Sunday, October 16, 2016

As a Democrat from about 1978 till early 2016 and a native of Brooklyn, New York, no one needs to tell me that Donald Trump has long been a jerk.  When our kids were young and we'd drive back to New York, our route would take us along the Belt Parkway through the Brighton Beach section of Brooklyn.  My kids would ask about the housing development to our right, and I'd explain that it was "Trump Village" - built by Donald's old man.  I'd go on about how the supposed "financial genius" had received a ton of money from Fred.  It took a while before I caught on to the fact that my kids were teasing me - they'd be in hysterics as I'd be repeating a tale for the thousandth time.

I don't understand how NYC ever allowed its prestigious 5th Avenue of St. Patrick's Cathedral, Rockefeller Center, FAO Schwartz, and Tiffany's to be joined by the gaudy Trump Tower!  And on an issue of far more seriousness, you only need to walk a block or two from the casinos to realize that Donald Trump and his cronies did not bring an economic boom to that impoverished town!  And after he tossed aside the bride of his youth, how did Christian denominations bless "marriages" 2 and 3?  Donald Trump has long been a jerk with plenty of sycophantic enablers. 

I very much stay on top of federal legislation/issues being advocated by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, be it the sanctity of human life or marriage/family, as well as immigration, incarceration, etc.   I very much stay on top of state human life and marriage/family legislation advocated by the Pennsylvania Bishops, through the Pa Catholic Conference.  I regularly write to Pa's delegation in D.C. and Bucks County's delegation in Harrisburg about the bishops' concerns.  While I am not a "single issue" voter, there are certain things that any careful reading of the Catechism informs us are non-negotiable.  Toward the end of the second presidential debate, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were asked about Supreme Court choices:
  • Clinton: "....I want a Supreme Court that will stick with Roe v. Wade and a woman’s right to choose, and I want a Supreme Court that will stick with marriage equality.  Now, Donald has put forth the names of some people that he would consider. And among the ones that he has suggested are people who would reverse Roe v. Wade and reverse marriage equality. I think that would be a terrible mistake and would take us backwards...."
  • Trump: "....I am looking to appoint judges very much in the mold of Justice Scalia. I’m looking for judges — and I’ve actually picked 20 of them so that people would see, highly respected, highly thought of, and actually very beautifully reviewed by just about everybody.  But people that will respect the Constitution of the United States. And I think that this is so important...."
If elected, Hillary Clinton would tie Ronald Regan as the oldest elected to serve as president.  If elected, Donald Trump would break that record.  As common sense demands that we look carefully at those who would be just a heartbeat from the presidency, the words of Tim Kaine and Mike Pence toward the end of the vice presidential debate are very telling:

  • Kaine: "....I grew up in a wonderful household with great Irish Catholic parents....I was educated by Jesuits at Rockhurst High School in Kansas City....And I worked with Jesuit missionaries in Honduras....I try to practice my religion in a very devout way and follow the teachings of my church in my own personal life, but I don't believe....that the doctrines of any religion should be mandated for everyone...." 
  • Pence: "....I know Senator Kaine, you hold pro-life views personally, but the very idea that a child that is almost born into the world could still have their life taken from them is just anathema to me, and I can't conscious about a party that supports that....Hillary Clinton wants to repeal the long-standing provision in the law where we said we wouldn't use taxpayer dollars to fund for abortion. For me, my faith informs my all begins for me with cherishing the dignity, the worth, the value of every human life."
  • Kaine: "....We support Roe v. Wade....Governor Pence wants to repeal Roe v. Wade...."
  • Pence: "....there is a choice here and it is a choice on life. I couldn't be more proud to be standing with Donald Trump, who is standing for the right to life. It's a principle that Senator Kaine -- and I'm very gentle about this because I really do respect you -- it's a principle that you embrace and I’ve appreciated the fact you supported the Hyde Amendment, which bans funding for abortion in the past, but that's not Hillary Clinton's view...."
  • Pence: "A society can be judged by how it deals with its most vulnerable: the aged, the infirm, the disabled and the unborn. I believe it with all my heart, and I couldn't be more proud to be standing with a pro-life candidate in Donald Trump."
While I still think Donald Trump is a jerk, informed Catholics have no other choice than to support the Trump/Pence ticket.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Shrine of the Miraculous Medal

