for a time but destined in the long run for death and then eternal life. We also saw a good team of hospice aids give us assistance in caring for Mom at home.

I also saw the relief on the faces of the doctor and nurses in seeing us agree to non-aggressive care. They clearly have dealt with cases where the patient and/or family do not, and insist on care that in reality is inhumane in the truest sense.

When the nitty hits the gritty, there will certainly be cases where this kind of decision is the right one, but the patient won't see it. I am extremely grateful to the Lord that He enabled all of us to see the same truth so there was no contention. But in cases where the patient is blind to eternal life and blind to her fellow man, it may indeed be the case that the most truly humane way of handling a final illness is simply to feed and hydrate the person and let the disease otherwise kill her, but she won't see it. While it would feel horrendous to be the one to choose to not provide or pay for the additional care that would be the properly humane care for someone in a different condition, it would not be necessarily immoral or wrongheaded.

Nevertheless, it is also worrisome in the extreme to put this decision in the hands of some bureaucrat. Far, far better to leave it with the patient, the family, the charity that knows the family and the community, etc.

Lydia:

Assuming that we're going to maintain the degree of coverage that Medicare now provides, the only alternative to some kind of end-of-life rationing is continuing to subsidize, with tax revenues, whatever choices patients and families end up making about end-of-life care. I don't claim the latter would be morally wrong in itself; I just don't think it's economically sustainable. That will become clear soon enough to most people, not just the "right-to-die" crowd. At that point, there will be no avoiding the question by what criteria the rationing is to be done.

You evidently think that the wrong criteria will be adopted. That could well happen. But I think it's less likely to happen if the pro-life principles upheld by the Catholic Church are presented vigorously and influence the public debate, as they have in the case of just-war theory and stem-cell research. I don't know how familiar you are with Catholic biomedical principles, but the sources are readily available. They neither require as much end-of-life care as many people currently demand nor settle for as little care as the right-to-die crowd would prefer. In fact, the Church's tradition is the only self-consistent, morally acceptable middle way between no rationing at all and the wrong sort of rationing. Given that the former is economically unsustainable and the latter morally unacceptable, there is simply no alternative to the approach I would advocate.

Best,
Mike

Tony, I think that your family's decision is anecdotal evidence (to add to what I already have) that people are reasonable about these things and are not out there demanding inappropriate things like crazy at the end of life. At least, not the vast majority of people. In my experience, the far greater danger now lies in the other direction--namely, that people will not realize the distinction between ordinary and extraordinary care and will refuse _both_ (or at least sign something that says they refuse both) out of a fear of either being a burden or accepting "unnatural" means.

You evidently think that the wrong criteria will be adopted.

I think it absolutely inevitable that not only will wrong criteria be adopted but also that great evils will actively be done. The elderly in Holland are euthanized even without consent. If, as I'm quite willing to believe, Medicare _in general_ is not economically sustainable, it would be better to find a way to phase out the program altogether or gradually to replace it to a greater extent with private alternatives than to allow someone other than the patient to make a purely utilitarian calculus to ration end-of-life care. That way will lie murderous evil, and I am speaking here most deliberately. Speaking for myself, I would rather die in poverty without the pretense of medical care with someone I love by my side feeding me and giving me sips of water as best he can than die at the will of some bureaucrat under _supposed_ "medical care" which actually amounts to high doses of Atavin and morphine while I slowly dehydrate to death. Or, even more directly, simply be overdosed to death or otherwise actively euthanized.

One of the greatest evils of the socialization of medical care is precisely that it has made the people under it so vulnerable to the moral utilitarianism of those with the power of life and death over them and, in practice, so unable to find alternatives.

One of the greatest evils of the socialization of medical care is precisely that it has made the people under it so vulnerable to the moral utilitarianism of those with the power of life and death

Say, rather, that this is one of the greatest of evils of governmentized medical care. Society is larger and deeper than the government. While we don't want government to decide whether granny gets a dose of ibuprofen, we do want society (i.e. the community of persons) to be thinking of her care.

Lydia:

Your solution to government-enforced euthanasia appears to be this:

If, as I'm quite willing to believe, Medicare _in general_ is not economically sustainable, it would be better to find a way to phase out the program altogether or gradually to replace it to a greater extent with private alternatives than to allow someone other than the patient to make a purely utilitarian calculus to ration end-of-life care.

If, by "private alternatives," you mean ones not subsidized by tax dollars, then I just don't think your proposal would avoid a good deal of de facto euthanasia. (Your own example of being fed and hydrated by a loving relative, rather than accept government-mandated euthanasia, suggests as much.) What I'd rather see is a hybrid: a certain floor of "ordinary" care, as the Church defines 'ordinary', would be set by statute and subsidized on a sliding scale with tax dollars for those who cannot afford that floor of care, with "extraordinary" care left to purely private resources. I think that would relieve taxpayers of the burden of paying for others' morally optional care, while also ensuring that everybody can get the morally acceptable minimum of care. Unlike the Congress in its own case, I am quite willing to apply the results of such a policy to myself. If, even given public help, I would be unable to afford the level of care necessary to ensure that I live as long as medically feasible, then so be it. I don't think that would be a tragedy, let alone a disaster.

Of course a lot of people would strenuously hold otherwise in their own case. Indeed, in my experience, the chief objection to the scheme I favor is the idea of using "sectarian" criteria for deciding what the care floor should be. But as I said, the only economically feasible alternative is government-enforced euthanasia, which most Americans rightly do not want. I think Americans will be prepared to hear the Church on this matter when the economic realities hit them hard enough.

Best,
Mike

Libertarians would not agree that health care should be treated as such a right at all

Let's assume that health care is, on some level, a right. Why not housing? Why not food? Clothing? Education? Parents? A steady income?

I think this is a perfect example of the unprincipled exception. The socialists are correct. Absolutely, 100% correct, that once you concede that health care is a human right, then so are all basic human needs.

As an aside, we lose most of the debates, but on the right, right-libertarians have almost always accurately predicted the effects of government policy on right-wing issues. If we had to pick a motto, it would be "we told you so."

Mike T:

Just because, in a blog post, I did not specify what the principles of exception for various rights are, does not mean that I recognize no such exceptions in the case of health care or any of the others you mentioned. But when I'm dealing with libertarians, I see no particular reasons to enter into detail. If we lack prior agreement on principled answers to such questions as what is and what is not a human right, and how to distinguish between rights of various relative strengths, then there's no point in trying to reach agreement on "principled" exceptions. That's why I prefer to shift the discussion to the philosophical level I specified in my essay.

Kevin:

I guess, Mike your saying no fruitful discussion of healthcare can occur without the Resurrection being front and center in the conversation.

No, I am not saying that—which is why I talked about "philosophical" anthropology. Most non-Christian cultures have little trouble recognizing that extending physical life as long as possible is not always desirable even when attainable. Of course there are bad as well as good reasons for such an attitude; but one purpose of the conversation I'd like to see is to sort out such reasons from each other.

I suspect that we have a problem in this country because we stand at a peculiar intersection. The majority of us still value individual human life to an extent that is explicable only by culturally lingering Judaeo-Christian ideas; but because awareness of and assent to such ideas is inconsistent and distorted, we lack the clarity we need to make morally consistent collective choices about health care.

Best,
Mike

Just because, in a blog post, I did specify what the principles of exception for various rights are, does not mean that I recognize no such exceptions in the case of health care or any of the others you mentioned.

That point wasn't intended as an attack on you, but as a reminder that to exclude any basic human need after conceding that health care is a right is unprincipled.

It should also be apparent that phrases like live life with a modicum of human dignity are dangerous because they cannot be easily defined. Who gets to decide the parameters of this? Is it really undignified to tell some 400lb middle aged glutton that society won't pay for his heart surgery since he couldn't be bothered to take care of himself? How about telling a woman that she must pay for her own cancer treatment because she started smoking well after it was linked to cancer? Should alcoholics be entitled to liver transplants?

The problem that I have with the positive right angle here is that I am unconvinced that there is any moral issue with allowing someone to die in such scenarios. Certainly not if they are unrepentant of the way they have lived. I'm not try to be a heartless jerk about this, so much as a realist regarding sin and reaping what we have sewn.

I have no problem with the government providing a program to guarantee that all emergency victims, such as car crash victims, get emergency care because that is, in every sense, qualitatively different from providing general care.

There is also an intersection between the way that we pay for any damn fool, no matter what he did to bring himself to the emergency room, and immoral behavior. Drug addicts know that the ER has to care for them. If hospitals had the discretionary authority to deny overdosing drug addicts health care, over time that would foster an awareness in the public that overdosing is virtually guaranteed to lead to death which would discourage many users. Not all, but enough to start marginalizing hard drug users without the massive militarized police forces we have today.

Trying to mark out people who can be "blamed" for their maladies, and thus do not "deserve" publicly subsidized health care, is indeed politically problematic. If a reliable moral judge could be set up, I would have no moral problem with denying tax dollars to such people either; and as a smoker, I would have no problem with government refusing to pay for any but palliative care if, say, I get lung cancer or emphysema. But of course there is not and will not be general agreement on "who decides" such matters; the only reliable judge is God, who is not going to make the decisions for us. So even if some people are morally blameworthy for their maladies, it is just not politically feasible to deny them subsidies for "ordinary" care if they cannot afford it themselves.


So even if some people are morally blameworthy for their maladies, it is just not politically feasible to deny them subsidies for "ordinary" care if they cannot afford it themselves.

It is not politically feasible because so many are afraid of being labeled judgmental and because assigning blame is hard to legislate. It's not impossible, just difficult. Just like it's merely difficult to write coherent criminal statutes, not at all impossible to predict and handle outlier cases.

Yes, I stand with Barack Obama in his reforms for the health care system. There are many reasons why his reforms must be be quickly implemented, firstly more than 47 million U.S. residents have no health insurance, and the numbers keep growing. Secondly our Working families are experiencing double-digit increases in the costs of their health insurance, more out-of-pocket costs for doctor visits and skyrocketing prices for prescriptions, forcing many to delay getting needed medical care or worse...last but not least the failure of the previous health care systems will demand for new reforms such as this, playing politics at the time when millions of citizens life is at stake will certainly hamper the well-being of the country.
Interesting report below:
Link :http://en.oboulo.com/the-failure-of-america-s-health-care-system-65187.html
Fingers crossed!

No, I am not saying that—which is why I talked about "philosophical" anthropology.

Mike,
I don't see how we build a healthcare system that upholds the sacredness of life and provides for the poor on a foundation of economic theories, philosophical anthropology and a secular understanding of rights.

this is one of the greatest of evils of governmentized medical care.

Yes, government-controlled enterprises are more wasteful, cumbersome and irresponsible, but the spiritual substance of a culture matters more than the economic forms it practices. Much of what has been written here sounds vaguely like an economic determinism that holds free markets are intrinsically prolife. If that were the case, according to your theory, abortion would be illegal in the United States and enshrined in Nicaragua and El Salvador when the exact opposite is the case.

In 10 years, there will be more people 65 and over, than there are those 5 and under.* The strain on resources for end of life care will be immense. Given that scenario, it won't matter much if it is United Healthcare - insurer for 1 out of 6 customers in this country, or the United States government, things will get real ugly in a society where the Gospels are subordinate to other concepts.


*http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2009/jul/09072211.html

Michael and Mike T.

Only one system can work - a free market where everyone has to pay for their health care. No one walks into an emergency room and gets care without money in hand.

The wealthy can always afford the highest level of health care. For the rest of us, it is always a matter of rationing - what we or our families can afford. Tell me I need an operation or treatment that costs a million dollars and I will opt to die rather than impoverish my family.

There was a time when people were made of sterner stuff, including making tough life or death choices.

Once everyone has to pay cash (or insure themselves), then it's the place for charity to step in.

In Sacramento we have a Shriner's Children's Hospital, one of the best in the country, especially its burn unit. It was built from endowment funds, is run by endowment funds and is free, I believe, in most cases.

The endowment fund isn't that huge - a billion or two, I think (and recently was hurt by the bubble collapse like everyone else and asked for contributions).

People, you don't seem to realize that over half of your hard earned money is taken from you at the point of a gun. Imagine what society would do to fund charity if we had what we earned.

Direct fees, various utility costs, assesssments combined with income tax, state and fed, payroll taxes (SSI etc), sales tax, property tax is close to 50% of an average person's income.

BUT!!! You haven't begun to count all the corporate and business taxes because everything you buy includes that company's cost of doing business which includes you covering its tax cost. Everything you buy, goods or service doesn't just come with a sales tax but with its hidden business tax included.

Yes, a lot of that money you'd keep if we actually followed the Constitution would be spent on you and your family, but you'd also spend a much greater amount on charity, but then there'd be fewer poor because you'd have the money to hire more people to accomplish the things you want done.

People, for every dollar the government takes in taxes, four dollars are lost to the general economy. Imagine what we'd do with all that extra money for the good. It pains me that I can't give more to charity because we don't have enough money to give more. My wife and I aren't extravagant, and have no need for more "things". We try to live simply and without clutter and accumulated goods. But we have retirement to think about, and health coverage, and so on and on even though we are relatively frugal.

Ray,

Obama guy, the reason the health care system is so screwed up is because of gov't. More gov't will make it all worse. If you don't know that or can't see it, then you need a serious review of Milton Friedman et al. See Canada and England. Buy a clue.

And if you're here because you're a Christian who cares, see the Ten Commandments about stealing and coveting other people's money. It's not charity when it's forced at the point of a gun. It's theft. Governments don't work for the good of the people. Governments work for the sake of the powerful and the bureaucracy. If you don't know that, read your Jefferson, Adams, Washington, et al. Our gov't was designed to do as little as possible and have as little money as possible, and wield as little power as possible.

You want to make things much much worse.

Health care is not a right any more than transmission repair is a right. Just because your car is malfunctioning and makes it impossible for you to get to work so that you can keep your job and provide food, clothing and shelter for your family, does not mean you have a right to transmission repair and can demand the services and products of the transmission repair shop -- even under under government-imposed duress aimed at the transmission repair shop because the government wants to lower the unemployment rate and doesn't want to see you lose your job. (After all, the transmission repairman has a family to care for as well, and if his transmission repair shop were forced to do its work under artificially suppressed prices, that shop would likely go out of business, and the family -- or families -- it supports will be ruined.)

Just because you are sick does not mean you can demand the services or products of someone else and that they must provide them. Just because you have bad teeth or a bad appendix does not mean you have a right to dental service or surgery and that the dentist or surgeon must provide them. For government to require these services for you from them, for government to require dentists or surgeons to work on you at artificially suppressed prices or else face fines, imprisonment, and possible exclusion from their profession, is theft and oppression.

That such a policy, or anything like it, appears to some Christians as moral and defensible tells me how little they know about economics, government -- and theology. One person's moral obligation is not another person's political or economic right.


Mr Bauman:

Recall that our previous conversation, held in a now-buried thread, concluded when I noted that debate between us would be useless because we do not agree on the logical import of conditional terms. I see that problem cropping up again here. I hold that, in a certain class of cases, propositions of the following form are true: "If, for some person X, X has an obligation to do A for some person Y, then Y has a right to A." Unfortunately, you have now provided me with an additional reason for not discussing with you the question just which class of cases.

You have not only characterized my position as a rationale for "theft and oppression," but also, and worse, as based on sheer ignorance. That makes the discussion needlessly personal as well as logically impossible. Since you are a professor in the humanities, I may safely presume that you know as much and accordingly do not desire substantive discussion. I am happy to oblige. Good day, sir.

Kevin:

I don't see how we build a healthcare system that upholds the sacredness of life and provides for the poor on a foundation of economic theories, philosophical anthropology and a secular understanding of rights.

Unless I'm radically misunderstanding you, your position logically commits you to holding that a morally sound national-health policy can only be formulated and implemented by a confessional state. I have already explained above why I would not agree with that. Given economic realities and the moral beliefs of most Americans, there is no practical alternative to Americans' embracing a set of criteria for a minimum level of subsidized care that would happen to accord pretty much with the Church's criteria for "ordinary" care—granted that Americans would not embrace it because it is the teaching of the Church. More generally, I would not agree that the overall body of Catholic social teaching requires a confessional state for the present purpose or any other purpose.

Best,
Mike

I saw this argument from one of the other threads: We have an obligation to help the poor, and where that obligation exists, the other end of the stick is that they have a right to receive such care.

This argument is false. The reality for this obligation is just like our obligation to forgive or neighbor when he wrongs us: As Christians, we owe it to God to act toward our neighbor the way HE acts both to us and to our neighbor - in loving forgiveness. The obligation to forgive is an obligation owed to GOD, not to our neighbor. Our neighbor has no actual claim on our forgiveness - from his angle, forgiveness is a pure gift.

On the other hand, it does not follow that Only one system can work - a free market where everyone has to pay for their health care. No one walks into an emergency room and gets care without money in hand. is the only possible approach. If someone decides to charitably set up a free emergency room, nothing about this damages or obstructs freedom and rights. It may not be a very effective way of dealing with care for the poor, especially not alone - but that is a larger social question of practical methods, not a problem of principles and rights.

Ray, cut with the stuff about "playing politics at the time when millions of citizens life is at stake" crud, please. That is sheer foggery. We don't need it. The people on this website are acknowledging that the health care system is NOT ideal, and want to see it improved. There is no way of jumping from "our current system is not good" to a conclusion that "Obamacare is the only possible solution". And even if you thought that such an argument is possible, you have made no attempt to actually make it, nor shown us any reason to think you are ready to make it.

