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....

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Richard Chonak

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This page contains a single entry by Richard Chonak published on March 16, 2009 1:39 AM.

Liturgies of self-affirmation? No, thanks was the previous entry in this blog.

St. Joseph's day Mass is the next entry in this blog.

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