Some Things I Will Never Understand

Yesterday was a happy day. It was the day that the Affordable Care Act was found to be constitutional. It means that 33 million people who are currently left out in the cold will receive insurance. It means countless more millions will not suffer and face financial ruin simply because they have the misfortune of falling sick in one of the world’s richest countries. It was a victory for common decency, for the basic caritas that underpins the Catholic faith.

And yet when I see the unhinged reaction from the right, I almost feel sick. To them, the country is being destroyed and freedom is being snuffed out simply because people are called upon to bear responsibility for their own health care costs, by not imposing the consequences of their selfishness upon society as a whole, and in doing so, allowing all to enter the door of affordable healthcare. Pro omnibus et singulus. It’s that simple.

So why the hatred and vitriol? I confess, I cannot understand it. Then again, there are many aspects of American liberalism that I find poisonous and incomprehensible – the gun culture comes to mind. To me, it seems like the cult of individualism run amuck – the old poisoned spring of the evil individualist spirit twinned with a dose of cold Calvinist personal responsibility. I think Jonathan Chait really hits the nail on the head when he notes that the basic question is “whether access to basic medical care ought to be considered a right or something that is earned”. It’s clear where the Catholic Church stands on this. But the Republican position is that the iron law of the market should include denial of access to non-emergency medical treatment.

This is about real people, real suffering, real tragedy. In a stark piece, Atul Gawande calls some of his doctor friends around the country and asks for examples of great suffering under this horrible healthcare system. Reading it will bring a tear to your eye, and it will also make you angry. People who cannot afford treatment for cancers or other life threatening conditions, and sit helplessly while they deteriorate. People treated for heart attacks and ruined by the bills they receive afterwards. And don’t forget the huge crowds that show up every time free health care is on offer – again, in one of the world’s wealthiest countries.

Catholics are personalists. Everything begins and ends with the dignity of our fellow human beings, and we will be called to account for how we treated one another in this life, especially the least among us. This underpins our faith. It underpins everything we believe, and everything we do. But you would not know this from a quick glance over what passes for the American Catholic right – it’s all venom against John Roberts, vows to work as hard as possible to repeal Obamacare, and cries about lost liberties and freedom. Just look at here and here. Depravity in action.

Yes, Catholics can and should disagree on how best to put principle into practice – in this case, the practical methods of attaining universal health. We need a healthy debate over the issues, not the slogans. But we should not forget a simple truth – the Affordable Care Act will solve these basic problems. None of the Republican alternatives take even one baby step in the right direction. They are not supposed to – and that’s the point.

In this worldview, it is perfectly fine to sacrifice innocent people to the false God of individual autonomy. It is perfectly line to crucify innocent people on the cross of individual freedom. That some of our fellow Catholics join in this false crusade is wicked and almost demonic. It is about as anti-life as you can get.

  • Jimmy Mac

    But don’t you understand? This is all about prudential judgement.

    Healthcare is a right for the well-to-do and a privilige for everyone else, subject, of course, to the prudential benificence of their economic and, therefore, moral betters.

  • CT Michael

    Welcome to living idolatry….the covenant betrayed and sacrificed.

  • http://breadhere.wordpress.com Fran Rossi Szpylczyn

    I keep thinking of all of the selfishness and the tyranny of people’s need to have their own way. Not that I am not like that sometimes – more often than I care to admit… However, I keep hearing about how this is about the insane use of power against us; I keep thinking about people who will have coverage. I’m no angel, but in this case, if I was worried about power, I would need to reflect on what’s going on with myself in regard to my faith.

    Excellent post – so well put. Thank you.

  • Ronald King

    MM, When one’s core beliefs are rigidly held in place by fear and form the foundation of one’s identity it is almost impossible to change that person’s belief to the contrary no matter how much evidence is presented affirming the opposing reality. The person’s identity is formed within the primitive subjective regions of the brain and the protein that supports new emotional learning greatly diminshes in production in adulthood. That is one way to look at it. They do not know what they do.

  • Jordan

    Thank you again for another thoughtful post Morning’s Minion. Maybe it is little consolation to say that I am completely in agreement with you, and always have been.

    I am convinced that the Catholic spiritual cure for the notion that “dignity must be earned” and not abundantly shared in the name of Christ is increased devotion to the Sacred Heart. As the 17th century Jesuits knew, the Sacred Heart is the only antidote to false election. Jansenius drained the humanity from Christ through teaching that assurance of salvation could not be known in this life. Instead, Jansenius erected his own alt-works-righteousness through his shadowboxing with Pelagius. For Jansenists, communion with the re-presented sacrificed Christ of the eucharist, the paschal mystery, was a privilege not granted even by sacramental absolution. One must wonder: do the Catholics who vehemently oppose healthcare dignity truly believe in election by false penance and self-righteous indignation, or the eucharist as the all-sustaining food for sinful but struggling believers?

    Lift high the Sacred Heart. This Heart bleeds not only for the unborn, but also the living who suffer needlessly and those unjustly murdered for “civil justice”. This Heart bleeds because of the contradiction between the fallen nature of human government and its great potential for social reform. This Heart has already fulfilled the mystery of the cross. Not one second of our self-righteous anger (i.e. pride) can add either to our salvation or the paschal mystery already fulfilled.

    • Julia Smucker

      I am convinced that the Catholic spiritual cure for the notion that “dignity must be earned” and not abundantly shared in the name of Christ is increased devotion to the Sacred Heart.

      I wouldn’t have thought of this, but I like it. It resonates with the connection I’m always trying to make between sacramental theology and social justice. And incidentally, while I wouldn’t call myself a liberal, I’ve never understood how “bleeding heart” can be pejorative. What’s the alternative? It seems to me one can hardly be human if one’s heart never bleeds.

  • brettsalkeld

    I don’t know much about the topic at hand, but I have to agree about the unhinged responses. Over at Lifesitenews several commenters were talking about a civil war!

    • Kurt

      Over at Lifesitenews several commenters were talking about a civil war!

      Talking about it? I hear the Catholic Right is already interviewing people to serve in the role of General Franco.

      • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

        Kurt, I would laugh except I am getting worried that people are really going to start moving in this direction.

      • dominic1955

        Where can I send my resume?

        • Kurt

          Dominic,

          Ask over at Catholic Vote. Apparently one of their writers applied and was turned down by the Junta with a roll of the eyes and the comment Puleazzze, gurl!

  • http://w8kwses.wordpress.com w8kwses

    The continuing ranting and raving about the Affordable Care Act puts me in mind of some ‘brands’ of faith itself, with monied ideologues deceiving hundreds of thousands into advocating against their own interest. It begins with Adoration. The monied interests are engaged in nearly constant Adoration of the Blessed Market. How some then believe they can call themselves part of the Judeo-Christian Tradition utterly escapes me.

    • Julia Smucker

      “Adoration of the Blessed Market” – nice turn of phrase, up there with Dorothy Day’s “Holy Mother State”. Need we be reminded of the sentiments our Lord expressed about those monied interests? Apparently so.

  • symeon

    “People who cannot afford treatment for cancers or other life threatening conditions, and sit helplessly while they deteriorate. People treated for heart attacks and ruined by the bills they receive afterwards. And don’t forget the huge crowds that show up every time free health care is on offer – again, in one of the world’s wealthiest countries.”

    A lot of us are skeptical (although hopefully I’m not hate-filled) that the ACA will actually do anything to fix this, while at the same time being an important step forward for government power.

    I’d happily have my taxes raised to support a lean single-payer system, but the ACA combines the worst of government meddling and crony capitalism.