Tuesday, June 19, 2012

An Update on Scandalous OBGYN Practitioners in Philly's Catholic Hospitals

While correcting/updating OBGYNs in Philly Catholic Hospitals (6 19 12 update) (See attached), I was shocked to find that three physicians from Abington Perinatal Associates are also associated with St. Mary Medical Center (See below.).  Directive #71 of the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services specifically tells us that
  • "71. The possibility of scandal must be considered when applying the principles governing cooperation. Cooperation, which in all other respects is morally licit, may need to be refused because of the scandal that might be caused. Scandal can sometimes be avoided by an appropriate explanation of what is in fact being done at the health care facility under Catholic auspices. The diocesan bishop has final responsibility for assessing and addressing issues of scandal, considering not only the circumstances in his local diocese but also the regional and national implications of his decision.""
Even a CHAUSA publication has acknowledged that
I struggle to understand the Archdiocese's seeming disinterest in these matters and pray that we are not witnessing a pattern of grievous misjudgement.








Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Nobility of Honest Work

As per Patrice Lewis in referencing an article by Thomas Sowell,
  • "It should be abundantly clear that not every job is 'meaningful.' There are toilets to be cleaned, floors to be swept, tables to be waited, dishes to be washed, beds to be made … the list of menial work is legion....

    "You see, not everyone is lucky enough to get 'meaningful' work. Rags-to-riches bootstrap stories are nice, but not common....

    "But what the elites who look down on 'meaningless' work don’t notice is the long-term effect of such employment. The ability to work hard and diligently at menial jobs sets a work ethic and a high standard that one’s children will often emulate. Those children can then seek opportunities for 'meaningful' work that had escaped the earlier generation....

    "it wasn’t important if their work had meaning, as long as their life did.

    "There is honor in honest work, and this is what men do. Men are biologically programmed to care for their wives and children. To that end, real men don’t really worry about whether their work is 'meaningful' or not – but they DO care about their ability to support their family. They care about their wife’s grateful kiss and their children’s joy at seeing daddy walk through the door at the end of the day. This is what gives their life meaning, not some nebulous 'meaningful' job title which probably has just as much grunt as glamour."
As per the Thomas Sowell article,
  • "Education' is a word that covers a lot of very different things, from vital, life-saving medical skills to frivolous courses to absolutely counterproductive courses that fill people with a sense of grievance and entitlement, without giving them either the skills to earn a living or a realistic understanding of the world required for a citizen in a free society.

  • "The lack of realism among many highly educated people has been demonstrated in many ways....

    "The dangers that a lack of realism can bring to many educated people are completely overshadowed by the dangers to a whole society created by the unrealistic views of the world promoted in many educational institutions....

    "What is 'meaningful work'?

    "The underlying notion seems to be that it is work whose performance is satisfying or enjoyable in itself. But if that is the only kind of work that people should have to do, how is garbage to be collected, bed pans emptied in hospitals or jobs with life-threatening dangers to be performed?...

    "In the real world, many things are done simply because they have to be done, not because doing them brings immediate pleasure to those who do them. Some people take justifiable pride in working to take care of their families, whether or not the work itself is great.

    "Some of our more Utopian intellectuals lament that many people work 'just for the money.' They do not like a society where A produces what B wants, simply in order that B will produce what A wants, with money being an intermediary device facilitating such exchanges.

    "Some would apparently prefer a society where all-wise elites would decide what each of us 'needs' or 'deserves.' The actual history of societies formed on that principle -- histories often stained, or even drenched, in blood -- is of little interest to those who mistake wishful thinking for idealism.

    "At the very least, many intellectuals do not want the poor or the young to have to take 'menial' jobs. But people who are paying their own money, as distinguished from the taxpayers' money, for someone to do a job are unlikely to part with hard cash unless that job actually needs doing, whether or not that job is called 'menial' by others....

    "Telling young people that some jobs are 'menial' is a huge disservice to them and to the whole society."

We Need to Stress the Flip Side of Our Arguments for Religious Liberty

Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore chairs the USCCB's Committee on Religious Liberty and is the former bishop of Bridgeport, Connecticut.  Archbishop Lori spearheads the USCCB's Fortnight for Freedom and other USCCB opposition to the draconian HHS mandates that demand abortifacient and contraceptive give-aways under "Obamacare."  Archbishop Lori's video on the USCCB web site discusses the USA's heritage of religious freedom.  Testifying before Congress, he likened efforts to force Catholic institutions to pay for abortifacients and contraceptives to forcing a Kosher deli to sell pork.  The strategy of Archbishop Lori and the USCCB has been to emphasize religious freedom, rather than screaming from the rooftops that the poisons of abortifacients and contraceptives constitute absolutely BAD medicine.


The USCCB's Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services (ERDs)certainly reiterate prohibitions on abortion/abortifacients, contraceptives, and direct sterilization.  Actual practice in at least some Catholic hospitals, however, suggests failure to appreciate that our Church's medical ethics constitute a clarion call for the authentic health care of our fellow human beings.  Ann Carey's excellent articles on Catholic hospitals for Our Sunday Visitor, Dr. Sandra S. Hapenney's Appeal to Conscience Clauses in the Face of Divergent Practices among Catholic Hospitals, Professor Leonard J. Nelson's Diagnosis Critical: The Urgent Threats Confronting Catholic Healthcare, and the video documentary 28 Days on the Pill suggest that the provision of abortifacients/contraceptives and/or direct sterilizations is commonplace at some Catholic hospitals and/or their campuses.  These are uncomfortable realities and hypocrisies from which many are inclined to squirm away.  How could our Catholic hospitals possibly be involved in such?