Much of what has been written here sounds vaguely like an economic determinism that holds free markets are intrinsically prolife.

Kevin, I suppose that a few of the comments made here can be read to suggest that, but by and large I don't see it. Most of the strongest pro-market arguments seem (to me, at least) to be more in the line of saying that even if some people and agents in the "market" are pro-death, that limited evil (though grave) is better than all of the certain systemic and personal evils that would attend eradicating all of the free market in health care altogether - including most of the very same pro-death evils that would happen in the free market. I don't necessarily agree with this assessment of those evils.

I personally don't hold a brief in the point of view that says there should be an absolutely free market with no government involvement whatsoever. I don't agree with the libertarian angle on this. But I do agree that any proposal that inserts governmental coercion in what otherwise should be left to free personal choices, should only be permitted under a restricted vision of such involvement, because that governmental coercion, while intrinsically putting subsidiarity under tension, CANNOT bring about solidarity of its own nature. Thus every proposed program of governmental intrusion should be tested against the ideals of solidarity and subsidiarity, with the clear understanding that coercive taxation to take care of the poor reflects, at best, only a very attenuated notion of solidarity. If that program by its nature interferes with a more developed form of solidarity, it has that much more of a hurdle to its being a truly humane approach to solving the problem.

Michael,
Did I mention you?

Did you refute my contentions?

"No" to both questions.

Don't mistake pointed for personal. When I am speaking to you personally, I will use your name, as I did here.

Further, the very existence of rights is highly questionable. Biblically, there are such things as right and wrong, and there are such things as moral obligation and righteousness -- but rights are nowhere articulated or presupposed. Rights, in the sense that we often employ the concept now, are a philosopher's fiction. The fiction might prove useful in many ways -- I think it does -- but it's a fiction nevertheless. The apostles, the prophets, and Christ Himself seem not to be on board with us in this regard. They oppose oppression and theft, to be sure, and they advocate aiding the poor and the downtrodden. But rights talk and rights reasoning is not how they get there.

Protestant-barely-learning-Catholic-vocabulary, and non-philosopher, here: Could someone provide either brief explanations of "solidarity" and "subsidiarity" or a link to such explanations? I have *sort of* an idea of what is meant by these, but could follow and consider the discussion better if I were more sure I understood what y'all are talking about.

I think that some clear definitions of what folk mean by the word "rights" would help, too . . . I think not everyone is using it the same way, which I at least am finding confusing . . .

Michael L., for example, when you say that an obligation (duty, whatever -- a Biblical mandate, I assume) on my part to help the poor means that the poor have a "right" to my help (when you equate obligations and rights, in other words), do you mean by "right" that it's okay for someone else (a person, or a government) to compel me by threat of punishment to carry out the obligation if I don't want to? That would be my assumption, but I think I had better not assume too much in this conversation. Also, if this is the case, does it apply to all obligations I might have, or are there lines where the fulfillment of an obligation can*not* be compelled? If the latter is the case, how do we know what that line is?

Michael B., I would love to hear you expound on the last paragraph of your 12:47 post if you would; since we're talking about *American* health care, how does your understanding fit with our American (not necessarily Biblical, I haven't really thought it through much yet) ideal of certain rights given by God, such as life and liberty? I found the discussion Jonah Goldberg gave of what "rights" are at NRO interesting: http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=Nzk1ZmQ0ZjhmYWZiNmViZWI0NzgyNWU1ZGU5Njg3OTQ= (I'm not referring to his argument against Obama's health care proposals, but just his discussion of rights.)


I agree with Michael L.'s contention that it's good to get to principles to be able to argue effectively, rather than mulling about pragmatic ideas without a common understanding of their foundations. My questions here no doubt reveal how far out of my league I am in this venue, but the discussion interests me deeply, and I can't follow it well without the semantic tools. So I appreciate any time that could be taken to help me out that way.

Thanks!

Beth

Beth:

For a reasonably informative overview of Catholic social teaching, I recommend The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church. If you like, you can skip right to the sections on solidarity and subsidiarity; but I suspect you'll need to read the whole thing for context. If you don't like reading something book-length on a computer screen, the CSDC is available for purchase in hard copy from many sources.

I do not hold, without qualification, that X's obligation to do A for Y is logically equivalent to Y's right to have A done for him by X. For instance, if God wills that X do a specific act of charity A for Y, it does not follow that Y has a divine right that X do A for him. For charity and mercy are not justice; and one cannot have a right to charity or mercy, for rights are a matter of justice. The question at issue here is whether providing needed health care for those who cannot provide it for themselves is a matter of charity or of justice. If the former, then health care is not a right; if the latter, it is.

Now Christian tradition holds that those who have more than they need for living with a modicum of human dignity are obligated, as a matter of justice, to share their surplus with those who do not. So I would hold that, in general, people who are doing fine have an obligation in justice to help those who are not. That's part of what 'solidarity' means, and it applies to health care. But even that obligation is not unconditional. If what's in question is strict justice, one needs to discern as a matter of prudence the best means of providing help. In some cases, just giving somebody what they need for a time will end up leaving them worse off than before. Sometimes that happens by "enabling" behavior that got them where they are to begin with; that's why I don't give cash to street beggars but usually offer to buy them a meal, which they usually refuse for reasons we know well. In other cases, subsidizing their health care is enabling the behavior that made them unhealthy; and in still other cases, the subsidy is for health care that will merely slow the dying process instead of making them healthy. So, for the sake of justice, the amount and conditions of health-care help will have to be limited.

By far the most controversy about Catholic social teaching is over the question to what extent its precepts should be enforced by the state. I don't believe there's any general, principled answer to that question that will yield a reliable result in every case. The answer must be case-by-case and involve considering many empirical factors about which reasonable people can disagree.

Best,
Mike

Thanks, Mike, that's helpful.

Can you explain why it is a matter of justice rather than charity for the rich to help the poor? What would be an act of charity, then?

Thanks again; just trying to grasp the concepts.

Beth

It is sometimes "a matter of justice" for the rich to help the poor; at other times, it's a matter of charity. Since you're a committed Christian, it seems to me that such a statement would be uncontroversial for you just on biblical grounds. But if you're looking for a more contemporary and detailed treatment, the CSDC will do just fine.

Can you explain why it is a matter of justice rather than charity for the rich to help the poor? What would be an act of charity, then?

My question precisely. Thanks, Beth.

I quite agree with Michael's point that the requirement of helping the poor is an obligation, in all Christian traditions. I do not object to calling it an obligation in justice, when you define the meaning here. For - just as surely as Beth and others puzzle about it - the meaning of justice in this context is not the same as the meaning of justice that is well understood and accepted in most other contexts.

Commutative justice is that justice whereby I render what is due to my neighbor Jim, say the debt I owe him, and whereby I charge a fair price for water even though I can get 10 times as much during a temporary loss of water supply. Commutative justice has nothing to do with rendering to the poor what assistance I can give them out of what I have.

Distributive justice normally is understood as that justice whereby the state "distributes" the goods that are proper to the state itself. Such things as honors and privileges are goods proper to the state as such, and are doled out to those individuals deemed worthy and where such distribution benefits the common good.

Taxes collected from the rich and given (in food, shelter, medicine) to the poor are NOT normatively understood to be acts of distributive justice, for this distributes goods not proper to the state, but proper first to the individuals. The fact that the state has collected the taxes does not re-ordain them to be the state's proper goods as such - for if the state's taxation is unjust, they remain in justice the rightful goods of individuals.

If there is a valid notion of "justice" by which we understand that the obligation of the rich to assist the poor is an obligation in justice, it can ONLY be a sense of justice that reflects an initial, real ownership by the individual rich person in his private goods. What that concept of justice would be has (at least so far as I have seen) NEVER been attempted directly and on point, so as to distinguish it clearly from charity.

The foundational principle of this form of "justice" is that of the root ownership of ALL property is by the human family in common, for the good of all. This ownership (so goes the theory) precedes particular private ownership, and so private ownership of goods holds only so far as such private ownership benefits the common good and the good of the whole human family.

If this were the only principle that applies, socialism would be a moral system. But the principle of subidiarity also plays in. Because of subsidiarity, the larger community cannot simply take from the individual on the basis that "another has need", more must be done to justify the taking. Thus the justice that reflects the common source and common destination of goods requires taking into account that the goods (before the taking) belong to the individual and are at his disposal in first instance. If the rich person decides, out of charity, to give his riches away to found a hospital before the community takes his wealt, he can hardly be considered to be frustrating the "justice" by which he is obligated to assist the poor. So whatever sense it is of "justice" that provides that the state or community has its vision on ensuring the poor are cared for out of the goods of the entire human family, that justice cannot be based intrinsically and utterly on coercive taxation (er, collection and redistribution) that prevents individual charity. Probably, the "justice" we are talking about is best understood as a form of obligation on the community after taking into account individual acts of charity.

Thank you, Beth and Tony, for moving the conversation in a constructive direction.

Best,
Mike

The statement is not controversial to me, Mike, it's utterly new. :) In other words, the churches in which I have fellowshipped have not had this kind of discussion, and I honestly don't have a clue the difference between giving as an act of charity and giving as an act of justice.

Tony, thanks -- I think I will need to read your post a few times slowly to "get" it, simply because some difficult things have come up in the extended family that are distracting me from this discussion. I very much appreciate your time to articulate the concepts, and even if I'm unable to respond here in a timely way, I'll be thinking about them.

Mike, I'll check out the book you recommended -- thanks.

Beth

Tony,

After saying only the free market can work in health care, I quickly pointed out that it was at that place that charity is necessary and possible to step in and fill the gaps (and suffer what gaming of its system of care that a free or graduated manner of provision would engender).

For example, we have a food bank in Sacto. Do only the poor with no money for food come to it and take away bags of free goods? Of course not. many people come to save money by getting free food and using that now surplus money for dope or alcohol or cable TV; whatever.

The food bank has no means test. But they accept that as the price of helping the more undeserving folks.

Michael Bauman,

I'm not buying your notion that as far as the Bible goes, rights are a philosopher's fiction.

The Ten Commandments directly imply basic human rights. Not murder implies a right to life. Not steal, a right to property, the fruit of one's labor. Not covet your neighbors goods insists more emphatically that his goods belong to him and no one else. And so on.

Mark:

If I believed that charity would meet all the genuine needs that the market cannot and that government now tries to meet, I'd favor it. But I don't, and neither do the Church hierarchy or most other people. You of course believe that government subsidy of health care could never "work," which is why you think it's better to let some of the impecunious die for lack of money for health care than to let government force money out of people for their care. But I'm not sure whether the disagreement is primarily empirical, about what would and wouldn't "work," or primarily about basic principles of justice. I'm inclined to think the latter. That's because, without agreement about the latter, there's no way to collectively formulate a goal which we can then think about how to attain; and if we can't do that, then we can't say what would or wouldn't "work."

Best,
Mike

Mark,
The 10 commandments articulate basic human obligations, from which you have deduced what you identify as rights. Perhaps your deductions are not God's.

Take the right to life as a example. The commandment not to murder, and my resulting moral obligation not to kill you unjustly, might imply something quite different from your "right" to life. It might imply that I am obligated to treat God's property with respect, deference, and protective care. The "rights" involved might be God's, not ours. We do not belong to ourselves. I don't own me. You don't own you. Even your life and your self are not your own. God owns you. We are triply His:

1. We say that what a man makes belongs to a man. But I am made by God. On the basis of creation I am his. Doing something immoral or destructive to me might be a breach of God's "rights," not mine.

2. We say that what a man buys belongs to him. But we have been purchased by God at the cost of his own Son. On the basis of purchase we are His. Doing something immoral or destructive to me might be a breach of God's "rights," not mine.

3. We say that we ought not bespoil a man of his domicile. God dwells in us by His Spirit. By indwelling we are His. Doing something immoral or destructive to me might be a breach of God's "rights," not mine. If rights to attach to us at all, they might be God's rights, not ours.

In other words, God's "rights" imply our obligations, not our obligations imply our rights.

Michael B,

Good going, I was going to make just that point, but not nearly so well. Thanks.

Now, to throw out a life preserver (no pun unintended) to the notion of rights: in the limited realm of political action and (especially) exercise of state authority, we may be said to have a limited sort of right: The right that is the obverse of the state's obligation to NOT ACT upon us except when need applies. For instance, the state has no right to take away our land, except under certain conditions A, B, C, etc. The state has no right to take away my life, except if I am a murderer and continue to pose a threat; the state has no right to tell me I can't use my land for a commercial building, except when... You get the idea: insofar as the state goes, it must treat you AS IF you had a right to life, property, liberty, freedom, which "rights" apply generally but are not absolute, are not without boundaries and limits.

And if the state must treat you as if you had rights to these, then so much the more must your fellow citizen do so, for he almost never has the conditions to supercede your "right". But these rights are (again) only reflections on how others are obliged to treat me, not my rights in and of themselves. If God decides (á la Job) that I no longer am to have wealth, then I no longer can say "wait, I have a right to that wealth." If God tells Abraham to kill Isaac, then Isaac can no longer say "but wait, I have a right to that life, you're taking away something that belongs to me."

Tony:

Your discussion of rights seems incredibly narrow to me. First, you discuss them mostly in a political context: the state is obligated to treat citizens only "as if" they had (suitably delimited) rights. And so, for instance, the "Bill of Rights" is only so named by legal fiction: a "right" of citizens is merely the obligation of the state not to treat them in a certain way, and an "inalienable" right is simply an unconditional obligation of the state not to treat them in a certain way. But on such a conception, even "inalienable" rights are legal fictions which obtain only by agreement, and are thus alienable by agreement unless a more basic, morally given kind of right—often called "natural" right—is their source. Surely we don't want to end up with might makes right.

That's where you bring in theology. But I don't see how your way of doing so even relevant. If one assumes a divine-command theory of morality, according to which what's morally right is such only because God so commands it, though he could just as well command the opposite, then natural right is entirely alienable by divine fiat. But even if that is true, which I don't believe, it does not follow that humans lack inalienable, natural rights vis-à-vis one another. Thus, CCC §1944 says: "Respect for the human person considers the other 'another self'. It presupposes respect for the fundamental rights that flow from the dignity intrinsic to the person." If your account of rights so far were adequate, there could be no such thing as "fundamental rights that flow from the dignity intrinsic to the person." But there must be such rights—otherwise the only basis for our moral, as distinct from political, obligations to one another would be arbitrary divine fiat. And that would be incompatible with the conception of the "divine and natural law" consistently upheld by the Church. So it seems to me you have no alternative to acknowledging a basis for inalienable, natural human rights in God's non-arbitrary creative will.

Instead of insisting that natural rights are merely ways of speaking about divinely imposed obligations, It would be far more sensible, as well as more common, to say that rights and obligations are mutually correlative and mutually specifying. Thus the biconditional: For any person X, X has a moral right to A just in case all other persons Y are morally obligated not to deprive X of A. But when we seek to explain why everyone is morally obligated not to deprive X of A, we cannot avoid citing what the CCC says, unless we want to become pure divine-command theorists.

Best,
Mike

Mike, I certainly don't want to propose a Divine command theory of morals. Not (at least) as a surface level, primary meaning of right action. To the extent what I said leads to that, I was mistaken, and I will retract it.

Yet, can't the entire structure of what we term "natural rights" of men be understood as the same thing as men's obligation toward God , about other men? A man has a "right" to life, freedom, dignity, etc, because he is made in the image of God, and it is my obligation to respect that image when I deal with him, because I owe to God that respect. I am just submitting this, because of a secondary consideration:

If a man has something called a "fundamental right" due to his human nature, then this fundamental right cannot be eradicated without eradicating his nature. But there are all sorts of places where a man does NOT have a right to life, nor freedom, nor other goods. And yet he retains his human nature. This problem has been posed for centuries, and the solution is not easy, if you think of his goods as "fundamental rights".

If we go back to the Bible, we know for certain that we have obligations to others (like orphans), and when we fail those obligations the orphan's condition cries out to God for correction. In a certain sense, we can say that the orphan must have a right that expresses his relation on account of our obligation. But if we righteously send aid to the orphan, and it is highjacked before arriving (without our hearing of it) so that he is still destitute, in moral terms we have not failed our obligation even though the orphan is still in need. What does that say about the orphan's "right"?

I will admit that there are a lot of comments from the Popes in the last 100 years that utilize a language of rights. But pretty often those references also include delimiters and qualifiers that suggest that "right" needs to be taken in a sense that is not necessarily easy to pin down. While I would not like to be overly facile in trying to circumscribe the meaning of the Pope's comments, I also want to leave room for the full weight of traditional teaching on the matter. Which can be summed up in a short saying: there can be no "right" to do an act which is not "right to do". And it would seem that this applies to prudential matters as well: if your best prudence says it is "right to do" X, you cannot have a "right" to do not-X. So generally about such matters, what you most have a right to is not to have some OTHER person force you to do X, or prevent you from doing not-X, because while you don't have a right to do not-X, they don't have a right to interfere, either.

Tony:

The money quote in your comment is this:

Yet, can't the entire structure of what we term "natural rights" of men be understood as the same thing as men's obligation toward God , about other men?

The answer is twofold: yes, and it doesn't settle anything pertinent. I've already noted that rights and obligations are logically equivalent: any right is such only relative to a corresponding obligation, and vice-versa. Once that is conceded, then it doesn't take much to recognize that natural rights and obligations are, together, logically equivalent to some of our obligations to God—who thus has a corresponding right to our fulfilling our obligations to him. I say 'some' because some of our obligations to God pertain primarily to God and only secondarily to each other, such as worship and prayer; whereas we've been talking about our obligations to God which are coextensive with our obligations to each other. But that doesn't settle the question whether our general moral obligations to each other can be known as such only on a theistic basis. And as my post on religious liberty implied, that fact has considerable political significance.

