Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Motu Proprio, Catholic Health Care, Parishes, & Holy Redeemer

Your Excellencies:

Inarguably, there are hospitals for whom the label "Catholic" seems tantamount to false advertising.  Such mislabeling endangers the physical and spiritual health of the unsuspecting.  Incredibly, there are practices at some hospitals, which are completely inconsistent with the original wording of the Hippocratic Oath: "I will neither give a deadly drug to anybody who asked for it, nor will I make a suggestion to this effect. Similarly I will not give to a woman an abortive remedy." 

It is encouraging to know that Pope Benedict XVI's Motu Proprio of November 15 "enter[ed] into force" on December 10th.  It is also encouraging to know that the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Health Care will soon release a revised/updated Charter for Health Care Workers.  While that magnificent Charter already incorporates Donum Vitae, Evangelium Vitae, and Humanae Vitae, the update is expected to incorporate Dignitas PersonaeDoctrinal Note on Some Questions Regarding the Participation of Catholics in Political Life, and Responses to Certain Questions of the USCCB Concerning Artificial Nutrition and Hydration, as well as a new section on solidarity and subsidiarity (cf., Carol Glatz, Catholic News Service, 11/13/12).  No doubt, the update will remind us of simple truths, such as:  
  • We can NEVER embrace or condone evil actions. 
  • Even when we reject the evil being done by someone else, certain situations can still involve us in someone else's evil acts. 
  • When the evil involves an assault on human life and cannot get done without our particular cooperation, the Pontifical Academy for Life reminds us that "it is always to be considered illicit" (Pontifical Academy for Life, 2005).

Pharmacueticals and Anaesthetizing Consciences

I imagine that the updated Charter will also incorporate Pope Benedict XVI's Address to Pharmacists, which reminds us that "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" and calls for recognition of the right of "conscientious objection...[so as to] not to collaborate either directly or indirectly by supplying products for the purpose of decisions that are clearly immoral such as...abortion or euthanasia."  With pharmacists increasingly on the front lines against the Culture of Death, the Holy Father reminds all of us of our duties, with regard to their formation. 

I believe that support for authentically pro life pharmacists requires vigilance, so that parishes are not advertising providers of morally excluded particles and devices.  Presently, the weekly bulletins of numerous parishes (including our Cathedral, if it still has its ad for Fairmount Pharmacy!) knowingly provide such advertisements!  How are Catholic laity to believe the seriousness of the Church's messages regarding Natural Family Planning, when pastors adopt cavalier attitudes toward ad space for providers of abortifacients and/or contraceptives?  I believe such practices have contributed greatly to Catholic failure to understand what is actually under siege with the HHS mandates.

Catholic Hospitals and Abortifacients

Alarms have been sounded by members of the Pontifical Academy for Life, regarding potentially abortifacient "treatments" at Catholic hospitals for those identifying themselves as victims of sexual assault (eg., Catholic Hospitals and the "Emergency Contraception" Conundrum, Renew America, May 3, 2007, President Obama vs. The Catholic Church, Inside the Vatican, Aug-Sept 2012).  Yet, the Vatican's Statement on the So-Called "Morning After Pill" (10/31/00) and Dignitas Personae (particularly Section 23; 9/8/08), as well as quotes from the then president of the Pontifical Academy for Life (cf., John-Henry Westen,, 12/18/08), struck me as calling for a revision to Directive 36 of the USCCB's Ethical and Religious Directives

Holy Redeemer: "If the head obstetrician is not pro-life..."

Last month, the Pontifical Council for Health Care was expected to address abortion and other unbelievable atrocities at Catholic hospitals, including (in the words of Father Custodio Ballester of Barcelona) "genetic experimentation, embryo selection for eugenics, abortion pills that some Church leaders think are safe."  As absolutely shocking as this is, we need to pause to wonder why it is even a surprise.  As per Jose Maria Simon Castellvi, "If the head obstetrician is not pro-life and family care is not offered, either abortions are performed there or patients are referred to other places to obtain them'" (Catholic News Agency, 11/15/12).

In our own archdiocese, Holy Redeemer tells the unsuspecting: "If you’re pregnant or planning on having a baby, you’ve come to the right place. Our board-certified obstetricians offer the latest medical expertise that can help maintain your health and the health of your baby at a convenient location near you."  While NONE of Holy Redeemer's obstetricians are to be found on a list of NFP-only physicians, ALL of their "Reproductive Endocrinologists and Obstetricians" are IVF specialists (i.e., Drs Larry Barnat and Jennifer Nichols of Abington Reproductive Medicine; Drs Arthur Castelbaum, Martin Freedman, and Benjamin Gocial of Reproductive Medicine Associates of Philadelphia; Dr Maria Pia Platia of Fertility and Gynecology Associates)!

