Skip to content

Misleading numbers, misleading claims

October 23, 2008

In a recent article Deal Hudson implies that 61 bishops have come forward to “clarify” what Faithful Citizenship means, implying or saying outright that a vote for Barack Obama is unacceptable. This statistic, and accompanying list of bishops, has been parroted around the Catholic barfosphere for days now. A simple click-though of Hudson’s list, though, shows that his numbers are simply, factually, wrong. 

Hudson’s list is largely comprised of bishops who spoke out — rightly! — against the views expressed by Nanci Pelosi and Joe Biden in which they misrepresented Church teaching on abortion. If you actually click through to the statements cited by Hudson, it looks like less than 10 of them are statements which actually attempt to “clarify” or “interpret” Faithful Citizenship by binding Catholic consciences in favor of automatically disqualifying Obama as a potential choice. 

Hudson’s list, and those who quote it, combines episcopal statements of various types, statements which serve different purposes and which have different messages. He, and his messengers, lump all of these statements together as if they are saying the same thing and to give the impression that a growing number of bishops are essentially forbidding a vote for Barack Obama when this could not be further from the truth. The number of bishops making this move remains, fortunately, very very low. 

As a Catholic who definitely believes that, between the two of them, Barack Obama is the better choice, my pro-life commitments lead me to applaud the bishops on Hudson’s list who spoke out against the views of Pelosi and Biden which deliberately misrepresented the views of the Church. But I also applaud the fact that the number of bishops telling Catholics that they may not vote for Obama remains very small, contrary to Deal Hudson’s misleading presentation of the numbers. Indeed, I can count these bishops on one, maybe one and a half hands.

About these ads
79 Comments
  1. Ressourcement permalink
    October 23, 2008 8:35 pm

    Michael,

    You said, “As a Catholic who definitely believes that, between the two of them, Barack Obama is the better choice…”

    Given the premise that a Catholic who is against a politician’s stance on abortion can only vote for such a person for “proportionate reasons”, would you mind clarifying what “proportionate reasons”, as guided by the Vatican, USCCB, and general principles of CST and moral theology, would lead you to vote for Obama in this election.

    I realize you have perhaps posted on that before. I believe my question is a little more nuanced. If, however, the specific question has been addressed, I would be interested in your perspective on that.

    Peace! jn

  2. October 23, 2008 8:40 pm

    Great catch! I figured as much, but didn’t bother to do the legwork…

  3. Policraticus permalink*
    October 23, 2008 9:11 pm

    He, and his messengers, lump all of these statements together as if they are saying the same thing and to give the impression that a growing number of bishops are essentially forbidding a vote for Barack Obama when this could not be further from the truth.

    There’s a potential career riding on Hudson’s delivery of a substantial Catholic vote. At this point, he’ll do whatever it takes, even if it means trickery. Fortunately, I think most Catholics are too smart to fall for it.

  4. Catholic For Obama permalink
    October 23, 2008 9:35 pm

    Deal Hudson, the ex-baptist southern-fried political hack preaches to the catholic barfosphere (his choir) because nobody else would take him seriously. You can read about his impeccable christian credentials by Googling: Deal Hudson Fordham University. Quite an interesting expose.

    As far as the bishops are concerned, pro-life Catholics like me have grown increasingly irritated with prelates like Archbishop Chaput and the hadlful of others who insist that we vote based on what a candidate says and not the track record of the party he represents. We don’t like being told that we have only one choice (Republican) because of one issue (abortion) forever and ever and ever. Any hypocrite who yells ‘pro-life’ is automatically entitled to my vote? No Deal.

  5. October 23, 2008 9:55 pm

    Michael,

    I’m a little confused by your post in that I don’t see where Hudson claimed that any of the bishops he linked to had said “that a vote for Barack Obama is unacceptable”.

    To be honest, not having run into Hudson’s article until I came across MM’s post, I assumed that if there was a hole to pick in the number MM would have done so — since instead he chose to attack Hudson for “dismissing the authority of the document”, when Hudson never did that in the article. (What Hudson did saw was that the bishops should keep a better eye on making sure that diocesan middle management presented the document accurately — which would imply that the document itself is good.)

    But since I now see that a number of the bishops’ statements that Hudson links do simply underline the impossiblity of the “pro-choice” position for Catholics without evening mentioning Faithful Citizenship, I’ve added an update to the post noting your contribution. (Though I hardly think it changes the point, as I was critiquing MM for laying into two specific bishops for their interpretation of their own document.)

    Thanks.

  6. October 23, 2008 10:02 pm

    Rocco Palmo is not infallible. If he implies the same thing, then yes, the same criticism applies.

  7. October 23, 2008 10:12 pm

    Michael,

    It’s frustrating when someone picks a bishop here, a document there, a teaching from here and a teaching from there, and uses it to buttress a pre-conceived agenda, isn’t it. ;)

  8. Ressourcement permalink
    October 23, 2008 10:17 pm

    Catholic For Obama Says:

    As far as the bishops are concerned, pro-life Catholics like me have grown increasingly irritated with prelates like Archbishop Chaput and the hadlful of others who insist that we vote based on what a candidate says and not the track record of the party he represents. We don’t like being told that we have only one choice (Republican) because of one issue (abortion) forever and ever and ever. Any hypocrite who yells ‘pro-life’ is automatically entitled to my vote? No Deal.

