Bishop Guglielmone on Medicaid expansion in SC

Cindi Scoppe had a column, way back on the St. Patrick’s Day, in which she cited a letter by Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone, the head of the Roman Catholic in South Carolina, advocating for Medicaid expansion in SC.

I meant to say something on the subject then, but didn’t get to it. Which is ironic. Cindi’s not even Catholic (OK, she’s a kind of Catholic; she’s Anglican — but not Roman Catholic).

Anyway, something came up to remind me of it this week — a story in the Anderson paper about religious leaders in SC pushing for Medicaid expansion — so I thought I’d go ahead now and share the bishop’s letter.

It is a letter that, unlike the pronouncements of our governor and the House leadership, makes all the sense in the world:

February 20, 2013
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
To be Christian means that we are concerned about the wellbeing and health of all people. God took on flesh to restore the integrity of broken and wounded humanity. Indeed, Jesus made healing of the sick central to his ministry. “He came to the world to make us fully human, to help us to realize our human dignity as creatures made in the image of God. He came to bring the fullness of life” (USCCB Pastoral Letter: Health and Health Care, Nov. 19, 1981).
Throughout the centuries, the Church has carried on the ministry of Jesus by establishing
hospitals and nurturing the apostolate to the sick in response to the needs of suffering people. Pope John XXIII included medical care as a basic right founded on the sanctity of human life in his encyclical, Pacem in Terris. Reaffirming this traditional concern for today, Pope Benedict XVI wrote that “Health is a precious good for the person and society to promote, conserve and protect, dedicating the means, resources and energies necessary so that more persons can enjoy it. Unfortunately, the problem still remains today of many populations of the world that do not have access to the necessary resources to satisfy fundamental needs, particularly in regard to health. It is necessary to work with greater commitment at all levels so that the right to health is rendered effective, favoring access to primary health care” (Benedict XVI: Message to the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry, Nov. 18, 2010).
The Catholic Bishops of the United States have consistently called for access to health care forall our citizens: “Our approach to health care is shaped by a simple but fundamental principle: ‘Every person has a right to adequate health care. This right flows from the sanctity of human life and the dignity that belongs to all human persons, who are made in the image of God.’ Health care is more than a commodity; it is a basic human right, an essential safeguard of human life and dignity” (USCCB Resolution: A Framework for Comprehensive Health Care Reform, June 18, 1993). While the Church’s call for access to health care reflects an application of the Gospel to a contemporary need and therefore reflects the urgency of the Gospel, determining how to implement such access is open to prudential judgments of how to make it happen most effectively. We must continually discern wise solutions to the challenges we face, solutions that are both economically and politically viable. In that task of discernment, however, we as Catholics bring time-honored principles of Catholic social teaching to inform our reflection.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) now being legally enacted in our
country is an attempt to bring health care access to a broader range of citizenry in the United States. It is not perfect. In fact, the U.S. Catholic Church is deeply concerned about mandates associated with aspects of the law that would require religious institutions to provide contraception coverage, asking us to violate a consistent position by the Church on this. There are also many concerns about how to rein in the costs of health care so that its expansion is affordable to our country. However, providing access to health care is consonant with Catholic social teaching. Indeed, it is more than consonant — it is called for by Catholic social teaching.
This spring, our South Carolina state legislature will consider whether to opt into the expansion of Medicaid as provided for by the Affordable Care Act. Persons eligible for Medicaid would be expanded by about three hundred thirty thousand more South Carolinians who live near the poverty line but previously have not been eligible. Key state-wide elected leaders and many in the General Assembly have voiced their opposition to this expansion. Leaders of our state’s hospitals, including Catholic hospitals, on the other hand, have endorsed this legislation. It will expand their ability not only to serve the poor of our state but to pay for those services. The State of South Carolina would be required to pay for ten percent of the total cost of this expansion after three years of full funding by the Federal Government. This will require us as a state to find the revenue to pay for this expansion. It will cost us.
Bearing a cost for the sake of something greater is the heart of our faith; it brought us salvation. At the same time, we can and must make this expansion and our whole healthcare system more effective and economically viable. If health care funding as envisioned by the Affordable Care Act is not perfect, we nevertheless are not powerless as a society to refine and make it more effective even as we implement it.
I write as your Bishop in noting the call of Catholic social teaching, and I appeal as a fellow
citizen in making a case for acceptance of Medicaid expansion by our state. I urge my fellow Catholics to study this issue and form your own prudential judgment on its wisdom. However, I ask that you start that evaluation with a presumption in favor of what the Church says is a good to be pursued in society, namely, the flourishing of all people through access to health care. Hold as well our faith conviction that shared sacrifice for a greater good and concern for the poor make us more like Christ. Make your views known to your legislators. For my part, I believe Medicaid expansion offers a step forward for South Carolina.