Whether it's called the "Morning After Pill," "Emergency Contraception," "Plan B," or "Ella," the Vatican has faithfully followed God and made clear that so-called emergency "contraception" - a choice against life - is to be condemned.  However, the Catholic Health Association (CHA, CHAUSA), the National Catholic Bioethics Center (NCBC), and the USCCB maintain that there is a legitimate protocol for Catholic hospitals to employ so-called emergency "contraception" in treating those who identify themselves as victims of rape (They would certainly acknowledge that no such protocol is  found in the Vatican's Charter for Health Care Workers, Statement on the So-Called ‘Morning After Pill’, or Dignitas Personae, or in Pope Benedict XVI's address to the International Congress of Catholic Pharmacists.).  Because of the potential for inadvertent abortions, it must be noted that the Catholic Medical Association (2003) passed "A Resolution in favor of prohibiting all 'emergency contraception' in Catholic Hospitals." 

In September 2007, many had to be taken aback by the "Statement by Connecticut Bishops Regarding Plan B" from Archbishop Henry Mansell, Bishop Paul Chomnycki, Bishop Michael Cote, and [then] Bishop William Lori, which approved the use of Plan B in Catholic hospitals for those identifying themselves as rape victims, after provision of a pregnancy test and without requiring an ovulation test.  Shortly thereafter, Father Tad Pacholczyk, Ph.D. commented that even the FDA and Plan B's manufacturer acknowledged its abortifacient potential and maintained that a pregnancy test would be insufficient to ensure against an inadvertent abortion.  "Choosing to act in a way as to possibly cause the death of another human is not generally a good moral choice [sic]. When we have uncertainty about the presence of a human in the bushes during a hunting trip, for example, we ought not shoot into the bushes."

In §23 of the Vatican's September 2008 Dignitas Personae, distinctions are made between "interceptive" methods which interfere with an embryo before implantation and "contragestative" methods which interfere with an embryo after implantation, while making abundantly clear that both are illicit.  Though Dignitas Personae did NOT offer guidelines for the supposed "moral" use of potential interceptives or contragestatives, [then] Bishop William Lori stated: "I don't think the document explicitly addresses the rape protocols, nor does it specifically address Plan B....It doesn't settle that question."  In Talking Points Developed by CHA Ethics Staff on Dignitas Personae, the CHAUSA moved quickly to dismiss any notion that an update was needed to the ERD(s).  Yet according to Father Robert Gahl of the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, "I don’t see how one can read Dignitas Personae in such a way that administrating Plan B (or other morning-after pill or emergency contraception) can be justified." 

In September 2010, Judie Brown of the American Life League and the Pontifical Academy for Life spoke with incredible bluntness: "there is all manner of dodging Catholic teaching at even the most prestigious levels. The National Catholic Bioethics Center (NCBC)...published an article by Marie Hilliard, Ph.D., JCL, RN in which she...fails to point out that, because any such pill may abort a child, none should be used."  In that article, Hilliard confirmed that the Vatican had NEVER spoken on so-called rape protocols but used this lack of explicitness to justify their existence: "The use of Plan B or any other 'morning after pill' for the purpose of avoiding conception following consensual sex is contraceptive in nature and is rejected by the Church. Many Catholics are surprised to discover that sexual assault is another matter. The issue of sexual assault is not addressed in the new bioethical document, Dignitas Personae, so sound moral reasoning has to be used to determine which protocol is morally acceptable for the administration of emergency contraceptive drugs."

I find Hilliard's argument unconvincing.  It strikes me as akin to claiming that, since the Vatican never explicitly stated that people under 5' 2" merit absolute absolute respect, we may currently disregard their human dignity.  Yet, just as our absolute need to honor the human dignity of people under 5'2" is inherent in the natural law and everything that the Church teaches, the prohibition of so-called emergency "contraception" in all situations seems clear in Dignitas Personae.  Where does it possibly support Hilliard's claim that its teaching is just limited to those engaged in consensual sex?  To the contrary, it states: "the use of means of interception and contragestation fall within the sin of abortion and are gravely immoral. Furthermore, when there is certainty that an abortion has resulted, there are serious penalties in canon law."

In my opinion, Archbishop Lori's history makes him an odd match to be the USCCB's point person in the fight against the draconian HHS mandates.  He seems to be in a particularly awkward position to scream from the rooftops that the poisons of abortifacients and contraceptives are absolutely BAD medicine - the elephant in the room, flip-side to our arguments against assaults against religious liberty.  Yet, our Creator certainly likes that earthen vessels notion, doesn't He?

I hope that Archbishop Lori and the USCCB take note that, when we do not shy away from the destructiveness of abortifacients/contraceptives, our arguments and witness can be enormously more effective.  This was recently well illustrated by a concise, pointed response by OBGYN Donna Harrison, MD to a misleading article:
  • The recent New York Times article by Pam Belluck , asserting that so-called abortifacient drugs may not be abortive at all, is a wonderful example of convolution of facts to obscure reality....In point of fact, any drug which can act to prevent pregnancy after a woman has ovulated must have some post-fertilization effect....And, because some physicians and scientists stubbornly adhere to the principles of Hippocratic medicine, and refuse to give a drug which will kill one of their patients (the human embryo), and may harm the other (the mother) the controversy will not go away."
The USCCB has designated July 22 - 28 as Natural Family Planning Awareness Week.  Rather than treat this as separate campaign, the USCCB should be highlighting the moral alternatives that exist in the face of Obamacare efforts to force support of the absolutely immoral, BAD medicine of abortifacients and contraceptives.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Whose Conscience Is It Anyway?

Our God loves us; He treasures us; He wants the absolute best for us! 

    "For this command which I am giving you today is not too wondrous or remote for you.
    It is not in the heavens, that you should say, 'Who will go up to the heavens to get it for us and tell us of it, that we may do it?'
    Nor is it across the sea, that you should say, 'Who will cross the sea to get it for us and tell us of it, that we may do it?'
    No, it is something very near to you, in your mouth & in your heart, to do it. See, I have today set before you life & good, death & evil.
    If you obey the commandments of the LORD, your God, which I am giving you today, loving the LORD, your God, and walking in his ways, and keeping his commandments, statutes and ordinances, you will live and grow numerous, and the LORD, your God, will bless you in the land you are entering to possess.
    If, however, your heart turns away and you do not obey, but are led astray and bow down to other gods and serve them,
    I tell you today that you will certainly perish; you will not have a long life on the land which you are crossing the Jordan to enter & possess.
    I call heaven and earth today to witness against you: I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live,
    by loving the LORD, your God, obeying his voice, and holding fast to him. For that will mean life for you, a long life for you to live on the land which the LORD swore to your ancestors, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give to them" (Deutronomy 30: 11-20)

Back in 1968, countless Catholics - laity, religious, and clergy (even bishops!) - were convinced that the world desperately needed contraceptives and that the Church needed to change its teaching that had always rejected contraceptives.  Because our God so loves us, He inspired Pope Paul VI to radically go against the opinions of so many laity, religious, and clergy - to choose life - and beautifully reiterate the Church's teaching in Humanae Vitae - the Holy Father's beautiful encyclical on human life. 

