Catholic health care and the poor, serving Christ or serving mammon

What follows are some thoughts and reflections on the current health care debate, specifically as it concerns Christian hospitals after reading Peter Singer, listening to Sr. Carol Keehan, DC, on The World Over, and others for many months. As Christians we are called to union with Christ. To pick up our crosses daily and follow in His footsteps. We are not called to succeed by any and all means. We are not called to do whatever it takes to get the job done. We are called to be faithful followers of our Lord. That’s what discipleship is all about. Too many Christians (I should say, “wanna be” Christians) forget that. They forget that Christ did not ask us to solve world poverty by any means. He did ask us to practice fraternal charity. He asked us to love our neighbors. He asked us to worship God so that we would receive the necessary grace to be able to follow Him so as to have communion with Him here, and to live with Him in eternal beatitude in the next life.

To do this we must remain faithful to Him, to His commandments and teachings which Christ handed on to His apostles and which they handed on to their successors, and so on down through the centuries. When Christians—whether they be bishops, priests, religious or members of the laity—forget this, they get off track. When we tell ourselves and others that we must “be about our Father’s business” and that the goal is too important to worry about how we go about attaining it, we are going wrong. When the “Lord’s work” becomes mere “social work”, we have gotten very far from the path our Lord laid out for us. Christ was very concerned to always do His Father’s will. “Not My will but Thine be done.” He has given us an example.

But so many Catholics (including priests and religious I’ve heard recently) have decided that their wills take precedence over the Lord’s. Some priests and religious with whom I’ve spoken over the years have fallen into the trap of thinking that obtaining aid for the poor at any cost (especially to the poor themselves!) is their raison d’être, when what they are supposed to be doing is working out their salvation with fear and trembling and serving the poor as if they were serving the Lord Himself.

Take the current health care reform situation. Some Catholics are actually proposing that Catholic hospitals merge with secular corporations and that this will actually help the Catholic hospital to serve the poor. Even though this would mean giving up their Catholic identity, along with their Catholic non-acceptance of certain types of so-called “health care” and “therapies.” (Abortion and euthanasia come to mind.) And some Catholics are also urging Catholics to support legislation that would make it impossible for Catholic hospitals, as well as Catholic doctors and nurses, to refuse to offer some “services”. Of course, there is also the matter that federal grant monies are being dangled before some Catholics and these poor souls—many of whom may honestly have good intentions, misguided though they undoubtedly are—actually imagine that these grants will make it possible for them to serve more of the poor and serve them better. And I am sure that many of them really think that, in doing this, they are serving Christ better, too.

But how, in the name of God, tell me, please, how can a Catholic—or any Christian, for that matter—serve Christ in the poor by doing things that go against what Christ Himself taught? How can one claim to follow Christ while doing things that harm the very little ones of whom Christ said, “Suffer the children to come unto me”?

How can any Christian hospital take federal money or any other money that effectively buys the silence of the Christian who should stand up and scream against the injustice of abortion and euthanasia, who should refuse to have anything to do with such un-Christian evils. Who should refuse to take their thirty pieces of silver in payment for betraying the trust of those who look to them for mercy and charity. Who should stand and say, “No, not for any amount of money, not for anything or anyone will we turn against the Lord. Not for any amount of money or anything at all will we bargain with the devil. Not for any amount of power will we bow to anyone but God Himself.”

I continue to pray that bishops, priests, religious, laypersons, and people of good will everywhere will say “No! to any scheme that has as its aim the crippling of the human (and specifically the Christian) conscience and the elimination of people’s problems by eliminating the people while ignoring their problems.

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