Monday, January 28, 2013

Unbelievably Un-Catholic Hospitals

**Update:  According to CNN, the hospital in question has since recanted and apologized for its attorneys' court arguments, saying, "it was 'morally wrong' to make the argument while defending itself in a wrongful death lawsuit." Good!

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Can you believe this? A supposedly Catholic hospital in Colorado has won a lawsuit by 
claiming that a fetus is not legally a person until it is born!

Okay, while you should be shocked, you are probably just shaking your head sadly, and are not surprised at all. But it is shameful, to say the least.

The case in Colorado involved the death of a young mother pregnant with twins (who also both died); you can read the whole story here.  Amazingly enough, Catholic Health Initiatives (the owner of the hospital) has made the official statement that

"In this case... as Catholic organizations, (we) are in union with the moral teachings of the Church."

Huh?! It’s quite difficult to reconcile the hospital’s argument that  “the fetus is not legally a person until it is born” with Church teaching which says explicitly and clearly that life begins at conception, and which upholds the dignity of the human person without respect to location inside or outside the womb.

I was surprised to find, though, that this wasn’t the first time such an argument has been made by a Catholic hospital. In 1998, according to a LifeSiteNews story,

St. Peter’s University Hospital in New Brunswick, New Jersey was reported by the Associated Press as saying that fetuses are “not persons” so as to escape a lawsuit brought by the parents of twins who died in utero.

It seems to me that the legal teams for these hospitals are simply using state laws to argue their cases in court; I suppose that is reasonable, to an extent. However, the state laws are not reflective of natural law, and they are not reflective of Catholic moral teaching. A Catholic hospital using un-Catholic laws to avoid taking responsibility for its mistakes is deplorable…but it is a “sign of the times”. Attorneys go to court to win their cases, not to stand up for what is right and good and true.

Not a person?
I have written a few times on this blog about Catholic hospitals, and the fact that they seem to be…not very Catholic at all.  As I’ve said before, I have a sneaking suspicion that there are very few truly Catholic hospitals in this nation.  To some extent, most of them have sold out to secular values or “ecumenical” views, and they sell contraceptives in their pharmacies, perform direct sterilizations, and sometimes even kill unborn babies. And even if they don’t kill babies on site, some of these hospitals employ counselors, nurses, and/or doctors who suggest such things to their patients.

Here are a few of the events that have transpired over the years that indicate the deterioration (obliteration?) of the Catholic identity of our Catholic hospitals:

·         In February of 2010, Bishop Robert F. Vasa severed the relationship of the Diocese of Baker with St. Charles Medical Center in Bend, Oregon, largely due to the fact that the hospital was performing direct sterilizations in the form of tubal ligations. The director of the hospital implied that this practice takes place in many “Catholic” hospitals – but the administrators simply do not discuss it with the local bishop.

·         Also in 2010, Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted of Phoenix, Arizona, stripped a hospital of its Catholic status because at least one abortion had been committed there.

·         A friend told me that Catholic hospital personnel suggested she abort her unborn baby solely because she was having some psycho-emotional problems.

·         A few years ago, the state of Oregon passed a law requiring hospitals to offer “emergency contraception” to rape victims, regardless of “conscience” considerations, and the bishops did nothing to fight the passage of the law.

·         In October 2007, the bishops in Connecticut decided to allow Catholic hospitals in their state to conform to government pressure to provide the “day after” pill for rape victims.

I mentioned in two previous posts (here and here) that about four years ago, I looked at every Catholic hospital or medical group website I could find on the internet. I found that many mentioned their “Catholic tradition” and also made note that they were in compliance with a document issued by the USCCB called “Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Services” (ERDs for short).  But about two years ago, in another quick survey of Catholic medical group websites, I found little mention of the ERDs.

I maintain that the secularization of Catholic hospitals was largely accomplished a number of years ago.  One reason for that is that they are not run by Catholics! I don’t know exact figures, but I’ll be you’d be hard-pressed to find more than a handful of faithful Catholics in the upper management positions of many of these hospitals, and especially in the umbrella organizations that own them, like Catholic Health Initiatives.

A year ago, I wrote a post about a news article that reported that then-Catholic HealthCare West was dropping its Catholic affiliation and changing its name to “Dignity Health”. The hospital maintained that (my emphases):

The change will have no effect on any patients or the medical care provided at the 25 Catholic and 15 secular hospitals in the system.

Really?! Then either those 25 Catholic hospitals were not adhering to the ERD’s anyway, or they were following them and were not going to change that fact with the name. I hate to be a pessimist, but I’m betting on the former. A Catholic hospital is supposed to have a Catholic identity. If dropping the Catholic affiliation doesn’t change anything about the hospital’s services and medical care provision, then it wasn’t Catholic in the first place.

I think it’s clear that we’ve lost our Catholic hospitals. The task now is to reclaim them. That’s going to be very difficult with the Obama administration working to undermine conscience rights, etc.  It will require some very strong bishops who are willing to fight for Catholic identity, not just in hospitals, but in schools, social services, and every area of society where Catholic institutions already exist.

It will require willingness to go to jail. It will require willingness to face persecution.


  1. I'm thinking the lawyers arguing this case were from the insurance company and not the hospital. Their job is to keep the insurance company from having to pay out millions of dollars. I have no solution to this problem (which is odd since I usually have a solution for just about anything. heh)

  2. You could well be right, Adrienne. The name of the game is money. That's true not just of Catholic hospitals, of course, but of society in general. We're more interested in making or saving a buck than in truly doing the right thing. Sad.

    As for solutions...yeah, you and me, with our solutions we could change the world!!! Reminds me of a former pastor of mine who used to say, "Well, I'm not God...and you can be glad I'm not!"

  3. They definitely were from the insurance company or an outside firm.
    My dad is a solidly Catholic lawyer, and even he said that the law is what it is, even if it is in error. One can only argue what it says. How could he actually argue the case? And besides, a lawyer shouldn't deliberately lose a case in this fashion. That would be unethical.

  4. Perhaps so, Matthew. Still...the hospital could have decided not to contest it, or settled out of court or something. And the hospital didn't have to turn around and sue the poor guy for $118,000 to cover their court costs!

  5. Perhaps it shouldn't be a fight for control of the people by means of laws but perhaps the church should provide guidance instead. A law should be universal for one thing so any church should have no part in it and a church wanting to save people shouldn't want to control them but to serve and love them. Simple idea but it seems to get lost quite often and unfortunately with great costs.


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