John Livingston

Does Government Money Trump the Beliefs of Catholic Hospitals?

Twenty to thirty percent of patients in our country receive their acute health care in hospitals that either have remained Catholic, or that continue to fly the “Catholic” banner. One hundred and fifty million people will be treated in a Catholic hospital in the USA this year. The history of modern-day health care throughout the world and especially in our country cannot be written without including the contributions of thousands of Catholic Sisters, doctors, and nurses.

In Idaho, 35% of acute care occurs in Catholic hospitals. When I left the Navy in 1988, I was recruited by two Catholic Sisters to come to St. Alphonsus in Boise to practice medicine and surgery. Medicine has always been a vocation for me and an extension of my faith. I was honored and privileged to work with and attend to people and patients who came from all backgrounds and ethnicities. Always and without hesitation or exception in my 30 years at St. AL’s, patients received from the medical or nursing staffs the full extent of our devotion and technical expertise. We took care of HIV Aids patients with Hepatitis C, exposing operating crews to risks far greater than Covid or influenza. In the operating rooms and ICUs, we took appropriate precautions while giving our patients our best-efforts day after day. I will be forever grateful for the professionalism of the entire medical, nursing, and technical staffs at Al’s.

I remember taking care of a Catholic Priest with HIV aids who had come from a Dioceses in California, He was overcome with gratitude for the people who attended to him, but most of all for the dignity that had been afforded to him which was very different from facilities where he had been treated in California. I had witnessed for myself a palpable difference in the attitudes of professional health care workers towards AIDs patients when I served for several months on Navy Reserve active duty in San Francisco and Oakland hospitals during Desert Storm and Desert Shield. Thank goodness I chose to practice and raise my family in Idaho!

Last week Archbishop Blase Cupich (Chicago) and Cardinal Timothy Dolan (New York) wrote a letter published in American Magazine explaining the importance of allowing medical and nursing staffs to follow their religious beliefs and consciences regarding their participation in transgender procedures. The letter linked below is a response to recent changes proposed to the Affordable Care ACT (ACA), which because of a new interpretation “now consider such objections to be discrimination on the bases of sex discrimination”. This essentially puts Catholic Hospitals in jeopardy of losing access to transfer payments (60% of income comes from Medicare and Medicaid plus various “activation fees”).

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Not only does this leave little room for professionals to exercise their religious beliefs or consciences which is the realm of the clergy and religious, but fidelity to professional codes of conduct is also at play that are outside the realm of the transcendental.

Two key paragraphs of the letter speak to me and for themselves:

“Catholic hospitals do not discriminate against anyone and to do so would be offensive to the embracing and expansive healing ministry of Jesus Christ.” However, if health care facilities are to be places where the twin pillars of faith and science stand together, then these facilities and their workers must not be coerced by the government to violate their consciences.”

The key to our argument and what many secular humanists forgets is this:

“The focus of such an objection is completely on the procedure, not the patient. Prohibiting the removal of a healthy, functioning organ is not discrimination, provided that the same determination would be made for anyone of any sex or gender, which is true at Catholic hospitals.”

I served at St. Al’s for thirty years. I slowly watched its Catholic identity be replaced with a corporate ethic of profit. A frequently stated philosophy of the new regime was “No margin no mission”. I am a capitalist and I believe in profits, but the difference between capitalism and progressive Marxist-socialism is that capitalistic economic philosophy understands the material and spiritual nature of economic transactions. Profit that leads to wealth is not evil if the fruits of commerce are used to benefit others. This connection between material and spiritual seemed to leave St. Al’s at about the same time they stopped offering daily Mass—just an observation and an opinion.

One final quote from the Letter in the American Magazine sums everything up.

“The promise of the Catholic hospital reflects the promise of the Catholic faith. It is a place for healing. It is an institution that has grown out of Christian fidelity to Jesus Christ, who healed the sick and cared for the poor. We are motivated by our faith in the God who makes all things new.”

The objection to transgender surgery and sexual transition therapies and at the same time welcoming patients who identify as transgender does not constitute discrimination of any kind. People and organizations that present such an argument have a political and not a moral or ethical agenda. And “aye there’s the rub” — Hamlet

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5 replies on “Does Government Money Trump the Beliefs of Catholic Hospitals?”

I would like to thank my publisher for the beautiful picture of St. Luke’s Hospital above my article. St. Luke’s is an Episcopal sponsored institution (“almost Catholic”). St. Al’s at one time was a Holy Cross Sister’s hospital. I do not know if they are affiliated with any Catholic organizations today. I also do not know if they are accountable to any Eclesastical authority—ie. The Bishop of Boise

Both Card Dolan and Abp Chaput are gentlemen of the left and yet even they feel obligated to defend the Church on the sanctity of life. Points out the old adage, “When you take the King’s schilling, you become the King’s man.”

Who is the arbiter of truth? What is disinformation? When calls for transparency with the intent of exposing evil become threatening to major corporations and “nonprofits” with billions of dollars in revenue who pay CEO’s $18million/2yrs and have employed in house legal counsel, who receive over 60% of their revenues from tax payers (transfer payments), and who can leverage their resources with claims of “disinformation” to threaten “free speech”, then maybe we should all just keep our mouths shut and bow to the “experts”—-NOT. The truth is the medical profession and the guilds that represent them have lost the respect of their patients and the public. Respect is earned and cannot be litigated or legislated. I can only guess, but I believe that the people at AMA, AAP. and CHA who wrote the letter to the DOJ, weren’t doctors, but lawyers representing corporate interests and not the interests of most patients or the physicians that belong to those organizations. There is lots of money at stake for the corporatists that run large hospital systems. I absolutely agree that there is never a place for violence and people on our side will lose credibility with rhetoric and actions that aren’t peaceful. The legal question that hasn’t been answered to my satisfaction about this issue is the idea of “agency” and informed consent. These are never emergent therapeutic or surgical interventions and to take away the “free will” of a child who is incapable of exercising their own “free will” until they become an adult is wrong. This is an issue that legislators and lawyers and judges have not yet answered in our State. My opinions regarding this matter are informed by my Christian faith. I beleive transgender interventions upon a child are “evil” and wrong, just like I beleive abortion is wrong in 99.9% of the cases. When a person is an adult and able to exercise their own “agency” and “free will” then they can do what they want. In any case these are “elective” interventions and tax payers should never have to pay for them.

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