Charles J. Chaput, Archbishop of Philadelphia
Your Eminence and Your Excellency:
As per Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski, representing the Holy See, to the 66th World Health Assembly (5/22/13):
- "I have the honour to bring you the greetings and blessing of the Holy
Father Pope Francis, who wishes this august assembly fruitful
"1. It has been duly emphasized that health contributes to the achievement of development and benefits from it. My delegation welcomes the resolve to prioritise health in the next generation of global development goals. The task before us is that of describing health objectives in an appropriate and convincing way. In this regard, the Holy See strongly believes that setting universal coverage as an objective of health and development policy (A66/24), would be a surer way of accommodating the wide range of health concerns [emphasis added], which includes sustaining the gains made so far, as well as attending to the broadened health agenda.
"Moreover, while acknowledging the close links between health and development, our delegation wishes to underscore the need for integral development and not mere economic growth. Health and development ought to be integral if they are to respond fully to the needs of every human person. What we hold important is the human person - each person, each group of people, and humanity as a whole. The essential quality of 'authentic' development is that it must be 'integral' in that it has to promote the good of every person and of the whole person, that is, in every single dimension.. Therefore both health care and development must attend to the spiritual state of the person as well as to the physical, emotional, economic and social factors that influence one’s wellbeing.
"2. Secondly, Mr. President, within the framework of strengthening health through the life course, efforts are being made to save the lives of millions of women and children who continue to die every year from conditions that can easily be prevented with existing medical commodities. Thus Resolution EB132.R4, among others, urges member States to improve the quality, supply and use of 13 'life-saving commodities.' The Holy See strongly agrees with the need to achieve further reductions in the loss of life and prevention of illness through increased access to inexpensive interventions that are respectful of the life and dignity of all mothers and children at all stages of life, from conception to natural death. In relation to this, the Holy See delegation wishes to raise serious concerns about the Report of the Secretariat and the Resolution recommended by the Executive Board to promote the implementation of the recommendations of the Commission on Life-Saving Commodities for Women and Children. While indeed some of the recommendations are truly life-saving, that of 'emergency contraception' can hardly be labeled as such since it is well known that, when conception already has occurred, certain substances used in 'emergency contraception' produce an abortifacient effect. For my delegation, it is totally unacceptable to refer to a medical product that constitutes a direct attack on the life of the child in utero as a 'life-saving commodity' and, much worse, to encourage 'increasing use of such substances in all parts of the world' [emphasis added].
"3. Thirdly Mr. President, given the significant impact of Non-Communicable Diseases on both morbidity and mortality in all parts of the world, the Holy See delegation welcomes the proposed Global Action Plan for the control of non-communicable diseases 2013-2020 (A66/9). Moreover, we were especially pleased that the plan acknowledges the key role of civil society, including faith-based organizations, in mobilizing and engaging families and communities to prevent and treat such illnesses before they cause debilitating conditions or premature death. Our delegation is aware that Catholic Church-inspired organizations and institutions throughout the world already have committed themselves to pursue such actions at global, regional, and local community levels.
"In connection with Resolution WHA65.3 on strengthening non-communicable disease policies to promote active ageing, the Holy See wishes to participate in exploring the various aspects of prevention and control of non-communicable diseases in older age. Already thousands of faith-based institutions offer aged care services around the world, and they are growing rapidly as populations age. Our humble contribution to this venture will be an International Conference, to be held in the Vatican this coming November 21-23 on the topic: The Church at the Service of Sick Elderly People: Taking Care of People Suffering from Neurodegenerative Diseases.
"4. Finally, Mr. President our delegation wishes to register its support for the Draft action plan for the prevention of visual impairment 2014-2019 (A66/11) and the related resolution EB132.R1 calling for the endorsement of the 'universal eye health' plan of action."
- "the so-called morning-after pill....is a well-known chemical product (of the hormonal type) which has frequently...been presented...as a mere contraceptive or, more precisely, as an 'emergency contraceptive'....Only if this pill were to be taken several days before the moment of ovulation could it sometimes act to prevent [conception]....However, the woman who uses this kind of pill does so in the fear that she may be in her fertile period and therefore intends to cause the expulsion of a possible new conceptus; above all, it would be unrealistic to think that a woman, finding herself in the situation of wanting to use an emergency contraceptive, would be able to know exactly and opportunely her current state of fertility....it seems sufficiently clear that those who ask for or offer this pill are seeking the direct termination of a possible pregnancy already in progress, just as in the case of abortion.... 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."
Yet, bishops in the United States (and the NCBC) act as though there were exceptions. For example,
- There appears to have been no rescinding of the 9/23/98 statement from the Board of Governors of the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference (i.e., the diocesan bishops with the archbishop of Philadelphia as chair): "appropriate means may be used in treating the rape victim to prevent conception."
- As per a 9/28/07 statement from Connecticutt's Bishops, "Catholic moral teaching is adamantly opposed to abortion, but not to emergency contraception for victims of rape....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."
- As per the Fifth Edition of the USCCB's Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care (11/17/09): "36. 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."
- "it is well known that, when conception already has occurred, certain substances used in 'emergency contraception' produce an abortifacient effect. For my delegation, it is totally unacceptable to refer to a medical product that constitutes a direct attack on the life of the child in utero as a 'life-saving commodity' and, much worse, to encourage 'increasing use of such substances in all parts of the world.'"