    If somebody like Obama says that he is not only for abortion, but has made it a top priority of his campaign–and in radical form, I might add–does that warrant your vote? Or do you not believe him either?

    Considering that you seem to be starting from the perspective of disbelief when it comes to the comments and platforms of the major party candidates, I won’t even ask about the issuer of “proportionate reasons”.

    Are you being led by the Church to your conclusions, or, perhaps, do you wish to make a few suggestions to the Holy Father and the USCCB concerning their next CST documents?

    jn

  9. Ressourcement permalink
    October 23, 2008 10:19 pm

    Michael,

    My question at the top was sincere. If you have already addressed my question in another post, I would be interested in reading it.

    Thanks!

    jn

  10. October 23, 2008 10:24 pm

    My question at the top was sincere. If you have already addressed my question in another post, I would be interested in reading it.

    Likewise.

  11. October 23, 2008 11:00 pm

    jn, I have addressed the question in various ways on this blog and on my own when I have described my own struggle with whether to vote and who to vote for. My ongoing reflection has been done in front of our readers in my posts and in the comment boxes. I’ve been very open about it. Although I struggled with whether or not to vote, all along I have consistently said that I could never vote for John McCain. I will try to write a post summarizing the process of my reflection over the last year or so. I guarantee some of it will not satisfy many of the readers of Vox Nova. It will be dissected and rejected by the Dentons, Blossers, and Darwins of the blogosphere and I expect this. I’ll just have to explain my take and ask that folks get over it. Most are still locked into a form of political thinking that simply weighs this issue against that issue, thinking that body counts (as if we could ever accurately do such a thing) alone will tell us who to vote for. I don’t simply weigh issues against one another, nor do I think that is what our Church is really calling us to do, as much as some bishops make it sound like it is. I’ll try to write it up over the weekend.

  12. S.B. permalink
    October 23, 2008 11:22 pm

    Darwin is right . . . it’s a pretty serious misreading to suggest that Hudson was arguing that bishops had issued statements “automatically disqualifying Obama as a potential choice.” Hudson argued nothing of the sort.

    MM’s misreading was far more egregious, however; he claimed that Hudson was “dismissing” Faithful Citizenship “altogether” by saying, “The bishops should be paying more attention to what is being taught by their staff, both at the conference and the chanceries,” when it is crystal clear that Hudson was referring not to the Faithful Citizenship document itself, but to people that misapply it.

  13. Ressourcement permalink
    October 23, 2008 11:28 pm

    Blosser! Long time, no see you on bloggy.

    Or something. :)

    Hope all is well!

    jn

  14. October 23, 2008 11:46 pm

    Weather or not it is a few or many bishops who are calling us to be more conscience about our vote this election, I find it very refreshing that for the first time since I can remember my local parish(s) are taking about abortion at all. I can recall, an epitaph in Mr. Blue;

    “Never was there a worse sinner,
    And never was God kinder to one”

    I have known the personal pain of choosing an abortion, it was not certainly a decision based on the health of my spouse, it was purely out of indifference. I had dejected the faith of my fathers, for it seemed out of step and place, little did I realize just how wrong I was. I know that Mccain is not the ideal leader on this issue; but the converse logic of the argument, that essentially holds that before their is less more choice must be given and taught is I believe incorrect. I see everyday children from 11 to 16, coming in to my work for birth control and plan B, more often that not because of the law, parents have no idea. This only reinforces animosity and rancor towards parents and society. The bonds that we rely on to be true are fractured for a substituted reality and view of life, that must be overcome at all cost. This is what I seen and what lead me away more from Jesus and his Church. I do respect you’re idea as you have presented it, though keep in mind that for those that are under the strata of these experience’s, much more is needed by the Church, by all of us.

  15. October 24, 2008 12:10 am

    The depletion of Catholic social teaching ever since the phobic repression of Liberation Theology has now reached the point where bishops can only rant obsessively on a single topic. And their tactics are doing more to divide Catholics on this issue than anything else. They refuse to address the problem of abortion in its total context. We must presume that if the bishops had their hands on the lever of power they would outlaw all abortions, treating even the morning-after pill as murder. But is this a helpful position to take?

  16. Knuckle Dragger permalink
    October 24, 2008 8:19 am

    By whole-heartedly supporting the Freedom of Choice Act Obama would:

    1. Remove any and all restrictions to abortion (including even parental notification).
    2. Require taxpayer funding of abortion.
    3. Allow partial-birth abortion.

    There can be no justifiable reason to vote for a person like him.

    Wake up Catholics!

  17. grega permalink
    October 24, 2008 9:20 am

    I was frankly surprised that the abortion issue did not come up more forceful from Ms. Palins side.
    To the contrary – we received for example a flyer here in MN from the Palin /McCain ticket pointing towards their Pro Stemcell research positon as one reson to vote for them.
    It is clear that the large majority of our fellow citizens are rather in favor of the current Abortion related arrangements.
    Time to move on – we can perhaps work to trim on the edges – but Abortion will stay legal if the life of the mother is in danger, for rape, for insest – Stem Cell Research will go on.
    Humankind will survife – time for us rich folks to refocus on feeding the billions that are dying from hunger and life in unspeakable conditions.

  18. Katerina permalink*
    October 24, 2008 9:57 am

    Michael,

    Thanks for the clarification. Kudos to the bishops for standing up to Biden and Pelosi!

  19. October 24, 2008 10:03 am

    “I assumed that if there was a hole to pick in the number MM would have done so…”

    No, I honestly didn’t pay much attention to it. Hudson was not central to my argument.

