In Texas, a Catholic bishop made two hospitals cease doing tube-tying operations for women who are not going to have more babies. In Arizona, a nun was excommunicated and the hospital where she works was expelled from the church after 116 years for allowing doctors to terminate a pregnancy to save a woman's life. At the same time, some doctors and other health professionals have faced disciplinary action for refusing to perform procedures or provide medications that go against their religious beliefs.
Should Catholic hospitals be able to restrict doctors from performing common and legal medical practices? Do such restrictions unfairly impinge on the rights of non-Catholic patients and doctors, particularly those in rural or underserved areas where alternative hospitals are not readily available?
Elizabeth Tenety on January 24, 2011 8:00 PM
If somebody is a non-believer in our belief system and wants to undergo a legally valid procedure (which is sin according to us, the provider), the provider may explain its viewpoint to the consumer but then leave it to the consumer and let consumer answer God on this particular decision. Ultimately, it is the responsibility of each person to adhere to their own moral, ethical and spiritual beliefs.
There are many Catholic hospitals in poor communities where they serve a vital function. In most situations, they should be allowed to do so within the context of their own beliefs and should not be forced to go against them for the convenience of others. Again, if a serious and life threatening situation arises, then such hospitals must be able to bend their doctrines to save that life. In all other situations, they should be granted freedom of religion and appreciated for the service they provide.
Posted by Ramdas Lamb, on January 28, 2011 10:42 AM
America has a serious problem. Those that feel qualified to be our rulers, those credentialed in the right places, have decided that traditional morality must go, but many continue to cling to these worn out notions.
Posted by John Mark Reynolds, on January 27, 2011 3:45 PM
I have no problem with Catholic practice being imposed on Catholic people. I have great problems with a public hospital under Catholic auspices imposing Catholic practice on all doctors and all patients.
Posted by John Shelby Spong, on January 27, 2011 11:18 AM
While we respect that medical providers can and will disagree on matters of conscience, religious institutions that oppose specific services must still ensure that the services are available for the women who need them.
Posted by Debra W. Haffner, on January 26, 2011 2:30 PM
Catholic institutions have the right to be Catholic, just as Jewish institutions have the right to be Jewish, and just as any religious institution should be expected to conduct its affairs in a manner consistent with its beliefs.
Posted by Fr. Frank Pavone, on January 26, 2011 10:19 AM
The correct question for debate today is something else. It is whether sincerely held religious beliefs are generally entitled to the deference they have traditionally received under the Constitution and our way of life, or whether freedom of religion has become nothing more than a platitude, with little meaning or protection in today's workplace.
Posted by Michael Otterson, on January 25, 2011 5:44 PM
Anything, including philosophies and religion, that remains stagnant becomes fetid and eventually dies. Many ancient cultures have met this fate because they refused to meet the changing needs, hopes and aspirations of its followers. The Catholic religion is going the same way.
Posted by Arun Gandhi, on January 25, 2011 4:30 PM
In the interest of religious freedom, I find myself coming down on the side of allowing a religiously affiliated hospital to make decisions based on its most deeply held beliefs. In this instance, I disagree with a Catholic hospital's withholding a legal procedure from a patient. But I remember how I felt when I was faced with my government's possibly forcing the institution I love to violate one of our deeply held convictions.
If we are serious about our commitment to free exercise, then (sigh) the right of Catholic hospitals to restrict doctors from performing common and legal medical practices must be upheld. At the same time, the gulf between Catholic hospital care and any meaningful definition of full-service hospital care should be recognized.
I can understand why many would urge Catholicism to just get rid of so much legalese. However, it is just these kinds of efforts that have enabled Catholicism to last through two millennia. It may be an ecclesiastical mess, but it is our mess and we are prepared to serve God as best we can in spite of all.
Posted by Anthony M. Stevens-Arroyo, on January 25, 2011 2:26 PM
If an entity wants to call itself "Catholic," it needs to live up to the standards established by the Church....If people want different rules, they need to look elsewhere, not force their values on the Church.
Posted by Ronald Rychlak, on January 25, 2011 12:01 PM
Religion and health care should not mix. If the church want to use its hospitals to enforce narrow theological doctrines, let its leaders pay from them. As long as these institutions are receiving tax support, they should be required to provide the entire range of health services and respect the wishes and needs of patients.
How can a church have been so quick to have excommunicated a nun for allowing her hospital to do a procedure which destroyed a fetus yet ultimately saved a woman's life, yet have been so slow, or even interested in, getting rid of priests who molested innocent children for years?
Posted by Susan K. Smith, on January 25, 2011 5:39 AM
I feel the same about separation of church and health care as I do about separation of church and state. People have the right to follow the god of their choice, and denominations have the right to make rules for their flocks. A religion need not accept government funds, but any money a religion receives from our secular government may only be used for secular purposes.
Posted by Herb Silverman, on January 24, 2011 8:30 PM
Catholic hospitals have the right to operate as the Church dictates, but when doing so puts doctrine ahead of either the medical standard of care or that which is deemed legal, they forfeit the right to be thought of as hospitals, at least in any conventional sense of the word.
Posted by Brad Hirschfield, on January 24, 2011 8:20 PM
Our society should ensure that those who need a lawful medical procedure can access it. But in these cases, the law embodies not only legal rights, but rights that indeed have a basis in moral values - to respect and protect the religious liberty and character on American individuals and institutions.
Posted by Nathan Diament, on January 24, 2011 8:15 PM