If natural rights could only be understood as obligations to God, then it would be impossible for a non-theist to recognize the inherent dignity of the human person as a sufficient basis for natural right. But in fact, many non-theists do recognize as much. And that is not surprising. It is quite possible to know something as obligatory without knowing just who, or what, has done the obliging; all one needs to know is that there is some-or-other legitimate basis for the obligation. Thus I have known a good number of non-believers who are more scrupulous and virtuous people, by Christian standards, than the majority of Christians. Their moral code is based on a keen appreciation of the inherent dignity of the human person, coupled with the insight that it would make no sense to treat others' inherent dignity as any less important than their own. Indeed I would argue that the entire content of the "natural law" which doesn't explicitly specify our direct, natural obligations to God can be known by human reason while bracketing the question of God. If the natural law is natural, that's just what we'd expect. Of course I would also agree that the effects of original sin have warped human nature enough to ensure that, without divine revelation and grace, such knowledge is hard to attain fully and easily obscured. That's why the ongoing secularization of our culture and politics encourages and reflects moral decline. But such considerations, while worth citing politically, should not be dispositive in a discussion of what "natural" rights should be recognized and protected as such by a non-confessional state.

My point is that, in a non-confessional state such as the United States, we need to be guided politically by those antecedent moral norms which can be seen as such without knowing God, even if, as a matter of fact, they are co-extensive with some of our obligations to God. In the case of health-care reform, I have argued that the combination of the nation's economic trends and moral sense will cause even non-Catholics to see that the Church's conception of morally obligatory health care, and thus of the corresponding "right" to health care, is the only workable one.

Best,
Mike

More generally, I would not agree that the overall body of Catholic social teaching requires a confessional state for the present purpose or any other purpose.

Mike, I'm not calling for a confessional state and suspect you misread me because the temptation to focus on established structures and schools of thought is very strong in all of us. I am saying the old arguments rolled out in all to familiar language are extremely lacking.

In his recent encyclcial, Benedict invited us “to embark on a new trajectory of thinking in order to arrive at a better understanding of the implications of our being one family”. And we are to do this by the “broadening [of] our concept of reason and its application”

B16 has written extensively about the; "madness of autonomy and self-sufficiency" and the centrality of relationship; "Human beings are relational and they possess their lives - themselves - only be relationship. I alone am not myself only in and with you am I myself". He has now devoted an entire encyclical to applying these expressions to our most vexing social problems. What is he saying and why aren't we listening? And note, nothing he has written calls for a confessional state.

Mike L.,

I don't know exactly how the question of justice snuck into the matter of health care because that's a whole 'nother can of worms.

But you're right, I do believe private charity can cover the needs of the poor if people can keep their wages to use as they see fit for the good of themselves and others.

That you and the Catholic hierarchy disagree and thus endorse the illegitimate power of governments to steal money from people at the point of a gun to satisfy your sense of charity and justice baffles me. Yes, it is better that a few people suffer, die, go without than that the many should be treated as slaves.

Jesus did not come to feed, clothe, heal, house, and employ every person in this world (especially at the cost of totalitarianism [even in soft forms]). He came to save individuals.

In fact, he tells us that food, clothing, health, housing, all that we need will be given to us if we first seek the kingdom of heaven. And I know that verse to be a fact in my own life and that of others of faith. God will provide. That you don't seem to trust that strikes me as a bit blasphemous.

Is it not just that people who reject God suffer for their folly? Why should a Christian feel compelled to steal from others to do charity to some who reject the One who could truly help them?

God actually wants us to suffer. If we are not humiliated by life, why would we ever turn to God? Seek to know him? We are obligated to let people suffer the natural consequences of their actions and that of nature. What parent never punishes his child? How is gold to be assayed if it's never put to the refiner's fire?

If a few people don't seek the kingdom, are poor, and fail to thrive, are they not responsible for rejecting God and his providence and magnanimity?

Nor are we expected to create a perfect world here for Jesus' sake.

You simply may not break the Commandments because you think you can do better than I can with my money.

Mike B.,

Ah, you've got me in the weeds with your reasoning. But if you're saying that the Holy Spirit dwells in us (I do believe that God is in every one of us whether we know it or not), then God's rights as you explain it are our rights, too. Their indivisible. But in fact, God and I are not exactly the same. Your murder of me doesn't merely offend God (as I am his possession), it also, I would think, obviously, is an offense to me. You damaged me. Not just God.

God's forgiveness of your murder of me is ultimately meaningless if you haven't earned my forgiveness as well. God's forgiveness means that every sin that you have committed, no matter how heinous, is forgivable. It doesn't mean you're off the hook to your victims. You're still obligated to reconcile every sin against another.

When I was saved, converted, loved by God, and repenting all my past sins, I discovered I had much to atone for to others even though I had enjoyed all of God's forgiveness.

That's why AA has a step where you have to go and seek forgiveness from those you've wronged or harmed. The Cross is an absolution for us, but not an escape from responsibility and making amends where we can.

To this day I am filled with shame for past actions and harm I've done that I can't possibly atone for to those I've injured in this life.

Mark,
I agree. If I injure you, I injure you, not just God. But what makes that wrong, what makes that sinful, might not be a matter of rights. If rights talk and rights reasoning were indeed the best way to go about thinking of such things, we'd have to say that the apostles, prophets and Christ didn't think about them in the best way because that is not how they think about them, teach about them, preach about them, or write about them.

Mike L,

That's where you bring in theology. But I don't see how your way of doing so even relevant. If one assumes a divine-command theory of morality, according to which what's morally right is such only because God so commands it, though he could just as well command the opposite, then natural right is entirely alienable by divine fiat.

Your premise is not actually true when viewed through scripture. God's nature is immutable, and as such God would never by His nature turn from saying that murder is evil to murder is virtuous. Therefore, God's commands are eternal, consistent and reliable in a way that all other sources of morality are not. As it is written, God is not man that He should change His mind.

By virtue of being the creator of all that exists, it is God's natural prerogative to dictate to you the parameters of your behavior. God enjoys a relationship with creation that is analogous to a software developer and a computer. Paul even backs that up in Romans 9 where he observes that we are merely clay in the hands of a cosmic potter, and that the clay has no basis to question the motives or decisions of the potter.

On a related note, Mike L, here's something you might find interesting regarding costs and pricing:

Need any more proof that humans aren't as rational as economists assume? Look at flexible spending accounts, a benefit that can put hundreds of bucks in your pocket. About 80% of large employers offer FSAs, but a mere 22% of their workers enroll, according to the consultancy Mercer.

An FSA allows you to set aside part of your paycheck for health expenses. (The exact limit depends on your company, but it's usually $2,000 to $5,000.) You don't have to pay income or payroll taxes on that part of your earnings. So if you are in the 28% bracket, a $1,000 FSA may save you about $350. Money in your FSA can usually be used to cover co-pays and deductibles, prescriptions, and even over-the-counter drugs. These plans used to require paperwork, but that excuse is gone. Many now offer debit cards and websites to track and manage your spending.

-Source

We opened one this year. It's simply insane that people who have predictable medical expenses don't budget ahead of time to put those expenses into a FSA since a FSA will cover prescription drugs, copays, surgeries, etc. Instead, society is paying for their ignorance and unwillingness to budget ahead of time.

Well, it depends on the constraints whether an FSA is worth it, doesn't it? I spend at least $500 a month for the mandated insurance from my employer, and if I also put aside money in an FSA, *my employer* gets whatever I haven't used at the end of the year. So maybe I'm "insane" not to put the money aside, but frankly, I'd rather pay the taxes, pay the doctor, and not risk losing yet another $1000 or whatever at the end of the year when I haven't had as much medical expense as I thought. If I could keep the money, either continued in the FSA or as now-taxable income, I'd take it more seriously. But I donate plenty enough of my time and energy to my employer already.

Well, it depends on the constraints whether an FSA is worth it, doesn't it? I spend at least $500 a month for the mandated insurance from my employer, and if I also put aside money in an FSA, *my employer* gets whatever I haven't used at the end of the year. So maybe I'm "insane" not to put the money aside, but frankly, I'd rather pay the taxes, pay the doctor, and not risk losing yet another $1000 or whatever at the end of the year when I haven't had as much medical expense as I thought. If I could keep the money, either continued in the FSA or as now-taxable income, I'd take it more seriously. But I donate plenty enough of my time and energy to my employer already.

Looks like I struck a nerve...

What you say about your employer keeping the money at the end of the year is true, but that's why you figure out what is covered and budget. I don't see why that's a controversial expectation. If you think you're going to have a good year, then low ball it. If you've got a major operation coming up like a surgery or pregnancy, then max it out.

All of the FSAs for the major companies where I live and work cover things ranging from vitamins, to $500 prescription sunglasses, to open heart surgery. As long as it is even slightly medical, they'll cover it. If you have money left over, buy yourself a pair of high end prescription sunglasses (like Oakleys with modified lenses) that **slightly** correct your vision.

Mike T:

You have misunderstood my point about divine-command theory (DCT)—a theory which, be it noted, I reject. DCT does not require, as a "premise," that God is mutable. It premises only that what God decrees as a moral norm at time A could be the opposite of what he decrees at time B. That doesn't require that God have changed his mind between A and B; for all we know, he might eternally and unalterably decree that what binds us as a moral norm at A be the opposite of what thus binds at B. Accordingly, I do not reject DCT on the spurious ground that it entails divine mutability. It entails no such thing. I reject DCT because it entails a conception of divine sovereignty that is independent of divine goodness.

God does not exercise his sovereignty independently of his goodness. He is necessarily and perfectly good as well as sovereign in the way you describe. Given as much, it is necessarily the case that his providence is exercised only for what is good. And that's exactly why I reject DCT. It holds that God's sovereignty is such that we are morally obligated to obey him whether or not his exercise of sovereignty is only for what is good. Although that is false, it is plausible to many people (especially to Muslims but also to not a few Christians) because on any account we must obey God even when we do not see how his providence is being exercised for the good. But even when we do not see how, the reason we are morally obligated always to obey God is that God is perfectly and necessarily good. And that actually entails his immutability.

Best,
Mike

I reject DCT because it entails a conception of divine sovereignty that is independent of divine goodness.

Are you drawing a distinction between divine goodness and divine nature? That's the only way that I can see how you would see this as an issue. To me, as a Protestant, goodness is a reflection of God's nature, and God's divine decrees are reflective of God's nature.

It holds that God's sovereignty is such that we are morally obligated to obey him whether or not his exercise of sovereignty is only for what is good.

As God is the creator of everything, it logically follows that goodness itself is, apart from its basis in God's nature, a creation of God. There was not even a natural law until God willed it into existence, unless you believe that God is actually bound by outside forces unrelated to Him.

It is also important to remember that "doing good" is not what is expected of us, but doing God's will and glorifying him. There is no good apart from the will of God, as all sin is a rejection of God's will. Ergo, if God ordered you to nuke an entire city off the face of the planet, and you disobeyed, God would be justified in damning you to Hell for disobedience no matter how "monstrous" you considered that act to be.

Fortunately for us, we know the nature of the Father from the prophets, from Jesus and the Holy Spirit. We know that He would not give such an order, but hypothetically speaking, if He did, the only Christian choice would be obedience to the will of God.

Kevin:

Given what you now say, the question becomes not whether a morally sound health-care reform requires a confessional state, but whether the evolution of awareness that such a reform does require can take place among people without their relying on specifically Catholic premises. What say you to that?

Best,
Mike

Mark:

I don't know exactly how the question of justice snuck into the matter of health care because that's a whole 'nother can of worms.

That's the very first sentence of your most recent comment addressed to me. And that's the ballgame right there.

I could understand your actually arguing that health-care provision is not a matter of justice, and that therefore there is no such thing as a right to health care. But you seem to be assuming that it is not a matter of justice. That's why you speak of taxation for the purpose as theft, as though that were self-evident or at least evident to most people. But it is not. Given that the leadership of your own church disagrees with you, it would behoove you to actually deign to provide an argument rebutting their account of natural justice—an acount which provides some of the premises for holding that there is such a thing as a right to health care. Not that I would buy your argument; but your providing one would at least be useful, unlike your current approach.

Best,
Mike

it would behoove you to actually deign to provide an argument rebutting their account of natural justice—an acount which provides some of the premises for holding that there is such a thing as a right to health care. Not that I would buy your argument; but your providing one would at least be useful, unlike your current approach.

If one were to accept that health care provision is an issue of justice, one would have to say that all important health issues must be covered by society. That then raises a few questions which are non-trivial:

1) What is a major health issue?
2) Shouldn't society try to lower costs through preventative health care?
3) Should society coerce responsible health decisions as part of the contract between the individual and society to socialize the cost of health care for the majority who cannot easily afford it out of pocket?
4) Who is the established authority on deciding these issues?

These points, taken together, invariably lead to socialized health care if you believe that it is a justice issue because socialized health care is the only path which can reasonably accomplish the goal of ensuring that everyone gets some health care. The market is superior over all, but only if one's criteria doesn't include a provision that every last person has theoretical access to guaranteed services (even if it's on a 2 year waiting list). With regard to each,

#1 is subjective in many cases, only some such as open heart surgery or pregnancy are obviously serious.

#2 is likewise an obvious measure because it's far easier to treat many conditions early on when treatment is less extreme and invasive.

#3 is also obvious, since the individual has no right to autonomy of lifestyle if someone else is footing the bill. It is thus necessary for society to empower doctors and the courts to take punitive action against gluttons, the promiscuous, drug users, alcoholics, smokers, etc. Britain's NHS, which is experimenting with lifestyle coercion, is doing the right thing by using coercion to force the irresponsible to be responsible "or else."

#4 is the tricky point. General society deserves no representation. Only a technocratic elite has the education and wisdom to make central planning decisions which won't instantly result in a meltdown caused by a greedy mob acting impulsively. Not that it'll succeed in the long run, but rather that it won't collapse into an orgy of unfinanced consumption in the short term.

Of course, if one accepts the premise that health care is a justice issue, then so are food, clothing, housing and probably education as well.

For the sake of efficiency, let's just turn DHHS and DHUD into the Ministry of Social Justice and get on with more important issues.

Mike T:

Are you drawing a distinction between divine goodness and divine nature?

I'm not sure I understand that question, because I'm not sure how you understand it. I said that God is "necessarily and perfectly good." That means that perfect goodness belongs to the divine nature. Given divine simplicity too, I hold in fact that God's goodness and all the other attributes belonging necessarily to him are identical with the divine nature. Those attributes are only conceptually, not really, distinct from each other.

God is the creator of everything, it logically follows that goodness itself is, apart from its basis in God's nature, a creation of God. There was not even a natural law until God willed it into existence, unless you believe that God is actually bound by outside forces unrelated to Him.

I hold that all created goodness derives from the divine goodness. Therefore, creation is good because a necessarily and perfectly good God is both its source and its end. Since God's goodness is identical with his nature, God is good per se. not by virtue of conforming with "outside forces unrelated to him."

It is also important to remember that "doing good" is not what is expected of us, but doing God's will and glorifying him.

This is a false dichotomy. Given what I have said about the divine goodness, doing God's will and glorifying him is necessarily good. Hence, doing God's will and doing what's good are logically equivalent; and hence, doing is what's expected of us is the same as doing what's good.

Ergo, if God ordered you to nuke an entire city off the face of the planet, and you disobeyed, God would be justified in damning you to Hell for disobedience no matter how "monstrous" you considered that act to be. Fortunately for us, we know the nature of the Father from the prophets, from Jesus and the Holy Spirit. We know that He would not give such an order, but hypothetically speaking, if He did, the only Christian choice would be obedience to the will of God.

Yes and no. In the Old Testament, God ordered Joshua, and later Saul, to commit genocide. Ergo, they were obligated to do so. But now that divine revelation has been completed in and through Christ, the content of what's been revealed in its fullness leaves us with no reason to believe that God would any longer order people to do things that the ordinary divine and natural law holds to be heinous.

It seems you did not understand my explanation why I'm not a divine-command theorist. I agree with DCT that we must always do what God commands. I disagree with DCT that what God commands is good merely because he commands it. Whatever God commands, he commands in conformity with his own necessary and perfect goodness. The problem with DCT is that it recognizes no criterion of goodness that is even conceptually distinct from the divine will. But there is such a criterion: God's own goodness.

I disagree with DCT that what God commands is good merely because he commands it. Whatever God commands, he commands in conformity with his own necessary and perfect goodness. The problem with DCT is that it recognizes no criterion of goodness that is even conceptually distinct from the divine will. But there is such a criterion: God's own goodness.

That is just splitting hairs at the atomic level since God's will cannot be divorced from God's nature. One might also say that neither can a human's will be divorced from their nature either, but that's a different debate entirely, eh?

I think we agree on the theological points, but merely disagree as to whether we should take the issue seriously. Since God is not a machine with distinct subsystems, it's pointless to even consider the possibility that God's nature won't be intimately intertwined into every decision that God makes.

Given what you now say, the question becomes not whether a morally sound health-care reform requires a confessional state, but whether the evolution of awareness that such a reform does require can take place among people without their relying on specifically Catholic premises. What say you to that?


