Sunday, April 1, 2012

Mercy Fitzgerald & Mercy Philadelphia

Your Excellency, Sister, & Dr. Heller,

The history of the Mercy Health System is akin to the histories of countless Catholic hospitals, schools, and social service providers, which were founded by the "army" of priests and religious who came to our shores from other countries.
    The Sisters of Mercy were founded in 1831 in Dublin, Ireland by Catherine McAuley, an heiress who used her inheritance to serve the poor, especially women and children....The Sisters of Mercy arrived in Philadelphia in 1861....The Sisters of Mercy founded Misericordia Hospital (now known as Mercy Philadelphia Hospital) in 1918 [Around 1922, my aunt, Catherine "Kitty"...entered the Sisters of Mercy in Dublin. Until her retirement, Sister Mary Madeline, RSM, taught school in England.].... Mercy Health System is sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy & Hope Ministries through Catholic Health East, a multi-institutional Catholic health system which is co-sponsored by nine religious organizations" (Mercy Health System web site).

While many institutions founded by heroic priests and religious survive, we see fewer and fewer staffed by priests and/or religious. Maintaining Catholic identity, and the commitment to truth which that embodies, challenges all those institutions. As per the Mercy Health System web site,
    "Our gynecology department has a high compliance for quality assurance and complies with the ethical and religious directives of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops" (Gynecologic Surgery).
Considering that not a single gynecologist from the entire Mercy Health System is to be found listed among Pennsylvania's NFP-only physicians, that strikes me as a whopper of a claim! Making such a claim amidst an apparent absence of NFP-only physicians begs the question, as to whether Mercy Health System is familiar with Part Four of the ERDs:

    "The Church’s commitment to human dignity inspires an abiding concern for the sanctity of human life from its very beginning, and with the dignity of marriage and of the marriage act by which human life is transmitted. The Church cannot approve medical practices that undermine the biological, psychological, and moral bonds on which the strength of marriage and the family depends.

    "Catholic health care ministry witnesses to the sanctity of life 'from the moment of conception until death.'
    20 The Church’s defense of life encompasses the unborn and the care of women & their children during and after pregnancy....

    "The Church has the deepest respect for the family, for the marriage covenant, and for the love that binds a married couple together. This includes respect for the marriage act by which husband and wife express their love and cooperate with God in the creation of a new human being....

    "For legitimate reasons of responsible parenthood, married couples may limit the number of their children by natural means. The Church cannot approve contraceptive interventions that 'either in anticipation of the marital act, or in its accomplishment or in the development of its natural consequences, have the purpose, whether as an end or a means, to render procreation impossible.'
    23 Such interventions violate 'the inseparable connection, willed by God . . . between the two meanings of the conjugal act: the unitive and procreative meaning.'24....

    "Because the moral law is rooted in the whole of human nature, human persons, through intelligent reflection on their own spiritual destiny, can discover and cooperate in the plan of the Creator.26


      44. A Catholic health care institution should provide prenatal, obstetric, and postnatal services for mothers and their children in a manner consonant with its mission....

      52. Catholic health institutions may not promote or condone contraceptive practices but should provide, for married couples and the medical staff who counsel them, instruction both about the Church’s teaching on responsible parenthood and in methods of natural family planning."

While the Mercy Health System notes that it provides "Natural family planning/preconception planning" among its Women's Health Services, how does it avoid sabotaging its own message with its apparent absence of NFP-only physicians? Call me cynical, but it strikes me as naive (at best) to assume that physicians, whose off site practices are inconsistent with Catholic teaching, temporarily embrace the truth when inside the walls of a Catholic hospital - so much that they do not tell their Catholic hospital patients how to contact them elsewhere? Doesn't this situation seem akin to the fox guarding the hen house? Our Lord told his Apostles: "Behold, I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and simple as doves" (Matthew 10: 16). Jesus did NOT counsel gullibility.

For those of us who have had family members in the Sisters of Mercy, this situation is particularly painful - it is an affront to their memory. I am praying that the Archdiocese, the Sisters of Mercy, and the Mercy Health System will correct this scandalous situation.


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