Nearly a half century after Humane Vitae, informed Catholics know that the availability of contraceptives has wreaked havoc on our culture - economically, sociologically, and spiritually.  While church attendance has plummeted for Catholics and other Christians, we have seen astronomical increases in abortion, broken families, child abuse, cohabitation, human trafficking, illegitimacy, loss of a societal child-centeredness, pornography, sexual assault, and sexually transmitted diseases, as well as a widespread failure to appreciate the meaning of marriage.  Back when nearly everyone was claiming that contraceptives would be a panacea for our problems, our God knew that they were  absolutely BAD medicine!  Way back then, He also knew that some of what was being passed off as "contraceptive" would later be discovered to also be abortifacient.

It is absolutely bizarre that the draconian HHS mandates of Obamacare would be trying to force Catholic institutions to pay for contraceptives and abortifacients.  Why aren't we shouting from the rooftops that these poisons constitute absolutely BAD medicine? Apparently, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has shied away from doing so, in the belief that we will attract more allies by simply emphasizing religious freedom.  On its web page dedicated to the upcoming Fortnight for Freedom, the USCCB highlights an English language video by Bishop William Lori, which discusses our heritage of religious freedom in the United States and makes no mention of the awful medicine constitute by abortifacient and contraceptive give-aways.


Are We Partially Shying Away from Discussing Abortifacients and Contraceptives Because Our Hands are Dirty?

As per the USCCB's Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services (ERDs) ,(Deuteronomy 30: 11- 20)
    "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."

    "53. Direct sterilization of either men or women, whether permanent or temporary, is not permitted in a Catholic health care institution. Procedures that induce sterility are permitted when their direct effect is the cure or alleviation of a present and serious pathology and a simpler treatment is not available."
In  Diagnosis Critical: The Urgent Threats Confronting Catholic Healthcare, Professor Leonard J. Nelson maintained that
  • "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).
As noted in the video documentary 28 Days on the Pill,
  • “The situation in the Roman Catholic realm is not what many would expect. One Roman Catholic doctor we talked to said he knew of no Roman Catholic hospital in the United States that did not prescribe [hormonal contraceptives]. Tremendous pressure can be placed on Roman Catholic doctors to conform. So what the official teaching is and what is done in practice can be two different things.”
In a study of the compliance of Catholic hospitals with the ERDs, Sandra S. Hapenney, Ph.D. found evidence of numerous direct female sterilizations at some Catholic hospitals.  She noted that
  • "diversity of practice resulting from varied interpretations and applications of the ERD[s] exists among hospitals, and within hospital systems and dioceses. An analysis of the conscience clauses illustrates that Catholic hospitals are in jeopardy of defending themselves against judicial challenges and could strip themselves of the ability to mount a political front to aid in defending the conscience clauses."
As per Professor Nelson,
  • "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" (p. 137).

 

The Particularly Peculiar Situation of Emergency So-Called "Contraception"

Whether it's called the Morning After Pill, Emergency Contraception, Plan B, or Ella, the Vatican has faithfully followed God and made clear that so-called emergency "contraception" - a choice against life - is to be condemned.  Yet it is maintained by the Catholic Health Association (CHAUSA), the National Catholic Bioethics Center (NCBC), and the USCCB that there exists a legitimate protocol for Catholic hospitals to employ so-called emergency "contraception" in treating those who identify themselves as victims of rape.  No such protocol is indicated by the Vatican in its "Charter for Health Care Workers," “Statement on the So-Called ‘Morning After Pill’," Pope Benedict XVI's address to the International Congress of Catholic Pharmacists, or "Dignitas Personae."

In the September 2000 "Breast Cancer : Its Link to Abortion and the Birth Control Pill," Chris Kahlenborn, MD of Altoona, Pa cited the abortifacient potential of emergency so-called "contraception" and emphatically maintained that "informed practicing Christian physicians will not give the 'post-rape pill' in any circumstances."  In the Pontifical Academy for Life’s 10/31/00 “Statement on the So-Called ‘Morning After Pill’,” the Vatican itself seemed similarly unambiguous:
  • “those who ask for or offer this pill are seeking the direct termination of a possible pregnancy already in progress….from the ethical standpoint the same absolute unlawfulness of abortifacient procedures also applies to distributing, prescribing and taking the morning-after pill. All who, whether sharing the intention or not, directly co-operate with this procedure are also morally responsible for it….since these procedures are becoming more widespread, we strongly urge everyone who works in this sector to make a firm objection of moral conscience, which will bear courageous and practical witness to the inalienable value of human life, especially in view of the new hidden forms of aggression against the weakest and most defenceless individuals, as is the case with a human embryo.”
In 2003, the Catholic Medical Association passed "A Resolution in favor of prohibiting all 'emergency contraception' in Catholic Hospitals":
  • "Whereas women who are victims of a sexual assault should be treated with compassion and provided with all the legitimate means to prevent health consequences from the assault, And
    Whereas pregnancy is a rare outcome of rape, occurring in less that 5% of cases, And
    Whereas ample evidence exists that 'emergency contraception' which can be given up to 120 hours after the act, adversely affects the function of the corpus luteum and affects endometrial development, making implantation of the blastocyst less likely, And
    Whereas 'emergency contraception' given prior to ovulation does not consistently prevent ovulation or pregnancy, and still has an effect on the corpus luteum and the endometrium, preventing implantation,
    Therefore be it resolved that 'emergency contraception' is a misnomer as it does not consistently prevent fertilization, And
    Therefore, be it further resolved that as 'emergency contraception' has the potential to prevent implantation whether given in the pre-ovulatory, ovulatory, or post-ovulatory phase, that it cannot be ethically employed by a Catholic physician or administered in a Catholic Hospital in cases of rape."
For Catholic hospitals to proceed with using so-called emergency "contraception," J. B. Shea, MD (12/3/06) maintained, jeopardizes the conscience protection of all health care professionals: "Catholic hospitals are not free to prescribe or provide anything with abortifacient properties without contradicting their witness....this witness given by Catholic hospitals affects not only the patients and care givers in Catholic institutions, but those in secular institutions, putting pressure on them to violate their consciences or lose their jobs." 