Shrine of St. John Neumann

" In December 1982, seven-year-old Chucky McGivern came home from school with the chicken pox. Three days later, he suddenly lost consciousness and was taken to the hospital. He was diagnosed with Reye's syndrome and his parents were told he might not survive, and that if he lived, he would probably have severe brain damage. His mother's cousin gave her a medal of St. John Neumann which she put near his head hoping it would help save him. His family began going to church more often and prayed regularly. Soon thereafter, his mother then noticed the medal somehow kept being flipped over. At around the same time, his father had an odd encounter in the hospital's waiting room. A mysterious small boy was there, also seen by several doctors and nurses, asking to see Chucky. A priest who came to administer the last rites for him felt that, instead of dying, Chucky McGivern would reverse courses, get better, and live through the disease.
"A few hours later, Chucky regained consciousness and soon was off life support. After he was conscious, he told his parents that he had seen the same boy that his father, the doctors, and nurses had seen. A few days before Christmas, he was released from the hospital. He and his parents later went to the shrine of St. John Neumann, and there he saw a picture of Neumann as a boy, and he was certain that it was the one that he saw in the hospital....

"The case first aired on the December 23, 1992 episode" [of "Unsolved Mysteries"] (

Sunday, July 17, 2016

So-Called Brain Death: Do "Precaution" and "Respect for the Life of the Donator" "Prevail", in an Absence of "Certainty"? Or Do Assumedly "Rigorously Applied" Criteria Now "SEEM" to "Conflict" with a "Sound Anthropology"?

Th USCCB's Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services for Catholic Health Care Services certainly encourage us to provide for donation of organs to others in medical need, which we cannot donate while we are alive (e.g., the heart).  Common sense alone dictates that verification of any donor's death is absolutely essential!  Pope Benedict XVI addressed the issue of determining an organ donor's death: 
  • "individual vital organs cannot be extracted except ex cadavere....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 (cf. Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 476)" (Address to Participants at an International Congress Organized by the Pontifical Academy for Life, 11/7/08).
To reiterate, "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."

Do "Precaution" and "Respect for the Life of the Donator"  "Prevail", in an Absence of "Certainty"?  Or Do Assumedly "Rigorously Applied" Criteria Now "SEEM" to "Conflict" with a "Sound Anthropology"?

  • "the criterion adopted in more recent times for ascertaining the fact of death, namely the complete and irreversible cessation of all brain activity, if rigorously applied, does not seem [emphasis added] to conflict with the essential elements of a sound anthropology." 
In noting the significance of the word "seem", Dr. Peter Colosi of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary has said:
  • "if further knowledge reveals that brain death does seem to conflict with a sound anthropology, this would remove the moral certainty referred to later in the quotation, and it would follow that vital organ donations should not be done" (Bioethics of Organ donation, Our Sunday Visitor, 8/8/12)
While Colosi notes that Dr. John Haas, president of the National Catholic Bioethics Center, believes that "brain dead people (whole brain death) are [indeed] dead," he indicated that other members of the Pontifical Academy for Life — Dr. Paul Byrne and Josef Seifert — cast doubt. In a letter to the OSV editor, it was added that two other then members of the Academy — Judie Brown and Mercedes Arzu Wilson — shared those doubts.