In the Lord’s Peace,
Most Reverend Robert E. Guglielmone
Bishop of Charleston

24 thoughts on “Bishop Guglielmone on Medicaid expansion in SC

  1. Doug Ross

    When the church starts paying its fair share of taxes, maybe then they can comment on what the government SHOULD do.

    If the Catholic Church wants more people to have access to healthcare it should uses its own resources to do that.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      The Church DOES use its own resources to do that. Always has.

      One of my favorite local stories of that is what the Sisters of Charity did a few years back.

      The Sisters own and run Providence Hospital. A while back, they sold a half-interest in it to a for-profit operator. They used the millions from that deal to set up the Sisters of Charity Foundation here in Columbia.

      Sometime later, they decided that forming a partnership with a for-profit was not a good fit, and bought out the partner. But they didn’t touch the foundation money to do it. They mortgaged the order’s mother house in Ohio. Now, Providence is again 100 percent Catholic, and I’m glad of that, because it’s a good thing for the community.

      1. Steven Davis II

        Why does it make a difference who owns a hospital? I don’t think it’s any less expensive to go to Providence than it is say Lexington. Why is it good for the community to have Catholics running it, a hospital is a hospital.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          That’s one thing you won’t catch the Sister of Charity doing — building cathedrals.

          And of course that points to the problem in speaking of “the Church.” I was being a bit loose with the term above. An order of nuns may be “Catholic,” but it’s not exactly the same thing as “the Church,” which encompasses other orders, plus the whole structure of Pope, cardinals, bishops, priests who operate outside the context of orders.

          Nuns who are involved in Catholic healthcare have been far less critical of Obamacare than the U.S. Conference of Catholic bishops, which is what you hear about.

          But, as Bishop Guglielmone reminds us, the core values are the same, however much one Catholic entity might disagree with another on the details…

          1. Silence

            I just wonder why non-profits and religious institutions tie up so much money in bricks and mortar. Money that could be doing all kinds of good works. The Catholic Church is an extreme example of this, with grandiose cathedrals accumulated over the ages. Other religious groups do exactly the same thing though to one extent or another, whether they are Christian, Muslim or Jewish. Non-religious groups do it too, like the United Way spending $12M to build a homeless shelter in downtown Columbia. Universities as well. I realize that you need a physical facility to work in, or to work from, but at some level it’s ridiculous. Some of the megachurch facilities in the area come to mind. Heck, even the SCANA campus, paid for by rate-payers is quite grandiose, but as a regulated utility, they can just pass the cost on to us and we can’t do anything about it.

          2. Brad Warthen Post author

            I can’t answer for other nonprofits, but I think I can speak of the historical tendency to build grand houses of worship.

            In past centuries in particular, and especially prior to the Reformation, visual forms of expression were particularly important to non-literate people. The churches and cathedrals from those times provided people who could not read (and had no Bibles, before Gutenberg) with something they could see.

            Also, the layout and architecture of churches have particular meanings in terms of theology and liturgy.

