Monday, February 27, 2012

Cognitive Dissonance in Catholics

Many Catholics are very upset about the Obama Administration's attack on the Catholic Church, telling the Catholic Church that her institutions such as schools and hospitals must provide birth control and sterlization at no cost to their employees through their insurance plans.  This has been rightly called an attack on religious freedom.  Many other churches are throwing their support behind the Catholic Church.  This HHS mandate is forcing the Church to go against her own teaching, and that is clearly unconstitutional.

HOWEVER, as I have pointed out, vast numbers of members of the Church have been freely doing this on their own for the past 40+ years since Humane Vitae.  And here is just one more article showing this.  Blogs such as that of Father John Zuhlsdorf have been attacking the Obama Administration as the culprit in this matter, but when so many in the Church herself have been openly defying the plain teaching of the Church, why should we be surprised?  The Obama Administration, knowing this fact, probably thought they would meet very little resistance.  Father Zuhlsdorf posted a cartoon which criticized Obama for apologizing for the burning of the Korans in Afghanistan, but refusing to apologize to the Catholics.  But who is really at fault here?

Study: Catholic hospitals, church at odds over birth control

If reproductive sterilization is against the teachings of the Catholic Church, why are Catholic hospitals performing these procedures?That’s the question being raised by a researcher at Baylor University whose analysis of patient discharge records suggests that thousands of women have elected to have tubal ligation surgery at Catholic hospitals across the U.S.

More than 1,000 women had such procedures in 2008 and 2009 at Catholic hospitals in New Jersey, including St. Clare’s Hospital in Denville, which is in the Paterson Diocese, and Lourdes Medical Center of Burlington County in Willingboro, which is within the Diocese of Trenton, according to the study.Hospital officials and church leaders said the study is flawed and insist that the hospitals are operating within the church’s ethical guidelines.

“Although I was not the bishop here at the time, I have inquired of the administration and have been assured that procedures at Lourdes Medical Center of Burlington County were in compliance with the ethical and religious directives binding Catholic hospitals,” Bishop David M. O’Connell of the Diocese of Trenton said in a prepared statement.

But the study’s author, Sandra S. Hapenney, whose research was reviewed and accepted by the Baylor Graduate School, which awarded her a doctorate in church-state studies, said the hospitals’ own record-keeping suggests otherwise.

The study is based on an analysis of more than 47 million hospital discharge records obtained from health departments in seven states. The patients’ names and other identifying information were removed to protect their confidentiality.

Of the 176 Catholic hospitals covered in the study, 85 — almost half — had performed “direct sterilizations,” meaning elective tubal ligations, Hapenney reported. The procedure involves closing off a woman’s fallopian tubes to prevent eggs from reaching the uterus for fertilization.

Of the eight Catholic hospitals in New Jersey that offered obstetric services at the time of the study, only one — Saint Peter’s University Hospital in New Brunswick — didn’t perform the procedure, the study found.

As a Catholic herself, Hapenney says she supports the church’s teaching that elective reproductive sterilization is morally wrong and simply wants the U.S. bishops to know what’s going on in Catholic hospitals in their dioceses.

“I don’t have an agenda to make a name for myself or anything like that,” said Hapenney, a part-time epidemiology lecturer at Baylor, located in Waco, Tex.

“All I want to do is put the facts out there. I just want to make it known so that the people in charge of the hospitals can be in dialogue with the bishops, with the bishops having the full facts.”  
Hapenney published her research in October, but her findings attracted little attention until recently, after the Obama administration and U.S. Catholic leaders clashed over a new government insurance mandate.

The mandate would have required Catholic hospitals and other religious employers to pay directly for artificial contraceptive and sterilization services as part of their employee insurance plans.

Led by the U.S. Catholic bishops, opponents of the mandate said it violates their constitutional right to religious liberty.

The Obama administration has since revised the regulations so that insurance companies — not religious employers — would pay for those services. But the bishops and other opponents have dismissed the change as an accounting sleight of hand, setting up a possible showdown in federal court and providing a hot-button political issue for the 2012 presidential election.

As with abortion, the Catholic Church teaches that artificial contraception and reproductive sterilization are grave sins that violate human dignity and the sanctity of life.

The “Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services,” issued by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, states: “Direct sterilization of either men or women, whether permanent or temporary, is not permitted in a Catholic health care institution.”

Procedures that induce sterility are permissible if they are meant to cure or alleviate a “present and serious pathology,” provided a simpler treatment isn’t available, according to the directives.

Hapenney says her research focused on women who delivered babies at Catholic hospitals and subsequently elected to have tubal ligation surgery to prevent a future pregnancy.

The controversy over her study hinges largely on a specific medical billing code that she says all hospitals and insurers use only for elective tubal ligation surgeries performed for “contraceptive management.”

If such a procedure were performed because of a serious medical problem, which would be permissible under the bishops’ directives, a different code would have been assigned, she maintains.

“The code is very specific,” she said. “In other words, the woman getting (the ligation) was not ill, she was giving birth.”

Hapenney’s findings have been met with criticism, however.

“We put no credence in the study,” Fred Caesar, a spokesman for the Catholic Health Association of the United States, said in an email.  [And just why should we listen to any "Catholic" organization that actively supported the Obama healthcare bill, as this one did?]

The association, which represents more than 600 Catholic hospitals in the U.S., hasn’t done an evaluation of Hapenney’s study but has been told by representatives of Catholic health systems that it contains “gross errors,” Caesar said.  [So they condemn the study without even looking at it.]

Carl Middleton, vice president of theology and ethics for Catholic Health Initiatives, a Denver-based network of Catholic hospitals that includes St. Clare’s, agreed that an elective sterilization performed solely for contraceptive purposes would violate the bishops’ directives.

But he said the code that Hapenney zeroed in on is entered by hospital coding specialists, not physicians, and subject to human error.  [This is the best defense they could come up with?]“The code is used for billing, not moral analysis,” he said.

Hapenney, however, stands by her findings.

She said it’s important to understand that few Catholic hospitals today are under the direct control of the local diocese, as is the case with Saint Peter’s in New Brunswick.

Most are owned by religious orders or large health care systems, such as Catholic Health Initiatives and
Catholic Health East, which operates Lourdes Medical Center in Willingboro.

Because these networks encompass hospitals in multiple states, oversight by a local bishop can be difficult, although some bishops have taken action when information about allegedly unethical medical practices has come to light. In 2010, for instance, the bishop of the Diocese of Baker, Ore., revoked the church’s sponsorship of a local Catholic hospital over the issue of tubal ligations.

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