Dr. Paul Byrne

Dr. Byrne is a neonatologist, clinical professor of pediatrics and past president of the Caholic Medical Association (USA):
  • "Dr. Paul Adam Byrne...was...the only physician to stand in the public square and declare, regardless of the official diagnosis of brain death, that Jahi McMath was not dead. The medical, legal, political and religious communities almost without exception, were silent ....In order to understand why this declaration of brain death is so important to the medical profession and its association with organ transplantation it is necessary to know something about how and why this diagnosis was developed....
"1967, South Africa, Dr. Christiaan Barnard performed the first heart transplant, from a living donor,  prior to any brain death declaration. Three days later, in New York, a heart was removed from a 3 day old baby and transferred into the body of an 18 day old baby. Both died, the 3 day old died when his heart was removed, the 18 day old died within hours of the transplant. 
"1968, An Ad Hoc Committee of the  Harvard Medical School published an article entitled, 'A definition of Irreversible Coma.' The first line of the article states that: 'Our primary purpose is to define irreversible coma as a new criterion for death.' 
"1971, The Minnesota Criteria, followed by 30 'disparate sets of criteria' including the 1975 American Bar Association - ABA - referred to as the Uniform Determination of Death Act, or UDDA. 

"The UDDA codified several definitions stepping off from the basically recognized Common Law which was for a multitude of decades  the accepted criteria of cessation of heart and respiratory activity.  The UDDA added loss of brain and brain stem activity as another means of determining at least legally the death of a human being....

"The UDDA, according to Dr. Byrne, is a legal tool enabling the medical profession to bypass the understanding and reality of non-total death without placing the transplant doctor and team in the position of being charged with criminal activity when organs needed to sustain life are removed from one living body, causing instant death and placed into another living body to facilitate the continuation of that life....

"Truth, he says, is simple. Life begins at true conception (not what the abortion industry says is conception) and true death occurs when all bodily functions stop and decomposition begins, as opposed to what the UDDA declares death to be" (Dr. Paul A. Byrne: A Man on a Mission, Spero News, 3/11/14).

  • If you click here and move to 22:35, you will hear a radio "debate" between Dr. Byrne and National Catholic Bioethics Center President Dr. John Haas (NOT a physician).  While Byrne suggests that Haas is "misleading the world" on so-called "brain death",  Haas speaks as though Pope John Paul II unequivocally endorsed so-called brain death criteria (Kresta in the Afternoon, 1/8/14). 

Josef Seifert

  • "we are led to the conclusion that this new definition of death ought to be rejected....Given the immense practical pressure (from the established centers of organ-transplant medicine) on each institution regarding this matter, and given the duty towards the truth, we must certainly refuse to adapt to prevailing modern opinion on death simply because it prevails.  Each one of us must resist the temptation to adjust his position on any issue in accordance with social expectations and desires of hospitals....we have the task to speak out on the truth in season and out of season, while undertaking every effort to make the truth understood and accepted by men" (Is Brain Death Actually Death?, 1993)

Judie Brown

  • "The problem with using a diagnosis of 'brain death' to pronounce a person dead is that the definition of brain death itself is imprecise and can lead to killing a living person by removing a ventilator or feeding tube.  Removal of a ventilator causes death by suffocation, while removal of a feeding tube causes death by starvation. Either way, 'brain death' itself didn’t cause the death; death was imposed on the living patient....Because the 'brain death' diagnosis is inexact, it can easily be abused....Death is the total cessation of all brain activity, including the brain stem, combined with the cessation of cardiopulmonary functions. Neither the cessation of brain activity nor the cessation of cardiopulmonary functions alone is sufficient. A person is either truly dead or he is still living. The 'brain death' diagnosis indicates that, in fact, the patient is not actually dead" (Celebrate Life Magazine, March/April 2014)

Mercedes Arzu Wilson

  • "Is the Roman Catholic Church in imminent danger of becoming an accomplice in the sacrificing of 'brain dead' donors before their natural end? Many Catholic scientists, physicians, philosophers, and theologians are in deep anguish at having to plead with the Church's leadership to stop high-ranking Vatican officials from openly supporting the theory that 'brain death' constitutes a person's natural end. Such support would sanction the removal of organs from patients who are still alive....

