The health care controversy and Jesus’ tears for us

By Kathy Berken

I’m reading every article I can find and doing a lot of thinking and soul searching about the latest controversies over women’s health care vs. religious beliefs.

Not only do I feel inundated by the raging debate over the policy mandating insurance companies nationwide to extend benefits for contraception and sterilization, but I also feel sideswiped by the short-lived Planned Parenthood/Komen Foundation funding situation.

No doubt about it; we are taking sides. Some see this as divisive, as yet one more reason for Catholics just hanging on now to leave the Church. I see it as a vehicle for conversation and redemption. As I filter the debates running almost in real time on blogs and elsewhere, I see equally sincere and faithful Catholics struggling to find meaning in this for their own lives, and stay true to their own consciences. After all, even our own catechism allows for that.

Standing far enough back to see the bigger picture as I gather the words, feelings and stories filling my computer screen, I see a common thread: integrity. Political pressure, money and power will likely direct the tide, but what we as individuals, members of a global Church, struggle with is living with our core values amid vastly different opinions. Academic arguments focus on precedent, policy and beliefs. But I do not believe that as individuals we act solely on intellect and reason. I think we act on our gut feelings, our shared experiences and the stories that encompass us.


This is how we form our consciences, how we create our core values, how we strengthen our integrity. Some of us live every moment of every day in the trenches. Some of us get dragged into the mud on occasion, and others, well, I don’t know about the others. I have never met anyone who has not suffered.

We are fighting with each other over issues that have deeper roots than insurance coverage for contraceptives and sterilization, or whether we want to support the Komen Foundation. We are fighting for our integrity. Through the rhetoric, we are crying to be heard, desperate to be seen as good people. We tell our story. And we tell it again. And we feel as if no one is listening. And sometimes, we pound our collective fist on the table. We are more than frustrated, and we feel helpless in the midst of all this fighting because we have learned that many other people control many parts of our lives. And that is gut-wrenchingly painful. We ache, and the pain is felt through the entire body.

I have absolutely no answers. But I do believe that Jesus wept for more than Jerusalem. His weeping is our weeping. His suffering is our suffering. This is the body of Christ. This. Us. All of us who feel angry, frustrated, helpless, sad, depressed or a myriad of other feelings that come to us on a minute-to-minute basis. Sometimes all we can do is weep.

But as the body of Christ, as a believing people, we have the Holy Spirit to guide us, to enable us to do what is right, to keep the conversation honest and heartfelt, to resolve differences, to be redeemed from what appears to be an irreconcilable dilemma. I don’t think it is. Rather, it is at the core of our faith to know that we are not alone in any of this. As a Catholic, I believe that the body of Christ is far from a metaphor or merely words in a book.

(Kathy Berken recently received a master’s in theology from St. Catherine University, St. Paul, Minn. She lived and worked at The Arch, L’Arche in Clinton (1999-2009) and is author of “Walking on a Rolling Deck: Life on the Ark (stories from The Arch)”.)

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