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Texas bishops demand removal of laws protecting patients’ rights, Strickland dissents

Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler is the only bishop in Texas to refuse to sign the 'Statement on Scarce Healthcare Resources.'
Mon Mar 30, 2020 - 12:01 pm EST
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Bishop Joseph Strickland addresses the USCCB meeting Nov. 13, 2018. YouTube screen grab

AUSTIN, Texas, March 30, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) — Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler is the only bishop in Texas to refuse to sign a “Statement on Scarce Healthcare Resources” in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The document by the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops (TCCB) was published last Friday. It encourages Greg Abbott, the governor of the Lone Star State, to waive “regulations and statutes which could result in fines, civil liability, and even criminal charges for decisions related to the allocation of resources during this declared disaster.”

“Healthcare workers who sacrificially risk their own safety to save their patients’ lives should not have to fear punitive action for making the best possible decisions in extremely difficult situations,” the bishops wrote.

In his refusal to sign, bishop Strickland “has expressed the opinion the development of Mass Critical Care Guidelines is not appropriate for the residents of the Diocese of Tyler,” the statement noted in conclusion.

On Sunday, Strickland explained his decision, saying the TCCB statement, “while flowing from a laudable concern for the difficult challenges faced by health care professionals in respect to limited resources, fails to show a due regard for the importance of law and amounts to asking Governor Abbot to abandon the excellent laws he has helped put in place to protect the vulnerable.”

The bishop admitted the difficulty of making the correct decision in life-and-death situations when resources are limited. “Fortunately, and rightly, the law itself has a degree of flexibility in it that enables judges to be prudent and take into account factors that may lead to questionable decisions not motivated by malice of any kind but rather by misguided compassion.”

In this regard, Strickland called on judges, juries, and the public to be understanding, giving the benefit of the doubt to the people working in health care. “But to suspend the law altogether is to remove a major incentive for ensuring that due diligence is exercised in difficult times and puts the ill, vulnerable, poor, and marginalized at risk.”

The bishop of Tyler recalled that there are certain principles of moral theology that always have to be applied. “For example, the family should always be consulted and considered in making vital moral decisions such as these.” Similarly, the elderly, the disabled, and the most vulnerable “should always be protected and shown a love of preference,” as they are “the poor in our midst, during this pandemic.”

Texas Right to Life praised Strickland’s decision as “what appears to be a courageous stand for Life.” According to the pro-life organization, the bishop’s stance regarding “this overreach by the TCCB is in line with national health officials and the White House.”

Texas Right to Life also pointed out the irony of Catholic bishops asking “Governor Abbott, a Pro-Life Catholic, to release a new executive order that contradicts not only the very legislation that Governor Abbott worked to enact on behalf of vulnerable patients, but also to ignore White House recommendations.”

On Thursday, March 26, Deborah Birx, who coordinates the White House coronavirus response, emphasized that “there is no situation in the United States right now that warrants” a discussion about allocating scarce resources.

“We are reassured,” she said, “in meeting with our colleagues in New York that there are still ICU beds remaining and ... over 1,000 or 2,000 ventilators that have not been utilized.”

Texas Right to Life continued in its statement that bishop Strickland “likely recognized that during a global pandemic, when pro-death forces are advocating for anti-Life solutions, the leadership of our state, our medical field, and our churches must remain resolute to protect all vulnerable patients.”

If the state of Texas were to implement what the TCCB recommended, it would “effectively suspend all patient protections currently in law, violating the constitutional rights of vulnerable patients.”

“Regrettably,” Texas Right to Life added, “this action is consistent for the TCCB, which holds interests in hospitals and has opposed patient protections and needed reforms to medical ethics laws for each of the last 12 sessions of the Texas Legislature.”

Bishop Strickland had taken to Twitter one day before the “Statement on Scarce Healthcare Resources” was published. He stressed the importance of a consistent pro-life position. “Now is the time for all of us to embrace the Sanctity of Life. Life is God’s gift, from conception to natural death,” he wrote.

“If we willfully take a life anywhere along this spectrum it is simply MURDER. The elderly, impaired & infirm are now threatened as the unborn have been since 1973!”

He also recommended studying the encyclical Evangelium Vitae, which “we should all read again or read for the first time.” The document was written by Pope John Paul II in 1995 to stress the value and dignity of human life.

“May this crisis call all humanity back to the Sanctity of Life. If human life is treated as a commodity to be manipulated as we choose then NOTHING is sacred,” Strickland tweeted.

As LifeSiteNews reported, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the state of Texas had mandated that elective abortions be canceled.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has increased demands for hospital beds and has created a shortage of personal protective equipment needed to protect healthcare professionals and stop transmission of the virus,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton explained.

“Postponing surgeries and procedures that are not immediately medically necessary will ensure that hospital beds are available for those suffering from COVID-19 and that PPEs are available for healthcare professionals,” he added.


  catholic, coronavirus, greg abbott, hospitals, joseph strickland, patients rights, texas bishops

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