    "In November 2008, an International Congress entitled 'A Gift for Life' was organized by the Pontifical Academy for Life, in collaboration with the World Federation of Catholic Medical Associations and the Italian National Transplant Centre....the Scientific Committee of the conference included individuals actively involved in the billion-dollar business of organ transplantation, such as presidents of European and Italian transplant societies. It also included Transplantation Societies of Europe and Canada, a 'Catholic' bioethics center from the USA (not an official entity of the Catholic Church) [?] that is aggressively in favor of 'brain death' as true death, and others of similar special interests" (Save The "Brain Dead" Victims, The Wanderer, 2009).

Is the National Catholic Bioethics Center "aggessively in favor of 'brain death' as true death," as Mercedes Arzu Wilson Appears to Have Intimated?

For July 2016, the National Catholic Bioethics Center has posted a 2011 article by its president.  The abstract states (in part):
  • "This article is not a defense of the legitimacy of neurological criteria for determining death but rather a presentation of the moral guidance currently offered by the Church on the legitimacy of organ donation after death has been determined by their use."  
The article appears to be dismissive and/or critical of those who embrace Catholic teaching but disagree with its author. For example, it identifies Paul Byrne, MD, as simply a "pediatrician", rather than neonatologist, clinical professor of pediatrics, and past president of the Catholic Medical Association (cf, Spero News, 3/11/14), as well as a past member of the Pontifical Academy for Life.  It should be kept in mind that the Holy Father Emeritus and Saint Pope John Paul II certainly appear to have acknowledged the legitimacy of concerns about "precaution" and "respect for the life of the donator" in an absence of "certainty," as well as whether criteria are indeed "rigorously applied" and can still be said to NOT "SEEM" to "conflict" with a "sound anthropology."

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Easter 1916 - 100 years later (April 24, 2016)

Forty six years before my birth in Brooklyn, my father was born in 1912 Dublin, Ireland.  He was the youngest of seven in a Catholic family.  After he died in 1984, all those siblings outlived him – three of them in the New York area.  I would look in on his oldest brother, Andy, who was actually old enough to be my great-grandfather.  But, I’ve gotten ahead of myself….

In the 5th century A.D., a teen from Roman-Britain was kidnapped and enslaved in Ireland.  Though he later escaped, he was to return to the land of his captivity as a bishop. Saint Patrick’s influence was nothing short of phenomenal with dramatic declines in war and murder, as well as an end to the Irish slave trade. And when the Roman Empire collapsed, the monks of Ireland preserved the writings of Western Civilization.

Fast forward to the 16th century and we find that King Henry VIII has decided to divorce his wife, Catherine of Aragon, so as to marry Anne Boleyn. In reaction to the Pope’s refusal to annul Henry’s marriage to Catherine, Henry declared himself head of the church of England (Of the 5 women he attempted to marry after Catherine, he had two beheaded!).  Subsequently, there were times when it was illegal to be Catholic in England or her territories.  “Penal laws” are said to have been enforced more vigorously in Ireland than elsewhere in the realm.  

Center City Philadelphia’s Irish Memorial reminds us of "Ireland's Great Hunger of 1845 - 1850 when more than one million Irish were starved to death and another million forced to emigrate."  There is a strong belief that England conveniently and deliberately ignored what was happening:  

“Back in Famine time, the same potato crop disease occurred most heavily in Scotland, outside Ireland, yet there were relatively few casualties as the landowners and government ensured, for their own sakes as much as anything, that there was no mass death.  That was not the case in Ireland, where a very different mentality prevailed. The damned Irish were going to get what they deserved because of their attachment to Catholicism and Irish ways when they were refusing to toe the British line…. every possible effort by local organizations to feed the starving were [sic] thwarted and frustrated by a British government intent on teaching the Irish a lesson and forcing market forces on them” (Niall O’Dowd, Irish Central, 3/8/16).

So many of the descendants of those who managed to escape the famine now call America their home.  They had a profound impact on Catholicism in America, which had been rather small, until their arrival.   