Mike,
As Catholics you and I are obligated to adhere to the ordinary Magisterium to which CV now belongs and follow the new direction that JPII and B16 are taking us. It is clear that direction transcends modernity’s schizoid and oppressive mental landscape. It is their language and practices we should be embracing even as we struggle to articulate and understand them. Does that leave us open to misunderstanding?Yes, but when B16 talks about the gift of self, there already exists an understanding that echoes and resonates across diverse and varied cultures, as Lewis Hyde’s book The Gift attests. Besides, there is little utility in continuing to make our case in a terminology that only perpetuates false ideas, structures and ways of living. There is a great universal yearning out there to close the wound of separation inflicted by modernity. B16 is tapping into it and he’s counting on us to act as healing agents.

Mike T:

I agree that DCT ought not to be "taken seriously," but explaining why is no light task. That is why many have taken and continue to take it seriously—or if they don't, they speak as if they do. Among both Muslims and Christian philosophers, there used to be fierce debates about how God's "absolute power" (potentia absoluta) is related to his goodness and his other attributes (potentia ordinata). In fact, much of the impetus for the modern, as distinct from the ancient, idea of natural law sprung from those debates. Among conservative Protestants who reject the idea of natural law, DCT is still a widely defended view.


Kevin:

I do not doubt that Catholics must adhere to the social teaching of the Church, to the extent they can understand it, with "religious assent." I'm more concerned with the question how its insights can influence the larger society. The language of "gift" and "communion" is attractive to many; but when concrete moral and political decisions are at stake, it's not clear how to get specific without also being confessional in a way many people would not accept.

Most of us believe that the state should provide some level of health care to people who can't afford it. I prefer to say that Christians see a duty to create a state funded entitlement to a certain minimum of health care.

We are unwilling to face the reality of the need for rationing. If it is possible today to fund every worthy medical treatment for everyone, we can easily foresee the day when it will not be possible. At some point it is necessary to make a cost-benefit trade-off between desirable medical care and other important expenditures. This can occur at the level of the state or at the level of the family. We do not have a duty, for example, to pay for medical care that is helpful to the patient at the cost of impoverishing our children. Moral law does not help us very much in making these trade-offs. We need to rely on common sense and prayer here.

So what are the options assuming that charity alone is not going to be adequate. 1)We can tax the public to provide rationed medical care for all. 2)We can provide a subsidy that would cover the cost of a bare minimum of health care to all and allow people to supplement the bare minimum as their family circumstances permit. Or 3) we can have public health clinics and hospitals open to the poor on a means tested basis.

The issue that divides the left and the right is the choice between 1) and 2) with both sides refusing to admit the necessity of rationing health care. So will health care be rationed for all and the savings used to guarantee coverage for all. Or will a minimum level of care be subsidized for those who are unable to afford it. I think the principle of subsidiarity pushes us in the direction of the second option.

but when concrete moral and political decisions are at stake, it's not clear how to get specific without also being confessional in a way many people would not accept.

And there's the tricky part. How do you bridge the gap between your regenerated conscience and logic, and their unregenerated conscience and logic?

We need to rely on common sense and prayer here.

No, we need to rely on 'Christian' theories of government and economy just like the one ole Kevin espouses, which to me seems just as misguided as progressive social theories which intended to solve the social ills of the day but, yet, merely exacerbated them to the very detriment of an entire people and, indeed, brought the downfall of a whole nation.

For whatever reason, Cuba with all its problems can summon an ethical conscience to provide treatment and health coverage to its citizens, but we have people obstensibly highly educated in Catholic and Christian ethics that find the problem irreducably complex. You'd swear there was an effort at obfuscation afoot.

Oh, that's right --

The subject of medical care coverage for the citizenry is so remarkably simple that it is great wonder why it wasn't even conceived and even implemented decades earlier!

Brilliant line of argumentation -- and what wonderful (ironically enough) obfuscation concerning the kind of difficulties exactly entailed in such an endeavour!

Ari,
Badger is referring to the endless attempt to make it appear that the establishment of a morally just healthcare system is impossible both in principle and real world practice. The recycled rhetoric of the political partisan constitutionally incapable of holding an original thought is unproductive. Though I give you credit for not dressing up your objections up in ornate theological clothing.

Vatican II teaches that the ordinary Magisterium must receive “loyal submission of the will and intellect… in a special way, to the authentic teaching authority of the Roman Pontiff, even when he does not speak ex cathedra…” Try to look at the issue informed by CST and the recent developments in Church social doctrine and proceed from there. No one here is on board with ObamaCare, but right now you sound like a member in good standing of that quirky set of prideful conformists that refer to themselves as the "American Catholic Church".

Mike L.,

About health care and justice, pretty much what Mike T. said.

"Given that the leadership of your own church disagrees with you, it would behoove you to actually deign to provide an argument rebutting their account of natural justice—an acount (sic) which provides some of the premises for holding that there is such a thing as a right to health care."

Regarding the leadership of the Church in its adherence to passing fads when it studies contemporary issues, I don't think we should put much stock in their "opinions" given their track record in so many areas. Expecting much wisdom or prudence from generally incompetent naifs (Ban the Bomb, anyone?) or citing them as some sort of authority about arguments they know nothing about isn't all that helpful.

If the hierarchy is calling for people to be taxed into charitability, then these people are just plain nuts and in direct contradiction to Christ and the necessity of freedom in our acts.

The very idea of any government pretending to possess compassion as a principle is absurd on its face. Nations do not exist to be compassionate. They exist to maintain and preserve the people who form them. If nations do more good than evil in the greater world because the people in them are more compassionate than vile, good on them.

Why should my neighbor who's an atheist, say, be taxed for the sake of your Christian principles and hierarchy just because you outvote him? That's the same as making him contribute to building and maintaining your church.

The hierarchy is in grave contradiction to the very founding documents of this nation and its powerful Christian principles of freedom and ordered liberty that created our form of a limited republic.

If you ask me to chose between the judgment of the timorous and feminized Church hierarchy and the wisdom of my Founding Fathers, that's no contest. I'm on God's side for human freedom.

If some Christians wish to form a theocracy of some sort, let them carve out their own new kind of Utah, but if Christians are mixed among all kinds, they must respect liberty as God respects it.

The world is not made better when more people are coerced to surrender their property and liberty on social engineering schemes. Jesus did not play at Robin Hood, nor would have approved of such.

If people suffer, as I said before, they have a great advocate in God who can do all things.

If you ask me to chose between the judgment of the timorous and feminized Church hierarchy and the wisdom of my Founding Fathers, that's no contest. I'm on God's side for human freedom.

Now Ari you've just read the famous "I Got Mine" Mission statement of the A.C.C. Is that the church you want to belong to?

Dear Mark Butterworth,

You wrote:

The world is not made better when more people are coerced to surrender their property and liberty on social engineering schemes. Jesus did not play at Robin Hood, nor would have approved of such.

While that may be true, nevertheless, the first thing the early disciples did was to sell all they had and lay the money at the feet of the apostles.

Also, what do you make of St. John Chrysostom's point:

“We who are disciples of Christ claim that our purpose on earth is to lay up treasures in heaven. But our actions often contradict our words. Many Christians build for themselves fine houses, lay out splendid gardens, construct bathhouses, and buy fields. It is small wonder, then, that many non-believers refuse to believe what we say. “If their eyes are set on mansions in heaven,” they ask, “why are they building mansions on earth? If they put their words into practice, they would give away their riches and live in simple huts.” So these non-believers conclude that we do not sincerely believe in the religion we profess; and as a result they refuse to take this religion seriously. You may say that the words of Christ on these matters are too hard for you to follow; and that while your spirit is willing, your flesh is weak. My answer is that the judgment of the non-believers about you is more accurate than your judgment of yourself. While the non-believers accuse us of hypocrisy, many of us should plead guilty. “

and

The rich man is not one who is in possession of much, but one who gives much.

He also made the point that no one really owns anything in this life, for when we die, we must pass it on to someone, else.

The Chicken

Question in passing: how do you get those quotes in boxes?

The Chicken

Chicken would seem to have each individual forced to live a life of a Spiritual Franciscan.

Wow. I can't believe that forced "charity" such as this (i.e., the coercion of monies from terribly modest middle class families already suffering the terrible plight of the current economic turmoil) is nonetheless continued to be conflated with genuine Christian Charity, as that meant in Matthew 25, which rested on a person freely giving out of their heart rather than being forced to do so by Big Gov.

Simple: use "blockquote" instead of "I" in your html.

The language of "gift" and "communion" is attractive to many; but when concrete moral and political decisions are at stake, it's not clear how to get specific without also being confessional in a way many people would not accept.

Mike, we are being challenged to explore both the nature of communion and the concept of gift, and then pose our understanding of each as alternatives to the hardened positions of contemporary ideologies that have wrought so much harm and destruction. The question is; are we too trapped in long standing modes of thought to sincerely do so?

Aristocles,

You wrote [trying out the blockquote thing]:

Chicken would seem to have each individual forced to live a life of a Spiritual Franciscan.

Wow. I can't believe that forced "charity" such as this (i.e., the coercion of monies from terribly modest middle class families already suffering the terrible plight of the current economic turmoil) is nonetheless continued to be conflated with genuine Christian Charity, as that meant in Matthew 25, which rested on a person freely giving out of their heart rather than being forced to do so by Big Gov.


First, one could do worse than to live as a Spiritual Franciscan, at least in little ways (I know the general theory was outlawed by the Church).

An interesting thought experiment: suppose Big Government vanished. Would you give more, less, or the same to charity? If the same, then Big Government is extraneous; if less, why; if more, then Big Government is useless. Thus, I see the only exception one could take to Big Government is if one planned to give less in its absence. If so, how does one justify this on Christian principles, since one is to give freely?

Partially, it boils down to obligations. One ought to feed one's family before feeding someone else's family, all thing, considered. In theory, the single rich people have no such prevenient obligations and should, all things being equal be able to give more.

Things like iphones and ipods weight in the balance, here. How many people, including poor people, think that their right to an ipod trumps the need of the poor to medical care? If they were truly honest, I think one would find a sadly large proportion of people want their goodies beyond food and clothing, often at the expense of the good things they could do for others. Perhaps Big Government shouldn't have the right to take away our surplus, but our own sense of empathy should impel us to give away at least some.

As for saving up money, we also have to contend with Luke 12:20 about the man who had a large harvest and decided to store his harvest away for a rainy day. The parable ends:

"But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?'

It is true that St. Paul does say that we do not have to go into debt to support others, but he does require that those who have surplus use it wisely and for the support of others. Often times, buying an ipod is not using that surplus wisely. If we could even just use our spare change wisely, how many more mouths would be fed and wounds healed?

The Chicken

Chicken, Kevin et al:

Curious -- I wonder if that which you and your cohorts are attempting to pass off as 'charity' is actually the Christian Charity so preached and promoted in Scripture.

For if charity is truly (re-)distribution of goods to the poor, then why did the Great Apostle to the Gentiles himself say in 1st Cor 13:3:

And if I should distribute all my goods to feed the poor, and if I should deliver my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.


Furthermore, you would dare give the false impression that such a program as this would strictly pertain to wealthy families who alone have such surplus; however, as has been the case with any program seeking to promote the social welfare state, the already severely suffering middle class families will be the ones hit as well and, thereby, increasing the likely probability of making destitute these families too.

Kevin,

IT is all very well to say "stop thinking in the tired, useless ruts of last year, the Pope is calling us to a new way of thinking". But it is another thing entirely to say just what that new sort of thinking looks like in concrete structures of families, communities, and governments (and - unlike the anarchist libertarians - he does NOT eschew the tired old notion of government, so as long as we have a government, the solutions that fit the Pope's ideas will involve governmental action at some level). Until you come up with an actual suggestion of what it looks like, you can't really argue that it cannot possibly partake of some of the 'conservative' or 'liberal' notions of today, which are, in part, just differences about how much governmental involvement we should accept/tolerate. Furthermore, you haven't even attempted to argue that our proposals are actually inconsistent with the Pope's agenda, only that it is "not new". But that isn't true, some of our proposals ARE new, though maybe not new enough in a different

enough direction for your sensibilities. That proves nothing. When you start talking specifics we can give it a hearing.

Besides, there is little utility in continuing to make our case in a terminology that only perpetuates false ideas, structures

Does this mean you reject the notion that we should aim for a system that promotes giving to one another? That's what one of the proposals on the table had. How is this inconsistent with the Pope's "gratuitousness" principle?

Again, prove that a given idea or structure is false, or that it violates the Pope's standards, instead of assuming it is. The B16 does not denigrate ALL notions of the current world structures - he supports markets in some sense , and he definitely supports government. Since we support these also, just how is it that our "terminology, structures" are off?

Mike L., I think you and I are quite close together on practical belief that we have an obligation to help the poor, but I don't think we have found an argument about how to get to that result that satisfies both of us. I don't think there is ANY argument for that obligation being rooted in justice and a right of the poor to our help, except through the root principle of the common origin and destination of the goods of the entire human family. And I don't know of any way of arguing that concept without the Genesis story of creation. Sounds fairly confessional to me.

To the extent you want to our natural "right" to go by the term rights, I still feel that they must be understood philosophically grounded (through subsidiarity) as a right to not be interfered with. That's what recognizing the "inherent dignity of the human person" will get you when not tied to theology. A right to life is a right to not have your life taken away arbitrarily, because it is the correlative of everyone else's rights under subsidiarity. A right to property is a right to be left in peaceful possession of what you already own. A right to assembly is a right to not be prevented from assembling. (A right to assembly CANNOT mean a right to make sure others assemble with me - for that interferes with their right of assembly. Neither can a natural right to private property mean a right to make sure others give me new private property that used to be theirs.) A natural "right" to assembly cannot create a "right" for me to assemble when morally I have instead an obligation to do something else entirely.

Doesn't a child have a right to be loved by its parents? Of course...oh, wait, what if its parents are dead? Similarly for other "rights" to receive positive proper goods. These "rights" are not the same sort of thing as our "natural rights".

A negative right not to be interfered with cannot craft a positive right to receive a private good from another. So however you want to use the term "right" to refer to our obligation to help the poor, it must be understood as an obligation lying on us in a different manner than that of observing others "natural rights." I just don't know how to jump to that obligation outside of the principles of charity, and without invoking Genesis and the unity of the human family. Invoking charity means we are not grounding the obligation in justice, and invoking Genesis is confessional. Any other options?

Dear Aristocles,

You wrote:

For if charity is truly (re-)distribution of goods to the poor, then why did the Great Apostle to the Gentiles himself say in 1st Cor 13:3:

And if I should distribute all my goods to feed the poor, and if I should deliver my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.

Who said charity was re-distrbution of good to the poor? The definition of charity, at least in scholastic terms, is to will the good. That can mean different things in different situations. Many times, it means taking care of those who cannot take care of themselves.

The quote from 1Cor has nothing to say about re-distribution, but rather is about the state of the soul doing the giving. If one gives all one has to someone else, the person who receives the gift does gain, but you gain nothing, if you do not have charity in the giving. If you do, then not only have the people you gave to gained, but you have also gained in supernatural charity, in merit, and in eternal life.

The Chicken

Let's see Jesus' hatred of material goods and wealth in this life: Mark 10:29 -

"I tell you the truth," Jesus replied, "no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel 30 will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life.

Yeah, the first Christians tried the hippie commune thing and discovered it worked just as well then as in the 60s. It only works in monasteries and convents.

A lot of what I'm hearing from some is a venal desire for the acquisition and exercise of power over their brothers and sisters with a nice, little, moralistic homily to accompany thievery.

This cry that the poor are suffering and we are obligated to do something about with other people's money, well, I think the suffering in England and Canada for those with less money and power in their afflictions is much greater and far more heinous than letting the market work. The same free market which has saved countless lives and ameliorated the suffering of billions and billions precisely because it operated freely and through competition. It saved my life and continues to improve my quality of life in spite of an acute chronic disease.

I don't really understand this rage to steal for the poor, but not to evangelize them and every other non-believer in this country.

The USA has been the greatest economic engine in the history of the world and been the direct cause of a rise in the standard of living for people the world over, a living that allows them to improve their health and well being; yet so many would do everything to destroy that engine which continues to raise people out of abject poverty. You would sell your birthright of liberty for a mess of pottage.

Freedom (out of Christianity) works more than anything else in the history of the world to help people, and too many of you want to destroy that. Why?

I believe this nation and it's principles were inspired by God, and this nation arose through his providence; and our wealth and prosperity was a result of living One Nation Under God.

But evangelism waned and the culture of death rooted itself in the land and turned it into a slaughterhouse of the unborn precisely because weak Christians would not transmit their faith and values with the same energy which produced goods and services.

Well, all (pretty) good things must come to an end, I suppose.

For whatever reason, Cuba with all its problems can summon an ethical conscience to provide treatment and health coverage to its citizens, but we have people obstensibly highly educated in Catholic and Christian ethics that find the problem irreducably complex. You'd swear there was an effort at obfuscation afoot.

Reeducation camps, extrajudicial executions, a brutal one party state, massive poverty caused by Marxist economic regulations, and a system so controlled that the average person could not even legally own a computer or cell phone without a government permit until very recently.

But... but... they have universal health care!!!

You'd swear that you had to have blinders on to fail to notice just how evil the Cuban government is. The Soviets had universal health care too. I don't see you lionizing their "moral clarity" on the issue.

Mark, the parable of America the Virtuous and the Blessings of St. Milton Friedman is part of the problem. The acceptance as gospel of this ideological just-so story prevents any real discussion of the issues by so-called conservatives, since they tend to see any wavering from the Mises/Friedman line as an inevitable descent into socialism. This is what Kevin means by "stop thinking in the tired, useless ruts of last year."

