Just a quickie: the editorial column of the New York Times ( i.e., the opinion of the paper’s editors themselves) has come out against Catholic hospitals in the U.S. which, on Church orders, restrict medically-mandated abortions. The column, “When bishops direct medical care,” rests on a lawsuit filed the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of a Michigan woman whose water broke at 18 weeks. Standard procedure in such cases is to induce abortion to remove the fetus (which is nearly always doomed in such cases) and prevent infection. The Catholic hospital she was in, however, obeyed their bishop’s directive and sent her home—twice. When she returned a third time, feverish from an infection produced by Catholic “medical care,” she miscarried.
As the Times notes, the interesting aspect of the case is that the woman is suing not the hospital, but the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops—the big guys with the hats who give the orders:
The A.C.L.U. is arguing, on her behalf, that having issued the mandates and made them conditions of hospital affiliation, the conference is responsible for “the unnecessary trauma and harm” that Ms. Means and “other pregnant women in similar situations have experienced at Catholic-sponsored hospitals.”
This is one of those cases, like polygamy, where the need for social cohesion and individual autonomy overrides religious freedom. I find it horrifying that Catholic doctors and hospitals would rather see a mother and fetus both die than remove a doomed fetus. This would not occur, of course, without the religious dictate that considers a fetus as a full person with a soul. And, of course, mothers and fetuses have died in such situations. What kind of morality is that?
The Bishops, as usual, make themselves look worse by trying to claim that they’re being persecuted. They should just learn to shut up in such cases:
In a statement last Friday, the president of the bishops’ group, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, said that the religious directives did not encourage or require substandard medical treatment. He also portrayed the case as an attack on religious freedom — the same unpersuasive argument the bishops are making against the new federal health care law’s requirement that all plans include contraception coverage.
The first part of this is, of course, a lie: the directives do encourage substandard medical care—care that endangers two lives instead of one. The second part is misleading, for religious freedom ends when it takes away a woman’s right to live. Thankfully, the Times doesn’t waffle in its view:
Allowing religious doctrine to prevail over the need for competent emergency care and a woman’s right to complete and accurate information about her condition and treatment choices violates medical ethics and existing law.
The bishops are free to worship as they choose and advocate for their beliefs. But those beliefs should not shield the bishops from legal accountability when church-affiliated hospitals following their rules cause patients harm.
It is this kind of behavior that will doom the Catholic church. Unwavering in its dogma, even in light of changing secular morality, and holding stands that are ridiculous (as when they oppose HPV vaccination for women, implicitly arguing that getting cancer is better than having sex), the Church will eventually be forced to alter its stands—or wane to being a small sect. Can there be any doubt that the official stands of the Catholic church are evil and immoral? Those who remain Catholic are complicit in this evil, even if they oppose some Church dogma.