  20. jonathanjones02 permalink
    October 24, 2008 10:18 am

    it’s a pretty serious misreading to suggest that Hudson was arguing that bishops had issued statements “automatically disqualifying Obama as a potential choice.” Hudson argued nothing of the sort.

    I didn’t see this either.

  21. October 24, 2008 10:55 am

    Darwin, S.B., and johnathan,

    Perhaps you missed the word “implies” in my post. It’s clear that Hudson is using statements that had NOTHING to do with Faithful Citizenship to suggest that 61 bishops have come out to “clarify” FC. It’s implied in the title and throughout the article.

  22. October 24, 2008 10:57 am

    I didn’t see this either.

    Could it be that you tend not to read these sorts of things critically? Just a guess.

  23. jonathanjones02 permalink
    October 24, 2008 11:49 am

    Could it be that you tend not to read these sorts of things critically? Just a guess.

    Could it be that others don’t share your assumptions, especially when you use the word “implies” in application an article that one may reasonably state implies no such thing? Where you do not quote the passage that leads to your view of this implication, instead opting for juvenile terms of description such as “barfosphere” ?

    Just a guess.

  24. October 24, 2008 10:19 pm

    Obama is not in any meaningful sense pro-life. When the Church says that the right to life is foundational, it is saying the right not to be killed is foundational. You can’t give health care, or anything else for that matter, to dead people. The right of innocent people not to be killed must be secured. Obama will ensure that an entire class of persons can be killed at someone’s whimsy. Pretending that his other policies make him somehow pro-life is insane. dimbulb has a good phrase: This argument is not pro-life, it is pro-quality-of-life.

  25. October 24, 2008 11:58 pm

    Health care is not a “quality of life” issue. It’s a life issue.

  26. October 25, 2008 9:01 am

    “Health care” isn’t required to live, it’s absence is not “opposed to life itself” and that disqualifies it from being a true “life issue”. First of all, it didn’t even exist over 300 years ago.

    Also, here’s what EV defines the life issues as:””Whatever is opposed to life itself, such as any type of murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia, or wilful self-destruction, whatever violates the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, torments inflicted on body or mind, attempts to coerce the will itself; whatever insults human dignity, such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution, the selling of women and children; as well as disgraceful working conditions, where people are treated as mere instruments of gain rather than as free and responsible persons; all these things and others like them are infamies indeed. ”

    Note health care is not there.

    It sure makes things better and can improve our lives, even save them from prematurely ending. But it’s absence is not a condition “opposed to life itself”. It’s absurd to paint health care as a “life issue”. To do so is to obfuscate both the teachings of the Church.

  27. October 25, 2008 11:33 am

    “Health care” isn’t required to live…

    Zach, your credibility in my eyes just plummeted. What an absolutely stupid thing to say. You’ve obviously never had any serious health problems or had anyone you love experience life-threatening health problems. Or if you have, you haven’t paid much attention to them or let it affect you in any way.

    Could I forward your unbelievable claim “health care isn’t required to live” to a dying relative of mine? She would appreciate reading your enlightened thoughts. I could also forward it to a friend of mine who requires massive treatments in order to live and who is considering staying in Canada because she is denied treatment for her condition in the united states.

  28. S.B. permalink
    October 25, 2008 11:58 am

    And for all of your outraged anecdotes, Michael, there are literally hundreds of thousands of people in the United States who get killed every year from “health care” — from side effects, from the risks of surgery, from inaccurate diagnoses, from the inevitable sloppiness of nurses and doctors, from being infected with hospital-borne diseases, etc. Ever heard of the word “iatrogenic”?

    I’m not just making this up. (I’m not going to include too many links, because the post won’t show up, but I’ll include enough information that you can easily use google.) Some researchers estimate that the medical system in America is literally the leading cause of death (and to be clear, that means people are dying BECAUSE of “health care,” not because of the lack thereof). Another author (Barbara Starfield) writing in JAMA (a top medical journal) concluded that the medical system was “the third leading cause of death in the United States, after deaths from heart disease and cancer.” Another JAMA study (google “Incidence of Adverse Drug Reactions in Hospitalized Patients”) found that prescription drugs given to people in hospitals accounted for about 2.2 million serious reactions and 106,000 deaths per year, making prescription drugs between the 4th and 6th leading cause of death.

    That’s why it’s simpleminded for Catholics (or anybody) to say, “Healthcare promotes life, therefore it’s equivalent to abortion.” No, healthcare does not always promote life; it quite literally kills hundreds of thousands of people in America alone.

  29. October 25, 2008 12:16 pm

    S.B. – The information you cite hardly contradicts my point that health care is a life issue. In fact, it supports it. It also supports my belief that the U.S. system is broken and needs to be fixed.

  30. Ressourcement permalink
    October 25, 2008 12:21 pm

    Zach,

    Health Care is not listed *there*, but it is listed there in the sense that other CST documents and encyclicals list it along with those other things. The list, I believe, isn’t intended to be exhaustive.

    That said, obviously health care, et al. is a different issue than abortion, euthanasia, ESCR, etc., as is also clearly taught in CST.

    I am not sure that Michael I. is expressing enough nuance when it comes to the difference between health care and issues like abortion. So, in that sense I would say that I disagree with both you, Zach, and Michael.

    However, I do agree with Michael’s frustration over your dismissal of health care.

