It’s time we stop playing at being civilized and get down to the work of actually trying to become something in the ballpark of civil, and Pope Francis knows it. That’s why he came right out and said healthcare is a right, not a privilege.

Healthcare A ‘Universal Right’

In a May 7 Doctors with Africa meeting, the Pope said the church’s role in medicine is much more akin to a “field hospital” than a posh clinic for the well-to-do. More times often than not, the Pope said, the 65-year-old medical mission began by the Diocese of Padua provides the “only medical care some people will ever receive.” He said:

“Health is not a consumer good but a universal right, so access to health services cannot be a privilege.”

Did you catch that? Not only does the Pope believe healthcare should not be a privilege, but a right, and he’s not just talking about the United States, either, but universally—all over the world. Whether you’re a gun-humper who just shot himself in the nuts in Muskegon, Mich., an illegal immigrant living underground in a foreign country to provide for your family, or a refugee floating toward hope in international waters—whoever you are, wherever you are, whatever your circumstances, legal or illegal, you have a right to healthcare: in civilization—among “civilized” people.

And if we’re not civilized, why all the rules? Why prisons, tickets, laws? Why cops? Why pretend? What a farce. Drop the act or get civil and start helping people live again, with decent health in life, and offering a dignified death when it all comes to an end. That’s one hell of a good use for taxpayer money. It sure beats the exploitation of war, doesn’t it? What’s the last war the U.S. has actually fought in self-defense?


During the meeting, the Pope also paid homage to the late Father Luigi Mazzucato—former director of Doctors with Africa up until 2008—who passed away last November at 88 years old. He’d been the director for 53 years, since 1955. The Pope said Mazzucato stated in his will:

“Born poor, I always sought to live with the minimum necessary. I have nothing of my own and nothing to leave. The few clothes I possess, I would like to be given to the poor.”

Riffing on his late colleague’s melody, the Pope ended the meeting saying:

“Pray for me that the Lord will make me poorer each day.”

Though one can certainly extrapolate the purity and spiritual intent meant in such a request, at the same time—wow!—what a predicament for the same privileged church that apologized for plundering much of the world of its wealth–even through gruesome, bloody violence–but never offered to give any of it back. We’ll have to do a better job of our sincerity, too, if we are truly to attempt becoming a civil animal capable of creating a living example of the idealistic notion known as “civilization.” Even the Catholic Church and infallible Pope could stand to learn a lesson there.

Nonetheless, that does not mean the Pope’s message is not very much on point, and deserves to be not only acknowledged, but implemented as soon as possible.

Healthcare for all! We can work the rest out from there.

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