Especially in light of the Vatican's 2000 statement and the testimony of faithful Catholic physicians, many had to be taken aback by the 9/27/07 "Statement by Connecticut Bishops Regarding Plan B" from Archbishop Henry Mansell, Bishop Paul Chomnycki, Bishop Michael Cote, and Bishop William Lori:
  • “to administer Plan B pills in Catholic hospitals to victims of rape a pregnancy test to determine that the woman has not conceived is sufficient. An ovulation test will not be required. The administration of Plan B pills in this instance cannot be judged to be the commission of an abortion because of such doubt about how Plan B pills and similar drugs work and because of the current impossibility of knowing from the ovulation test whether a new life is present. To administer Plan B pills without an ovulation test is not an intrinsically evil act.

    "Since the teaching authority of the Church has not definitively resolved this matter and since there is serious doubt about how Plan B pills work, the Catholic Bishops of Connecticut have stated that Catholic hospitals in the State may follow protocols that do not require an ovulation test in the treatment of victims of rape. A pregnancy test approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration suffices. If it becomes clear that Plan B pills would lead to an early chemical abortion in some instances, this matter would have to be reopened.”
Coming just one month later, could the words of Pope Benedict XVI in his Address to the International Congress of Catholic Pharmacists have been merely coincidental?
  • "it is not possible to anaesthetize consciences...concerning the effects of particles whose purpose is to prevent an embryo's implantation or to shorten a person's life. The pharmacist must invite each person to advance humanity, so that every being may be protected from the moment of conception until natural death, and that medicines may fulfil properly their therapeutic role....your Federation is invited to address the issue of conscientious objection, which is a right your profession must recognize, permitting you not to collaborate either directly or indirectly by supplying products for the purpose of decisions that are clearly immoral such as, for example, abortion or euthanasia."
Though the National Catholic Bioethics Center has maintained the existence of a legitimate rape protocol, a November 2007 article by Father Tad Pacholczyk, Ph.D. seemed to delicately and indirectly take issue with the Nutmeg State's bishops' foregoing the need for an ovulation test:
  • "the Food and Drug Administration...acknowledges...: 'Plan B may also work by...preventing attachment (implantation) to the uterus (womb).' The package insert for the drug from the manufacturer (Barr Pharmaceuticals) uses identical language....To provide the morning-after pill without considering a woman’s ovulatory state...crosses an important moral line. Choosing to act in a way as to possibly cause the death of another human is not generally a good moral choice [sic]. When we have uncertainty about the presence of a human in the bushes during a hunting trip, for example, we ought not shoot into the bushes."
A year after the Connecticut Bishops' Statement, §23 of the Vatican's 9/8/08 Dignitas Personae  seemed to provide additional clarification and signal a need to update Directive #36 of the USCCB's "Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, 4th ed."  While distinguishing between "interceptive" methods interfering with an embryo before implantation and "contragestative" methods interfering with the embryo after implantation, §23 made clear that both are illicitDignitas Personae did NOT offer guidelines for the supposed "moral" use of a potential interceptive or contragestative.  Yet Bishop William Lori, chair of the USCCB's Committee on Doctrine and Pastoral Practices, stated: "I don't think the document explicitly addresses the rape protocols, nor does it specifically address Plan B....If it had wanted to, it could have and would have. It doesn't settle that question."  In Talking Points Developed by CHA Ethics Staff on Dignitas Personae, the CHAUSA seemed to move quickly to obscure any clarity:
  • "Comments in §23 may raise some questions about Directive 36. The paragraph states that 'anyone who seeks to prevent the implantation of an embryo which may possibly have been conceived and who therefore either requests or prescribes such a pharmaceutical, generally intends abortion.' The Catholic Health Association supports this judgment. It also believes that implementation of Directive 36 of the Ethical and Religious Directives remains unchanged. Plan B, the medication of choice for emergency contraception, does not appear to have a post-fertilization effect, given the results of repeated scientific studies."
In the most recent update of the USCCB’s “Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, 5th ed(ERDs)” (2009), Directive 36 remained unchanged:
  • "Compassionate and understanding care should be given to a person who is the victim of sexual assault. Health care providers should cooperate with law enforcement officials and offer the person psychological and spiritual support as well as accurate medical information. A female who has been raped should be able to defend herself against a potential conception from the sexual assault. If, after appropriate testing, there is no evidence that conception has occurred  already, she may be treated with medications that would prevent ovulation, sperm capacitation, or fertilization. It is not permissible, however, to initiate or to recommend treatments that have as their purpose or direct effect the removal, destruction, or interference with the implantation of a fertilized ovum."
(According to the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Holy Redeemer was alone among Philadelphia's Catholic Hospitals in NOT requesting an exemption from providing emergency so-called "contraception" to those identifying themselves as victims of sexual assault.) 

If There is a Discrepancy Between Dignitas Personae & the ERDs, It's Sure Good that We Can Count on Normally Orthodox Sources of Moral Guidance, Right? 