    I have experienced and am experiencing the problems associated with not having health care and not being able to qualify for any aid. I personally have now over $17,000 in medical bills, all of which I get no break over, all of which say I should be able to pay for it. The fact is: I can’t. So, I make minimum payments every month to them all, which collectively add up to over $300 now. As such, it has pushed me further, and further away from being able to actually afford meaningful health insurance for me, my wife, and our three children. I am literally one broken leg, one complicated pregnancy, etc. from losing my house.

    Do you still feel that health care is not necessary? Think again.

    jn

  31. S.B. permalink
    October 25, 2008 12:34 pm

    The information you cite hardly contradicts my point that health care is a life issue. In fact, it supports it.

    No, it doesn’t. Here’s why the comparison falls short:

    1. Less abortion equates to less deliberately caused deaths, or less deaths period.
    2. Less healthcare equates to . . . well, that’s impossible to say in the abstract. It all depends on the specific case. But it is simply and indisputably false to say, “More healthcare equates to better quality of life.” That just isn’t so. It’s true for some people, yes, but the precise opposite of the truth for hundreds of thousands of people killed every year by doctors, nurses, surgeries, hospital-borne diseases, etc.

  32. S.B. permalink
    October 25, 2008 12:36 pm

    Of course, if all you’re saying is the banal point that healthcare has something or other to do with “life,” in the sense that it helps some people and kills others, then you’re correct. In that sense, though, just about everything is potentially a “life” issue, and then you’re left without any intelligent way to distinguish between murder and anything else.

  33. October 25, 2008 12:54 pm

    I am not sure that Michael I. is expressing enough nuance when it comes to the difference between health care and issues like abortion. So, in that sense I would say that I disagree with both you, Zach, and Michael.

    I agree that health care and abortion, as issues, have significant differences. Abortion is a direct attack on human life. “Health care” encompasses a whole range of ideas and options. What I reject is the idea that health care is not a life issue. Structural denial of health care through a for-profit system is a threat to human life.

    In that sense, though, just about everything is potentially a “life” issue, and then you’re left without any intelligent way to distinguish between murder and anything else.

    It is perfectly reasonable to include health care as a life issue, even one that is intrinsically connected to the issue of abortion, and still maintain the ability to distinguish the direct taking of human life as a unique category.

  34. S.B. permalink
    October 25, 2008 1:01 pm

    Structural denial of health care through a for-profit system is a threat to human life.

    But by the same token, denial of healthcare undoubtedly saves lives too . . . the lives that would have been killed by the very healthcare that is supposedly helpful. In other words, the provision of healthcare through ANY system is often a threat to human life.

    There’s just no way to talk sensibly about healthcare until you get it through your head that healthcare is like a weapon that protects some people but kills others.

  35. Ressourcement permalink
    October 25, 2008 1:21 pm

    Our Bishops, successors to the apostles, have this to say on the issue of “things required for human decency:

    Every human being has a right to life, the fundamental right that makes all other rights possible…

    Obviously, a distinction between the “fundamental” right to life, and other issues. It continues:

    …and a right to access to those things required for human decency–food and shelter, education and employment, health care and housing, freedom of religious and family life. (Faithful Citizenship, 49).

    To nuance Michael I’s statement that health care is a “life issue” (which, if understood right, I agree with), it may be more appropriate to call it an issue that “respects the dignity of the human person”, and one that is “required for human decency”. It is part of the “consistent ethic of life” (FC, 40).

    It continues elsewhere:

    Affordable and accessible health care is an essential safeguard of human life and a fundamental human right. With an estimated 47 million Americans lacking health care coverage, it is also an urgent national priority. Reform of the nations health care system needs to be rooted in values that respect human dignity, promote human life, and meet the needs of the poor and uninsured, especially born and unborn children, pregnant women, immigrants, and other vulnerable populations. (FC, 80).

    At the end of the document, in a section titled, “Goals for Political Life: Challenges for Citizens, Candidates, and Public Officials”, FC says:

    Provide health care for the growing number of people without it, while respecting human life, human dignity, and religious freedom in our health care system. (90).

    FC is rightly a more specific application of Catholic Social Teaching (Doctrine) for Catholic Americans. Statements concerning “health care” or “medical care” can be found in plenty in the general statements of the Church at large.

    While it is in no way permissible to confuse the fundamental life issues, with these other issues (Michael I. has said that he isn’t, and I trust him there), it is also wrong to dismiss these teachings.

    jn

  36. October 25, 2008 1:26 pm

    Michael,

    Certainly that wasn’t the most nuanced way I could have said what I’m trying to say. This is a comments section on a blog, not an academic paper. I also don’t really think you’re reading my remarks in context. Further I think if my credibility was that easily lost with you then I never really had any in the first place. Do you really think that I’ve never experienced great loss and tragedy? Of course I have. Why do you always assume the worst about me?

    I’m not trying to dismiss the importance of health care. I’m trying to sort out priorities, which I think are greatly skewed. Of course I know plenty of people with life threatening illnesses and even people who have died because of inadequate health care. This is of course a great tragedy. But the sad reality is that we cannot save everyone. No system can save people from great illnesses.

    And another reality is that dying from an illness is a different kind of thing than dying from someone’s willful intention. Always the fundamental ethical principle is to do no harm. We are finite beings, we cannot save everyone from everything. I wish it were otherwise; it will not be otherwise until the coming of the Kingdom. We should be able to handle this fact because it is a fact of reality.

