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The Broken Path: How Catholic Bishops Got Lost in the Weeds of American Politics Paperback – December 14, 2011
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Right in the introduction, Brown signals that the listen will sometimes be painful: "the leadership of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops...has taken the moral currency of Catholic doctrine and, to a large extent, squandered it on securing seats at the table of the political and cultural powebrokers in America....Catholic structures, such as schools and hospitals, have grown dependent on government financial support....An ordained priest, including Catholic bishops, cannot feed the hungry soul when he is more interested in playing footsie with politicians" (pp. viii - xii). Ouch! Brown pulls no punches!
In many ways, Brown's revelations about the state of Catholic institutions - particularly Catholic health care services - do not constitute an expose at all. She is just restating what has been revealed elsewhere (and seemingly dismissed.). Just a few examples....
As per a 2/29/08 LifeSiteNews report,
* "Catholic hospitals in several dioceses in North America are currently administering the pill (Plan B) to patients who claim to be victims of rape....The only Vatican opinion on the subject, absolutely prohibiting the use of the pill, was released by the Pontifical Academy for Life in 2000. Since then, however, the Catholic Health Association, advisor to many bishops conferences, has suggested that there is no moral impediment to using the pill in cases of rape....[We] asked Bishop Sgreccia if there was an exception in cases of rape. The [then] President of the Pontifical Academy for Life replied, `No. It is not able to prevent the rape. But it is able to eliminate the embryo. It is thus the second negative intervention on the woman (the first being the rape itself)'"
Later that year, the Vatican's Dignitas Personae offered no guidelines for the supposed "moral" use of Plan B (aka, the "morning-after pill", so-called emergency "contraception"). To me, that appeared to signal the need for a change at Catholic hospitals, regarding the treatment of individuals who identify themselves as victims of sexual assault.
In 2009's Diagnosis Critical: The Urgent Threats Confronting Catholic Healthcare, law professor Leonard J. Nelson, III provided a variety of warnings:
* "Catholics may have to focus their future efforts on the creation of alternatives to acute care hospitals such as free clinics, specialized centers for reproductive medicine, and hospices for end-of-life care that could reinvigorate health care ministry" (p. 19).
* "In terms of its practical effect, the widespread prevalence of dissent among both religious and lay Catholics may make it more difficult for Catholic health care institutions to persuade policymakers that they should be exempt from laws of general application requiring the provision of sterilizations and abortions. And, of course, the situation of Catholic health care institutions has become even more problematic since it has become commonplace for high-profile Catholic politicians to be openly and avowedly `pro-choice'" (p. 32).
* "Typically, obstetrician-gynecologists practicing in Catholic hospitals and physician office buildings owned by Catholic hospitals provide prescriptions for contraceptives to their patients" (p. 53).
* "By 2003, at least two Catholic hospital systems were performing early induction of labor...where the baby had a condition that would significantly shorten its life....it seems clear that these policies are not morally licit under Directives 48 and 49 of the 2001 ERDs" (p. 77).
* "Occasionally, in order to reduce opposition to a merger or affiliation, Catholic hospitals have entered into arrangements to allow continuation of services such as surgical sterilizations in separate facilities to be provided by unrelated organizations" (p. 88).
* "[While some Catholic health] systems have entered into arrangements to provide services such as direct sterilizations and abortion referrals....The existence of such arrangements increases the risk of scandal and could embolden those who favor a mandate requiring all hospitals...to provide a full range of [so-called] reproductive services" (p. 102).
* "If legal protection for individual conscience erodes, then this also endangers legal protection for institutions that refuse to perform sterilizations and abortions....any argument in favor of exemption from laws requiring a hospital to provide these services may be substantially undermined by the fact that the Catholic hospital is already, in some fashion, involved in either providing those services - as in the case of sterilizations - or involved in partnerships with entities providing such services" (pp. 132, 137).
Dr. Sandra Hapenney's 2012 "Appeal to Conscience Clauses in the Face of Divergent Practices among Catholic Hospitals," which is available on the internet, documents the performance of direct sterilizations in Catholic hospitals. While "all [Catholic] hospitals assert that they are abiding by the ERD" (Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, 5th edition), Hapenney notes troubling "interpretations" of those directives. In an interview which is now almost four years old, Dr. John Haas of the National Catholic Bioethics Center stated that: "Hospitals already have medical audits and financial audits, and they should have ethics audits, too" (Our Sunday Visitor, July 2008). Like Brown, Hapenney bemoans that the ERDs continue to seemingly lack sufficient oversight:
* "A best practices model would provide for the mandatory reporting of violations of the ERD to an independent review board with failure to report incidents leading to penalties or dismissal. Also, it would require the ethics committee of a hospital to be required to report all violations that come to their attention to an independent review board. The decisions of the ethics committee would also be mandatorily reviewed by an independent board. Another requirement would be that the hospital be required to report their patient diagnostic and procedure codes to an independent review board and ecclesial authorities on a periodic basis."
Personally, I would like to see much more attention paid to the Vatican's 1995 Charter for Health Care Workers, which embodies the Catechism, JP II's 1984 Salvifici Doloris, and his 1995 Evangelium Vitae. While covering an expansive range of topics, the Charter is both readable and fascinating showing a deep appreciation for science & a recognition of God's authorship of human life, as well as deep appreciation for the calling of health care workers, the calling of spouses to cooperate in God's work of creation, and God's authority over life and death.
How uplifting and encouraging it is to read the words of someone who has long recognized that there is such a thing as Absolute Truth and that such Truth is not and cannot be subject to negotiation or compromise. One of those Truths is that abortion and artificial contraception are, and always will be, intrinsically evil acts, for all human beings, whose Creator demands they stand up for the dignity of all human live, from the moment of conception to natural death.
How disheartening it is to see even now how many Catholics still think that there is some way for our political and religious leaders to compromise their way out of the recent unconstitutional infringement on the right to the free exercise of our religious beliefs. This sad state is nothing new. Judie has been warning of this pending crisis for some time. She has challenged Catholic Bishops and Catholic Politicians for years to stand up for the Truth. Most of them have ignored her plea. Strap yourself tightly in your chair. This will be an upsetting and disturbing ride but a necessary one. Mrs. Brown does what she has always done - she unabashedly speaks the Truth, no matter how uncomfortable it may make some feel and no matter the personal attacks she must suffer.
She challenges us to do now what we should have been doing from the very first instance any government entity directed us to act contrary to our religious beliefs - No! Never! We will not comply!
How many lives could have been saved had we had the courage to defend and live out the Truths of our Faith, as Mrs. Brown has urged Catholics and her Church to do for such a long period of time? Our past failures to heed her advice may soon result in each of us having to choose between preserving our physical lives and losing our souls?
Read her book!
Forgotten Truths to Set Faith Afire!: Words to Challenge, Inspire and Instruct