Jesuit journal praises US health reform law as needed, long-awaited
By Carol Glatz
Catholic News Service 
June 3, 2010
ROME (CNS) -- The health care reform law passed in the United States marked "a needed and long awaited beginning" of bringing greater justice to all citizens, especially the most vulnerable, said an influential Jesuit journal.
"Limited access to health care compromised in many ways he health of citizens and the country," said the journal, La Civilta Cattolica.
It also said the different positions within the U.S. Catholic community over whether the measure should have been passed reflected a "clash" of differing opinions over how to implement church social teaching.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, signed into law by President Barack Obama March 23, is a continuation of efforts by U.S. presidents to introduce "measures that aim for greater justice for all citizens and, in particular, for the most vulnerable," the journal said.
The Rome-based biweekly magazine is reviewed by the Vatican Secretariat of State before publication.
The June 5 article, released to journalists June 3, was written by Italian Jesuit Father Andrea Vicini, a professor at the Pontifical Faculty of Theology of Southern Italy in Naples and visiting professor at the School of Theology and Ministry at Boston College.
The article praised the substance of the law, especially its aim of making the health care system less expensive, more efficient and more dedicated to the needs of the people, especially the estimated 15 percent of the population with no current heath care coverage.
However, the Jesuit magazine lamented the extreme divisiveness that built up during the debate on the measure, saying that "the monolithic opposition of the Republican Party was surprising," especially given that some innovative projects for providing universal health care coverage had been promoted by some notable Republican leaders in the recent past.
"The degree of division and political and partisan opposition that crystallized during the months of debate before the reform was a source of concern for whomever takes to heart the common good of the neediest citizens and for the whole of the nation, and for whomever is convinced that the promotion and safeguarding of heath are precious assets for nations and all of humanity," it said.
The article discussed the role of Catholics in the debate by noting the divisions among Catholics themselves.
It explained the position of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which was against the measure because its provisions on abortion funding and conscience protections were morally unacceptable.
However, some pro-life members of Congress eventually supported the bill, the journal said, when they felt ambiguities in the proposed law concerning abortion would be resolved, specifically with a presidential executive order promising to ensure no federal funds would be spent on abortion.
The article detailed the three major religious associations that came out publicly in favor of the final version of the proposed law: the Catholic Health Association, led by its president and CEO Daughter of Charity Sister Carol Keehan; the national Catholic social justice lobby, Network, led by its director, Sister Simone Campbell, a Sister of Social Service; and a group of religious women representing numerous women's congregations.
"Beyond the novelty of a female voice with a social and ecclesial commitment, the discussion that accompanied the reform's passage the past months showed how it is possible to find at different levels in today's ecclesial reality the common and shared determination that the Catholic church's social doctrine be at the forefront of asking for a consistent and long-term dedication to justice and a clear preferential option for the poor," it said.
However, when such a strong commitment to Gospel-based values is translated into action, the usual result is that "the diverse ways of actualizing that prophetic commitment clash," it said.
The article said that the March 24 presidential executive order "Ensuring Enforcement and Implementation of Abortion Restrictions in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act," demonstrated that the president had taken into account the bishops' concerns and supported the demands concerning abortion made by the religious women who supported the reform.
According to the head of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, the law was "an important step toward ensuring access to health coverage for all Americans," but was "profoundly flawed in its treatment of abortion, conscience rights and fairness to immigrants," said the Jesuit journal.
The article said the cardinal hoped Congress would approve a bipartisan bill before the House of Representatives that would resolve the "errors regarding abortion and conscientious objection contained in the reform" law.