Project Description

July 16, 2017


Health care has certainly been a hot topic in the news for the last several years, and that discussion has intensified as Congress continues to debate health care legislation.  It’s important for all of us to understand this issue and speak intelligently about it.  We should know what the Catholic Church has to say about this issue so that we can be better informed.


The Church has always had a lot to say about health care because it plays such an important part in upholding the dignity of the human person.  Healing the sick was an important part of Jesus’ earthly ministry.  Comforting the sick is one of the seven corporal works of mercy, and the importance of this ministry is the foundation of the Catholic hospital system we know today.


Among other groups within the Catholic Church, the United States Bishops have participated actively in the health care debate.  The Church doesn’t formulate specific policies; we leave that to the experts.  But as “experts in humanity” (as Pope Paul VI once said), the Church aims to help form the consciences of these experts so that health care policy serves the common good and upholds the dignity of all people (just any public policy should).


As the Church has spoken about the Affordable Care Act, and its potential replacement legislation, there are some central principles that the Church insists that any sound health care plan must uphold.  Representatives of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) outlined six of these principles in a letter to Congress last month[1]:


  1. “No Affordable Care Act repeal effort should be undertaken without the concurrent passage of a replacement plan that ensures access to adequate health care for all.
  2. Respect for life: No health care reform plan should compel us or others to pay for the destruction of human life, whether through government funding or mandatory coverage of abortion…
  3. Access for all: Reform efforts must begin with the principle that health care is not a privilege, but a right in keeping with the life and dignity of every person. All people need and should have access to comprehensive, quality health care…Every individual and family must be able to see clearly how they will fit within and access the health care system in a way that truly meets their needs, and immigrants must be included among them.
  4. Truly affordable: Many lower-income families simply lack the resources to meet their health care expenses…Reform also ought to address barriers to affordability for those living above the poverty level but who are still working hard to make ends meet.
  5. Comprehensive and high-quality: Health care is much more than mere insurance. Other aspects of health care policy require the attention of policy-makers, (including)… focus(ing) on the maintenance and promotion of good health as well as treat(ing) disease and disability for all people, regardless of means; (and) (i)ncentives for preventative care, early intervention and maintaining a reasonable choice of providers
  6. Honoring conscience rights: Congress should expressly provide conscience protections for those who participate in any way in health care …including patients, insurers, purchasers, sponsors, and providers.”


There has never been a “perfect” health care plan, and the Church’s beliefs don’t align perfectly with any particular political party, but it’s important that we view this issue through the lens of our faith so that we can extend the mercy of Christ to all those who suffer.  I encourage you to visit the USCCB web site ( to learn more about what the Church has to say.