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July 24, 2022 - Pastor Message

08/11/2022

THE YEAR OF HEALING
THE CHRISTIAN UNDERSTANDING OF HEALTHCARE

 “One’s ability to live a fully human life and to reflect the unique dignity that belongs to each person is greatly affected by health. Not only for individuals, but likewise for society at large, health issues take on important significance because of the intimate role they play in personal and social development…[T]he Church considers health care to be a basic human right which flows from the sanctity of human life” (USCCB, “Health and Health Care”, 3).

We live in strange times in which the meaning of words long held in common by practically everyone is rapidly changing, and often not for the better. “Healthcare” is one such word that the vast majority of Americans once commonly understood but, due to political and media manipulation, has undergone a shift away from meaning the preservation of life and bodily integrity to taking innocent life and mutilating perfectly healthy bodies, all in the interest of personal choice and self-determination. Perhaps the saddest part of this transformation is that it has been aided by the very people entrusted with providing healthcare, medical professionals, giving the new meaning credibility in the minds of many Americans when in reality it is utterly absurd.

Even many Catholics have been lured into accepting this new understanding of healthcare. Advocates of this twisted sense of healthcare often seek to manipulate Catholics by misrepresenting the principles of Catholic social teaching, the Church’s moral teachings on participation in society. As a counter to that effort during our Year of Healing, I will demonstrate how the Catholic understanding of healthcare does indeed flow from Catholic social teaching, but not in the ways suggested by those who would deceive Catholics into embracing the new meaning of healthcare.

While all the principles of Catholic social teaching affect our understanding of healthcare, two in particular stand out as most important: the life and dignity of the human person, and the common good. We believe that every human person is created in the image and likeness of God and redeemable by Christ, from the very first moment of human life to the natural end of it and beyond to eternal life. That makes every human life sacred and places on us as human beings the God-given duty of preserving and promoting human life, in this world and unto the next, in service of and witness to the glory of God. Healthcare plays a central role in carrying out that duty by preserving and promoting our physical life and health, which is why it has always been such an important part of the Church’s work.

The principle of the common good starts with the principle of the life and dignity of the human person. The dignity of the human person flows from the very fact that he or she is a HUMAN person. As such, his or her dignity demands the opportunity to achieve all that it means to become most fully human, to reflect in the fullest way possible the image of God implanted within and to achieve the fullness of human life by sharing in God’s own life in glory. The common good refers to all the conditions necessary in society to enable every human person to achieve this divine destiny, beginning in this life and fulfilled in the next. The human person is not a spiritual being trapped in a hollow shell we call the body. Our bodies form an integrated whole with our souls to form one, complete person; by definition, the human person includes the human body. To achieve the fullness of human life, then, we must treat the human body with the utmost respect and create the social conditions necessary to enable our bodies to reach their fullest potential. Healthcare again plays a central role in making that possible, as does universal access to essential healthcare, regardless of a person’s condition, status, or ability to pay, which is why the Church teaches that healthcare is a basic human right.

So the next time you hear someone attempting to persuade you to believe the new orthodoxy about what is or is not healthcare, remember the principles of Catholic social teaching. Does what this person proposes support the life and dignity of every human person from the very beginning of life until its natural end, and does it enable every human person to achieve the fullness of human life as God intends for us, including bodily? If the answer is no, then it’s not healthcare, and perhaps you can take advantage of that opportunity to teach that person what the Catholic understanding of healthcare really is.

 Fr. Marc Stockton

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