Welcome to the Reading Room

Here are some news stories and articles which might be of interest to you. I've posted the opening section, and if you want to read more, you can click on "Read the whole article" to go to the original item. You'll find a variety of things here -- current news, political analysis, opinion pieces, articles about religion -- things I've happened to read and want to share with you. It's your Reading Room, so take your time. Browse. You're certain to find something you'll want to read.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Bioethics, Health Care, and Catholic Teaching

by The Most Rev. José H. Gomez, S.T.D. Archbishop of San Antonio

We are here tonight to talk about health care reform, ethics, and Catholic teaching. Those are big issues. But I think it’s important to remember first, why we’re here as Catholics. We’re here because Jesus Christ chose to come among us “healing every disease and every infirmity among people,” as the Gospel of Matthew says (Matt. 4:23).

The Catholic mission in health care is a continuation of the healing ministry of Christ. When we talk about ethics and health care policy, our goal is to ensure that all medical institutions in our society remain places of healing in which the dignity, and the mystery of the human person is respected-as it was respected by Christ.

I want to start our time together by telling you about a story I heard earlier this year. It was about IBM’s plans to build a new data processing center in Dubuque, Iowa. National Public Radio reported that people were excited because this new plant would bring more than a thousand new jobs to an economically distressed region (”Morning Edition,” Feb. 2, 2009).

NPR interviewed a consultant who was an expert on corporate labor strategies. The reporter asked the logical question: Did this new IBM plant represent a trend of companies deciding to locate again in the United States instead of places like India or China or Mexico?

The consultant’s answer surprised me. She said the real issue had very little to do with things like minimum wage, labor and benefit packages, or tax incentives offered to the corporations. The real issue, she said, was “population trends and demographics.”

The competitive disadvantage for America, she said, is that we have an “older population,” while places like India and Mexico have a much lower median age and a much larger pool of young workers for companies to tap into. Later I was able to verify this: the median age in America is about 37 years old; the median age in India is about 25. In some countries, the median age is below 20.

Now, what does this have to do with health care? Actually, quite a lot. But it will take me a few minutes to explain.

Demographics and population trends are a hidden factor in a lot of the issues that America faces today. Jobs, the economy, immigration, and health care are among them.

My point is that Catholic teaching and ethical decision-making never take place in a vacuum. Today, we are trying to form consciences in a health care environment that’s rapidly changing.

This new environment demands fresh thinking and new approaches. Not to compromise or water-down our teaching. We need to find new ways and even a new vocabulary to articulate our teaching in this changed environment...  Read the whole article.


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Fr. Phillips is the founding pastor of Our Lady of the Atonement Catholic Church, the first Anglican Use parish, established on August 15, 1983. Not that there is any confusion, but he is on the left, shown in his younger, less gray-headed days.