Intercultural Human Rights Law Review

First Page



With over a billion members, the Catholic Church is the largest Christian denomination in the world. It also manages twenty six percent of all health facilities worldwide.' In the U.S., where one in six patients is treated at a Catholic hospital, the Catholic health care network is the largest group of nonprofit health care providers in the country. With more than 600 hospitals and 1,400 long-term care and other health related facilities, Catholic health care has been a powerful presence in the U.S. for a long time. The Sisters of Charity were the first religious community to staff a hospital when, in 1823, they started working at the Baltimore Infirmary. In 1832, the Daughters of Charity began administering Charity Hospital in New Orleans one of the nation's first hospitals when it opened in 1736. The nuns continued to manage the facility for over 150 years. Over the years, Catholic health care facilities have continued not only to provide excellent medical care but also to actively participate in pastoral care, medical ethics, and public policy. Catholic health care matters. Why? Because the Catholic Church bears witness to the human condition in an unparalleled way. In this article, I will show how Catholic social teaching, with its interpretive framework of meaning and unique understanding of the world, brings its vision of social justice to the realm of health care. I will then use Catholic social justice teaching to critique the Affordable Care Act.