I can now finally get back to Long Island of the mid to late 1980s.  A prolific reader, Uncle Andy would talk of family and Irish history in a fascinating and witty way.  While Uncle Joe was an Augustinian priest and Aunt Kitty was a Mercy nun, Uncle Andy’s tales could be highly critical of Catholicism and Irish nationalism, setting him at odds with all of his siblings.  So much of it seems to have been his reaction to events he personally witnessed in the Dublin of his late teens:

“‘Easter 1916’ by William Butler Yeats is one of the most famous poems written in English in modern times. It commemorates the doomed Irish rebellion that occurred at Easter a century ago….One of the Irish leaders was Patrick Pearse, who was obsessed with ideas of redemption through blood….Following the logic of his teaching, on Easter Monday 1916, Pearse joined other nationalists, both Catholic and secular, in a suicidal rising against British power” (Phillip Jenkins, Aletia, 3/28/16). 

While Ireland is now commemorating the 100th anniversary of the “Easter Rebellion,” many Irish Americans seem to have romanticized notions of what actually happened.  After Uncle Andy’s death, I came across Peter DeRosa’s “Rebels: The Irish Rising of 1916” and better appreciated that Uncle Andy gave me an eyewitness account of pivotal 20th Century events.  And while Ireland had undoubtedly suffered much, the suicidal undertakings of Pearse and others do not stand up to a Catholic “just war” analysis:
The strict conditions for legitimate defense by military force require rigorous consideration. The gravity of such a decision makes it subject to rigorous conditions of moral legitimacy. At one and the same time:
- the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain;
- all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective;
- there must be serious prospects of success;
- the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. The power of modern means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition.
These are the traditional elements enumerated in what is called the ‘just war’ doctrine.
The evaluation of these conditions for moral legitimacy belongs to the prudential judgment of those who have responsibility for the common good” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #2309).

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

re: "Pope Francis, the Zika Virus, and Contraception" (Witherspoon Institute, 2/23/16)