    I get the impression from your remarks that there is absolutely no way people could have survived before modern medicine. All of our life saving techniques are a new thing for humanity. I was saying that they are not essential for a human life to be lived greatly. If this sounds insensitive, I’m sorry. But I think it’s true.

    I still think that health care is a quality of life issue. The absence of modern health care is not a direct assault on the dignity of the human person. It is a tragedy, to be sure, but I don’t see how it’s a great threat to life itself.

    Part of the problem with this conversation is the term “health care” itself. It is much too vague to mean much of anything. FOr the record, when I use the term, I am referring to health care which is the result of modern medicine and science, which requires great resources.

  37. October 25, 2008 1:30 pm

    jn I largely agree with your remarks. I am trying to articulate the distinction between the fundamental rights and the things that improve our quality of life (the things that necessary for us to live a decent existence).

    I agree that health care is required for human decency, but I think the term is being used too vaguely. It it is empty, it can mean anything.

    I’ve perhaps been unclear, but eh?

  38. Ressourcement permalink
    October 25, 2008 1:32 pm

    SB Say:

    But by the same token, denial of healthcare undoubtedly saves lives too . . . the lives that would have been killed by the very healthcare that is supposedly helpful. In other words, the provision of healthcare through ANY system is often a threat to human life.

    There’s just no way to talk sensibly about healthcare until you get it through your head that healthcare is like a weapon that protects some people but kills others.

    Don’t reduce the issue to obsurdity. While you can’t deny the principle that health care is necessary for people and is a teaching of the Holy Catholic Church, we can justly debate how health care is provided.

    Prudential judgment is also needed in applying moral principles to specific policy choices in areas such as the war in Iraq, housing, health care, immigration, and others. This does not mean that all choices are equally valid or that our [the Bishops] guidance and that of the Church leaders is just another political opinion or policy preference among many others. Rather, we urge Catholis to listen carefully to the Church’s teachers when we apply Cathlic social teaching to specific proposals and situations. The judgments and recommendations that we make as bishops on specific issues do not carry the same moral authority as statements of universal moral teachings (1). Nevertheless, the Church’s guidance on these matters is an essential resource for Catholics as they determine whether their own moral judgments are consistent with the Gospel and with Catholic teaching.”

    (1) What they mean here is that applying the principles (i.e, that health care is necessary), is a separate issue from the principle itself. To make that concrete, Catholics could legitimately debate whether Obama’s health care proposals or McCain’s health care proposals are in better accord with the Catholic social teaching principle (i.e., that health care is necessary). Though, again, one is not free to deny the principle. I would add that denying the principle does not carry the same wight as denying the principles of abortion, euthanasia, etc. Yet, I would hope that any orthodox Catholic doesn’t spend much time quantifying sins and trying to determine how little one has to agree with the Church to “still receive communion.”

    jn

  39. Ressourcement permalink
    October 25, 2008 1:34 pm

    Zach,

    As I stated in the comment directly above this, it is a separate issue to debate what policies best fulfill the principle (i.e., that health care is necessary), as long as one is not denying the principle.

    I might add that this shows another distinction between health care, housing, education, etc. on the one hand, and abortion, euthanasia, ESCR, etc. on the other hand: the former can be debated as to how they can be implimented into society, the latter can not be debated at all..

    jn

  40. October 25, 2008 1:38 pm

    jn,

    Some honest questions: Am I denying the principle? Is health care “necessary”? If it’s necessary, how did we get by before health care existed? Were we somehow less human? I don’t think so, do you?

    I’m not even sure I know what “health care” means!

  41. Ressourcement permalink
    October 25, 2008 1:42 pm

    I might also add, for context, that I have a very “minimalistic view” with regard to health care: something that my wife and I practice on a daily basis. While I would no doubt have gone to the doctor more than 1 time in the last 8 years, it wouldn’t be abused: we use a midwife, we don’t find out before hand what sex the child is, we use homeopathic medicine most of the time, my wife doesn’t even take aspirin if she has a headache, we selectively choose which vaccines we want our kids to have (they don’t get them all), etc.

    So, I am not saying, nor do I believe the Church would say, that everyone has a right to receive an ultrasound to determine the sex of the child.

    But I would say that if I break my leg, or I am ill, or I am in my 40′s and a woman needing mammograms to prevent my obtaining breast cancer, health care is certainly necessary, and it should cost little to nothing: especially for those who justly can not afford it.

    BTW, the breast cancer thing is very personal to me right now: my very young mother just found out that she may have breast cancer. Please pray for her and my family: she is my best friend, and I would hate for my children to grow up not knowing such a wonderful person. They love her a lot.

    jn

  42. Ressourcement permalink
    October 25, 2008 1:47 pm

    Zach,

    You misunderstood me I think. In response to your statement that “I am trying to articulate the distinction between the fundamental rights and the things that improve our quality of life (the things that necessary for us to live a decent existence)”, I was agreeing with you in your more nuanced comments.

    My statement, “As I stated in the comment directly above this, it is a separate issue to debate what policies best fulfill the principle (i.e., that health care is necessary), as long as one is not denying the principle”, was meant as agreement (if I am understanding your more nuanced statement correctly).

    You said, “Is health care “necessary”? If it’s necessary, how did we get by before health care existed? Were we somehow less human? I don’t think so, do you?”

