When I read this, I wrote: “What the FUCK did His Holiness mean?” I’m sure that it’s a sin to have the f-bomb and “His Holiness” in the same sentence. And it’s definitely bad form to swear on somebody else’s Facebook page (sorry, James). But James is a confirmed Democrat and is perfectly comfortable with enforced-charity theocracy, but not enforced-chastity theocracy, and having gone around the barn there several times, I am not as patient as I should be to another Christian and human.
Quoting from a slightly less biased site, I see a less definitive pronouncement than at Think Progress, and I also notice that this is very old news. I haven’t yet found Benedict’s exact words, but it is by no means certain that he actually called health care “an inalienable right”.
But let’s pretend that he did, and that such a position is actual Church doctrine (remembering that not every word that falls from the Pope’s lips is infallible). Here are the problems. First, this “inalienable right” does not exist in a state of nature, so how can it be a natural and inalienable right?. Second, if the right exists, it has been violated through most of the world through most of history. Third, if it is a right which is an obligation of government, it is one that the Church has been silent on through most of its history. Was there ever a Church campaign to get the Holy Roman Emperors to provide free leeches and midwives for their subjects? Did anyone say of Diocletian, “He hates Christians, but at least he supports public nutrition programs”?
Now, this is not to say that medical care is no concern of the Church. Jesus healed people (go thou and do likewise). And the Church has provided medical care through history. It’s only now, in the face of the HHS mandate, that the Church has suggested that it will stop doing what it has done since the beginning. Either that’s a bluff, or the Church is abandoning a core historical practice in the face of politics…which is virtually unheard of. No right exists without a corresponding responsibility, and it can be argued that we are obligated to the corporal acts of mercy. But to make that obligation binding on the non-Christian through force of arms is a very Muslim thing to do. It also seems that the US pre-Obamacare was providing the sort of basic medical care under discussion. Regardless, it’s very confusing to have to pick the social teaching of the Magisterium from the social teaching of the Comintern.