As per 9/14/10 comments by Judie Brown of the American Life League and the Pontifical Academy for Life:
  • "there is all manner of dodging Catholic teaching at even the most prestigious levels. The National Catholic Bioethics Center (NCBC)...published an article by Marie Hilliard, Ph.D., JCL, RN in which she...fails to point out that, because any such pill may abort a child, none should be used.  As the Vatican has clarified through Bishop Elio Sgreccia, former president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, among others, the morning-after pill may not be given as a treatment for rape because of the potential to abort."
Speaking for the National Catholic Bioethics Center, Hilliard confirmed that the Vatican has NEVER spoken on rape protocols, and she used this lack of explicitness to justify the existence of rape protocols.
  • "The use of Plan B or any other 'morning after pill' for the purpose of avoiding conception following consensual sex is contraceptive in nature and is rejected by the Church. Many Catholics are surprised to discover that sexual assault is another matter. The issue of sexual assault is not addressed in the new bioethical document, Dignitas Personae, so sound moral reasoning has to be used to determine which protocol is morally acceptable for the administration of emergency contraceptive drugs."
With all respect to the impressive credentials of Hilliard and others at the NCBC, this argument is just not convincing.  Isn't it somewhat akin to claiming that, since the Vatican never explicitly stated that people under 5' 2" merit absolute absolute respect, we may currently disregard their human dignity?  Just as our absolute need to honor the human dignity of people under 5'2" is inherent in the natural law and everything the Church teaches, the prohibition of so-called emergency "contraception" in all situations seems clear in Dignitas Personae.  I am not alone in thinking this way.  As per Father Robert Gahl of the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross,
  • "I don’t see how one can read Dignitas Personae in such a way that administrating Plan B (or other morning-after pill or emergency contraception) can be justified. 
In reading Dignitas Personae, I see nothing to suggest that its teaching is limited - as Hilliard suggests - to those engaged in consensual sex: "the use of means of interception and contragestation fall within the sin of abortion and are gravely immoral. Furthermore, when there is certainty that an abortion has resulted, there are serious penalties in canon law."


Going to the Deli, Instead of Explaining the BAD Medicine

In testimony before Congress, Bishop William Lori tried to liken efforts to force Catholic institutions to pay for  abortifacients and contraceptives to forcing a Kosher deli to sell pork.  As he failed to emphasize the destructive nature of abortifacients/contraceptives, Professor Jonathan Sarna of Brandeis was able to punch lots of holes in Bishop Lori's comparison:
  • "The analogy to 'forcing kosher delis to sell ham,' put forward by Bishop William Lori, exemplifies the way the problem is misunderstood.....To focus on the religious liberties of employers while overlooking those of their employees, and to focus on only the free exercise clause of the First Amendment while ignoring the dangers of coercive religious establishments, is to pervert what Washington meant when he spoke of 'liberty of conscience' and to set back the cause of liberty and justice for all" (The Jewish Daily Forward, 3/7/12)
When we do not shy away from the destructiveness of abortifacients/contraceptives, our arguments and witness can be enormously more effective.  A case in point is the response to a 6/6/12 piece in the NY Times, which had maintained that: "Leading scientists say studies...provide strong evidence that Plan B does not prevent implantation, and no proof that a newer type of pill, Ella, does.... Controversy over emergency contraception is figuring in the presidential race and debates over the Obama administration’s health care law."  An OBGYN, Donna Harrison, MD, was able to simply and quickly counter that
  • "The recent New York Times article by Pam Belluck, asserting that so-called abortifacient drugs may not be abortive at all, is a wonderful example of convolution of facts to obscure reality....In point of fact, any drug which can act to prevent pregnancy after a woman has ovulated must have some post-fertilization effect....And, because some physicians and scientists stubbornly adhere to the principles of Hippocratic medicine, and refuse to give a drug which will kill one of their patients (the human embryo), and may harm the other (the mother) the controversy will not go away."

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Whose Conscience Is It, Anyway? Our Defense of Religious Freedom Should Be More Forthrightly Proclaiming that "Contraceptives" are BAD Medicine

    "For this command which I am giving you today is not too wondrous or remote for you.

    It is not in the heavens, that you should say, 'Who will go up to the heavens to get it for us and tell us of it, that we may do it?'

    Nor is it across the sea, that you should say, 'Who will cross the sea to get it for us and tell us of it, that we may do it?'

    No, it is something very near to you, in your mouth and in your heart, to do it. See, I have today set before you life and good, death and evil.

    If you obey the commandments of the LORD, your God, which I am giving you today, loving the LORD, your God, and walking in his ways, and keeping his commandments, statutes and ordinances, you will live and grow numerous, and the LORD, your God, will bless you in the land you are entering to possess.

    If, however, your heart turns away and you do not obey, but are led astray and bow down to other gods and serve them,

    I tell you today that you will certainly perish; you will not have a long life on the land which you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess.

    I call heaven and earth today to witness against you: I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live,

    by loving the LORD, your God, obeying his voice, and holding fast to him. For that will mean life for you, a long life for you to live on the land which the LORD swore to your ancestors, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give to them"
    (Deuteronomy 30: 11- 20)


Whether it's called the Morning After Pill, Emergency Contraception, Plan B, or Ella, the Vatican has faithfully followed God and made clear that so-called emergency "contraception" - a choice against life - is to be condemned.  At the same time, it has been maintained by the Catholic Health Association (CHAUSA), the National Catholic Bioethics Center (NCBC), and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) that there exists a legitimate protocol for Catholic hospitals to employ so-called emergency "contraception" in treating those who identify themselves as victims of rape.  They still need to acknowledge that the Vatican  has provided no such protocol in its "Charter for Health Care Workers," “Statement on the So-Called ‘Morning After Pill’," Pope Benedict XVI's address to the International Congress of Catholic Pharmacists, or "Dignitas Personae."