One can read any number of writers -- Wilhelm Roepke, Wendell Berry, E.F. Schumacher, the guys over at Front Porch Republic, William Cavanaugh, Edward Hadas, Charles McDaniel -- who believe in the market, yet are critical in one sense or another of modern corporate capitalism and have ideas about fixing its abuses. The problem is, most of today's conservatives won't give them a fair hearing.

Rob, some of the conservatives on this thread have been open the fact that markets have abuses, and to alternative ideas for fixing the abuses. The problem comes in identifying "abuse." It is a semantic (or perhaps philosophical) error to assume as your starting point that the fact that there is a poor person not receiving care equal to the care that I am receiving is an abuse of the market. It is just as possible that the abuse is my individual refusing to meet my personal obligations to the poor. In which case the market has nothing to do with the problem.

I am not trying to defend the real abuses in the world of "free" enterprise, and there are many. Some of them are severe. Some of them have come about because of ill-considered governmental interventions into the market-place (like requiring banks to loosen mortgage criteria), and market-driven adjustments thereto. For these latter sorts of abuses, it is difficult to imagine that more governmental intervention is the ideal solution. But even for the ones that are purely the result of greed and power-lust in the market, there is not always a clear governmental solution that will do no harm. So it is not sensible to take the attitude that abuses in the markets automatically means that there are not enough governmental controls. Maybe this is where we need to think outside the box and come up with solutions that are neither "left" nor "right" but upwards.

If you don't start out with the unjustified assumption that the fact that there are poor people without insurance is itself an abuse of free markets, then it is necessary to justify proposals for universal insurance with arguments that explain the benefits and the draw-backs , the trade-offs, the likely results, and the unintended changes to behavior that will also occur. And compare those with the results from other options for dealing with the problem.

Conservatives supporting the rights to private property are quite right to point out that one of the unintended consequences to things like enforced redistribution from the rich to the poor for health care is a general growth of a sense of entitlement on the part of the poor. Unless your proposal comes up with a way to combat that sense, there will be a number of social ills that result. If the redistribution is voluntary rather than enforced, it will not contribute to that sense of entitlement. So, if all other things were equal, a voluntary system would better meet the social need than a forced one. A voluntary arrangement is more in keeping with the principle of "gratuitousness" anyway.

(Kevin, nothing in what the Pope has proposed indicates that we should not account for the likely results of proposed our changes in deciding the value of such changes. So to argue against this "conservative" proposition, you need to claim that they have the likely outcome wrong.)

This debate saddens me.

2 Corinthians 9: 5So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to go on ahead to you and arrange in advance for the gift you have promised, so that it may be ready as a willing gift, not as an exaction. 6The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. 9As it is written,

"He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor;
his righteousness endures forever."

Christian socialists repeat after me: not reluctantly or under compulsion. Not Reluctantly or Under Compulsion. NOT RELUCTANTLY OR UNDER COMPULSION. And yes, the context is St. Paul's request for charity by the Church authorities herself for fellow brothers and sisters in Christ who are poor and needy, i.e. the Church, to whom we owe a higher duty than to those outside the faith. And this is given as a general principle concerning the nature of Christian giving and not limited to a specific instance. The reason is because if grace is required as a matter of justice, the gospel of grace itself is nullified because God (or others) owes us grace as a matter of justice as opposed to being an unmerited and undeserved gift that is not due.

Romans 4: 3For what does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness." 4Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. 5And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, 6just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works: 7 "Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; 8blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin."

It is insane for Christians to accept modernity's expansion of the concept of justice, which is the only ideal liberals like Rawls can appeal to, into a conflation of justice and grace, which the State is only happy to encourage in its rejection of limits and desire to be the salvation of man.

Nowhere in Scripture does "justice" mean giving to those what they do not deserve. In the context of politics, rebukes of the oppressor are for not rendering that which is deserved. In the context of economics, rebukes of oppressive men under the rubric of justice specifically cite wages that were NOT paid:

Genesis 31:7 yet your father has cheated me and changed my wages ten times.
Leviticus 19:13 "You shall not oppress your neighbor or rob him. The wages of a hired servant shall not remain with you all night until the morning.
Jeremiah 22:13 "Woe to him who builds his house by unrighteousness,and his upper rooms by injustice, who makes his neighbor serve him for nothingand does not give him his wages,
Malachi 3:5 "Then I will draw near to you for judgment. I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me, says the LORD of hosts.
Luke 10:7 And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages. Do not go from house to house.
Romans 4:4 Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due.
1 Corinthians 3:8 He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor.
1 Timothy 5:18 For the Scripture says, "You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain," and, "The laborer deserves his wages."
James 5:4 Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts.

Let's look at political injustice:
Leviticus 19:15 "You shall do no injustice in court. You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor.
2 Chronicles 19:7 Now then, let the fear of the LORD be upon you. Be careful what you do, for there is no injustice with the LORD our God, or partiality or taking bribes."

So, if you withhold the wages of a man by coercive tax by the State--the power of the sword--that is, under compulsion and against his will so that he is reluctant, to give undeserved charity in the form of welfare or healthcare and call that "justice," exactly who in this situation is the oppressor?

So what? Are we letting the poor and sick starve and die just because charity is not owed as a matter of justice, enforced by the State, but is rightly given cheerfully by grace? By no means, you fools! You ought to persuade your neighbors of the glory and benefit of doing so for it fulfills our natures. Don't whine about how hard it is as if you do not have the Spirit of God giving you strength. Don't say that it is impossible to care for them all; your responsibility is not "all" but your neighbors. Your actual neighbors, since you are not a "citizen of the world." It's part of the Church's labor of love; it's (a part of) what we exist for. And we do NOT love by paying taxes for the modern State to do our labors. At the very least, you willingly and cheerfully give to the Church for your brothers and sisters in Christ to do it. The alternative is to coerce from your Christian brothers and sisters, by means of the violence of the modern State, charity monies against their will in opposition to St. Paul and the gospel of grace.

It is only because we have accepted modernity, that is, the denial of the Church and her Creator God who orders nature and their replacement with the autonomous Ubermensch--Leviathan, and its assumptions concerning what is best for society and what is possible, that we fail to see the solution in the renewal of the Church rather than the soft totalitarianism of the Servile State. We see in the modern State true power to save the poor and sick, but the nugget of truth, "government for justice," renders us blind, useful idiots in modernity's perversion of the conception, which will ultimately lead to the destruction of society. The deserved wages of sin are death, and while God is the justifier, he also remains just.

Psalm 94:20 Can wicked rulers be allied with you, those who frame injustice by statute?

It is a semantic (or perhaps philosophical) error to assume as your starting point that the fact that there is a poor person not receiving care equal to the care that I am receiving is an abuse of the market.

This, however, is not the presupposition of the debate; rather, the presupposition of the critique of "the market" as a primary means for the provision of health services, supplemented solely by fortuna, which is to say, charity, is that it is an abuse of solidarity - or perhaps, better, an absence - for a poor or congenitally unwell person to be left bereft of fundamental care. For, that is, for such a person to be unable to access treatment for conditions and/or diseases that are manageable/curable; not necessarily the highest conceivable standard of care, as that is simply impossible, but - for example - the difference between receiving treatment for cancer and having the chance to live another 25 years and simply dying prematurely.

We also need to be clearer concerning what we actually mean when we use the term "market" in these contexts. One could, for example, have a "market" in health care, as between competetive insurers, even were adverse selections, rescissions, and other industry practices eliminated; they would compete - ie., constitute a market - as to which insurer could best deliver health coverage while adequately socializing the health risks of their customers. Having a "market" in health services/insurance does not logically entail the sorts of actuarial selection practices of the current industry, unless one presupposes that market logic is operationally maximal, necessarily excluding potential combinations with other logics and goods. However, such maximalism is ideological and reductionistic, and at variance - to say the least - with the conservative temperament, which acknowledges a diversity of goods, the relationships of which are the product of the history of a particular society, through its changing circumstances.

BTW, Tony, I've not forgotten your comment in my own thread, but it will have to wait - alas - until later today, as I've another medical appointment this afternoon.

One can read any number of writers -- Wilhelm Roepke, Wendell Berry, E.F. Schumacher, the guys over at Front Porch Republic, William Cavanaugh, Edward Hadas, Charles McDaniel -- who believe in the market, yet are critical in one sense or another of modern corporate capitalism and have ideas about fixing its abuses. The problem is, most of today's conservatives won't give them a fair hearing.

Rob G., quite a line-up of Christian humanists you've put together. I like Cavanaugh batting clean-up because he seems closest to JPII & B16'S personalism, but your team rightly sees large, rationale systems sustained by their own neutral, inner logic as destructive of human relations. You might want to add Daniel Bell to the roster as a pinch-hitter.

For, that is, for such a person to be unable to access treatment for conditions and/or diseases that are manageable/curable; not necessarily the highest conceivable standard of care, as that is simply impossible, but - for example - the difference between receiving treatment for cancer and having the chance to live another 25 years and simply dying prematurely.

That's a clear cut example, but what about a messy one like someone who has full-blown AIDS, badly damaged their liver and then just so happens to have a congenital tendency toward cancer? What about a cancer patient who is in their 70s and their family history suggests they won't live past their early 80s?

Whatever system you put forward must be able to intelligently account for such situations. Anything else is unreasonable.

What they, Albert and Tony, said, I say.

But I want to add:

Look friends, I have no illusions about this world. I don't much like the way laws and societies operate, the way people treat each other in utilitarian manner or indifferently as to respecting their rights or dignity.

I have no especial love for the free market for I find it primarily amoral, especially the larger the business or corporation becomes, the constant creep of every group or organization to consolidate power, market share, and increase it without regard to God or their neighbor.

But where competition is freely allowed in this world, there is no better mechanism for generating the wealth and general prosperity for the many and to the good of all in many ways.

The system I prefer from what I've read here is along the lines of Chesterton's Distributivism - every men sitting under his own fig tree. But that system will only work in Heaven where all are equal in ability, intelligence, initiative, and wisdom (if such things are givens in Heaven).

Thus, in order to produce the greatest good for the greatest number and preserve our liberty under God, I settle on a compromised policy of an abiding free market regulated, I hope, by Christian morality as a bulwark against rank exploitation and the tendency of the few to form disgusting oligarchies, despotism, or tyrannies - soft or hard.

Victor Davis Hanson, the classicist, points out that wherever there have been free markets in the world, there have never been famines. This means that even where there have been crop failures, that society had the wealth and ability to import all they needed from elsewhere (without causing a famine at the source).

Nobody today in this world goes hungry because of a lack of available food. They starve because they can't buy it because their governments are corrupt or essentially evil.

Well, wherever there have been free markets in this world, better health care becomes widely available to the benefit of all.

In fact, most people in a country like ours need very little health care for the bulk of their lives, and need catastrophic insurance only. Whereas people like me with pre-existing and severe conditions may very well need to depend on the charity of my neighbors to help bear the cost.

I happen to know that my neighbors are kind and generous people who would willingly help me out. Especially if they have the money they earned to spend as they please.

We also need to be clearer concerning what we actually mean when we use the term "market" in these contexts. One could, for example, have a "market" in health care, as between competetive insurers, even were adverse selections, rescissions, and other industry practices eliminated; they would compete - ie., constitute a market -

Finally, something we can agree on. I don't disagree with using the power of the sword to restrain those elements of the market that are freedom run amok - i.e. not true freedom, but licentiousness - at least in principle. But also in principle, every such use of the power of the state will, generally, also have a side-effect of pushing standard choices into other avenues, not all of which are beneficial to the common good and not all of which are easily foreseeable. When this happens, we often get side-effects that damage the social fabric more than the evil in the markets that the law is designed to curtail.

While I don't know what all of the unintended side-effects are of having laws which require all adverse selections, rescissions, and other industry practices [be] eliminated . But one of the foreseeable consequences is that insurance across the board will be more expensive. Which means, ipso facto, that someone who would have been able to afford the insurance, without regulation, is now unable to afford the insurance. So someone who is teetering on the edge of taking care of himself now cannot do so, as a result of a law intended to help the genetically poor.

Which, of itself, is not a sufficient reason to reject such a law. But it does create an additional hurdle to justifying such a law.

Until Christ comes again, we will always have temptation, and we will always have minds, hearts, and wills weakened by original sin, so we will always have sin. Until Christ comes again, we will always have misfortunes occur which damage and harm us. Until He comes, "the poor you will always have with you." Any program of improvement which aims at creating a safety net so perfect that nobody falls through in terms of poverty, health care, food, shelter, etc, is likely to be so destructive of freedom and gratuitous solidarity that it fails of its own weight. Consequently, I think that it is better to aim at some reasonable improvements whose consequences are more foreseeable, and accept that still better improvements will be the job of the next generation, and also accept that this means that some poor people will fall through the cracks in the meantime. Failing to reach those poor people should be viewed as the same sort of misfortune that we view people who die of a cancer just 6 months before its cure comes on line - it would have been solvable, had we resources we didn't quite have.

Which means, ipso facto, that someone who would have been able to afford the insurance, without regulation, is now unable to afford the insurance. So someone who is teetering on the edge of taking care of himself now cannot do so, as a result of a law intended to help the genetically poor.

There exist all manner of proposals, some of them even articulated by libertarians - negative income taxes, the minimum income proposal that Charles Murray advanced as a possible replacement for the various social welfare programs - that could be adapted to mitigate these difficulties. More generally, the 'doctrine of unintended consequences' so often adverted to by conservatives, in virtually every discussion of the structural reform of any aspect of the American political economy, is in practice a manifest analogue of the 'fallacy of the broken window': as in the latter, one might notice only the economic activity resulting from the need to replace a window, and fail to notice the costs of diverting resources in this manner, so also, in the former, conservatives have a tedious habit of seeing, often in lurid and exaggerated hues, all of the consequences of doing even the slightest thing differently in our (structurally anti-conservative) political economy, failing to notice the real costs of not doing anything differently. And the perversity of this psychological tendency in the present case, of health services/insurance, is that conservatives tend not to see in any meaningful sense the woman who could live another 25 years if only she received treatment for her breast cancer, or the woman subjected to an insurance rescission at precisely the time she requires treatment, as an insurance company performs the worst sort of positivist eisegesis upon a contract signed years, sometimes decades earlier. And as along as we're not discussing the sort of extreme end-of-life interventions that can add a few months of life, and subtract hundreds of thousands of dollars, much of the money is there; unfortunately, what is also there is a refusal of the good of solidarity, a demand on the part of large swathes of society to remain self-positing economic supermen regardless of the social costs, and, probably, a tax shibboleth. Again, discussing as we are neither some perfectionist scheme nor merely some percentage of the genuinely impoverished, but rather increasing swathes of the middle classes, pressured by the economic trends falling under the rubric of globalization, it impresses me profoundly as the worst sort of utilitarian, sacrifice-the-particular-to-enhance-the-aggregate-material-utility sacrificialism to shrug shoulders over the needless privation now experienced by many. Reform should never be undertaken heedlessly, but no one can honestly claim that the present system, in which you can purchase insurance coverage except if you need it, and might have it revoked once purchased precisely when you need it, either conforms to the requirements of justice or constitutes the best system achievable under present circumstances.

I find, alas, that both conservatives and progressives have a tendency to contemplate the economy, and economic matters, as unabashed pagans, forever winking at the sacrifice of the particular in the name of the totality, so long as the totality can be induced to grow ever larger.

"both conservatives and progressives have a tendency to contemplate the economy, and economic matters, as unabashed pagans"

I remember a piece from Touchstone several years ago in which Fr. Patrick Reardon despaired upon having just read Mises's 'Human Action,' which he said was no less atheistic than Marx.

Why is it we never hear about confiscatory taxes, government coercion and theft whenever the Pentagon announces a new weapon system, or the President a new Operation Freedom?

Wealth redistribution is fine if it goes to Lockheed Martin, Halliburton and that favorite of libertarians; "private security contractors". Why no tedious dissertations on "rights" during discussions about defense spending? Could it be conservatives in general, and this site in particular do not hold such discussions?

No one here is defending ObamaCare, yet the hiss of Socialist greets anyone who argues in conformity with Catholic Social Teaching, that we are obligated to provide healthcare to the poor.

No one here lionizes the State, especially one so drained of spiritual substance as this one, but does anyone think a society they accuse of being part of the culture of death and suffering from a dearth of vilunteers, is going to suddenly rescue millions of Americans without access to affordable medical care once taxes are lowered and the insurance and medical fields are deregulated?

"The conviction that the economy must be autonomous, that it must be shielded from 'influences' of a moral character, has led man to abuse the economic process in a thoroughly destructive way...In the long term, these convictions have led to economic, social and political systems that trample upon personal and social freedom, and are therefore unable to deliver the justice that they promise."
CV

The troubling attitude that holds Catholic Social Teaching isn't really binding must be rebutted. A refined example of this thinking, absent caustic taunts about "third ways", fretting about New World Orders, and paens to property rights is exemplified by the quote below;

It’s not really for the Church to pronounce on matters especially concerning economy especially since Christ hasn’t given the Church a special charism that would make them expert on such things.
Aristolces

In response we have Benedict XVI, who reminds those dismissive of the ordinary Magisterium to which all Encyclicals and social doctrine belong; “

doctrinal decisions [could] exist – if at all – solely in situations where the Church may lay claim to infallibility; [and] outside of that sphere, only argument would hold weight. The result is that there could be no certainty shared by the whole community of the Church. It seems to me [that we have before us a typically Western restriction and legalistic reduction of the notion of faith..."

