Will Catholic Hospitals be the Next Target?
In an incisive talk in Des Moines August 24, Ted Cruz covered the issue of religious liberty in the United States. He was quite aware of the persecution of Christians in the Near East under Islamic regimes. He had a moving chat with the wife of an evangelical pastor imprisoned in Iran. He stated that, if he were elected president, the first thing he would do is to call the Justice and other government departments to order them to stop persecuting Christians.
A systematic, more and more obvious persecution of Christians has been going on for some time. Its briefest statement is that no one can be a citizen of this country and a practicing Christian at the same time. Persecution is now so obvious that it needs little emphasis. Yet, most of our citizens refuse to acknowledge it or do anything about those elected and unelected officials, from the president on down, who carry it out in increasingly ominous ways. This country itself was designed to prevent precisely this sort of public persecution. We suddenly realize that the constitutional mechanism to prevent this persecution is not working but is being used to foster, indeed justify, the persecution.
Recently I commented on the case of a Colorado baker who was penalized by a state court for not baking a wedding cake for a gay “couple.” I had mentioned that the baker was required to give his employees sensitivity training sessions to explain the law. I understood these requirements to mean that in this country, no personal or religious disagreement with a civil law will be tolerated even if the law itself violates religious freedom and reason itself. The baker solved his problem by no longer making wedding cakes, in other words, by accepting financial loss for his beliefs. That is, he was not allowed to be in business if he would not sell a wedding cake to a gay couple. The court could imagine no “reason” that would mitigate the law. Even worse, it seems to have thought it necessary to cleanse minds that might think otherwise.
Beginning with florists, bakers, and photographers, we see an ever increasing legal demand that no opposition will be tolerated to government rules whatever their reasons, especially if they are religious reasons. At one time, we thought that, if religion had a problem with something, it was probably that there was something wrong or dangerous about it. We read Scripture as instructing us on how to live.
Now, almost the opposite is the case. If it is in Scripture, it must be wrong. So we need to eliminate from the public order any influence from this source, no matter how “reasonable” unless it agree with the civil law. What is new is that we now see active, legal, and penal steps to enforce this position. The things of God are now wholly subject to Caesar. And what is worse, we see in “hate-speech” type legislation that we are not even allowed to present the case against such views. Its very statement is said to be unjust. It violates another’s “dignity.” People have a “right” not to hear it even mentioned.
In Redding, California, the lone hospital is Mercy Hospital. It belongs to Dignity Health Care, a group of some 29 hospitals in the state. The article in the Redding paper discussing this case is listed under the heading “Health Care,” a phrase that covers a multitude of sins. The hospital’s normal practice is not to allow sterilization procedures. The reason for this prohibition is not arbitrary. It is an unnecessary mutilation of a normally functioning human organ and is use simply as another form of birth control. If the organ were diseased, another kind of reasoning would apply.
In principle, a hospital that identifies itself as “Catholic” indicates what it is and what it stands for. No one is forced to go there, even when it is the only hospital in town. The public has an interest in letting such a hospital be what it says it is. Many people choose such a hospital precisely because it adheres to certain specified and articulated ethical standards that are in fact in the best objective interests of patients and the medical profession itself. Patients at Catholic hospitals, along with doctors and nurses who work there, should not have to worry about basic questions about the worth of life and integrity of natural death, of what is good for a person and what is not.
A doctor, as Plato saw long ago, cannot deliberate about the purpose of his profession, about whether human life is a good or whether death is something he can cause. He deliberates only about the means to achieve the health of each particular patient. If my doctor has some doubt whether human life is worth living, I want to find another doctor. It is essential to the common good that such places where human life is upheld exist. They are not opposed to the common good when they refuse to perform unethical practices. They uphold it. They are contributors to what the common good ought to mean, a real good communicable to everyone.