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Holy Redeemer was alone among Philadelphia's Catholic Hospitals in NOT requesting an exemption from providing emergency so-called "contraception" to those identifying themselves as victims of sexual assault.  In the September 2000 "Breast Cancer : Its Link to Abortion and the Birth Control Pill," Chris Kahlenborn, MD of Altoona, Pa cited the abortifacient potential of emergency so-called "contraception" and emphatically maintained that "informed practicing Christian physicians will not give the 'post-rape pill' in any circumstances."  In the Pontifical Academy for Life’s 10/31/00 “Statement on the So-Called ‘Morning After Pill’,” the Vatican itself certainly seemed similarly unambiguous:
  • “those who ask for or offer this pill are seeking the direct termination of a possible pregnancy already in progress….from the ethical standpoint the same absolute unlawfulness of abortifacient procedures also applies to distributing, prescribing and taking the morning-after pill. All who, whether sharing the intention or not, directly co-operate with this procedure are also morally responsible for it….since these procedures are becoming more widespread, we strongly urge everyone who works in this sector to make a firm objection of moral conscience, which will bear courageous and practical witness to the inalienable value of human life, especially in view of the new hidden forms of aggression against the weakest and most defenceless individuals, as is the case with a human embryo.”
In 2003, the Catholic Medical Association passed "A Resolution in favor of prohibiting all 'emergency contraception' in Catholic Hospitals":
  • "Whereas women who are victims of a sexual assault should be treated with compassion and provided with all the legitimate means to prevent health consequences from the assault, And
    Whereas pregnancy is a rare outcome of rape, occurring in less that 5% of cases, And
    Whereas ample evidence exists that 'emergency contraception' which can be given up to 120 hours after the act, adversely affects the function of the corpus luteum and affects endometrial development, making implantation of the blastocyst less likely, And
    Whereas 'emergency contraception' given prior to ovulation does not consistently prevent ovulation or pregnancy, and still has an effect on the corpus luteum and the endometrium, preventing implantation,
    Therefore be it resolved that 'emergency contraception' is a misnomer as it does not consistently prevent fertilization, And
    Therefore, be it further resolved that as 'emergency contraception' has the potential to prevent implantation whether given in the pre-ovulatory, ovulatory, or post-ovulatory phase, that it cannot be ethically employed by a Catholic physician or administered in a Catholic Hospital in cases of rape."
For Catholic hospitals to proceed with using so-called emergency "contraception," J. B. Shea, MD (12/3/06) maintained, jeopardizes the conscience protection of all health care professionals: "Catholic hospitals are not free to prescribe or provide anything with abortifacient properties without contradicting their witness....this witness given by Catholic hospitals affects not only the patients and care givers in Catholic institutions, but those in secular institutions, putting pressure on them to violate their consciences or lose their jobs." 

Especially in light of the Vatican's 2000 statement and the testimony of faithful Catholic physicians, many had to be taken aback by the 9/27/07 "Statement by Connecticut Bishops Regarding Plan B" from Archbishop Henry Mansell, Bishop Paul Chomnycki, Bishop Michael Cote, and Bishop William Lori:
  • “to administer Plan B pills in Catholic hospitals to victims of rape a pregnancy test to determine that the woman has not conceived is sufficient. An ovulation test will not be required. The administration of Plan B pills in this instance cannot be judged to be the commission of an abortion because of such doubt about how Plan B pills and similar drugs work and because of the current impossibility of knowing from the ovulation test whether a new life is present. To administer Plan B pills without an ovulation test is not an intrinsically evil act.

    "Since the teaching authority of the Church has not definitively resolved this matter and since there is serious doubt about how Plan B pills work, the Catholic Bishops of Connecticut have stated that Catholic hospitals in the State may follow protocols that do not require an ovulation test in the treatment of victims of rape. A pregnancy test approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration suffices. If it becomes clear that Plan B pills would lead to an early chemical abortion in some instances, this matter would have to be reopened.”
Coming just one month later, could the words of Pope Benedict XVI in his Address to the International Congress of Catholic Pharmacists have been merely coincidental?
  • "it is not possible to anaesthetize consciences...concerning the effects of particles whose purpose is to prevent an embryo's implantation or to shorten a person's life. The pharmacist must invite each person to advance humanity, so that every being may be protected from the moment of conception until natural death, and that medicines may fulfil properly their therapeutic role....your Federation is invited to address the issue of conscientious objection, which is a right your profession must recognize, permitting you not to collaborate either directly or indirectly by supplying products for the purpose of decisions that are clearly immoral such as, for example, abortion or euthanasia."
Though the National Catholic Bioethics Center has maintained the existence of a legitimate rape protocol, a November 2007 article by Father Tad Pacholczyk, Ph.D. seemed to delicately and indirectly take issue with the Nutmeg State's bishops' foregoing the need for an ovulation test:
  • "the Food and Drug Administration...acknowledges...: 'Plan B may also work by...preventing attachment (implantation) to the uterus (womb).' The package insert for the drug from the manufacturer (Barr Pharmaceuticals) uses identical language....To provide the morning-after pill without considering a woman’s ovulatory state...crosses an important moral line. Choosing to act in a way as to possibly cause the death of another human is not generally a good moral choice [sic]. When we have uncertainty about the presence of a human in the bushes during a hunting trip, for example, we ought not shoot into the bushes."
A year after the Connecticut Bishops' Statement, §23 of the Vatican's 9/8/08 Dignitas Personae  seemed to provide additional clarification and signal the need to update Directive #36 of the USCCB's "Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, 4th ed."  While distinguishing between "interceptive" methods interfering with an embryo before implantation and "contragestative" methods interfering with the embryo after implantation, §23 made clear that both are illicitDignitas Personae did NOT offer guidelines for the supposed "moral" use of a potential interceptive or contragestative.  Yet Connecticut's Bishop William Lori (also chair of the USCCB"s Committee on Doctrine and Pastoral Practices) stated: "I don't think the document explicitly addresses the rape protocols, nor does it specifically address Plan B....If it had wanted to, it could have and would have. It doesn't settle that question."  In Talking Points Developed by CHA Ethics Staff on Dignitas Personae, the Catholic Health Association seemed to move quickly to obscure any clarity:
  • "Comments in §23 may raise some questions about Directive 36. The paragraph states that 'anyone who seeks to prevent the implantation of an embryo which may possibly have been conceived and who therefore either requests or prescribes such a pharmaceutical, generally intends abortion.' The Catholic Health Association supports this judgment. It also believes that implementation of Directive 36 of the Ethical and Religious Directives remains unchanged. Plan B, the medication of choice for emergency contraception, does not appear to have a post-fertilization effect, given the results of repeated scientific studies."
In the most recent update of the USCCB’s “Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, 5th ed(ERDs)” (2009), Directive 36 remained unchanged:
  • "Compassionate and understanding care should be given to a person who is the victim of sexual assault. Health care providers should cooperate with law enforcement officials and offer the person psychological and spiritual support as well as accurate medical information. A female who has been raped should be able to defend herself against a potential conception from the sexual assault. If, after appropriate testing, there is no evidence that conception has occurred  already, she may be treated with medications that would prevent ovulation, sperm capacitation, or fertilization. It is not permissible, however, to initiate or to recommend treatments that have as their purpose or direct effect the removal, destruction, or interference with the implantation of a fertilized ovum."
If there is indeed a discrepancy between Dignitas Personae and the ERDs, it's sure good that we can count on other normally orthodox sources of Catholic moral guidance, right?  Well.... 

