Catholic health care needs a united voice, and the time is now. Catholic health care in America has a robust history rooted in the healing ministry of Christ, encouraging professionalism of the highest degree, selfless volunteerism and charitable care bolstered by strong religious commitments and investments. However, today the practice of Christ-centered medicine is under severe assault by secular and materialistic ideals that challenge the foundational Christian principles of the sanctity of life and the dignity of the human person. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, in its Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, have provided authoritative guidance to protect the vision and mission of the Church’s health care ministry. Unfortunately, until now there has been no effective organized alliance of faithful Catholic lay organizations to support and defend authentic Catholic health care from the present assault.
Paradoxically, this assault has come about as part of the pursuit of a noble ideal—to assure that everyone in America has access to health insurance and health care. However, government and corporate programs that finance and direct health care delivery for the majority of Americans are guided by secular goals, not the time-honored Catholic principles respecting the sanctity of each human life and the covenantal character of the patient–physician relationship. These secular programs have led to many legislative and regulatory measures that threaten the religious freedom of these institutions and the consciences of health care providers.
The materialistic nature of our culture disregards the Christian understanding of the dignity of every human person, from conception to natural death. The secularization of society and the industrialization of the health sector are challenging and undermining the foundational principles of Catholic health care, which is focused on healing the whole person in mind, body, and spirit. Instead, in a secular view of health care, we see abortion, contraception, euthanasia, transgender procedures and other interventions that contradict the foundations of faith-filled medical practice anchored in truth, life, and love.
Our American culture is in need of transformation! We need a culture that respects and protects foundational values, and primary among these values are the sanctity of life and the dignity of the human person. Without a fundamental change in the underlying principles and policies that drive the current secular health system, Catholics, Christians, and millions of others who value truth, life, and freedom will be increasingly marginalized. They will be constantly on the defensive in trying to cope with notions of health care which contradict both good morals and good medicine.
The challenge we face today in assuring that health care delivery and financing conform with Catholic moral and social teachings is enormous. Catholic institutions face the pressure of compromising their sacred mission and principles in order to maintain their financial viability. These challenges often involve pressures from secular entities to engage in practices which are deemed “essential” in the secular marketplace but which are contrary to the Church’s teachings. We must renew our commitment to continue the ministry of healing in accord with the mind of Christ and practiced by His faithful for two millennia.
The Catholic Health Care Leadership Alliance is committed to rediscovering traditions anchored in Scripture, restoring a Christ-centered appreciation of human dignity, and renewing Catholic health care in accord with these traditions and this appreciation. Religious communities of sisters and brothers have built the structure over centuries to deliver Christ-centered health care as a central mission of the Church. We, who now stand on the foundation laid by these communities, have a moral and ethical responsibility to uphold the principles that undergird Catholic health care. We must renew this sacred tradition and help assure that the healing ministry of Christ and upholding the truths of our Faith in the science and practice of the vocation of medicine are not lost in these desperate times.
We attest and proclaim the whole truth that God created man in His image and likeness, male and female, redeemed by Christ and destined to eternal life after death. The moral, ethical and social teachings of the Church must guide us in:
- Education and evangelization of Catholic physicians, nurses, and allied medical as well as administrative personnel, volunteers, and benefactors in the renewal of Catholic medical care and the transformation of our culture.
- Political advocacy to assure that the voices of those who advocate for Catholic moral and social teachings are heard in deliberations over public policy agendas to assure that decisions reflect Catholic teachings which, themselves, are based in Natural Law.
- Defending freedom of conscience and religious liberty.
- Encouraging creation of new programs and improving current options for financing health care to ensure access to affordable, high-quality medical care.
- Supporting one another as we work together to amplify our voices to proclaim the sanctity of Christ’s work in the everyday care of our patients.
The practice of medicine and healing the sick must never be separated from the infinitely kind and merciful guidance of Jesus Christ who travelled throughout Galilee “healing every disease and every sickness among the people” (Mt 4:23). The Church has always, as Christ taught us, paid preferential attention to the sick and vulnerable. All of those who stand with us must recognize that, for our mission to continue, we must not stray from Catholic principles—as individual physicians and as large institutions. That is the mission our work must renew.