WASHINGTON, Nov 30 ( – Catholic bishops in the US were urged by the Vatican to tighten regulations governing Catholic hospitals. This followed after several acquisitions and mergers in the US led to Catholic and Catholic-affiliated hospitals providing sterilization, abortifacient contraception and morning-after pills.* However, the November 15 discussion of the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services (ERDs) document seems to have weakened the directives rather than strengthened them.

Tragically, the Catholic Health Association (CHA) in the US has been at loggerheads with the Vatican over the directives. The CHA, under president and CEO Rev. Michael Place, is claiming that a tightening of the directives, to allow them to reflect authentic Catholicism, would result in the loss of Catholic health care altogether, which at least rules out surgical abortions.

It appears that the CHA and the vocal Catholics For a Free Choice have won out over Vatican concerns. The Miami Herald reported Tuesday that the new revisions deleted descriptions of sterilization as “evil” and a declaration that contraception is “absolutely forbidden.” The Catholic News Service reported Nov. 21 that Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk of Cincinnati said, in stating the case for revisions: “New situations have arisen, in the already complex world of health care, to which earlier expressions of traditional moral principles seem no longer wholly adequate.”

The revised directives delete an appendix concerning cooperation that appeared in the 1995 edition. “It is difficult to find an articulation of the principles governing cooperation that enjoys a consensus among theologians,” explained Abp. Pilarczyk. In its place is a new directive: “Catholic health care organizations are not permitted to engage in immediate material cooperation in wrongdoing” and that is to be subject to “pastoral judgment.” In a response to a query about the possibility of scandal resulting from different dioceses making different judgments involving seemingly similar circumstances, Abp. Pilarczyk said, “Prudential judgment by definition cannot be standardized. Circumstances vary because no two Catholic-secular health care alliances are the same….We cannot guarantee virtue.”

Frances Kissling, director of the pro-abortion Catholics for a Free Choice, claimed partial credit for the newest revisions. She said, “this is a sign that both the Catholic bishops and the Catholic health systems want to negotiate with the Vatican behind the scenes. They are hopeful they can soften the language and get that accepted.” Her advice to have the watered-down directives accepted was to delay it until the pope dies. “Unless this pope dies before this issue is settled, there is very little chance that the Vatican is going to back down. I think we will see as much stalling as the bishops can muster.”

See the Miami Herald and the Catholic News Service coverage:



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