    Well, maybe we don’t agree now…

    Yes, it is necessary. Yes, for human “decency”. Yes, we unfortunately didn’t have it in the past, which is why people died on average in their 40′s-50′s. Were they less human? No. That is reducing it to absurdity.

    The Church says that shelter and clothing are necessary for human decency. Are you going to retort that Adam and Eve were less human in the garden?

    I hope not. :)

    jn

  43. October 25, 2008 1:58 pm

    Don’t reduce the issue to obsurdity.

    Sadly, jn, that’s all you’re likely to get from S.B. His technique is to badger his opponents with absurdities until they tire.

    If it’s necessary, how did we get by before health care existed? Were we somehow less human?

    I agree that we are using different definitions of “health care.” You are using an absurdly narrow and pointless definition. Communities’ care for the health of their members is not a modern invention. It’s as old as humanity. Whatever resources that human communities have at their disposal for caring for the health (i.e. life) of that community should be available to all. Any other arrangement is simply to reduce health care to a weapon, as S.B. said, used for the benefit of some and against others.

  44. October 25, 2008 2:03 pm

    Ok, so people lived in less decent conditions before? I can agree to that. And of course agree that shelter and clothing are necessary for human decency :) I just don’t think that, say, a bone marrow transplant is.

  45. October 25, 2008 2:05 pm

    Michael, I’m using the term as it is used in modern political discourse. Which means that health care means having a doctor and any procedure necessary to survival or even improving life beyond survival (acne medication, for example). It’s not a pointless definition, it’s the one we use when we debate health care in the United States.

  46. Ressourcement permalink
    October 25, 2008 2:28 pm

    Zach,

    I think we are arriving, or have arrived, at the point of agreement. Of course, things like “acne” medication should not be covered in a universal health care system. The list could go on, and it is a list that I hope is someday debated.

    But, perhaps you now agree, that the principle should not be thrown out in the midst of its concrete applications.

    Joyfully and forcefully join the Bishops in saying that health care is necessary. Worry about the details later.

    jn

  47. S.B. permalink
    October 25, 2008 3:08 pm

    Whatever resources that human communities have at their disposal for caring for the health (i.e. life) of that community should be available to all. Any other arrangement is simply to reduce health care to a weapon, as S.B. said, used for the benefit of some and against others.

    That’s not what I said, and you know it. My point is that so-called “healthcare” actually kills hundreds of thousands of people every year, enough that some scholars think that healthcare itself (not the ABSENCE of healthcare) is the leading cause of death in America (or if not that, then the third leading cause of death).

    Are you able to acknowledge that such a simple fact? Or are you still stuck in the blinders of thinking that “healthcare” is an unalloyed good that “should be available to all,” without even asking whether the healthcare is actually going to kill its supposed beneficiary?

  48. October 25, 2008 3:15 pm

    I just don’t think that, say, a bone marrow transplant is.

    IF YOU OR SOMEONE YOU LOVED NEEDED ONE YOU WOULD THINK DIFFERENTLY.

    It’s not a pointless definition, it’s the one we use when we debate health care in the United States.

    Who is “we”?

    S.B. – Your “thinking” continues to devolve into self-parody.

  49. S.B. permalink
    October 25, 2008 3:17 pm

    Let’s put it this way: Trying to come up with moral principles about the provision of “healthcare” in general is useless. It all depends on the specifics.

    People who have an awful toothache and need a filling? Yes, it’s good to give them a filling.

    People who have a broken arm and need to have it set? Yes, good idea to help them.

    On the other hand:

    People who have high cholesterol and need cholesterol drugs like statins? Whoa, most of the evidence actually shows that statins and cholesterol drugs are relatively useless at best, and even cause risks greater than the risks they supposedly eliminate.

    People who have back pain and are advised to get back surgery? Again, the evidence shows that back surgery is mostly useless, and doesn’t improve outcomes.

    People who need CT scans for any number of conditions? Again, whoa, a recent study ( by Brenner and Hall) said that 20 million (!!) people in America have unneeded CT scans every year, and that because CT scans involve as much radiation as being 2 miles from a nuclear explosion, an estimated 1.5 to 2% of all cancer in the US could be caused by unnecessary CT scans.

    Those are just a few of dozens of possible examples. So before you get all self-righteous about how everyone should have “healthcare,” pause for a moment to think about the people who actually get cancer from having too much “healthcare.” Then try to adjust your simpleminded beliefs to the complexities of the real world.

  50. S.B. permalink
    October 25, 2008 3:20 pm

    Are you, or are you not, able to acknowledge that healthcare kills hundreds of thousands of people in the United States per year? Do you not think that this has any implications for whether it makes sense for supposedly educated people to make hand-waving claims about “healthcare”?

    I’m not absurd at all, and indeed I’m apparently the only person around here who regularly reads scholarly literature outside of theology. The problem is that I’m not a blindly gullible consumer who thinks that anything being sold to me by men in lab coats is therefore good. Who’s the radical now . . . .

  51. October 25, 2008 3:51 pm

    Michael,

    When I say “we”, I mean the people involved in this conversation day in and day out. I also mean the people who make policy in the United States.

    And how do you know I don’t have any loved ones who needed bone marrow transports? In fact you’re wrong. Your presumption is insulting.

  52. October 25, 2008 3:53 pm

    SB I admire your efforts to talk to Michael and I don’t think you’re ridiculous.

