Thank you for the 7/13/08 issue of Our Sunday Visitor, which looked at Catholic health care principles & "Catholic" hospitals. Ann Carey's pieces were both enlightening and disturbing:
- "Texas Bishops examine reports of ethical lapses at Catholic hospitals" <www.osv.com/OSVNav/OSVNewsweeklyJuly132008/Texasbishopsexaminereportsofethicallapses/tabid/6385/Default.aspx>
- "Moral Sterility: Why some Catholic hospitals are still performing sterilizations, & how it threatens Catholic health care in the United States" <www.osv.com/OSVNav/OSVNewsweeklyJuly132008/InFocusMoralsterility/tabid/6391/Default.aspx>
- "'Shocking lack of understanding': Bishops' consultant says many hospitals just don't know, or were led astray by confused bishops or ethicists" www.osv.com/OSVNav/OSVNewsweeklyJuly132008/InFocusShockinglackofunderstanding/tabid/6388/Default.aspx>
In "Encouraging 'ethics audits' of Catholic hospitals", John Norton echoes Dr. John Haas of the National Catholic Bioethics Center in calling for diligent checks that Catholic health care facilities are adhering to Catholic health care ethics <www.osv.com/OSVNav/OSVNewsweeklyJuly132008/EncouragingethicsauditsofCatholichospitals/tabid/6392/Default.aspx>. Tragically, however, there appear to be at least two areas in which the USCCB's own "Ethical & ReligiousDirectives for Catholic Health Care Services, 4th Ed" (ERDs) www.usccb.org/bishops/directives.shtml> are out of date & inconsistent with Vatican guidance:
- In 2007, the Vatican reiterated the obligation to provide nutrition & hydration to a person in a so-called "vegetative state" http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20070801_risposte-usa_en.html&>. The ERDs indicate that this is an unresolved question.
- As I read Section 23 of the Vatican 's December 2008 Dignitas Personae <www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20081208_dignitas-personae_en.html>, it appears to countermand Directive 36 of the ERDs, necessitating that Catholic hospitals discontinue ANY use of so-called emergency "contraception."
If they are to remain the only required ethical reading for the staff of Catholic hospitals, the ERDs appear to desperately need an update.
Your closing editorial, "Ethical Identity", provides poignant reminders:
- "What is it that Catholic hospitals and charitable organizations have to offer that justifies their being called Catholic?....As disheartening as it is to learn of unethical practices in Catholic organizations, it has provided this country's bishops an excellent opportunity to review their relationships with the Catholic health institutions in their dioceses, to call for corrections where necessary, and above all, to exhort them to fidelity to their Catholic identity" <www.osv.com/OSVNav/OSVNewsweeklyJuly132008/Ethicalidentity/tabid/6402/Default.aspx>.