National Catholic Register

Opinion

Letters 03.28.2010

BY The Editors

March 28-April 10, 2010 Issue | Posted 3/22/10 at 11:00 AM

 

Bessette’s Brotherhood

Relative to your Vatican page of the March 14 edition, in the section entitled Media Watch, and in particular to the paragraph announcing the canonization of Blessed Andre Bessette on Oct. 17, it was incorrectly reported in the last sentence that this saintly man from Quebec, Canada, was a Holy Cross priest. However, Andre Bessette, C.S.C. (born Alfred Bessette on Aug. 9, 1845, and died Jan. 6, 1937) was a brother in the Holy Cross order.

This wonderful vocation of the religious brotherhood, although few in number and most often ministering “behind the scenes,” plays an important role in the service of the Catholic Church. For further information about religious brothers, please visit ReligiousBrotherhood.com. Please pray for vocations to the holy priesthood and consecrated life. Thank you and God bless you.

Brother Lawrence Verbiar, B.S.J.W.

Brothers of Saint Joseph the Worker

Parma, Ohio


Welcoming Anglicans

I am writing you in regards to the article “Anglo-Catholic Bishops Vote for Rome” (Register Exclusive online, March 7).

I am a former Episcopal priest, soon to be ordained to the Catholic priesthood, and currently serving as a deacon at Our Lady of the Atonement Catholic Church, where Father Christopher Phillips is the pastor. Father Phillips was at the meeting of ACA bishops and informed the parish of what happened at the ACA meeting.

This article seems to imply that the entire ACA was asking for reception into the Catholic Church, but this is not completely accurate. While many of the people at the meeting are ready to come into the fullness of the Catholic Church, not all of them, or their people, are necessarily ready. What they actually decided at this meeting was to request that the ordinariate be established in accordance with Anglicanorum Coetibus. This request was made with a unanimous decision, but that does not mean that the entire membership of the ACA will be coming into the Catholic Church.

In light of the fact that our Lord Jesus Christ prayed “that they may be one” as he and the Father are one, we need to pray for those who still have doubts. Pray that they all come to an understanding of the Church that leads them into communion with the one and only Church that Christ established on the rock of St. Peter.

Deacon Jeffery W. Moore

associate director

Office of Life, Justice and Peace

Archdiocese of San Antonio, Texas


Puzzling Portrayal

The article by Ms. Sue Ellin Browder, “Tip of the Iceberg for Church-Backed Hospitals,” that first appeared online as a “Register Exclusive” (Feb. 26) and now appears in print, leaves me puzzled.

In an article that focused on St. Charles Medical Center in Bend, Ore., why would she devote so much attention to me when I was in no way involved in the Bend situation?

Why would Ms. Browder have Bishop Robert Vasa saying that an article I wrote several years ago is what “convinced St. Charles’ board that sterilizations in Catholic hospitals were okay,” when the CEO of St. Charles has assured me that neither he nor the board, to the best of his recollection, has any knowledge of the article to which Ms. Browder refers, and, consequently, that it played no role in St. Charles’ position?

Why would Ms. Browder drudge up an article written 16 years ago and published in an obscure journal while I was with a different organization?

Why would she not explain the context of the article and its main point, leading readers to believe that it is simply an attack on Church teaching on sterilization in Catholic hospitals?

Why would she, without a shred of evidence, lead readers to believe that I and the Catholic Health Association (CHA) approve of and support sterilizations in Catholic hospitals and not ask me directly how CHA ethicists deal with questions about such sterilizations?

Why would she, in an article on sterilizations in Catholic hospitals, refer to my being editor of the CHA ethics newsletter and proceed with quotes (taken out of context) from articles on medically administered nutrition and hydration?

Why would she not say in her article that a former CHA ethicist spent two full days at St. Charles working with the board, leadership and staff on better understanding the “Ethical and Religious Directives” and the Church’s teaching on sterilization, particularly in Catholic hospitals?

I am left to wonder whether Ms. Browder’s primary intent, for some unknown reason, was to sully my reputation and undermine my credibility and that of the Catholic Health Association.

I am also puzzled why a newspaper that calls itself “Catholic” would publish such a slanderous piece. Does this promote the Church and the Kingdom? Is this what the Gospel is all about?