    I think this is very wise: “Trying to come up with moral principles about the provision of “healthcare” in general is useless. It all depends on the specifics.”

    It does indeed.

  53. October 25, 2008 4:56 pm

    Let’s put it this way: Trying to come up with moral principles about the provision of “healthcare” in general is useless. It all depends on the specifics.

    No, coming up with moral principles is often a matter of generalities. Like when the Church offers us general moral principles regarding health care. But I agree that the specifics are important. That’s a matter of policy, not a matter of moral principles.

    Zach says he agrees with you too, and yet he declares the generality that “health care is not a life issue,” and fights with all his might in favor of the current, capitalist health care system because gov’t shouldn’t be in the business of making sure everyone has “health care” (another generality).

  54. Juan Polakovic permalink
    October 25, 2008 8:15 pm

    As a general rule, no Catholic is obliged to vote for a candidate that promotes abortion, but it is his/her free moral choice. And it is also his/her own moral responsibility to do so, instead of choosing “abstention” ( i.e. none of the two candidates ). The consequences of each one’s decision, will be clarified at time of the personal ,and inevitable , Judgement that is going to take place, sooner or later, in front of the throne of God.

  55. David Nickol permalink
    October 25, 2008 9:28 pm

    Juan,

    Presumably the part about the throne is metaphorical, but do you really think God is going to ask people whom they voted for on November 4, 2008?

  56. October 25, 2008 9:47 pm

    I don’t fight with all my might to make sure the health care system stays the same. I fight to make sure it doesn’t become subject to the whims of our power-hungry politicians, which I think will make it less available and more expensive and worse.

    And Michael, you aren’t reading everything I’m saying, you’re just cherry picking phrases out. I said health care is not a fundamental “life issue”. Health care has more to do with decent human living, which is why I called it a quality of life issue. Lack of health care is not a fundamental assault on the dignity of human life. But because you buy so hard into ideological egalitarianism, you are unable to make distinctions between anything, even ideas. Catholicism is hierarchical and egalitarian. Not just egalitarian.

    And you still never addressed my argument – when you want to, please feel free to do so here or via email.

  57. October 25, 2008 10:22 pm

    I fight to make sure it doesn’t become subject to the whims of our power-hungry politicians, which I think will make it less available and more expensive and worse.

    It’s not subject to the whims of power-hungry politicians now? What about money-hungry capitalists? Why are you against some tyrannies, but not all?

  58. October 25, 2008 10:47 pm

    Michael,

    I rather doubt that Zach is fighting to keep health care in the hands of money-hungry capitalists either.

    For instance, we already have a number of non-profit hospitals and clinics in this country which provide (to the ability that they are able) their services free to those who cannot afford to pay, while charging those can do have insurance or many. I certainly don’t think Zach is fighting to shut those down and turn them into for-profit centers.

    Similarly, I suspect that not merely in spite of but because of his free market principles, Zach supports a number of potential free market health care reforms that could actually do a great deal very quickly to help poor people access basic health care without turning health care into one massive government program. For instance, supporting urgent care centers which would deal with basic exams, prescriptions, setting basic fractures, etc. in an environment much less expensive (both to provide and for the patient) than modern hospitals.

    Finally, there is a legitimate question, I think, where “basic health care” or “reasonable health care” starts to end. I think that’s what Zach was getting at with his comment about bone marrow transplants.

    Going from my own experience: When my father was dying of lymphoma, he was lucky to have worked (for very low wages) for the state of California for thirty years and thus have insurance that allowed him to go to one of the premier cancer centers in the country for minimal cost the family. However, watching that treatment over eight years, it struck me at times that one of the miracles and yet curses of modern medicine is that we have reached a point where if we throw thousands of man hours (and it is indeed literally thousands of man hours per patient that go into the development and practice of some of these advanced treatments) we can almost always extend life a year or two.

    I’m grateful to have had those extra years with him, and yet how far can a society promise to go for every single person in it? Medical technicians and doctors still need to make a just wage, and so if we are to draw thousands of hours from them, someone needs to pay for them. At what point does it become too much?

    Single payer programs have already made those decisions. The treatments my father was able to get were not available for patients with the same kind of lymphoma in Canada — as the Canadians on the lymphoma email list often complained — and so their system which I believe you consider to be far more pro-life than ours basically told people: If you want that, go the US and pay for it yourself.

    Whether we have a government system or a privately funded one — decisions have to be (and are) made about how many resources get poured into a patient. And getting a “no” is equally hard whether it comes from the government or an insurance company.

  59. Antonio Manetti permalink
    October 26, 2008 4:17 am

    Speaking of life issues, has anyone mentioned the infant mortality rate in the US compared to say Sweden or Japan?

    According to Wikipedia, UN statistics put the U.S. in 33rd place with 6.3 deaths per 1000 births, versus 3.2 for Japan — in other words, almost double the Japanese rate.

  60. October 26, 2008 8:58 am

    Thanks for the good faith Darwin, and the help with clarifying what I was clumsily trying to say.

    And believe me I want to give as many people bone marrow transplants (who need them) as is humanly possible.

    I was trying to say that there is probably a limit to how many of those we can do because of our finite resources.

    This is not something I like, but I do think it is a reality.

  61. October 26, 2008 1:29 pm

    I’d be in favour of a ipso facto excommunication for all Catholics who vote for Barack Obama, given how clear even the American bishops have made it now that he is complicit with mass murder. Anybody who votes for this man is in the moral company of Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin.