    "proclaim the word; be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient; convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching.

    For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine but, following their own desires and insatiable curiosity,will accumulate teachers

    and will stop listening to the truth and will be diverted to myths"
    (2 Timothy 4: 2-4)

As per 9/14/10 comments by Judie Brown of the American Life League and the Pontifical Academy for Life:
  • "there is all manner of dodging Catholic teaching at even the most prestigious levels. The National Catholic Bioethics Center (NCBC)...published an article by Marie Hilliard, Ph.D., JCL, RN in which she...fails to point out that, because any such pill may abort a child, none should be used.  As the Vatican has clarified through Bishop Elio Sgreccia, former president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, among others, the morning-after pill may not be given as a treatment for rape because of the potential to abort."
Speaking for the National Catholic Bioethics Center, Hilliard confirmed that the Vatican has NEVER spoken on rape protocols, and she used this lack of explicitness to justify the existence of rape protocols.
  • "The use of Plan B or any other 'morning after pill' for the purpose of avoiding conception following consensual sex is contraceptive in nature and is rejected by the Church. Many Catholics are surprised to discover that sexual assault is another matter. The issue of sexual assault is not addressed in the new bioethical document, Dignitas Personae, so sound moral reasoning has to be used to determine which protocol is morally acceptable for the administration of emergency contraceptive drugs."
With all respect to the impressive credentials of Hilliard and others at the NCBC, this argument is just not convincing.  Isn't it somewhat akin to claiming that, since the Vatican never explicitly stated that people under 5' 2" merit absolute absolute respect, we may currently disregard their human dignity?  Just as our absolute need to honor the human dignity of people under 5'2" is inherent in the natural law and everything the Church teaches, the prohibition of so-called emergency "contraception" in all situations seems clear in Dignitas Personae.  I am not alone in thinking this way.  As per Father Robert Gahl of the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross,
  • "I don’t see how one can read Dignitas Personae in such a way that administrating Plan B (or other morning-after pill or emergency contraception) can be justified. 
In reading Dignitas Personae, I see nothing to suggest that its teaching is limited - as Hilliard suggests - to those engaged in consensual sex: "the use of means of interception and contragestation fall within the sin of abortion and are gravely immoral. Furthermore, when there is certainty that an abortion has resulted, there are serious penalties in canon law."


In defending our religious freedom against the draconian HHS mandates, I believe that we should be more forthrightly proclaiming that abortifacients/contraceptives are absolutely BAD medicine.  Currently, we seem to be shying away from doing so, in the belief that we will attract more allies by emphasizing religious freedom.  In testimony before Congress on behalf of the USCCB, Bishop William Lori (Yes, that Bishop William Lori.) tried to liken efforts to force Catholic institutions to pay for  abortifacients and contraceptives to forcing a Kosher deli to sell pork.  As he failed to emphasize the destructive nature of abortifacients/contraceptives, Professor Jonathan Sarna of Brandeis was able to punch lots of holes Bishop Lori's comparison:
  • "The analogy to 'forcing kosher delis to sell ham,' put forward by Bishop William Lori, exemplifies the way the problem is misunderstood.....To focus on the religious liberties of employers while overlooking those of their employees, and to focus on only the free exercise clause of the First Amendment while ignoring the dangers of coercive religious establishments, is to pervert what Washington meant when he spoke of 'liberty of conscience' and to set back the cause of liberty and justice for all" (The Jewish Daily Forward, 3/7/12)
When we do not shy away from proclaiming the destructiveness of abortifacients/contraceptives in and of themselves, our arguments and witness seem enormously more effective.  A case in point is the response to a 6/6/12 piece in the NY Times, which had maintained that: "Leading scientists say studies...provide strong evidence that Plan B does not prevent implantation, and no proof that a newer type of pill, Ella, does.... Controversy over emergency contraception is figuring in the presidential race and debates over the Obama administration’s health care law."  An OBGYN, Donna Harrison, MD, was able to simply and quickly counter that
  • "The recent New York Times article by Pam Belluck, asserting that so-called abortifacient drugs may not be abortive at all, is a wonderful example of convolution of facts to obscure reality....In point of fact, any drug which can act to prevent pregnancy after a woman has ovulated must have some post-fertilization effect....And, because some physicians and scientists stubbornly adhere to the principles of Hippocratic medicine, and refuse to give a drug which will kill one of their patients (the human embryo), and may harm the other (the mother) the controversy will not go away."

"I call heaven and earth today to witness against you: I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live" (Deuteronomy 30: 19)

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Restoring Catholic Identity in Catholic Hospitals???