The Centers for Disease Control acknowledges that:   
  • "The most common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, joint pain, or conjunctivitis (red eyes). Other common symptoms include muscle pain and headache. The incubation period (the time from exposure to symptoms) for Zika virus disease is not known, but is likely to be a few days to a week....
  • "The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting for several days to a week after being bitten by an infected mosquito.
  • "People usually don’t get sick enough to go to the hospital, and they very rarely die of Zika. For this reason, many people might not realize they have been infected.
  • "Zika virus usually remains in the blood of an infected person for about a week but it can be found longer in some people.
  • "Once a person has been infected, he or she is likely to be protected from future infections....
  • "There is no vaccine to prevent or specific medicine to treat Zika infections.
  • "Treat the symptoms:
    • "Get plenty of rest.
    • "Drink fluids to prevent dehydration.
    • "Take medicine such as acetaminophen (Tylenol®) to relieve fever and pain.
    • "Do not take aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
    • "If you are taking medicine for another medical condition, talk to your healthcare provider before taking additional medication.
  • "If you have Zika, prevent mosquito bites for the first week of your illness.
    • "During the first week of infection, Zika virus can be found in the blood and passed from an infected person to a mosquito through mosquito bites.
    • "An infected mosquito can then spread the virus to other people."
While it includes a plug for "consistent and correct use of latex condoms," the CDC's Interim Guidelines for Prevention of Sexual Transmission of Zika Virus — United States, 2016 is otherwise rather modest about its knowledge:
"Infection with Zika virus is asymptomatic in an estimated 80% of cases (2,3), and when Zika virus does cause illness, symptoms are generally mild and self-limited. Recent evidence suggests a possible association between maternal Zika virus infection and adverse fetal outcomes, such as congenital microcephaly (4,5), as well as a possible association with Guillain-Barré syndrome....Current information about possible sexual transmission of Zika is based on reports of three cases....Whether infected men who never develop symptoms can transmit Zika virus to their sex partners is unknown. Sexual transmission of Zika virus from infected women to their sex partners has not been reported....
"Men who reside in or have traveled to an area of active Zika virus transmission who have a pregnant partner should abstain from sexual activity or consistently and correctly use condoms ...for the duration of the pregnancy....
"After infection, Zika virus might persist in semen when it is no longer detectable in blood....
"At this time, testing of men for the purpose of assessing risk for sexual transmission is not recommended. As we learn more about the incidence and duration of seminal shedding from infected men and the utility and availability of testing in this context, recommendations to prevent sexual transmission of Zika virus will be updated."
In our 24/7 news world, many - especially some in the media like Paloma Garcis Overjero - seem ready to liken Zika to Bubonic Plague!  Do I even detect an unspoken misandry that disparages the very notion that husbands can indeed "abstain from sexual activity" during the course of their wives' pregnancy? 
"Holy Father, for several weeks there’s been a lot of concern in many Latin American countries but also in Europe regarding the Zika virus. The greatest risk would be for pregnant women. There is anguish. Some authorities have proposed abortion, or else to avoiding pregnancy. As regards avoiding pregnancy, on this issue, can the Church take into consideration the concept of 'the lesser of two evils?'"
While the Holy Father adroitly reminded Paloma Garcis Overjero that abortion "is a crime, an absolute evil," some of his response seemed confusing. "….Paul VI, a great man, in a difficult situation in Africa, permitted nuns to use contraceptives in cases of rape….” [i] suggests that Pope Francis was thinking about hormonal (so called) contraceptives, when Paloma Garcis Overjero was probably talking about condoms.  In any case, I absolutely and firmly agree with the Tollefson conclusion that:
"Catholics who accept their Church’s teaching on contraception (and others who accept natural law arguments against it) should refrain from using contraceptives in this case [i.e., transmission of Zika]. There can, of course, be serious reasons to abstain from sexual intercourse, and the possibility of maternal-fetal transmission of Zika is surely one such reason. Couples concerned about the health of their children should give that serious consideration and in some cases, at least, judge that abstention is the prudent course of action" [By the way, fabulous information is available about fertility awareness / abstaining which almost seems kept secret!].
In getting to his conclusion, Tollefson also seemed to confuse condoms with hormonal (so-called) contraceptives, wading into the use of those hormonal (so-called) contraceptives to treat victims of sexual assault.  While he did not mention it, I assume that he is familiar with the U.S. Conference of Catholics Bishop's Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services (5th ed.):
"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."
The Vatican's 2000 ''Statement on the so-called 'Morning After Pill''' and 2008 "Dignitas Personae" (i.e., Section 23) struck me as indicating that any use of hormonal (so-called) contraceptives would be illicitin a Catholic hospital. Dignitas Personae certainly provides no guidelines for any supposed "moral" use of either a interceptive or a contragestative.  Yet interpreting Dignitas Personae as calling for discontinuing all use of hormonal (so-called) contraceptives for treating victims of sexual assault was hastily dismissed by powerful forces, such as the Catholic Health Association of the USA in its "Talking Points on Dignitas Personae": 
"Comments in S 23 may raise some questions....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" (A condensed version of "Talking Points on Dignitas Persona" can  be found on pages 6 and 7 of the January 2009 newsletter of the Catholic Health Association of Minnesota.).
Use of so-called hormonal (so-called) contraceptives has apparently continued at Catholic hospitals, despite critiques from physicians:  
Catholic health care facilities, Catholic health care professionals, and Catholic moral theologians should be on their rooftops proclaiming the wonderful truth of what the Church proclaims about marriage/family/sexuality and the fabulous information available about fertility awareness!  Isn't the use of potentially abortifacient drugs absolutely inconsistent with the life-affirming care, which should characterize Catholic health care facilities and Catholic health care professionals?

