Here is the full text of the comments that Bishop Stephen Blaire of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Stockton made during the March 19 dedication of the new Patient Pavilion at St. Joseph’s Medical Center. It is quite relevant to the church’s strongly held beliefs and today’s critical national debate over health-care reform:
The dedication of this new building of St. Joseph’s Medical Center is a great celebration for the church and the community. It is a tribute to the Catholic people and their friends and neighbors who have supported this marvelous expression of state-of-the-art health-care services for our community.
It continues our long tradition of the immigrant church in the United States developing her institutions which are Catholic but exist for the benefit of all people. Our Catholic schools and colleges, our social service agencies (Catholic Charities, St. Vincent de Paul Society, etc.) and our Catholic health-care facilities represent the largest provider of public services in the United States, second only to the government itself.
The generosity of the Catholic people under the leadership of priests like Father William O’Connor and Religious Women, like the Dominican Sisters of San Rafael, in particular Sister Gabriel, have given us a flourishing garden of these institutions. The contribution of this new wing at St. Joseph’s is another flower coming into bloom.
But times have changes and today the leadership comes from the laity. Don Wiley, along with other administrators in Catholic Healthcare West, are being well formed in the ministry of Catholic health care which continues the healing ministry of Jesus Christ in the contemporary setting. The Dominican Sisters through their sponsorship promote the Health Care Ministry of the church – with special attention to the poor.
Our Catholic health-care institutions do not exist to be in competition with other health-care providers. They serve the community as a testimony of our faith in Christ, and as a friendly co-operator with all people and institutions of good will in serving the health needs of the community. We do so based upon our commitment to promote the dignity of the human person and to protect the sacredness of human life.
Basic health care is demanded by the common good as a fundamental right. Basic health care is a fundamental right. As a church, we are deeply committed to health-care reform which authentically respects the dignity of the human person by following the indispensable and long-standing federal policies against abortion funding, which provides universal coverage (including immigrants) and which secures conscience rights. If our Catholic health-care institutions are to remain Catholic and strong, we must be vigilant in maintaining our religious liberty rights to freedom of conscience.