Saturday, January 8, 2011

re: "Dangerous Precedent" (Our Sunday Visitor, 1/9/11)

Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted's 12/21/10 statement makes clear that defiance of Catholic teaching at Catholic Healthcare West's St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center has run long, wide, and deep:
  • "Authentic Catholic care in the institutions of Catholic Healthcare West (CHW) in the Diocese of Phoenix has been a topic of discussion between CHW and me from the time of our initial meeting nearly seven years ago....The moral guide for Hospitals and Healthcare Institutions is spelled out in what are called the Ethical and Religious Directives of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. I objected strongly to CHW’s lack of compliance with these directives, and told CHW leaders that this constituted cooperation in evil that must be corrected....over the course of these years, CHW has chosen not to comply. Then, earlier this year, it was brought to my attention that an abortion had taken place at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Phoenix....the mother had a disease that needed to be treated. But instead of treating the disease, St. Joseph’s medical staff and ethics committee decided that the healthy, 11-week-old baby should be directly killed....subsequent communications with leadership at St. Joseph’s Hospital and CHW have only eroded my confidence....Moreover, I have recently learned that many other violations of the ERDs have been taking place at CHW facilities in Arizona....Here are some of the things which CHW has been formally responsible for throughout these years:
    • Contraceptive counseling, medications, supplies and associated medical and laboratory examinations, including, but not limited to, oral and injectable contraceptives, intrauterine devices, diaphragms, condoms, foams and suppositories;
    • Voluntary sterilization (male and female); and
    • Abortions due to the mental or physical health of the mother or when the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest....
    CHW and St. Joseph’s Hospital have made more than a hundred million dollars every year from this [Mercy Care Plan] partnership with the government. In light of all these failures to comply with the Ethical and Religious Directives of the Church, it is my duty to decree that, in the Diocese of Phoenix, at St. Joseph’s Hospital, CHW is not committed to following the teaching of the Catholic Church and therefore this hospital cannot be considered Catholic....the faithful of the Diocese have a right to know whether institutions of this importance are indeed Catholic in identity and practice."

Just three days before we celebrated the birth of our Infant Savior, the Catholic Health Association of the United States (CHAUSA) defied Bishop Olmstead with a sparse statement, barely mentioning Bishop Olmstead's concerns. According to CHAUSA Executive Director Sister Carol Keehan,

  • St. Joseph Hospital and Medical Center "carefully evaluated the patient's situation and correctly applied the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services to it, saving the only life that was possible to save."

As Professor Leonard J. Nelson III' chillingly reminds us in "Dangerous Precedent: Hospital's Defiance of Bishop Over Morality of Procedures Sets Stage for More Secularizations."

  • "The defiance of Bishop Olmsted’s authority sets a dangerous precedent, and could presage a further secularization of Catholic health care. If Catholic hospitals are no longer subject to the supervision of local bishops to ensure their adherence to the ERDs, then we are on the verge of a massive change to Catholic life in America."
Is insidious defiance of Catholic teaching only running long, wide, and deep in the Diocese of Phoenix? Tragically, Professor Nelson's prophetic "Diagnosis Critical: The Urgent Threats Confronting Catholic Healthcare" suggests that answer to be NO:
  • "the widespread prevalence of dissent among both religious and lay Catholics may make it more difficult for Catholic health care institutions to persuade policymakers that they should be exempt from laws of general application requiring the provision of sterilizations and abortions. And, of course, the situation of Catholic health care institutions has become even more problematic since it has become commonplace for high-profile Catholic politicians to be openly and avowedly `pro-choice'" (p. 32).
  • "compliance with the ERDs has been uneven when it comes to contraception and sterilization. Typically, obstetrician-gynecologists practicing in Catholic hospitals and physician office buildings owned by Catholic hospitals provide prescriptions for contraceptives to their patients" (p. 53).
  • "Occasionally, in order to reduce opposition to a merger or affiliation, Catholic hospitals have entered into arrangements to allow continuation of services such as surgical sterilizations in separate facilities to be provided by unrelated organizations" (p. 88).
  • Some Catholic health "systems have entered into arrangements to provide services such as direct sterilizations and abortion referrals....The existence of such arrangements increases the risk of scandal and could embolden those who favor a mandate requiring all provide a full range of [so-called] reproductive services" (p. 102).
  • "If legal protection for individual conscience erodes, then this also endangers legal protection for institutions that refuse to perform sterilizations and abortions....any argument in favor of exemption from laws requiring a hospital to provide these services may be substantially undermined by the fact that the Catholic hospital is already, in some fashion, involved in either providing those services - as in the case of sterilizations - or involved in partnerships with entities providing such services" (pp. 132, 137).
All hope is NOT lost - it can NEVER be! We need to wake up, smell the coffee, and reclaim our Catholic institutions!

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Book & Film Reviews, pt 2

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12/12/08 Interview with Rev. Tad Pacholczyk, Ph.D. of the National Catholic Bioethics Center

March for Life 2010