    ~cmpt

  62. S.B. permalink
    October 26, 2008 2:10 pm

    I don’t like Obama either, but that’s rather overstating the case.

  63. October 26, 2008 2:42 pm

    I don’t like Obama either, but that’s rather overstating the case.

    Not only is it overstating the case, the statement is absurd, untrue and sinful.

  64. Knuckle Dragger permalink
    October 26, 2008 4:58 pm

    Obama’s policies will promote the pure evil of abortion. That disqualifies him.

    “Abortion kills an unborn, developing human life. It is always gravely evil, and so are the evasions employed to justify it. Catholics who make excuses for it – whether they’re famous or not – fool only themselves and abuse the fidelity of those Catholics who do sincerely seek to follow the Gospel and live their Catholic faith. The duty of the Church and other religious communities is moral witness. The duty of the state and its officials is to serve the common good, which is always rooted in moral truth. A proper understanding of the ‘separation of Church and state’ does not imply a separation of faith from political life. But of course, it’s always important to know what our faith actually teaches.” Charles J. Chaput, Archbishop of Denver and James D. Conley, Auxiliary Bishop of Denver

  65. Knuckle Dragger permalink
    October 26, 2008 5:10 pm

    Comrade Michael,

    I see that you are filtering my comments. That tactic is similar to how the Obama campaign is now shutting out that local TV station in Florida after a reporter put some tough but fair questions to Biden. I guess that’s what we have to look forward to under an Obama administration – the silencing of decent.

  66. October 26, 2008 5:45 pm

    KD – I didn’t filter your comments. And it’s “dissent,” not “decent.” You’re anything but decent.

  67. Knuckle Dragger permalink
    October 26, 2008 6:40 pm

    Sorry for the spelling error. How decent of you to point it out. I do have a comment awaiting moderation.

  68. October 26, 2008 7:52 pm

    KD – I agree with that Chaput quote. I don’t agree with what you said immediately preceding it though.

  69. Knuckle Dragger permalink
    October 26, 2008 9:55 pm

    Michael,

    How can a Catholic support someone who promotes unrestricted abortion, partial-birth abortion, taxpayer-funded abortion, embryonic stem cell research, and human cloning for research? I don’t get it.

  70. October 26, 2008 10:17 pm

    Knucle Dragger – How can a Catholic support someone who promotes unrestricted preemptive warfare, embryonic stem cell research, economic policies that benefit the rich rather than the poor, and who is openly racist? I don’t get it.

  71. Knuckle Dragger permalink
    October 26, 2008 10:27 pm

    Michael,

    I didn’t say you should support McCain. I said I don’t understand how a Catholic can support Obama.

  72. October 27, 2008 7:52 am

    I didn’t say you said I should support McCain. But the very same question you asked about Obama can obviously be asked about McCain.

  73. Knuckle Dragger permalink
    October 27, 2008 8:23 am

    Fair enough. Regarding McCain, I’ll accept your implication that preemptive warfare is unacceptable. However, under McCain this MAY happen – it is not a certainty. I agree that ESCR is a problem for McCain, but it is also a problem for Obama. McCain’s economic policies MAY benefit the rich more than the poor. It’s a debatable point. Your statement that McCain is openly racist is unfair and false.

    On the other hand, Obama’s policies WILL do nothing to help unborn children and WILL put more of them at risk. “Today, however, we face the threat of a federal bill that, if enacted, would obliterate virtually all the gains of the past 35 years and cause the abortion rate to skyrocket. The ‘Freedom of Choice Act’ (‘FOCA’) has many Congressional sponsors, some of whom have pledged to act swiftly to help enact this proposed legislation when Congress reconvenes in January.” (Cardinal Justin F. Rigali Chairman, USCCB Committee on Pro-life Activities September 30, 2008)

    I agree the McCain is not perfect, but given the certain evil that Obama promotes through FOCA, in my opinion, McCain is the much better choice for Catholics.

  74. October 27, 2008 10:54 am

    “Obama’s policies WILL do nothing to help unborn children” is not true. Obama is working to deal with the causes for abortion, to help eliminate them so more children will be born. That is doing something. He also has made it clear he is in favor of MORE restrictions on abortion. Work with him on that.

  75. David Nickol permalink
    October 27, 2008 11:16 am

    I was just looking for information about abortion in Italy, and I found this in Wikipedia:

    Abortion in Italy became legal in May 1978, when Italian women were granted the right to terminate a pregnancy, upon request, during the first 90 days. Although a proposal to repeal the law was considered in a 1981 national referendum, it was rejected by nearly 80% of voters. Italian women are eligible to request an abortion for health, economic, social or family-planning reasons. Abortions are performed free-of-charge in public hospitals or in private structures authorized by the regional health authorities.

    It’s kind of like FOCA on sterioids — not just government-funded abortions for women who can’t afford them, but free abortions for everyone! The law has been in effect since 1978, and yet the number of abortions per year has declined from 235,000 in 1982 to 127,000 in 2007. It would seem to indicate that abortion can be made easily available and the abortion rate can drop significantly in spite of that.

  76. David Nickol permalink
    October 27, 2008 11:21 am

    I give up!

    [I fixed it for you -- HK]

Trackbacks

  1. Let the Bishops Interpret Their Document « American Catholic
  2. Counting Bishops « The American Catholic: Politics and Culture from a Catholic perspective

Comments are closed.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 892 other followers

%d bloggers like this: