The White Lily Blog

The Restore Point in Health Care is Christ and His Church


As part of the health care debate, Dr. Jeffrey Sachs uncompromisingly indicts capitalism on NPR’s production of the Commonwealth Club on October 26; it is apparently not archived, but similar views may be expected in his book, The Price of Civilization. His conclusion is wrong, insofar as he ultimately recommends, like the Wall Street protesters whom he admires,  only that we tax the very rich.

That leaves intact the vicious system that concentrates wealth, and delivers the bill only to the dumb rich who get caught with their pants down outside the various tax loop hole protections they’ve managed to buy and bribe.

But there is truth in the thesis otherwise, when Sachs points out that we simply cannot afford, even if we tax the rich,  Obama’s government-mandated, government-platformed (in terms of absent moral values) but completely privatized solution.  The profits skimmed by all the various middle-men make it too expensive.  Sachs instead casually endorses the only alternative he can imagine, single- payer health care–in other words, government-run health care.

But we all know how that story ends, too: crappy, cranky, niggling care in dimly lit paint-peeling facilities with waiting lists for the good procedures, as it is in those countries which presently fund health care that way. Low standards have been the rule in government-run health facilities even in good times,  and how can we now expect more, in our staggering economy? The government, like Greece, is cutting back expenses, not adding new ones, especially as astronomical as those required by our ‘sick’ population.  This idea of government running hospitals in this economy is a recommendation for horrific care on all levels and eventually, of course, euthanasia, still illegal but being practiced to just about the same degree that still-illegal marijuana is being smoked, with the quasi-permission now being obtained on-the-spot in informal conferences with family members or through senior citizens’ centers’ “free” health care power of attorney services.

So neither solution works, not privatized, profit-taking health care, nor government-run health care.

And yet Sachs, and myself, and all of us, want health care. We want it for ourselves, and also for others, because disease spreads.  So the problem must be solved.

And it can be solved. The thing is, we can’t get there from here. In the area of health care alone, we have to take out both the profits and the anti-life bias. More generally, we have to provide economic conditions that make for healthier, happier, richer people.

If we want humane health care that is also affordable, we must re-set our cultures to a setpoint before the virus of modern civilization took hold. We must restore Catholicism, its dominant (and tolerant) Church, and the economics of the old Catholic states, loosely called distributism, which made as many people small land owners as possible by regulating profits and suppressing speculation so that nobody ever got too big to fail. Many necessary but expensive enterprises (grain mills, for example) were held in common, in cooperatives, and two necessary services, education and health care, were typically managed by the Church and were free to all.

Even now, in our secular society, we know intuitively that health care and religion go together. Marilyn Gaston, Assistant Surgeon General of the Public Health Service, recommended in 2001 that privatized health care form alliances with religious organizations of various persuasions in order to deliver care to the poor. On the ground, very often religious organizations deliver health care as the provider of last resort, in towns like Bakersfield, California. These modern efforts will not fill the gap, however, because they lack one essential career path that was present in the Middle Ages, but not now: volunteer health care providers via religious orders.  And this path may be the necessary piece of the puzzle, the one that makes health care to the very sick and very poor affordable.

Large numbers of the health care workers were unmarried, consecrated men and women giving their entire lives to Christ in religious orders and expressing that love in health care for no salary. This resource extended even into modern times, even after the Protestant Rebellion broke the Church. They worked for subsistence (made possible by the absence of children to support, while their orders provided for their personal needs, in case of illness or age, as otherwise natural children would have provided) and vowed to live poor and obedient and chaste. They didn’t all live up to their holy vows, but enough did, generation after generation of saints in the service of the sick poor. The so-called Reformation of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries sought to destroy them by any means necessary, starting with seizing and parceling out the lands and properties of the orders. They dismantled and doled out the very foundation stones to eager mobs.

Do you know the first act of ‘reformist’ Henry VIII’s ‘health care plan’? To privatize St. Bartholomew’s, a hospital that had functioned free to all since the fourth century, but especially welcome had been the poor who were served there (in hospital rooms larger than those currently allowed in new hospital construction) in the name of Christ, in the person of Christ, by generations of saints. To privatize it.

They say the poor wandered England looking for a hospital in the days of the new religion, as each in turn was privatized and their nursing nuns turned out from those safe and sacred walls. And each hospital in all the new secular societies in turn has suffered it, the gradual re-writing of the wonderfully persistent dream of the poor that when they are hurt bad, society will help them, like they ‘used to do,’ until we come to now.  (England itself had to return to free care, this time government run.  You surely have read the same articles as I on the level of care available there.) Even the so-called Catholic hospitals, now, function like little profit machines, just as protestantism and the reformation wanted and worked for.

The government playing the role of the Church (and the religious orders and the parent and all the rest, because of course secular government wants all those roles) cannot restore health care without restoring all those other necessary conditions. We have to re-build the bridge we burned, and restore, first, Christ at the center of our laws, our governments, and our lives, and then restore the traditional, unmodernized, passionate Church, and then let the Church, and all churches, and all charities, begin to ‘manage’ health care. Yes, some anti-life services, like abortion, will have to go. Because you don’t get loving care unless ALL humans get loving care, and everyone knows now those tiny little bodies are so fully human. That’s not to mention at all the chilling economic effect of killing them.  We might wise up that us having killed fully one-sixth of the American population has something to do with slumping sales. We’ve killed just about 60 million babies since it became legal. A lot of houses.

This restore point–forgive me, but the computer metaphor is so apt–is the same in economics. We have to control usury, which is to control predatory lending, restore the professional guilds as management tools that go across class, unlike labor unions which forbid participation by management and owners, let the guilds handle education. They will know what industries are in growth mode and will need workers and which not, because their leadership will include members from the whole process, from raw materials to transport of finished products; that is simply how guilds functioned and could function again, and it is completely unlike the chaotic, competitive model we are presently following.  We have to control monopolization, simply taxing into unprofitability enterprises that grow ‘too big to fail,’ and so forth. Neither party will make a commitment to this, in spite of election-year lip service.

There are a thousand good economic measures, too many to even begin to discuss in one post, but essential to any, they only function in a coherent, not a multi-religious, society. They are not stand-alone measures, even though our present-day distributists are always trying to implement them in various projects. The reform of business can only happen in a society where dishonesty and all the other deadly sins are taught from the beginning, are shamed from the beginning. Honesty and cooperation can only happen where the majority of people have a personal vision of heaven and hell, even when society does not punish every transgression. I do not want to reduce the Faith to that, but perhaps some readers can see the natural point even if they will not listen to the supernatural, to God’s revealed word, that we are meant to live well on earth and then come to live with Him, as in the original plan until sin and death ruined it and Christ brought us Plan B on the cross.

In our secular society, we have lost that personal level; we foolishly expect honesty in the board room, when we have it not in the heart and root of our society, in our homes and schools.  Everything changes in a society that is willing to honor God, the awesome Trinity from which our great western civilization has sprung. Presently we deny God this simple justice. We let ourselves be led by a handful of egotistical men and women who wish, themselves, to be god.

We have to go back, to go forward. There is simply no other possible solution. The ideal that we have, which is healthcare for all is only possible under some circumstances, circumstances that are both moral and economic. We had those circumstances five hundred years ago (we managed to hold onto slivers of it through the twentieth century), but we ‘reformed it.’  The virus of Too Big to Fail began right then, on Henry VIII’s fat paunch, around which cruel men were waiting, had been waiting for some centuries to make a killing, waiting and not acting because that mean old Catholic Church wouldn’t let them. They were ready, and they whispered it in his royal ear: freedom.  He meant by it a woman, they meant by it a world open for plunder. And it is their song, still. You’d think we’d learn the words by now and stop whistling it with them.

Do you want affordable, reliable healthcare? Restore Catholicism and the Catholic state. Que Viva Cristo Rey. 

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