Your Excellencies, it cannot be legitimately argued that Holy Redeemer is MERELY providing hospital privileges to providers of morally prohibited services under some sort of supposed duress. Holy Redeemer is promoting providers of services condemned by Church teaching!

So-Called "Brain Death"

At least four members of the Pontifical Academy for Life argue that "brain death" criteria do NOT establish "true death"! (cf., Conference may Begin to Sway Vatican Opinion Against Brain Death: Eminent Philosopher (2009), Save The "Brain Dead" Victims (2009), When you're dead, you're dead; when you're'brain dead,' you're alive (2012), Why are Pastoral Care Workers ignorant of the realities of "brain death"? (2012)).  The updated Charter will undoubtedly incorporate Pope John Paul II's Address to the International Transplantation Society and Pope Benedict XVI's Address to the Pontifical Academy for Life:
  • "Tissue and organ transplants represent a great victory for medical science and are certainly a sign of hope for many patients....As regards the practice of organ transplants,...someone can give only if he/she is not placing his/her own health and identity in serious danger, and only for a morally valid and proportional reason....the individual vital organs cannot be extracted except ex cadavere, which, moreover, possesses its own dignity that must be respected. In these years science has accomplished further progress in certifying the death of the patient. It is good, therefore, that the results attained receive the consent of the entire scientific community in order to further research for solutions that give certainty to all. In an area such as this, in fact, there cannot be the slightest suspicion of arbitration and where certainty has not been attained the principle of precaution must prevail....the principal criteria of respect for the life of the donator must always prevail so that the extraction of organs be performed only in the case of his/her true death" [emphasis added].
Pope Benedict XVI certainly appears to address concerns about so-called "brain death" criteria, when he says: "where certainty has not been attained the principle of precaution must prevail.... the principal criteria of respect for the life of the donator must always prevail so that the extraction of organs be performed only in the case of his/her true death."

Just as "Catholic" at the End of Life, as at the Beginning

"A patient in a nursing home or hospital is increasingly likely to be asked to sign a form with a benign-sounding name: Physician’s Order for Life-Sustaining Treatment....the Physician’s Order for Life-Sustaining Treatment (Polst), in an instrument for dealing with end-of-life decisions if the patient is incapacitated....'The Polst is a living will on steroids,' said E. Christian Brugger, who holds the Cardinal Stafford Chair of Moral Theology at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver and is one of a number of Catholic ethicists concerned about the emergence of the Polst....'The ethical guidelines for Catholic hospitals — called the "Ethical and Religious Directives" — state clearly that the administration of food and water to all patients who need them to survive is a moral obligation,' said Brugger" (Charlotte Hays, National Catholic Register, 5/16/12).  Holy Redeemer's Making Your Own Health Care Decisions and Advance Directive Form fail to specify
1) Catholic teaching with regard to nutrition and hydration, and
2) that health care services cannot honor advance directives opposed to Catholic teaching (cf., Pontifical Council for Pastoral Assistance to Health Care Workers, Charter for Health Care Workers, 1995; Address of John Paul II to the Participants in the International Congress on "Life-Sustaining Treatments and Vegetative State: Scientific Advances and Ethical Dilemnas", 3/20/04; Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Responses to Certain Questions of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Concerning Artificial Nutrition and Hydration, 8/1/07; USCCB, Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services (5th ed), 11/17/09).

Bishops and the Motu Proprio

As a husband and father, my primary responsibility is to get my family to Heaven!  At one time, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia could be proud of numerious thriving parishes, solidly Catholic schools (including those on a post secondary level), and authentically Catholic health care, truly supporting the vocation of family life.  Your Excellencies, what's allowed to be advertised in parish bulletins and what goes on at "Catholic" hospitals is morally repugnant.  As per the Holy Father,

    "Art. 7. - § 1. The agencies referred to in Article 1 § 1 are required to select their personnel from among persons who share, or at least respect, the Catholic identity of these works.
    "§ 2. To ensure an evangelical witness in the service of charity, the diocesan Bishop is to take care that those who work in the Church’s charitable apostolate, along with due professional competence, give an example of Christian life and witness to a formation of heart which testifies to a faith working through charity [emphasis added]. To this end, he is also to provide for their theological and pastoral formation, through specific curricula agreed upon by the officers of various agencies and through suitable aids to the spiritual life....

    "Art. 11.The diocesan Bishop is obliged, if necessary, to make known to the faithful the fact that the activity of a particular charitable agency is no longer being carried out in conformity with the Church’s teaching, and then to prohibit that agency from using the name 'Catholic' [emphasis added] and to take the necessary measures should personal responsibilities emerge....

    "I order that everything I have laid down in this Apostolic Letter issued Motu Proprio be fully observed [emphasis added]...and enter into force on 10 December 2012" [emphasis added] (Apostolic Letter Issued 'Motu Proprio' of the Supreme Pontiff Benedict XVI on the Services of Charity).
Thank you,

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