[i] "A controversy initially stirred by Pope John Paul II's public opposition to abortion for victims of rape in Bosnia-Herzegovina prompted the Vatican on Thursday to issue a highly unusual denial that it ever permitted the use of contraceptive pills by Catholic nuns in dangerous areas....[It was] reported that nuns working in parts of Latin America and Africa in the 1960s and '70s used contraceptive pills because they feared rape and pregnancy....the Vatican's deputy spokesman, Monsignor Piero Pennacchini, said Thursday that there were 'no Vatican documents in this regard' authorizing the use of the contraceptive pill for nuns in dangerous areas to avoid pregnancy" (NY Times News Service, 3/5/1993).  Though it had been dismissed, I recall hearing this anecdote in 1996 from an eminent Catholic moral theologian.  While it has now resurfaced, we now know the abortifacient potential of those hormonal (so called) contraceptives!

Monday, February 15, 2016

Hosptials in the Archdiocese with Catholic Sounding Names

John M. Haas, Ph.D., S.T.L., K.M., President
National Catholic Bioethics Center
6399 Drexel Rd
Philadelphia, PA 19151

Dear Dr. Haas and associates,

On behalf of Cardinal Rigali, Joseph J. Sweeney, Jr. thanked me six years ago for airing my concerns about "the fidelity of Catholic health care facilities in the region to their Catholic identity and mission."  He indicated that an independent ethical review had been done and was shared with Bishop Timothy Senior.  In a meeting in your office almost five years ago, you advised me that you shared my concerns about ongoing egregious situations in Catholic hospitals and would be arranging for both of us to meet with Bishop McIntyre.  It is disappointing that there was no follow through.

Though they continue to have Catholic sounding names, it strikes me as a stretch to claim that we have any "Catholic" hospitals in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.  Judging by their medical personnel, these facilities not only appear unprepared to offer authentic Catholic OBGYN care, but it appears that they could easily mislead ill-informed Catholics about what is acceptable.   

As you must be aware, only seven NFP-only physicians - of any specialty - have been identified in the Philadelphia area
  • Joseph F Harryhill MD Specialty: Vasectomy Reversal (Radnor)
  • George Isajiw MD Specialty: Internal Medicine (Lansdowne)
  •  Alfred Mauriello ll MD Specialty: ENT (Exton)
  • Monique Ruberu MD Specialty: GYN ONLY (Meadowbrook)
  • Lester Ruppersberger DO Specialty: OB/GYN (Langhorne)
  • Eleanor Tiongson MD Specialty: Family Practice (Drexel Hill)
  • William Williams MD Specialty: Rheumatology (Philadelphia)

Bravo to Drs Harryhill, Isajiw, Mauriello, Ruberu, Ruppersberger, Tiongson, and Williams!  Their very rarity should raise enormous concerns:

While the National Catholic Bioethics Center offers trainings/certifications, their only chance of effectiveness would be if hospitals with Catholic sounding names were motivated for change.  As the character Che advised in Evita, "When the money keeps rolling in, you don't ask how.  Exorbitant CEO salaries strike me as a likely motivator for maintaining the status quo:  
  • Michael B. Laign is President/CEO of Holy RedeemerFor 2013, Laign is reported to have received $816,283 in total compensation.
  • Dan Moen is Interim President and CEO of St Mary Medical CenterFor 2013, Moen's predecessor, Greg Wozniak, is reported to have received $775,260 in total compensation.
  • Susan Croushore is the [Interim/] President and CEO of Mercy Health SystemFor 2013, Croushore's predecessor, David H. Clark, is reported to have received $1,524,810 in total compensation.
Aren't the words of the Pope Emeritus applicable to the use of the "Catholic" designation by these hospitals with Catholic sounding names? 


P.S. In my opinion, neither Saint Mary's Advanced Directives and Living Wills nor Holy Redeemer's Making Your Own Health Care Decisions clearly specify Catholic teaching with regard to nutrition and hydration, and that health care services cannot honor advance directives (e.g., non-specific directives to forego nutrition and hydration) opposed to Catholic teaching.

The Beatitudes from "Jesus of Nazareth"


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

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