            I really think the building of grand churches — by Protestants now as well as Catholics — is a carryover from those times. People think, “This is what a church looks like,” because that’s what they’ve always seen, so that’s what they build.

            Boudreaux Group architects here in Columbia could tell you a lot more about it than I do, as they’ve done a lot of churches (including a major restoration at my church, St. Peter’s, several years ago).

            The architecture of churches almost always reflect something about theology, right down to the most basic, intentionally plain little country churches that dot the countryside. Whether stark plainness or baroque, you’re making a statement of beliefs…

            A church like Shandon Baptist seems a lot “plainer” than St. Peter’s. But I think you’d be mistaken to think it was cheaper…

      2. bud

        Why? If it was 100% Methodist, Jewish, Muslim or Agnostic would that make it a bad thing? Does Providence provide free birth control for it’s staff? If not then being 100% Catholic is a decidedly bad thing.

  2. Doug Ross

    Does Providence Hospital provide free or reduced price services to anyone who comes through the door? Or do they just rely on insurance companies and government reimbursements?

  3. Brad Warthen Post author

    Steven and Doug, in different ways, ask why it matters that the institution is Catholic.

    Here’s one reason…

    The Sisters took Providence into the forefront of open-heart surgery back before that was seen as a profit center for hospitals. It was expensive and risky at the time, but they did it because there wasn’t anything like that in all of South Carolina, and they thought it important to provide the service. In doing so, they went against the wishes of the local bishop at the time, because they dropped other services such as delivering babies to do it.

    Years later, it turns out that, unlike running a trauma center, open-heart makes lots of money for hospitals. So Richland and Lexington wanted to get into the act, which led to the certificate of need battles of the last few years.

    But the original decision to do open-heart is another instance, like the creation of the Foundation, that speaks to core values, to the way an institution that is a ministry operates…

    1. Doug Ross

      I guess I don’t look on them as being as charitable as you might based on their obvious business model. How is Providence Hospital different from other hospitals in the way it collects its revenues?

      1. Steven Davis II

        It’s not, it’s just backed by the Catholic church. They should be treated like any other business… which makes me want to point out that all church’s need to be paying property taxes.

  4. bud

    Silence makes a good point about the grandiose buildings constructed by the Catholic Church. Indeed all churches get a bit carried away but they certainly are by far the worst offender. Perhaps rivaled only by some of those evangalical outfits. And it’s not just the gigantic cathedrals. Look at all those ridiculous outfits the Priests and Bishops wear. And all those strange accessories they use in the various rituals. It must be very expensive to get into the kingdom of heaven through the doors of the Catholic Church. And I thought Jesus was all about living a modest existence.

    1. Kathryn Fenner

      They don’t spend a lot on the robes and stuff. They buy them once, or someone makes them, as my mother did, and wear them forever!

  5. bud

    I guess if you count the ancient Egyptians with their enormous pyramids to bury just one guy that would be the ultimate religious structures.

    1. Steven Davis II

      It kept generations of families employed as well. What else is there to do in Egypt but lay around getting a suntan and complain about the heat.

  6. bud

    So the Egyptians believed in a stimulus program. Hey maybe we can build some pyramids. That might even solve the immigration problem since we’d be unable to hire enough people to haul 20 ton limestone blocks up hundreds of feet to build such gigantic structures. The currently illegal folks could do this work thus freeing up American citizens to landscape yards and shingle roofs. Voila, problem solved.

    1. Silence

      I can see it now, the Seven Wonders of Obama’s Stimulus:
      1) The Great Pyramid of Orangeburg
      2) The Hanging Gardens of Berkeley
      3) The Temple of Labor at Detroit
      4) The Statue of Obama at Chicago
      5) The Mausoleum at Atlanta
      6) The Colossus of Seattle
      7) The Lighthouse of Alexandria, Virginia

    2. Steven Davis II

      Problem is the pyramids were built by slaves. If I try to buy slaves to do my yardwork today, I go to jail.


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