Ron Hamel, Ph.D.

senior director, Ethics

The Catholic Health Association

of the United States


Sue Ellin Browder responds: This article certainly was not meant to be a personal attack on Mr. Hamel, and I apologize if he took it that way. He overlooks the fact, however, that ideas have consequences. According to Bishop Vasa, the ideas in Hamel’s Second Opinion piece led to a situation so in conflict with the official teachings of the Church that a major medical center has lost the privilege to call itself “Catholic.”

If someone at St. Charles has privately contradicted Bishop Vasa’s statement that the ethical errors expressed in the Second Opinion article played a key role in the loss of the hospital’s affiliation with the Church, it would be good for this person to speak out publicly for himself and clarify what he means.

We must not divert attention from Bishop Vasa’s primary concern: that the “intentional” misinterpretation of Church teachings he encountered at St. Charles — the false distinction between “direct” and “indirect” sterilizations — may have infected a number of Catholic hospitals nationwide.

For example, the very same ethical error that occurred in Oregon also cropped up in Texas.

The question then becomes: How could an intentional misinterpretation of Church teaching in Bend infect hospitals in other dioceses?

Searching for answers, one finds that Mr. Hamel is now senior ethicist for the Catholic Health Association of the USA, where he certainly has a great deal of influence on the ethical direction of Catholic health-care systems. The ethics newsletter he edits is pertinent because it is another possible vehicle through which ethical error may be spreading into other Catholic hospitals across the country.

If “a former CHA ethicist” (why former?) worked to help St. Charles better understand the Church’s teaching on sterilization, why did the hospital wind up disagreeing with the bishop and the Vatican? Did the ethicist argue for or against the clear teachings of the magisterium?

The piece I wrote is a factual and accurate reporting of what Bishop Vasa, Mr. Hamel and others stated in interviews or on paper.


Serious Claims

I read the article “Tip of the Iceberg for Church-Backed Hospitals” with some interest, but am curious about the phrasing of four items.

First, the article notes that Health Care Ethics USA permits members to copy and distribute items from the publication. It is unusual that members would be allowed to copy and use materials from a publication to which they subscribe? This makes the policy sound suspicious and problematic.

Second, the article notes that a 2007 article in the same publication talked about evaluating the authority of Church teaching. It is common Church teaching that not all magisterial statements have the same doctrinal weight and, therefore, do not have the same authority. This article simply provides a good summary of the various weights or degrees of authority that different teachings have.

The phrasing makes it sound as though this article were attempting to undermine or challenge magisterial authority when all it is doing is presenting what is commonly accepted by both the magisterium and theologians.

Third, the article gives a short quote from an article (uncited) stating that the difference between allowing-to-die and euthanasia for the most part depends on the medical condition. It would be interesting to have the reference to see what the context of the quotation is. The medical condition is relevant, for if proposed treatments are extraordinary, they are according to the common tradition not obligatory.

Fourth, in another uncited reference, the article notes that the autopsy of Ms. Schiavo belied any thought that she would have recovered. Is this challenging the fact that the autopsy revealed that the majority of her brain was in fact destroyed? This seems to make it sound as if the autopsy report was false.

These four claims make insinuations about the Catholic Health Association and one of its senior ethics directors, Ron Hamel. If one wants to make an assertion about someone, why not simply come out and say it?

This article also claims: “During his negotiations in Bend, Bishop Vasa learned it was Hamel’s article that convinced St. Charles’ board that sterilizations in Catholic hospitals were okay.” Since that claim is exceptionally serious, it might be helpful to provide some actual documentation of it. Did the board of St. Charles actually have the article and read it and then use it as the basis for their decision to provide sterilizations? Did Bishop Vasa and the board actually discuss this article as part of their negotiations? As I said, this claim is exceptionally serious and one would hope for documentation.

Thomas A. Shannon

Professor emeritus of religion and social ethics

Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Eagles Mere, Pennsylvania


Catholic Bulwark

Regarding “Ukraine’s Catholic University Is ‘the Right Institution at the Right Time’” (Register Exclusive online, Feb. 28; also see this issue’s education page):

An excellent article by Victor Gaetan. I would also like to add that this institution will serve as a bulwark against the numerous sects, previously unknown in this deeply Catholic region, which began to prey on the impoverished population after Ukraine became independent and opened its borders.

Alex Kachmar

Edmonton, Alberta