Of the numerous inappropriate OBGYN affiliations at Catholic hospitals in Philadelphia, those of Drs. Larry Barmat, Jennifer Nichols, and Steve Somkuti (colleagues at Abington Reproductive Medicine (ARM)) seemed the most egregious. Allowing the scandal of specialists in IVF, "egg donation," and "gestational surrogacy" in Catholic hospitals certainly seems to violate #71 of the USCCB’s Ethical and Religious Directives:

Without fanfare, the listing of Dr. Steve Somkuti has been removed from Holy Redeemer’s web site
If this is an indication of beginning efforts to restore the Catholic identity of our Catholic hospitals, thank you. We have a tremendously long way to go.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

"Those of us who are fathers today have one big responsibility that Joseph NEVER had to worry about. Our most important job is to get our families to Heaven" (Deacon Manny Iglesias, 1/1/47 to 5/30/12)

I first met Manny Iglesias and his wife, Sandy, about 20 years ago, when both Manny and I were checking into the permanent diaconate.  Of the entire group of middle aged men who were doing that discernment, I thought Manny best had the "cool" factor - hands down (Sorry gentlemen.)!  While short and thin, chain-smoking Manny came across as a tough guy - an absolutely loveable tough guy!

While 20 years added plenty of gray hairs to our heads and pounds to our frames, I was blessed to continue to know Manny, as he became Deacon Manny and served the Church in his ministry.  On the Feast of the Holy Family in 2011, I was doing sign language interpreting for Deacon Manny, when he provided a deeply insightful and moving homily.  As the head of a biological family, Deacon Manny had an insight which brought me to tears:
  • "Of all the people in scripture, [Saint] Joseph is probably one of the most underrated of all....he cared for Mary and Joseph as any good father would....Those of us who are fathers today have one big responsibility that Joseph NEVER had to worry about.  Our most important job is to get our families to Heaven...."
My above quote simply cannot capture the magnificence of Deacon Manny's homily that day.  Though he gave me a copy and permission to share it, I had not gotten around to doing so until today - the day that I learned of his passing.  I have attached a copy of the homily and hope that the Monitor will choose to publish it, in its entirety.

Deacon Manny, I will pray that you are reuniting with your beloved bride, Sandy.  Please keep us in your prayers, especially those of us who are trying to get our families to Heaven.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Suffering in Baseball and in Real Life

With so many New York transplants in Lower Bucks, it's disappointing that the Courier Times shies away from coverage of New York sports.  We do have an interesting history….

Despite being the most popular franchise in the National League, the Dodgers abandoned New York City's boro of Brooklyn in 1957, quickly followed by the Giants' abandonment of upper Manhattan.  Though they had spent nearly three quarters of a century in the town, the Brooklyn Dodgers only captured the World Series in 1955 (the same year, by the way, that Morrisville, Pa won the Little League World Series).  So, Brooklyn Dodger popularity had little to do with on-the-field success.  And even a half century after their departure, they maintain a mythical hold on the town.  Brooklyn Dodger attire sells like hotcakes in Brooklyn's sporting goods stores.

After the departure of the Dodgers and the Giants, didn't New York City still have a major league baseball team in the phenomenally successful Yankees?  Yes, but for those without New York connections, it's hard to understand the sentiments of many New Yorkers toward the Yankees.  Historically, there have been 107 World Series with the Yankees appearing 40 times and winning 27 times.  No other team has appeared in more than 18 World Series!  For many New Yorkers, rooting for the Yankees is akin to rooting for gasoline prices to rise or to rooting for the hare in its race against the tortoise.  The Yankees just can't tug at our heartstrings as underdogs or teach us about the character building which can come from long suffering.

In 1962, the Mets entered the National League, to try to make up for the loss in the hearts of Dodgers' and Giants' fans.  Over the years, the Mets have nurtured phenomenal pitching talents in the likes of Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden, and David Cone, only to see them pitch no hitters - AFTER they have left the Mets.  Most painful is the Mets' experience with the CEO of the Texas Rangers.  Though he began his Hall of Fame career with the Mets, Nolan Ryan pitched NONE of his major league record 7 no hitters for the Mets.  On June 1, 2012, the Mets finally saw their first no hitter, in the 8020th game in franchise history.  As a famous Brooklyn native would have said, "How sweet it is."

Something about the popularity of the Brooklyn Dodgers and the extra sweetness of the Mets' first no hitter speak to what we inately know about the value of suffering.  Though we try to run from pain and suffering, the Bible indicates that we can actually "glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope" (Romans 5: 3, 4 - NIV translation).  Now don't get me wrong - I am not intending to suggest an equivalence between a baseball fan's frustrations and the genuine human suffering associated with such things as serious illnesses.  It's just that to a culture which finds the slightest inconvenience to be anathema, the value of enduring suffering seems to have become increasingly difficult to understand.

Though the phrase has become unfamiliar from disuse, many Christians can recall their parents and/or their grandparents admonishing them to "offer up" their sufferings.  As per the Apostle Paul, "Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church" (Colossians 1: 24, New American Bible).  In a mysterious sort of way, our elders better understood that we are allowed to use our sufferings to gain graces for ourselves or for others.  While some will try to discredit this perspective by suggesting that it is tantamount to massochism, that's NOT what God has in mind in any manner, shape, or form. 

Our failure to appreciate that there can be a meaning in suffering goes a long way toward explaining the selfishness of being unwilling to make sacrifices for the benefit of others.  It goes a long way toward explaining the failure to appreciate the absolute dignity of each human being, no matter how vulnerable she or he may be.  It goes a long way toward explaining how we could rationalize ending human lives at their very beginning or at their end.

Maybe, sports analogies can help us to recover certain truths which we know at our core.

The Beatitudes from "Jesus of Nazareth"

 

Use of Emergency So-Called Contraceptives in Catholic Hospitals for Those Reporting Rape

Book & Film Reviews, pt 1

Book & Film Reviews, pt 2

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About Me

I am an enormously blessed husband and dad. In regard to my Catholic theological background, I have a certificate in social ministry & a master's degree (moral theology concentration), as well as a catechetical diploma from the Vatican's Sacred Congregation for the Clergy (Nope, I am not now - nor have I have ever been - a seminarian, deacon, or priest.). I feel particularly proud to have a mandatum. I also have a doctorate in Christian counseling psychology.

And yup, that's me!

And yup, that's me!
(from page 1 of the NY Sun, 3/22/04)

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

March for Life 2010

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