Why is it we never hear about confiscatory taxes, government coercion and theft whenever the Pentagon announces a new weapon system, or the President a new Operation Freedom?

What an interesting question! Do you seriously mean to suggest that governmental taxes for the purpose of common defense lies in the same line of justification as governmental taxes for health care?

To merely ask the question is to answer it. Of course not. Common defense is an inherently governmental action - not only is a man unable to defend against foreign invaders acting on his own, he is forbidden to engage in acts of war on his own. Whereas no matter how much the government may tax us for the benefit of health care for the poor, I can, and my personal obligation and may still include, helping the family next door meet a health care need. Kevin, in order for your comment to make any sense at all, it can only be directed to the same stance that the anarcho-libertarians jeer at - since they don't believe in government taxation at all.

Let me revise that just a little: you can argue about confiscatory taxes as a matter of form or in the particular instance. If the latter, you have to be prepared to argue the ins and outs of the prudential considerations applying to that particular matter and all of its potential alternatives. You surely are not interested in doing this for a particular Pentagon program. So I take it that instead you are focusing on the general purpose of the tax: taking taxes for defense. But nobody (even those who think our obligation to care for the poor is an obligation in justice and is an obligation that pertains to the state as well as to individuals) thinks that the state's duties toward defense are of the same order as its duties to manage health care.

Oops. screwed up the blockquote. I apologize. Quote was just the first paragraph.

. . . does anyone think a society they accuse of being part of the culture of death and suffering from a dearth of vilunteers, is going to suddenly rescue millions of Americans without access to affordable medical care once taxes are lowered and the insurance and medical fields are deregulated?

Except of course that this society is already giving Cadillac care to all manner who have no insurance.

And if you want to make European Popes, who have no affinity for or understanding of the American miracle and founding, go ahead and let them be your dictators in all matters outside of faith and morals.

The Pope can't even evangelize his own diocese of Rome, but he can be the effective guide for American health care? Thank God we are a Protestant country.

Do you seriously mean to suggest that governmental taxes for the purpose of common defense lies in the same line of justification as governmental taxes for health care?

Common defense? Thousands of lives were lost and trillions of dollars wasted in "defending" us from non-existent weapons of mass destruction.

We have 700 bases around the world and the largest military industrial complex on the planet and this is done in the name of "common defense"? Tony, I think you know many are enriched by war and the pursuit of empire - sorry -I mean the helpful installation of democratic capitalist outposts in oil-rich regions. Who'll guard us against the guardians as fortunes are made and the public Treasury squandered?

nobody...thinks that the state's duties toward defense are of the same order as its duties to manage health care.

Right, but is it "defense" and does it deserve the docile compliance that it is accorded here?

You know, I would hope, that both solidarity and subsidiarity are destroyed as innocent people are impoverished, maimed or killed by our "defense".

Yet, please find a thread anywhere on this site that contains 1/100th the amount of skepticism and scrutiny applied to our defense spending and the assumptions, strategy and priorities that underwrite it? Search the archives and then highlight quotes from the "we're nobly protecting the middle class from onerous taxes, utopian schemes and gov't coercion - just like the Apostles" types on this subject.

I'm sure there must be plenty of posts at W4 bemoaning the transfer of private property and personal wealth for a Pentagon boondoggle or Blackwater enterprise filled with comments from Catholics here, right?

Wrong. Why? Because the religious assent due the Church's teaching authority is slavishly bestowed upon Leviathan's Department of Wrath instead. Those Catholics that tremble at the thought of a State with the power to tax, reflexively foam with approval when the State undertakes a project of which they approve.

The whole thing is a damning indictment of the state of Catechisis in this country and the hellish spirit of rebellion that is Liberalism, especially in its co-opted, conservative Christian manifestation.

Except of course that this society is already giving Cadillac care to all manner who have no insurance.

"Welfare Mothers" - the remix version.

Yes, Kevin, it is comon defense, and it has spared you the onerous burden of living under Communism, Nazism and all other forms of tyranny -- militant Islam among them. You're welcome.

In other words, we developed, tested, and deployed three generations of nuclear weapons during the Cold War, and it kept us safe from tyranny. If we and our friends had done better and more, we might have spared eastern Europe from the horrible communistic fate under which it writhed and wretched for nearly half a century -- and more than a billion Chinese at his very moment.

We have gone into and out of many countries around the world, and liberated countless persons. It's expensive and dangerous to do this, and its something our government does very well. Health care is an entirely different matter. When governments get into that business, they simply liberate people from their money and then from their lives. "Peace through strength" is one thing, "health through government" is another.

"And if you want to make European Popes, who have no affinity for or understanding of the American miracle and founding"

Let's face it, folks. The American founding is as tainted by the Fall as any other human endeavour. Not to mention its problematic Enlightenment antecedents. Philadelphia is not Bethlehem.

"Those Catholics that tremble at the thought of a State with the power to tax, reflexively foam with approval when the State undertakes a project of which they approve.
The whole thing is a damning indictment of the state of Catechisis in this country and the hellish spirit of rebellion that is Liberalism, especially in its co-opted, conservative Christian manifestation."

Amen to that, Kevin. And it's not just Catholics. Numerous Christian conservatives of all stripes have some notion or other that the Gospel and democratic capitalism are joined at the hip. Conservative Christians should be just as suspicious of this idea as they are of those of the so-called Christian Left.


We have gone into and out of many countries around the world, and liberated countless persons.

Michael Bauman,
Your version of liberty looks a lot like death to the purported beneficiaries of your armed largesse. Maybe before you "liberate" people from life, limb and any semblance of a civil society, we should ask for their permission first.

Since you have left the Church, my argument on this issue isn't with you, though I hope you one day return. Instead it is with those credulous Catholics who give a blank check to one aspect of the State, while fulminating against the immorality of the redistribution of wealth in others.

In their servile devotion to secular sources and worldly powers they are made a spectacle unto the world. But clearly not in the manner of the Apostles or how Paul intended.

Kevin,

The new generation of aircraft carriers that Northrop Grumman is building, for example, are phenomenally complicated ships. To make a new one that keeps us ahead of China and others cost the federal government $9B in research, and each new one will cost $5B to produce. Likewise, the F22, while seemingly a boondoggle to someone like you is necessary because many of the Russian fighters that are being sold around the world could go toe-to-toe with anything else in current deployment. IT spending is problematic, but the main obstacle there comes from the fact that it is "enterprise IT development" write large on a scale that would terrify even many major corporations.

At $700B, the money **spent on the military** as opposed to the hearts and minds rubbish for companies like Halliburton, is chump change, relatively speaking, in terms of GDP. Even now, that's less than 25% of the budget. If you exclude the "war on terror" stuff, and bring it down to the base appropriations of $515, that becomes less than 17% of the fiscal year 2009 budget.

This is the price you pay for a professional military that doesn't rely on conscripts. Even if we were to go back to having the military as a purely self-defense force backed up by well-armed, well-regulated state militias for prolonged wars, the nature of modern war is such that if you don't have the ability to wage a credible war with your active duty forces against a peer state (China, for example), you will lose very quickly. During the Cold War, this was obvious to most intelligent people since the Soviets would have beaten us on numbers if we hadn't maintained a credible, large active duty military.

There is plenty to trim out of the budget, but the military is an astonishly efficient bureaucracy for what it is. Get off their backs. No other institution except Wal-Mart can handle that many personnel and that much property with any degree of accuracy and accountability. Instead, you should turn your scorn onto agencies like the Department of Education which has a very large budget in its own right, a mere 5000 some employees, and can't account for the lion's share of its budget in a given year.

Even if we brought back all of those troops deployed abroad, the military would still be expensive to maintain at its current level of strength. Less expensive to be sure, but it would not put us in a position to fulfill the liberals' wet dream of slashing the defense budget by 50% and still maintaining a credible active duty military.

Since you have left the Church, my argument on this issue isn't with you, though I hope you one day return. Instead it is with those credulous Catholics who give a blank check to one aspect of the State, while fulminating against the immorality of the redistribution of wealth in others.

Or it could be that he has a more accurate understanding of how expensive maintaining the current **quality** of military is. Even if we left all of the hotspots around the world and shuttered every base overseas, just the maintence cost of equipment for the armed forces would be a large bill every year. That doesn't count the money that would have to be spent on making sure that we can maintain a more technologically advanced military than China and other competitors.

Mark Butterworth:

The Pope can't even evangelize his own diocese of Rome, but he can be the effective guide for American health care?

Utilizing the same risible logic, Jesus couldn't even evangelize the whole of his own Jerusalem, be he can be the effective guide for establishing the New Kingdom?


Thank God we are a Protestant country.

And how it has work so much wonders thus far!

No wonder why one can hardly see America as anything but Christian!

And how it has work so much wonders thus far!

No wonder why one can hardly see America as anything but Christian!

American lay Catholics are the one of the single most reliable left-wing constituencies in the country. You may be the exception, but there are far more Protestants in this country who fundamentally agree with the Pope, ironically enough, on moral issues than American Roman Catholics who do.

It's also just sad to watch how crippled the Roman Catholic Church, with its strict hierarchy, is in Communist China. The Pentacostals with their ad hoc structure have proved to be the one church that is an intractable enemy of the Communists and their efforts to control evangelism.

Also, with regard to military expenditures, since most conservative Catholics have no problem drawing on the wisdom of Greco-Roman civilization, let me remind Kevin and those like him of another piece of Roman wisdom: si vis pacem, para bellum.

Mike T:

You may be the exception, but there are far more Protestants in this country who fundamentally agree with the Pope, ironically enough, on moral issues than American Roman Catholics who do.


The sad part about that statement, my friend, is that it may be actually true.

There are, indeed, far more Protestant friends I have who respect and even agree with what Rome teaches than certain coreligionists themselves.

There is plenty to trim out of the budget...

Mike T Really? Could you put on the green eye-shades and elaborate? Pentagon waste & fraud - impossible.

the military is an astonishly efficient bureaucracy for what it is.

Several trillion spent in Iraq and Afghanistan and who could quibble with the results?

more Protestant friends I have who respect and even agree with what Rome teaches than certain coreligionists themselves

Ari,
It isn't obvious that you agree with what Rome teaches, or that your approach to the ordinary Magisterium is any different than that of your friends.

Remaining intellectually and spiritually confined within the impoverished and established political, economic and cultural boundaries is easy. Accepting Benedict's assertion that the current "systems" we reflexively rally around serve only to marginalize God is a challenge. As he says in CV

“when God is eclipsed, our ability to recognize the natural order, purpose and the ‘good' begins to wane”
The results are all around us.

Kevin:

It isn't obvious that you agree with what Rome teaches...

What Rome teaches and how you've interpreted the teachings of Rome (so as to subscribe to some construct bearing vague resemblance to the socialist enterprise) would seem to me to be two different things.

Kevin,

There are several issues you are conflating. Waste is a very complicated one. There are plenty of people who think that **any** new weapon system is waste. There are plenty of others who cannot grasp the fact that part of the peace they enjoy today comes from the fact that we have the most powerful, dangerous weapon systems in the world such as the F22, B2, M1A3 Abrams and the best nuclear warships deployed in the world.

If you want waste in Iraq, look to the hearts and minds crap. That is where a significant portion of it is. If you want to look for the root cause of the private security contractor issue, then look to the Clinton Administration which badly underfunded the military without lightening its load from the Cold War. We lost a lot of good personnel during those years because they were sick of the Clinton Administration's constant efforts to simultaneously rape the DoD budget and act like it was still funded to Cold War levels.

The federal government's IT problems are the same as any large enterprise's problems. It outsources work to large, overhead-ladden firms like Lockheed, but unlike private firms it gets a significant amount of that money back by April 15th because a large portion of what contracting firms charge the government is money to cover corporate and payroll taxes, as well as have large administrative labor forces like any major corporation. If more accountability could be demanded, the obvious answer would be to place 1099s directly under the control of government program managers, as 1099s are significantly cheaper.

A significant portion of the expenses in Iraq have come from "hearts and minds" projects, not military expenditures. A negligible percentage of the contractors in Iraq are from the "usual suspects" like Lockheed, Boeing, General Dynamics and Northrop Grumman. You know why? Because they do the jobs which the feds don't want to do like engineering, not jobs that the feds already do, but often get outsourced.

Ari, stop hiding behind the straw man with the hammer and the sickle in his hand. No one here is for ObamaCare, - and you know it.

CST teaches that justice requires we share our goods, the poor have a right to healthcare and the State has a role in the economy and the administration of justice. Instead of responding that the Church lacks a "charism", you might want to let her, and not say Milton Friedman inform you;

“The Church's social doctrine is not a "third way" between liberal capitalism and Marxist collectivism, nor even a possible alternative to other solutions less radically opposed to one another: rather, it constitutes a category of its own. Nor is it an ideology, but rather the accurate formulation of the results of a careful reflection on the complex realities of human existence, in society and in the international order, in the light of faith and of the Church's tradition. Its main aim is to interpret these realities, determining their conformity with or divergence from the lines of the Gospel teaching on man and his vocation, a vocation which is at once earthly and transcendent; its aim is thus to guide Christian behavior." Solicitudo Rei Socialis

Mike T,
This is not the place to argue about Iraq.

I raised it in the context of other points; the extremely selective application of principles like subsidarity, solidarity and limited government, and the religious assent given to political dogma rather than Church doctrine.

I think your response has been very helpful in that it reinforces those points.

This is not the place to argue about Iraq.

I raised it in the context of other points; the extremely selective application of principles like subsidarity, solidarity and limited government, and the religious assent given to political dogma rather than Church doctrine.

You brought it up in support of your general point, which was that many here are hypocritical on matters of defense spending. I countered by showing that a significant portion of your grievances are either the result of political stupidity or actually not related to the defense budget.

If you don't want to talk about it beyond that, then that's fine with me, but I don't think you realize how subjective a lot of the criticism of the DoD's budget actually is.

A significant portion of the expenses in Iraq have come from "hearts and minds" projects, not military expenditures.

When you destroy a country's infrastructure it is always good form to try and replace it while spreading the wealth around. Makes the inevitable and undignified exit more palpable to the true believers who never found a weapon system, foreign military base or war they didn't like. Or, a social program that they did.

I assume this isn't part of the "hearts and minds" campaign;

"Toward the end, we were so mad and tired and frustrated," said Daniel Freeman. "You came too close, we lit you up. You didn't stop, we ran your car over with the Bradley," an armored fighting vehicle.

With each roadside bombing, soldiers would fire in all directions "and just light the whole area up," said Anthony Marquez, a friend of Freeman in the 1st Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment. "If anyone was around, that was their fault. We smoked 'em."

Taxi drivers got shot for no reason, and others were dropped off bridges after interrogations, said Marcus Mifflin, who was eventually discharged with post traumatic stress syndrome.

"You didn't get blamed unless someone could be absolutely sure you did something wrong," he said

And as a "supporter of the troops", you understand that these things happen, war is hell, etc. etc.;

The Army trains soldiers to be that way, said Kenneth Eastridge, an infantry specialist serving 10 years for accessory to murder.

"The Army pounds it into your head until it is instinct: Kill everybody, kill everybody," he said. "And you do. Then they just think you can just come home and turn it off."

Last week, the Army released a study of soldiers at Fort Carson that found that the trauma of fierce combat and soldier refusals or obstacles to seeking mental health care may have helped drive some to violence at home.


http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5h_xI7LfbSV47Z5pzZq8NLfHx9nWQD99MCGNG0

Kevin,

Selective in our quotations aren't we?


Did you perchance happen to run by the following or is it just more convenient to skip them, my dear brother in Christ?

"The Church does not have technical solutions to offer and does not claim to interfere in any way in the politics of States." Caritas in Veritate, CV 9

"If development were concerned with merely technical aspects of human life, and not with the meaning of man's pilgrimage through history in company with his fellow human beings, nor with identifying the goal of that journey, then the Church would not be entitled to speak on it." Caritas in Veritate, CV 16

"If I were to pronounce on any single matter of a prevailing economic problem, I should be interfering with the freedom of men to work out their own affairs. Certain cases must be solved in the domain of facts, case by case as they occur." - Pope Leo XIII


"[T]he Church holds that it is unlawful for her to mix without cause in these temporal concerns’; however, she can in no wise renounce the duty God entrusted to her to interpose her authority, not of course in matters of technique for which she is neither suitably equipped nor endowed by office, but in all things that are connected with the moral law." - Pope Pius XI

Read all of them Ari, and not one supports your previous contentions that;

*encyclicals can be ignored by the faithful
*economics is somehow outside the realm of moral theology and the Church's teaching "charism"
*that the State has no role in social & economic policies
*redistribution of wealth is inherently wrong or socialistic.

Good to see though, that you are consulting the encyclicals.

Kevin,

Surely, the State has a role in the economy and the administration of justice; however, as even the statements I cited would seem to unanimously concur, the approach, indeed, the very method or system the state itself must specifically administer to secure such justice on behalf of the individual is not contained anywhere therein and, even further, it is made quite plain that the Church herself does not mean or seek to impose any such thing (either of her design or another) upon any such state; this seems to be something you yourself have manufactured merely by personal opinion alone.

it is made quite plain that the Church herself does not mean or seek to impose any such thing (either of her design or another) upon any such state

You're dodging. I never said she did, or can you show me the quote?

Take all the time you need.

