Pro-Life: March 2009 Archives

The Caritas debacle, part 2

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To pick up where I left off a few days ago: Cardinal O'Malley is having the National Catholic Bioethics Center review a deal that the Catholic hospital system Caritas Christi has made with the state government here in Massachusetts.

On the face of it, the plan is a scandal. Still, I'm hoping the immoral aspects of the deal can be corrected, so that for the sake of everyone involved, Caritas could participate in the state program on a legitimate basis.

I'm figuring that the moral problems with the situation are in these areas:

(1) Did Caritas solicit Centene (the company joining them in the project) to set up an abortion-providing insurance plan? If so, that appears to be plainly wrong. Would it be a personal fault by Caritas officials or would it vitiate the plan totally, so that it would remain morally tainted even if other aspects are "corrected"?

(2) Caritas is willingly a part-owner of the new CFHP (joint venture with Centene's subsidiary Celtic Insurance), which will administer the plan and provide abortion coverage as the state contract requires. I doubt that this ownership can be justified under any circumstances. Can Caritas "correct" this aspect by divesting itself of its share in CFHP?

(3) Caritas is, according to its statements in the press, already complying with state rules in a related matter: they give out "Department of Public Health information" on "emergency contraception" to rape victims, as required by law. Does that distinction reflect a difference that makes it morally tolerable?

(4) Can Caritas hospitals and physicians, as a subcontractor to CFHP, comply with the state-imposed contractual requirement to give abortion info? Do their contracts with other insurance companies have the same requirement? Are the hospitals already complying? Can the compliance be fulfilled in some minimalistic way that doesn't violate moral norms? If all the insurance contracts require it, and there is no morally licit way to fulfill the requirement, then I don't see how Caritas can continue to operate.

[Note: I know this is a hot-button topic, so commenters should be on notice. Comments that in my opinion cross the line will be removed. --RC]

The Caritas debacle, part 1

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Lately here in Boston we've had an uproar over the Catholic hospital system Caritas Christi. It's trying to set up an organization to provide health care for low-income people on the state's subsidized insurance plan, Commonwealth Care. At present, there are four relatively small HMOs offering services for Commonwealth Care subscribers, and Caritas' would be a fifth.

There's a serious ethical problem involved, though, because the state requires all the insurance companies administering the Commonwealth Care program to include abortion and contraception coverage.

Understandably pro-life Catholics are -- shall we say -- concerned and want to make sure that Caritas doesn't compromise on medical ethics, or come under state pressure to cooperate with abortions: for example, by referring patients to abortion providers, since it was plain that Caritas would not do them itself.

Caritas teamed up with a for-profit health company called Centene and is forming a joint venture company for the project. When the plan was briefed to state regulators, though, the Centene rep told them that yes, abortions would be provided. The plan would even provide transportation.

Did Caritas think that this would absolve it of responsibility? The arrangement -- at least as it has been reported in the press and in the state government website -- would seem to make Caritas part-owner of a company that provides abortion coverage.

To put it mildly, this didn't give lay pro-lifers much confidence in the ethical competence of the decision makers here in Boston.

It's especially shocking, since the board of directors of Caritas includes several appointees from the Archdiocese, and the priest J. Bryan Hehir, known formerly as a prominent USCC foreign-policy official in the 1980s, is the Archdiocesan liaison to Caritas Christi. Did these worthies know and approve of this disturbing arrangement? Maybe some knew, but apparently some important people didn't know: cited an "informed source" that claimed that the whole deal was a surprise to Cardinal O'Malley.

Well, thanks be to God, good pro-life folks sounded off at the Mass. Citizens for Life and the Mass. Catholic League; and Cardinal O'Malley stepped up to say that the Archdiocese was going to exercise its right to supervise medical ethics issues for Caritas and would veto the deal if it doesn't stay within ethical limits. To assist in making his decision, he'd get the proposal reviewed by the National Catholic Bioethics Center, an organization well trusted among pro-lifers for its strong commitment to Catholic medical ethics.

On Thursday, the state, for their part, approved the deal, and the Cardinal reiterated that unless and until he approved it, it would not go into effect.

And I figured that's about the best one can expect.

But that hasn't been enough for everybody. Some grossly exaggerated rumors have been flying about this case: that within weeks hospital employees would soon be pressured into cooperating with abortions; that the Archdiocese was selling out the Catholic hospital system; that the Cardinal wasn't pro-life even!

Oh, man! More later....

What? Who?

On life and living in communion with the Catholic Church.

Richard Chonak

John Schultz

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unless you state otherwise.


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This page is an archive of entries in the Pro-Life category from March 2009.

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