Got news? Faith, funds, hard choices

sadchildI continue to be amazed at the degree to which the debates about health-care reform keep cycling back to issues of money and, let's face it, religion. President Barack Obama has said that costs must be held down and that 80 percent of those costs are rooted in decisions made in the final stages of life. Meanwhile, the abortion whirlpool is still there, period, swirling around questions about whether tax dollars should be spent on one side of the abortion question.

While the talk-radio troops (and others) say what they want to say at the public forums, and the mainstream press continues to preach that these life-and-death issues are based on factual errors, the U.S. Catholic Bishops have remained very quiet. Even their new website on the issue is very understated. The bishops have stated four goals, seeking:

* a truly universal health policy with respect for human life and dignity

* access for all with a special concern for the poor and inclusion of legal immigrants

* pursuing the common good and preserving pluralism including freedom of conscience and variety of options

* restraining costs and applying them equitably across the spectrum of payers

That list has doctrinal and political content and there's no way around that reality. Life issues for young and old. Care for the poor. A conscience clause. Applying cost restraints equitably. There are factors there to scare the political left and right.

Do you doubt the religious content of some of the issues involved? Frankly, it would help if journalists could get past the shouters and look at the religious issues at the heart of some of these conflicts.

I mean, give the president's office at Belmont Abbey College a call. You see, there's news -- yes, conservative news -- on the Wall Street Journal op-ed page today. Ignore the spin. Just look at the content of the government decision.

Last week, thanks to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the federal government took a giant leap toward encroaching on the religious liberty of Catholics. Reuben Daniels Jr., director of the EEOC District Office in Charlotte, N.C, ruled that a small Catholic college discriminated against female employees by refusing to cover prescription contraceptives in its health insurance plan. With health-care reform looming before the country, this ruling is a bad omen for people of faith.

In 2007, eight faculty members filed a complaint against Belmont Abbey College in Belmont, N.C., claiming that the school's decision to exclude prescription contraceptives from its health-care plan was discriminatory against women. "As a Roman Catholic institution, Belmont Abbey College is not able to and will not offer nor subsidize medical services that contradict the clear teaching of the Catholic Church," said the college's president, William Thierfelder, at the time.

20060511-pillThink church-state entanglement. Did Belmont Abbey's policy raise questions about fraud, profit or a clear threat to life? No. So why -- as a voluntary association based on doctrine -- does a branch of the government need to use its tax-payer rooted power to get involved in this dispute among Catholics on this private campus?

Meanwhile, I keep waiting for the Down syndrome issue to get some mainstream ink.

Over at the Washington Times, veteran scribe Julia Duin has written a very personal column that touches on some of these themes, while telling the story of a faith-based group -- Reece's Rainbow -- that is trying to find homes for Down syndrome children around the world.

There are poignant details in the story of Andrea Roberts and her son Reece and there's news there. But what about the wider implications of this passage in the column?

It's not easy finding families for little people whom no one wants. Canada restricts families to adopting only one such child; Britain "basically denies it," she told me, because of ... health care policies that discourage families from taking on such children. She fears the health care reforms being pushed by the Obama administration and congressional Democrats will eventually do the same.

Yes, I edited a buzz word out of that paragraph so that the heads of some readers will not explode.

Try to focus, folks, on the actual news hooks there. It's a fact that stopping people from adopting special needs children would help governments to hold down health-care costs. What about giving birth to Down syndrome children? Would parents have that health-care choice? How about the birth of a second handicapped child? Would that be covered? These kinds of limitations would help hold down costs.

Ignore the yelling, please. Focus on the content of the doctrinal and political issues. There are stories in there.

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