Vatican backs universal health care

Head delegate tells World Health Assembly government should support Catholic beliefs

The Vatican says they back universal health care, but the government also needs to back them. (Photo: Simon Howden) The Vatican says they back universal health care, but the government also needs to back them. (Photo: Simon Howden)

During an address to the World Health Assembly, the Vatican said that while the Catholic Church supports universal health care, states must respect and welcome the efforts of the private sphere in achieving that goal.

In each nation, “the progress towards universal coverage cannot be the effort of the state machinery alone. It requires support from the civil society and communities, whose contribution to health service delivery is fundamental,” Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski said in his May 23 address to the World Health Assembly.

Zimowski, the Vatican’s head delegate to the assembly, said the Vatican supports Resolution WHA64.9, a measure that would urge countries to "plan the transition of their health systems to universal coverage.” 

But Zimowski said the government also needs to respect the morals and the freedom of conscience of Catholic health care workers, noting that the Catholic Church is the leading provider of health care services in the world’s less-developed countries.

“The efforts and contribution of such organizations and institutions towards universal access, merit the recognition and support of both the state and the international community, without obliging them to participate in activities they find morally abhorrent,” he said.

That sentiment was similar to one from Notre Dame’s president, the Rev. John Jenkins, who made a statement earlier in the week after announcing the university had decided to sue the government over the contraception mandate.  

“We do not seek to impose our religious beliefs on others," Jenkins said. "We simply ask that the government not impose its values on the university when those values conflict with our religious teachings.”

The Catholic Church has been engaged in an ongoing battle with the government over the HHS mandate with dozens of religious colleges and institutions filing suit over the mandate. Close eyes had been on Notre Dame because the university had in the past stated its “willingness” to work with Obama.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, praised the “courageous action” of the church.

“We have tried negotiation with the administration and legislation with the Congress – and we’ll keep at it – but there's still no fix,” Dolan said. “Time is running out, and our valuable ministries and fundamental rights hang in the balance, so we have to resort to the courts now.”

The archbishop of Washington also recently slammed the mandate for not providing an exception for some Catholic institutions, such as hospitals or schools, because they serve and employ non-Catholics and do not primarily strive to "inculcate religious values."


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