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By Hugh McNichol
Any institution that maintains the term, "Catholic" in its title has a moral and ethical responsibility to adhere to the teachings of the Catholic Church. There appears a trend developing in such, any Catholic institution that strictly enforces its doctrinal beliefs is prosecuted in some sort of civil litigation.
Recently, the administrative decision at Belmont Abbey after due consideration, decided to terminate health care benefits for it's staff that permitted medical procedures and pharmacological therapies that violated norms of Catholic moral and ethical teachings. Such a strong affirmation and practical application of our theological and moral values is precisely the type of activities all Catholic institutions should be endorsing.
Catholic leadership in the United States needs to take the moral offensive that goes beyond teaching a moral and ethical message. Catholic leadership needs now more than ever to put the message into practice.
The trend that emerges in the United States is a slow but steady infiltration of governmental and civil regulations that infringe on the freedom of religious expression in our health and social serves especially. Litigious parties sometimes single out catholic hospitals that ban procedures contrary to the Church's teachings and a legal battle then ensues.
Medical professionals that follow the teachings of Catholicism such as pharmacists, surgeons and medical care providers are presented with decisions that morally unnerve their principles. As Catholic providers of social programs and medical treatments, there is only one method of treatment for these issues...namely the Catholic way.
Hospitals, social services, schools and any other institution in the Catholic human services structure cannot permit any intrusion by governmental or secular groups to displace our Catholic methods of medical and social services for any reason. That also includes the endorsement by any Catholic group of any procedure or medical benefits that is directly in opposition to Catholic moral and ethical norms. If indeed there is a trend towards civil litigation against Catholic facilities for upholding the norms of our Church, then our Catholic leadership needs to be strong and make a practical statement.
For example, in the case of medical services and social services...the Archbishop of Denver made it very clear that these services will no longer operate in his archdiocese if forced to make a choice between correct Catholic norms and the demands of secular and sectarian groups. Services such as adoption will cease and non-traditional family units of a mother and father will not be permitted. Catholic hospitals forced with a choice between contraceptive applications and the right to human life cannot be compromised.
Perhaps the time is now for Catholic institutions to raise the bar and stand firmly behind our beliefs. If our human services and charitable activities cannot take place without interference from government and secular interference...we need to shut down our Catholic charitable and social services and let the government and other groups assume the responsibility of social care. Such action then would clearly indicate there is no room for negotiation in terms of moral, ethical and religious freedoms within our Catholic Church. Such an action as well, would signal very clearly to antithetical Catholic opponents that we indeed practice what we theologically preach.
The actions needed today on the part of Catholic institutions is one of collective solidarity between our humanitarian and charitable activities and the daily administration of all of these services. Intrusion into the administration and direction of all of our Catholic facilities is not keeping the principle of freedom of religious expression as provided by the United States Constitution.
No group or agency should ever have the influence through intimidation, or fear of litigation to alter the proper dispensation of humanitarian and social services in our uniquely Catholic manner. If we cannot operate as Catholics, then it is time to dismantle the entire structure and let others provide these much-needed services. The Catholic Church in the United States especially needs religious autonomy as well as secular autonomy in order to provide critically needed social and medical services to a sometimes forgotten group of American society.
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