A basic moral test is how our most vulnerable members are faring. In a society marred by deepening divisions between rich and poor, our tradition recalls the story of the Last Judgment (Mt 25:31-46) and instructs us to put the needs of the poor and vulnerable first.
The right to food, like the right to water, has an important place within the pursuit of other rights, beginning with the fundamental right to life. It is therefore necessary to cultivate a public conscience that considers food and access to water as universal rights of all human beings, without distinction or discrimination

How do you know a liberal is losing an argument? He calls you a racist.

How do you know Kevin is losing an argument? He calls you a warmonger.

Nice little attempted diversion and change of subject, Kevin. Classic legerdemain when you've been shown to be all wet.

The fact is, you don't have a right to food, water, shelter, clothing, health from anyone else. You might demand them from God, but you have have no right to demand them from anyone else.

If you have a right to health care, say, how (exactly) are you going to demand it from me? You're going to demand I treat you or give you money for treatment? What kind of exchange is that really then?

But my right to life defines what you may not do to me. Not what you must do. It lays no burden or task upon you. The same with speech, religion, assembly (association), self-defense.

You aren't required to do anything on my behalf except leave me alone. You think you can do that, amigo?

Utilizing the same risible logic, Jesus couldn't even evangelize the whole of his own Jerusalem, be he can be the effective guide for establishing the New Kingdom?

Of course, Jesus didn't have the benefit of his Resurrection to persuade others. Bishop of Rome's diocese average attendance at Sunday Mass: 5%.

America's average attendance at Sunday services: some 50%.

But of course, those figures of evangelical fervor: risible, indeed.

Go ahead and ask yourself, why is Billy Graham so much more effective an evangelist? Could it be that he preaches the Gospel and calls people to Christ.

And exactly what the heck is this New Kingdom you're for establishing. If you're talking about this world, that's simply absurd.

When you destroy a country's infrastructure it is always good form to try and replace it while spreading the wealth around. Makes the inevitable and undignified exit more palpable to the true believers who never found a weapon system, foreign military base or war they didn't like. Or, a social program that they did.

Once again, you're conflating issues. You're wrapping it all up together either because you cannot handle them as separate issues or because you don't want others to address them appropriately.

Even a self-defense force would be very expensive because of the nature of our military's approach to staffing itself. Our military is built on highly trained, willing volunteers, not conscripts like a significant number of our allies. We have moral superiority over pretty much every other wealthy country in that respect. An expensive, technology-driven, highly trained military is the price you pay for having a powerful military that has absolutely no conscripts. To make that possible, we have to make sure that we consistently deploy advanced weapon systems that continue to act as force multipliers.

I'm not Catholic, but I don't see how your attacks on Rome are relevant, Mark. I don't recall any instance above where Kevin attacked Protestantism. If you disagree with Catholic social teaching, fine. But you don't need to refight the Reformation to do so.

As an anti-statist conservative, I have few problems with Catholic social teaching, except when it is misinterpreted and misapplied by Leftists.

(BTW, I've read a couple recent comments that indicate that the problem with B16's new encyclical might be the translation. One scholar has compared portions of it in French and German to those in the English version, and has found the former two far more understandable and readable.)


A basic moral test is how our most vulnerable members are faring. In a society marred by deepening divisions between rich and poor, our tradition recalls the story of the Last Judgment (Mt 25:31-46) and instructs us to put the needs of the poor and vulnerable first.

The right to food, like the right to water, has an important place within the pursuit of other rights, beginning with the fundamental right to life. It is therefore necessary to cultivate a public conscience that considers food and access to water as universal rights of all human beings, without distinction or discrimination

Food, water, medicine, clothing and shelter as basic rights. How does the Roman Catholic Church then propose to carry out the wisdom of Paul who said, "if any would not work, neither should he eat?"

If that is official teaching of the Roman Catholic Church, then it is flat out wrong, as it is teaching doctrine contrary to clear instruction from Paul. According to Paul, there is no positive right to food, but rather the church should only feed the poor who show a willingness to work with the church to lift them back onto their own two feet.

A system where the state works with the church to provide for the basic necessities of the poor on the provision that they are actively seeking gainful employment or have a job that cannot pay all of their basic necessities is not incompatible with Paul's teachings. However, a system where these things are assumed to be human rights flies directly in the face of Paul's teachings.

**How does the Roman Catholic Church then propose to carry out the wisdom of Paul who said, "if any would not work, neither should he eat?"**

It's hermeneutically dubious to elevate St Paul's statement into some universal economic principle applicable to all mankind. He was speaking to a specific Christian community re: their taking care of their own.

A literalistic reading of Paul would exclude the elderly, the infirm, and the disabled, and I don't think you want to do that. I do believe that a distinction should be made between what used to be called the "deserving poor" -- those who were poor through no fault of their own -- and the merely lazy. St Paul's statement seems to be aimed primarily at the latter.

Still, Christ, in the story of the sheep and goats, does not draw such a distinction. Unless you're willing to say that Christ and St. Paul disagree (bad) or that St. Paul's teaching trumps that of Christ (worse), you need to find a way to reconcile the two.

There is a difference between food and water as basic human rights, and food and water as rights given to members of a specific community. If you live in a condominium complex and you refuse to pay your water bill, it will be shut off. This is different from having your human right to water denied. The problem is that many on the Left confuse these two types of rights; some conservatives overreact to such confused rights' talk and deny the validity of such rights at all.

In any case, I for one would not want to be in the position of denying someone food or water because I felt they were undeserving. Too much danger in being declared a goat...

A literalistic reading of Paul would exclude the elderly, the infirm, and the disabled, and I don't think you want to do that. I do believe that a distinction should be made between what used to be called the "deserving poor" -- those who were poor through no fault of their own -- and the merely lazy. St Paul's statement seems to be aimed primarily at the latter.

No, a literal reading would not do that because Paul's words imply a lack of willingness to work. The people you are talking about likely cannot work because of external factors beyond their control. What Paul was saying is that anyone who is capable of working, but refuses to do so, has no right to appeal to "human dignity" or anything else to get a free meal, shirt, shot, roof, etc.

With regard to the elderly, many of them can actually still work. It can be as simple as an old woman babysitting her grandkids while her children go to work. If we are to care for the truly needy, then we must expect anyone who can work to do something of value for others, even if it's something so simple as babysitting.

You should also remember that the parable of the goats and the sheep applies to the Church, not to humanity in general aside from the general judgment of mankind. The rejection of Jesus is the sin that the world will be condemned for, not its treatment of the poor. Even if we lived in the idealized Marxist paradise, the good works of the secular world toward the poor would be, in the words of Isaiah, as filthy rags in the eyes of God.

Mark Butterworth,

Of course, Jesus didn't have the benefit of his Resurrection to persuade others. Bishop of Rome's diocese average attendance at Sunday Mass: 5%.

America's average attendance at Sunday services: some 50%.

But of course, those figures of evangelical fervor: risible, indeed.

Go ahead and ask yourself, why is Billy Graham so much more effective an evangelist? Could it be that he preaches the Gospel and calls people to Christ.


Are you that dense?

You would actually judge by merely the reception of the Gospel message by the immediate crowd?

And, yet, with all of the miracles Jesus Himself had performed for the benefit of God's Chosen People, amazing that he was unable to convince the whole of them -- perhaps within the same construct of your faulty logic, he too was such a failure!

Even if the bishop of Rome likewise performed miracles, as the many saints who did indeed do likewise for generations on forward since the time of the early church to such greats like St. Francis of Assisi, you would still have crowds of people who are hopelessly hard of hearts.

Now, return to your abyss of Christian nihilism wherein cold math reigns supreme and whose heart revolves more around the Gospel of popularity than the genuine Gospel of Christ!

No, a literal reading would not do that because Paul's words imply a lack of willingness to work.

Interesting to note that there was actually a time when Charity was actually outlawed in England because it was believed then that such charity encouraged laziness amongst those in the population who were destitute.

"You should also remember that the parable of the goats and the sheep applies to the Church, not to humanity in general"

Regarding the givers, yes, but not the recipients. He's not saying that it's only hungry, thirsty, sick Christians we're supposed to help.

Regarding the givers, yes, but not the recipients. He's not saying that it's only hungry, thirsty, sick Christians we're supposed to help.

And I never claimed that. What I said that was that we are charged with using discernment to differentiate those who would meet us halfway (or simply cannot due to other factors like illness) and those who are just too lazy to even work a menial job.

What I said that was that we are charged with using discernment to differentiate those who would meet us halfway (or simply cannot due to other factors like illness) and those who are just too lazy to even work a menial job.

This suspiciously sounds like Joel Olsteen's preaching who himself didst say in one of his T.V. sermons that he refused to give money to a bum he met on the street because he refused to come with him to his church and concluded his sermon to his congregation then that we all shouldn't help those who refused to change their lives and help themselves; too bad, he didn't take the time to read Scripture more comprehensively that does actually say otherwise.

This suspiciously sounds like Joel Olsteen's preaching who himself didst say in one of his T.V. sermons that he refused to give money to a bum he met on the street because he refused to come with him to his church and concluded his sermon to his congregation then that we all shouldn't help those who refused to change their lives and help themselves; too bad, he didn't take the time to read Scripture more comprehensively that does actually say otherwise.

Joel Olsteen is also living in a multi-million dollar mansion paid on his church's dime. That should tell you all you need to know about his character.

The best way to handle a situation like that is to do what my in-laws' church did when they got a call for assistance from an old man who claimed to be in need. He said that he was hungry and needed money to buy food. They offered to take him to the grocery store and buy a reasonable stock of groceries on the church's dime. He turned them down, so they offered to take him to McDonalds to at least get something to eat. He turned them down, and hung up.

That is the sort of discernment that is expected of us. They discerned that if the man were truly needy, he would gladly see an offer to take him to the grocery store or to McDonalds as being as good as giving him money to do it for himself.

I would like to return a bit to my discussion with Mike Liccione, above, and I'd like to use an analogy: Suppose that we were surrounded with secularists saying that the government needs to "get control" of our welfare spending on welfare moms by making welfare moms "control their reproduction." Everyone would know full well that this would mean forced sterilization and long-term birth control as a condition of receiving welfare and possibly even forced abortions and child-number limits. Now, suppose some Catholic pro-lifer came along and said that the government's making welfare moms "control their reproduction" is really necessary (because we can't afford our current level of welfare indefinitely) and isn't necessarily bad, but that he is confident that eventually the government will adopt _Catholic_ principles in such a program. So the program would mean, for example, requiring welfare mothers to be sexually chaste and to use NFP within marriage.

Would this pass the laugh test? Such a person must be incredibly naive. And by coming out in favor of the overall rhetoric of the big-brother-ish program of government's monitoring and controlling reproduction by poor women, such a person would be unintentionally giving aid and comfort to the promotion of an agenda directly opposed to his own religious and moral principles.

Now _that_ is close to the way that I feel about the recommendation Mike L. makes that we should embrace health care rationing for the elderly, _specifically_ in end-of-life care, while thinking that we can avoid death by dehydration and other forms of invidious rationing not to mention outright murder simply by hoping that the government will "listen to the Church" in developing its rationing principles! My response: You've gotta be kidding, and since you've gotta be kidding, _please_ stop saying that rationing ain't such a bad thing.

Mike T,

I actually like that approach!

Sometimes, I feel rather than provide monies directly to such poor folk on the streets, to take them out instead to a nearby fast-food place or something, instead of simply giving them currency that they might end up spending for other things (e.g., drugs, etc.) other than the basic necessities like food; that's probably why I more prefer to donate to charities that help such people.

(Also, glad to see we're on the same page concerning Olsteen.)

the recommendation Mike L. makes that we should embrace health care rationing for the elderly, _specifically_ in end-of-life care, while thinking that we can avoid death by dehydration and other forms of invidious rationing not to mention outright murder simply by hoping that the government will "listen to the Church" in developing its rationing principles!

Rationing is coming. The debt-burdened, death-junkies of an Obama controlled State will get there sooner, and the for-profit private sector will get there later. Free markets set prices, they are neutral about the sacredness of life. As an aside, the Chamber of Commerce, the AMA and the pharmacueitical trade association are all supportive of the measure, with PhRMA running radio ads.

Barring wide-spread conversion, or an unforseen demographic development, rationisng is coming. A pro-life argument that goes a long these lines; "better to drown in a sea of red-ink than blood" will not stand a chance in our commercial state, as witness the Gordon Gekkoish arguments made by Christians seeking to diminish our obligations to the poor recorded above.

The cruel irony to all of this, is the same generation that gave us Roe v Wade as they hummed Teach Your Children will find the lesson they imparted was well-learned. And those who thought the culture of death somehow independent of the economic sphere and our celebration of the autonomous individual will learn the bitter fruits of their myopic and fragmented view of reality.

Slight correction: it's Osteen, not Olsteen.

"They discerned that if the man were truly needy, he would gladly see an offer to take him to the grocery store or to McDonalds as being as good as giving him money to do it for himself."

Absolutely. And nowhere are we commanded or expected to quiz the man on his worthiness if he does allow us to buy him the burger, right?

Absolutely. And nowhere are we commanded or expected to quiz the man on his worthiness if he does allow us to buy him the burger, right?

Certainly not. However, we should have discernment even there to make sure we aren't being used. One of the things I was taught growing up in a law enforcement family was to look carefully at a beggar's clothes. If they were cleanish, you don't give them money because chances are good that they're doing it as a scam.

Rob G: Thanks for the correction!

Mike T: I think I would have to agree with Rob G to the extent that Jesus did teach us to give freely out of our hearts and not to subject the needy person(s) to some third-degree or even an inquisition merely so that the guy can earn our charity; that, too, to my mind, isn't what charity is all about.

Well, again, what I'm saying is that you have to use your best judgment to try to figure out if the person is in need, or just trying to use you. That means you try to profile the person to see if you can pick up any warning signs. If you're unsure, you can err on the side of caution and help them, but you still need to make sure that you do due diligence in not being used by people who are more than capable of feeding and clothing themselves.

Kevin,

Rationing is coming. The debt-burdened, death-junkies of an Obama controlled State will get there sooner, and the for-profit private sector will get there later. Free markets set prices, they are neutral about the sacredness of life. As an aside, the Chamber of Commerce, the AMA and the pharmacueitical trade association are all supportive of the measure, with PhRMA running radio ads.

Barring wide-spread conversion, or an unforseen demographic development, rationisng is coming. A pro-life argument that goes a long these lines; "better to drown in a sea of red-ink than blood" will not stand a chance in our commercial state, as witness the Gordon Gekkoish arguments made by Christians seeking to diminish our obligations to the poor recorded above.

You can make generalizations all day like "better to drown in a sea of red-ink than blood," but you have yet come even close to showing how your ideas would be implemented. Instead, you just want to bitch like a stereotypical intellectual about the "horrible constraints" that modernity imposes on your mind.

Well, you know what? Some of us recognize the fact that we cannot work within idealized philosophical systems, but rather have to work with the tools and materials we have. Right now, we have 3 major materials: the church, the state and the market. Take your pick, and start explaining how you would set things up.

You would actually judge by merely the reception of the Gospel message by the immediate crowd?

Yes, of course, all those people responding to Billy Graham are insincere, and the majority of Americans attending Sunday services are an "immediate crowd."

Nice work with the ad hominems. That's really impressive and bolsters your contentions. I guess all the poor people I've fed, housed, clothed, and helped heal really hate my cold math and Christian nihilism.

I don't see how your attacks on Rome are relevant, Mark.

Only relevant in so far as someone holding up bishops as a body of special wisdom, discernment, and judgment. We all know how wicked, stupid, weak, cowardly, inept, deluded the hierarchy is and has been. Lending them some special authority on health care or even allowing them to proclaim it a right is absurd.

If the Bishop of Rome is such a great Apostle, why can't he even increase the number of his parishioners to attend Mass in his diocese. If he isn't any good at what his office and the Gospel specifically requires of him, why would anyone find him authoritative on secondary matters?

Aris,

Oh yeah, when large numbers turn out to see the Pope, let's dismiss them all, too, as an immediate crowd with the same contempt Jesus had for the multitudes during the Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes, Sermon on the Mount and so on.

You a funny guy.

Mark,

If the Bishop of Rome is such a great Apostle, why can't he even increase the number of his parishioners to attend Mass in his diocese.


If Jesus was such a great Messiah, why couldn't he even convert, let alone, convince most, if not, all of Israel?

How pathetic was that?

Or, rather, how pathetic your sense of logic!

Only relevant in so far as someone holding up bishops as a body of special wisdom, discernment, and judgment. We all know how wicked, stupid, weak, cowardly, inept, deluded the hierarchy is and has been.

In particular, those which comprised the great ecumenical councils and, in particular, Nicaea; hell, might as well toss the doctrine of the Trinity since it too was the product of such wicked, stupid, weak, cowardly, inept and deluded heirarchy!

Lending them some special authority on health care or even allowing them to proclaim it a right is absurd.

And just where did Rome claim any such special authority on health care? Or even talk about it?

Could you provide such documentation other than some strings from herr Kevin himself?

Or are you so wont to attack Wicked Rome that the only ammo you can come up with is the one you and your cohorts deviously manufacture?

BTW, I've read a couple recent comments that indicate that the problem with B16's new encyclical might be the translation. One scholar has compared portions of it in French and German to those in the English version, and has found the former two far more understandable and readable.)

Rob G.,
As always, there are issues around translation, but the main problem regarding the reception of some to Caritas Veritate lies with an audience locked into rationalism, reductionism and relativism. Our anthroplogy is a mess and someone who challenges it as Benedict does, is going to infuriate not a small number of Christians. Who wants to be told, that their favorite projects, systems or programs they have spent years developing and defending are false constructs that marginalize God?

