Monday, February 27, 2012

Catholic Hospitals Are...Not

An article at Catholic Culture is entitled: “Cardinal George: no Catholic hospitals in 2 years unless HHS mandate is rescinded”. In the article, Cardinal George is quoted as saying:

What will happen if the HHS regulations are not rescinded? A Catholic institution, so far as I can see right now, will have one of four choices: 1) secularize itself, breaking its connection to the Church, her moral and social teachings and the oversight of its ministry by the local bishop. This is a form of theft. It means the Church will not be permitted to have an institutional voice in public life.  [see the article for the other three choices]

Here’s the problem I have with this kind of talk: it’s duplicitous.

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.

I mentioned in two previous posts (here and here) that about three 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 a year and a half ago, in another quick survey of Catholic medical group websites, I found little mention of the ERDs.

A few independent events, when viewed together, suggest to me that Catholic hospitals are generally lacking in Catholicity:

·         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.

·         And of course, Mitt Romney is currently taking some heat for his part in assuring that even Catholic hospitals in Massachusetts would be required to provide “emergency contraception”.

·         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 maintain that the "secularization" of Catholic hospitals (which Cardinal George notes in the above quote is an unacceptable choice) was largely accomplished a number of years ago. I agree with Cardinal George, though, that “this is a form of theft”. Unfortunately, the theft occurred not because the thief broke down the door or robbed us at gunpoint, but because the bishops opened up the storehouse and freely gave away the treasures. The bishops themselves are guilty of theft. 

Cardinal George also said:

…The strangest accusation in this manipulated public discussion has the bishops not respecting the separation between church and state. The bishops would love to have the separation between church and state we thought we enjoyed just a few months ago, when we were free to run Catholic institutions in conformity with the demands of the Catholic faith, when the government couldn’t tell us which of our ministries are Catholic and which not, when the law protected rather than crushed conscience. The state is making itself into a church.

Again, this is fine talk, but the fact is that any entity that wants to accept government funds is likely to find themselves at the mercy of that government at some point. The money isn’t “free”; there are strings attached.  If the bishops want “separation between church and state”, then they are going to simply have to separate the Church from dependence on the government to do works of charity.

I’m happy to see bishops stepping up and speaking out on these issues. But there is so much work to be done in correcting the bad catechesis of the faithful that has led us to this point! It is not enough for the bishops to talk about “religious freedom” in this country. They’ve got to start preaching the Truth in order to reclaim the souls that were entrusted to them in the first place. As Fr. Michael Rodriguez wrote in a recent article in The Remnant,

…Central to the bishop’s munus docendi (teaching office) is “to proclaim always and everywhere the moral principles of the social order.” (#120)  U.S. Bishops, please teach with clarity and charity that the following are intrinsic evils:  abortion, homosexual acts, contraception, and direct sterilization (against fertility) (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2271, 2357, 2370, 2399).  Use your full episcopal authority to instruct all Catholics that each of these mortal sins is never acceptable, no Catholic may support anyone else in committing these terrible crimes against God, and every single Catholic must oppose these sins both in the private and public spheres.

The Son of God did not come down from heaven to “be free” and guarantee “First Amendment rights.”  No, He took flesh from the Immaculate Virgin Mary, in order to die on the cross, vanquish sin, and witness to the truth.  Only the truth safeguarded in the “womb” of the Catholic Church can set us free.

Update: I just saw this story at LifeSiteNews: Catholic hospitals in seven states conducted 20,073 sterilizations in three years: study


The Illusory Catholic Hospital, Part I
The Illusory Catholic Hospital, Part II

Oh, and don't forget Catholic Health Care West's decision to drop their "Catholic" identity. See The End of Catholic Hospitals?

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