It's pretty straightforward -- he begins by stating that the moral dimension of health care should be remembered since it really is a moral issue that deals with life-and-death instances of meeting people's health needs. He then states that he sees consensus that it's wrong that so many are uninsured and that the U.S. system, for all its strength, really ought to be able to do better. He then describes at some length the extensive health care provided by the Catholic Church and Catholic teaching on how health care is a human right.
Building off of this, Archbishop Wuerl says the practical moral concerns for health care reform are that it defend the most vulnerable, such as the unborn by maintaining current restrictions on federal abortion funding and coverage, as well as preserving conscience protection. It should also, he asserts, not discriminate because of chronic illnesses, pre-existing conditions, employment or income. He also cites the need to cover "the least of these," referring to legal immigrants who reside her legally, work and pay taxes, but "risk being left out of health care reform."
He concludes by urging public, private and non-profit health care entities to work together for the greater good and prayerfully expresses hope for the challenge and opportunity faced by our lawmakers.
There wouldn't be much to add to this piece, except that it was published on the Internet, where anyone can add to a piece thanks to the comment field. Granted, this is far from new or unusual, but the comments drawn by Archbishop Wuerl's remarks were striking in their unpleasantness. One Twitter handle promoting the article even noted the "vicious anti-Catholic comments at the end."
This description is really an understatement, and a partial one at that. A sampling of the comments finds commenters calling people without health care the "lazy masses," many others saying that all immigrants, legal or illegal, should be barred from any health care assistance from the government, as well as numerous comments disparaging the Catholic Church, i.e. calling its leaders pedophiles.
The resulting queue of comments reads like a diatribe of hateful comments against the uninsured, immigrants and the Catholic Church and isn't improved upon by commenters responding to these points by calling the original commenters names and employing ever harsher and shriller tones.
The real irony in all of this is the jarring contrast between the body of comments and the content of Archbishop Wuerl's piece. By all accounts, Archbishop Wuerl is a gentleman, someone who wouldn't climb down and participate in a mud fight. The discussion generated by his story would be immeasurably improved if the commenters followed his lead and presented their points of agreement and disagreement in calm, reasoned tones. Instead, the points of his argument are passed over in favor of name-calling, questioning his motives, his authority and worse.
Even more discouraging is the nagging -- but unconfirmed -- suspicion that some comments are based on gut-level reactions to reading the article's title, "Health Care Reform a Moral Imperative, But Must Cover Immigrants, Too," maybe skimming the article and then dropping down to the comment field to unload.
A discouraged part of me asks, "Is it too much effort to try to digest what the Archbishop is trying to say before letting fly with a pre-formed opinion?" "Is it too much effort to exercise a little respect or restraint?" "Is it too much effort to be nice?"
Along with the general thoughts about incivility in the days of the blog, this put me in mind of a recent piece by John Allen that discusses, in part, how the Church is facing a culture that no longer pays it any special heed just because it's the Catholic Church. He refers to this as the decline of the "power distance index" of the Catholic Church. And one could argue this concept is reflected in the reception Archbishop Wuerl receives on the Internet, a hyper-democratic entity where no opinion is given any added weight or special deference.
Is this a high-tech example of what then-Cardinal Ratzinger meant by the dictatorship of relativism?