I do think the self-gift and gratitutiousness he speaks of is more a problem for First World Christians than those in the Third, but to overcome that requires more than better translations.

you just want to bitch like a stereotypical intellectual about the "horrible constraints" that modernity imposes on your mind.

Mike T,
Modernity has damaged us all to the point simple truths are lost in all the sophisticated layers we place between us and God. Christ comes to us the disguise of the poor, instead of responding to Him as we should, we prefer to apply a means tests to determine whether He qualifies for our Charity. This is madness.

Some of us recognize the fact that we cannot work within idealized philosophical systems

No you don't. All you are comfortable talking about is idealized political-economic formulas with an infrequent Scriptural reference thrown in.

Right now, we have 3 major materials: the church, the state and the market. Take your pick, and start explaining how you would set things up.

Set things up? I don't have an ideology to offer in contradiction to yours. All I have tried to say is for us to retain our humanity, we have to clear our minds of the mental deceptions and confusions that have been allowed to fester for the past 400 plus years, and served only to destroy our vision and experience of God. Twenty years after the fall of the Soviet Union, we should be examining the causes for the crash of our own, and Benedict offers this;

If man is made in the image of God, if God is not known experientially, neither is man. Therefore, there is a loss of the meaning of man.



All I have tried to say is for us to retain our humanity, we have to clear our minds of the mental deceptions and confusions that have been allowed to fester for the past 400 plus years, and served only to destroy our vision and experience of God.

Kevin, you have been saying this since CV came out, and you haven't convinced anyone to take you seriously, because NOBODY can "clear our minds" of something that is not quite the truth except with a greater truth. You have not yet proposed a new truth to replace the error. Without proposing something that is more true than what I, or Mike, or Rob, or Jeff, or Ari holds, all your words amount to is a clash of cymbals.

So, here is our challenge: What combination of actions that display solidarity, together with displaying subsidiarity, together with displaying gratuitousness, would you suggest to us?

Yes, of course. Jesus and any Pope are completely parallel in office, manner, being, and mission. I missed that part where Jesus' mission was to convert the world, and not to save it; the Cross being a miscalculation and diversion of his intentions.

I suppose we're also supposed to treat every single encyclical, papal bull, or extemporaneous outburst as carrying the same weight as Nicaea and other Counsels.

You still a funny guy.

Kevin, you have been saying this since CV came out, and you haven't convinced anyone to take you seriously, because NOBODY can "clear our minds" of something that is not quite the truth except with a greater truth. You have not yet proposed a new truth to replace the error. Without proposing something that is more true than what I, or Mike, or Rob, or Jeff, or Ari,

Rob has a greater Catholic sensibility than many Catholics and is open to CV. Ari alternates depending on the workings of the air conditioner and I don't know who Jeff is.

The truth(s) proposed are not mine, though I give them full assent. Christ must be visible - front and center. Sounds trite but look at our discussions, they are conducted in the language of PoliSci weenies on sugar highs. Why? Probably because that is where we our comfortably safe from having to change in any significant way.

One's whole orientation is transformed if we sincerely believe it is Christ we are serving in our jobs, homes and social structures. This does not require a "confessional state", but men willing to think, speak, act and live as if they have a relationship with Christ. That is how He becomes present to those around us.

Naturally, personal conversion precedes social change, but neither is possible if we continue to engage on the terms and conditions set by those who find Christ a fiction, embarrassment, threat or combination of all three. So, the first premise (don't worry Tony, there will be more) presented for ratification by this broken Body, is making Christ the foundation for our reasonings and projects. Does anyone doubt the civilizational impasse could survive the end of operational atheism?


Two hundred years ago, the assertion that the Christian hope was illusory would have been completely meaningless for most people in Europe. Though that assertion was in fact made, it remained for most people insubstantial and inconsequential, because the presence of Christianity governed their sense of reality. The Christian message was continually engaged in demonstrating its own reality as something on whose basis one could live and die. The joy which such certitude brought forth, even amid a host of afflictions, found expression in the radiant beauty of Baroque church-building and music. Today, we are faced with a phenomenon of an absolutely contrary kind. To maintain today that Christianity is the reality which bears up the world is to make an empty claim so far as the average person is concerned. For many, Christianity is nothing more than a gush of pious words which only the naïve could accept as a substitute for reality. And these two attitudes dispose one to hear the same text in completely different ways. What we hear reflects the persons we who listen are and not simply what it is we are listening to.

Josef Ratzinger 1988

Today, we are faced with a phenomenon of an absolutely contrary kind. To maintain today that Christianity is the reality which bears up the world is to make an empty claim so far as the average person is concerned.

Quite true. I believe that as strongly as you do, Kevin. I try to fight that problem to the extent that I can. I have been saying for years now that the supposedly American concept of "separation of Church and State" is out of whack, is destructive, that a different approach is necessary.

[But why was the Vatican diplomatic corp in the late 60's in the forefront of getting Catholicism out of the public view in such places as Spain and Italy, leading the charge to remove Christ from the basic constitutional framework? Not that it matters, but it does puzzle one.]

But in the meantime , while we are striving our mightiest to do our personal little parts in the decades-long push to bring Christ into the center of society, we must ALSO push for particular solutions to problems that won't wait for society to become that Christ-centered ideal that is the ultimate goal. If you are saying that we should not worry about making temporary improvements of the sort that don't need an entire cultural revolution to succeed, then you have lost me. Moreover, those partial, temporary fixes can be precisely some of those intermediate steps in the direction of achieving a Christ-centered society that we can take now.

Let me give a small example of what I mean. My employer allots everyone X days of sick allowance, and Y days of vacation. Some dozen years ago, the employees and union got the employer to agree to establish a sick-days bank. People can contribute some of their vacation days to the bank, for the benefit of others who have used up all of their sick days. This is purely voluntary, nobody is pressured into giving up their vacation days. You can either make donations as a general donation to be used as needed, or you can make donations for a particular person when a notice goes around saying they need assistance. My practice has been to make some of each. And every time I make a donation, I am conscious of the fact that I am doing something for another fellow employee that I would hope he would be willing to do for me should I need it, but even more thinking that this is one small way I can be Christ-like to my neighbor. However, NOTHING about the program mentions Christianity, or religion, or anything like that. Nothing about my actions in filling out a donation form announce that my motives are those of a Christian. Even though my personal motives have Christ at the center, nobody else knows this.

My opinion is that this sort of arrangement is EXACTLY the sort of change B16 was talking about in CV, in a small way changing the way the employer/employee/union see each other, and interact. Are you suggesting that this sort of effort is pointless without Christ being publicly the central meaning of the effort?

Modernity has damaged us all to the point simple truths are lost in all the sophisticated layers we place between us and God. Christ comes to us the disguise of the poor, instead of responding to Him as we should, we prefer to apply a means tests to determine whether He qualifies for our Charity. This is madness.

It is not madness. God expects us to be mindful of the way that we use those very resources, and to use them to the best of our abilities. What you advocate is just throwing money around at everyone who just looks poor in the hope that you will catch some who genuinely need help.

Why do you think I used the counter-example of how my in-laws' church used discernment to uncover the fact that a man who claimed to be old and hungry was, in fact, trying to use them? Were they sinning by taking him at his word and offering to take him to a grocery store instead of writing him a check? If he were truly hungry, would he not respond with happiness rather than turn them away?


No you don't. All you are comfortable talking about is idealized political-economic formulas with an infrequent Scriptural reference thrown in.

That's a textbook case of projection...

Set things up? I don't have an ideology to offer in contradiction to yours. All I have tried to say is for us to retain our humanity, we have to clear our minds of the mental deceptions and confusions that have been allowed to fester for the past 400 plus years, and served only to destroy our vision and experience of God. Twenty years after the fall of the Soviet Union, we should be examining the causes for the crash of our own, and Benedict offers this;

In other words, you have nothing to add but platitudes. You stand there demanding this and that for the poor in very safe, very abstract terms, but you have absolutely no plan for how your vision would actually look.

That, Kevin, is one of the reasons why our system is in decline. There are too many people who have no idea how something should be done, but want it done anyway, and who don't think about the effects that that will have on the greater system.

I, however, have at least offered pieces of how such a system of providing comprehensive health care to the most people would look. It would function first and foremost through the market for the majority of people. The church would provide for the poor and for charity cases among the middle class. The state would provide guaranteed emergency services (such as emergency room coverage after a severe car accident) to all.

It's all well and good to reexamine fundamental assumptions. Hey, I'm all for that, and from what I've had a chance to read so far, I agree with B16. I just have no patience for complaining about the state of things without any concrete suggestions of how things might be improved.

I have been saying for years now that the supposedly American concept of "separation of Church and State" is out of whack, is destructive, that a different approach is necessary.
Tony,
Benedict would say the far more destructive rupture is internal to the self. He offers many reasons for this phenomonon (the objectifying of the individual for instance), but this passage is an especially jarring;

What really torments us today, what bothers us much more is the inefficacy of Christianity: after two thousand years of Christian history, we can see nothing that might be a new reality in the world; rather, we find it sunk in the same old horrors, the same despair, and the same hopes as ever. And in our own lives, too, we inevitably experience time and again how Christian reality is powerless against all the other forces that influence us and make demands on us.

Healing the institutional divide you mention, means restoring the faithless, fragmented and isolated individual through his direct experience of Christ (not dogma);

Faith releases us from the isolation of the "I", because it leads us to communion: the encounter with God is, in itself and as such, an encounter with our brothers and sisters, an act of convocation, of unification, of responsibility towards the other and towards others. In this sense, the preferential option for the poor is implicit in the Christological faith in the God who became poor for us, so as to enrich us with his poverty

Does this mean quietism, or to refrain from pushing for particular solutions to problems? Of course not. It does mean changing the way we think and the reasons for why we act.

Even though my personal motives have Christ at the center, nobody else knows this...
... Are you suggesting that this sort of effort is pointless without Christ being publicly the central meaning of the effort?

Since your gift is not based on an exchange of giving so as to get, it obviously brings you closer to Christ, whether your motives are publicly understood or not. The problem lies in whether Christ is being made visible any where or is He always being concealed by "confused sentimentality", or the tendency to reduce charity to a self-interested transaction.

The "revolution of the heart" is an interior, bottom-up affair.

It's all well and good to reexamine fundamental assumptions. Hey, I'm all for that, and from what I've had a chance to read so far, I agree with B16. I just have no patience for complaining about the state of things without any concrete suggestions of how things might be improved.

Mike T,
Have any of your fundamental assumptions changed as a result of reading B16?

Credible solutions regarding healthcare, and I favor one that is more intimate than that afforded by a handful of large insurers, pharma companies and a massive federal agency, require we change our other arrangements and expectations. That means our current spending priorities, life-style choices and the delusion that no sacrifice is required by any of us.

Kevin,

Why don't you do the rest of us a favour and simply become a co-contributor to W4? That way, you might elucidate upon these topics and, in particular, devote an entire post to your rendering of Caritas in Veritate for our benefit, who surely are the most in need of enlightenment, given the darkness of that dying Christian life that is so vulnerable, even the slightest whiff of modernity can quench it almost instantly, if not for certain seldom reminders of our Faith, lying amidst the the remaining devotees to Christianity, be it in the Church or in the remaining regions of secular sections in society, already making these those few remaining stalwart soldiers of the Christian Crusade.

The "revolution of the heart" is an interior, bottom-up affair.

And suppose I am attending to this revolution of the heart. I still have to decide whether, for example, to write to my congressman to vote for, or against, the Obamacare bill. A concrete action. While I am attending to conversion of heart to Christ, I still have duties that must be attended to whether (a) that conversion has accomplished much or little in me so far, and (b) regardless of whether anyone else's conversion is happening.

And even if that conversion happens in me and many around me, it must STILL be the case that whatever organic and/or systemic changes we undertake, they must be taken with a good understanding of valid principles, or not. If not, they will not be likely to succeed. And THAT is what Mike started this thread for. You can't say "pay no attention to the issue of right principles, and make sure your heart is pure", because they go hand in hand. If Mike's proposed starting point of interwoven solidarity and subsidiarity is bad philosophy, our heart will not remain pure in trying to implement it.

Besides, Kevin, if the entire point of B16's programme is "convert your own heart first, and all else will follow of its own accord", then what are you doing trying to convert us? I think that B16 pretty strongly hints that some of the evils, some of the plight of destitute people, cannot wait for that revolution of the heart to be completed.

Tony if you want to argue about ObamaCare find someone who supports it. If you want to argue about B16 read him before you launch your attack. And just because I disagree with you doesn't mean I seek your conversion. And stop with the "us" security blanket bit.

Well, that certainly puts US in our place. We can have nothing to say after that.

Except that ad hominem attacks do nothing to elucidate the principles that Mike initiated this thread to talk about.

If you had bothered to actually read my comment, you would have seen that I was not suggesting, or even hinting at a possibility, that you support Obamacare.

Lydia:

Essentially, your criticism of my position is that I'm being hopelessly naìve. I do not think I am. That's not because I believe the Federal government is a font of moral wisdom; the current administration is anything but. It's because I know that the majority of Americans do not want the kind of end-of-life rationing that we both agree would be immoral. So, given that the taxpayer cannot afford to subsidize all the end-of-life care that people generally prefer for themselves, arrangements will have to be made to subsidize a level of care short of that, but which is still morally acceptable to the majority of Americans. In this case, that will be pretty close to what the Church defines as "ordinary" care. That's not because the Church so defines it, but because there is no logical alternative given the intersection of public opinion and fiscal realities.

Best,
Mike

but which is still morally acceptable to the majority of Americans.

I think that's one place where we differ right there. I think the majority of Americans have been severely confused through the nineteen years since Cruzan regarding, in particular, nutrition and hydration at the end of life. The Schiavo case only brought these confusions to the fore and showed how widespread they are, and in particular the strange phobia (and I do not use the word lightly) that people have been taught to have in the post-Cruzan years for "tubes," a word often uttered with horror and revulsion, as though a mere PEG or NG tube included or entailed (which unfortunately many people think it does) all manner of complete replacements of organ function, turning one into a "corpse kept alive by machines." Ignorance on this matter is rife and is _deliberately encouraged_ by the media and the intelligentsia, who _want_ to blur the line between ordinary and extraordinary care. When I tell people, "I know a little boy who can't get enough nutrition by mouth. He has a feeding tube at night, has it taken out in the morning, and goes to public school and plays all day long," they look at me with astonishment.

To make matters worse, outright active euthanasia is becoming far more widely accepted by Americans than you perhaps realize. My own mother, a devout self-identified fundamentalist Baptist, now expresses explicit ambivalence regarding physician-assisted suicide. Was I shocked to discover this? You bet. But it's data I have to take into account. If she could be thus influenced, so must many, many more. And I believe the pace is accelerating, as witness the recent passage in Washington State of an assisted suicide citizen referendum vote which failed when I lived there fifteen years ago.

So I think you must reckon with the depths of horror that have become and increasingly will become morally acceptable to the majority of Americans. Moral guidance of the sort you are suggesting is just going to become irrelevant to the whole process at the national level _except_ to the extent that individual people here and there try desperately to apply it to their own case and to their relatives. And this will only be possible insofar as we _resist_ government rationing so that people will have the option to make moral choices for themselves and their loved ones.

Lydia:

Our disagreement seems not to be about what the applicable moral norms ought to be, but about the question what people actually believe about morality. As best I can tell, the majority of Americans don't want the sort of end-of-life rationing that Obama's horrible health-care appointments want. You seem to think the majority of Americans do, or soon will if they don't already. If that is correct, then those of us who do not share those attitudes will have to find sources of funding other than the taxpayer for the degree of care we deem morally obligatory. I don't object to that as a conservative. In fact, it might be made easier, in practical terms, if the Feds end up agreeing to pay only for less care than that.

Best,
Mike


People won't like _some_ of the rationing they are going to get, but they will be probably more open to and less bothered by some of the ethically most objectionable aspects, I'm afraid, than they will be by the general loss of quality and speed overall.

But I'm afraid it will be more than just a matter of paying for more oneself. The problem will be that the entire system is tied up with the government. This will standardize care to such an extent that it will be difficult to find anyplace where anything other than the "approved" care is even available. Even now there are problems where a doctor who has seen a Medicare patient in the past two years is not supposed to go beyond what Medicare allows for any Medicare-eligible patients. Under Hilarycare, it would have been _illegal_ to offer more money to receive additional care. I suspect Obamacare as it stands has prima facie "softer" ways of making everybody part of a single system. But I can tell you this much: It certainly will not be a simple matter of saying, "Oh, okay, I want a feeding tube and am willing to pay for it, so that's all right then, right?" Not by a long shot.

Spiritual care, by contrast, was associated with higher rates of euthanasia and physician-associated suicide. The receipt of spiritual care increased the odds of these life-ending measures by 18.5-fold.

"Life shortening end of life decisions often occur within the context of multidisciplinary care in Belgium," the authors write, "and they often coexist with a palliative care philosophy."


http://www.rtmagazine.com/reuters_article.asp?id=20090730ethc001.html

The problem will be that the entire system is tied up with the government.

The problem is the culture. There is little reason to believe private insurers will not ration the care of their costliest claimants - the elderly - and jump on the end of life counseling bandwagon soon enough. I expect this part of ObamaSnare to be dropped this time around as the other side works to acclimate us to their sense of mercy and financial prudence.

It is official; ObamaCare provides coverage for abortions.
http://www.breitbart.com/article.php?id=D99SLQBG0&show_article=1

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