Here is a link to a lengthy, thorough, and informative post by Dr. Edward Feser at What's Wrong With the World about Catholic democrats and their misunderstanding of the Catholic language of rights as it pertains to healthcare. I have friends that have struggled with this and they generally reject my attempts to explain these nuances as the ravings of a misinformed Protestant. Dr. Feser is a scholar and a Catholic, and his own explanation is air tight as near as I can tell.
His basic point is as follow: There is clearly a hierarchy of importance among issues based on the gravity of moral offense and the use of the term “rights” does not mean what most people think it does when used by the Catholic leadership in relation to healthcare.
Simply put, we should not understand the affirmation of a fundamental right to life as equal to a general right to available healthcare. If we did then we are forced to except that we have a moral obligation based on the type of being that we humans are to create a society that experiences a level of wealth and scientific advancement sufficient to provide the best healthcare conceivable at any given level of technological development. In addition, a certain number of qualified people are morally required to become doctors and nurses to maintain an affective doctor patient ratio in that society. If that number is not met voluntarily then forced conscription into the medical educational system is a moral necessity. If individuals are failing to work at an appropriate level in charitable giving the government is obligated to provide that healthcare with no respect to the individual's freedom of association and participation because healthcare is equal in priority to the fundamental right to live without being unjustly killed by your fellow man.
But Dr. Feser does a yeoman's job of explaining why this simply is not the case and how traditional Catholic teaching is heavily dependent on the principle of subsidiarity, which entails that the agency bearing the most responsibility to take care of the needs of their fellow man is the private community and not the government. That the term “rights” as used throughout Catholic literature enjoys various understandings as to the implications and urgencies of recognizing whatever right is being discussed. In other words, and shamelessly stealing from Orwell, some rights are more equal than others.
His main point is to distribute the blame for this misunderstanding between two distinct groups. The Catholic leadership, particularly the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and the politicians that have used this confusion to justify and celebrate their Catholicism in championing certain social causes. The Bishops, according to Dr. Feser, are culpable for not being clear that their encouragement for Catholics to engage these other social issues (healthcare, poverty, and the like) should not be seen as a declaration that those issues are morally equal in importance and urgency with the issue of the massive destruction of human life through abortion. The politicians are guilty of either doing nothing (Stupak) or doing worse than nothing (Pelosi, Kerry, Biden, Giuliani, and Schwarzenegger to name a depressing few) by championing and endorsing the legal right of women to do something that is in direct contradiction to the moral teachings of their Catholic faith. The post is extensive, and I highly encourage a careful and complete reading.
I would like to add that these Catholic democrats that endorse government run healthcare need to immediately amend their insipid and cowardly stance on abortion. Their claims that personal opposition to abortion should not translate into laws that impact those who disagree with them as to the nature of human life are ringing awfully hollow today. Their behavior over the past several months has exposed that talk for the farce that it always was. It is time to own up to the truth of your position. You support law that has empowered the willful, morally reprehensible, and government sanctioned destruction of more than 50 million human lives in the United States since 1973 alone. You have no problem legislating your morality as long as it is consistent with the democratic party platform, so please just admit finally and once and for all that you do not care about abortion, the unborn, or Catholic teaching on the matter. This ruse has grown tiresome and your latest power grab against the will of the majority of American people makes it untenable to pretend that you care about the freedom of others to live without your “moral interference” for their own good.