Huntington, N.Y., Jul 3, 2008 (CNA) - At least 9,684 sterilizations and even some abortions may have been performed at Catholic hospitals in Texas between 2000 and 2003, a whistleblower report based on state records alleges. While Catholic ethical directives are supposed to govern Catholic healthcare systems, the report claims that “all six US Catholic hospital systems operating in Texas do not follow these directives.”
The July 13 issue of Our Sunday Visitor examines the anonymous group’s report, based upon data from the Texas government, which requires most major hospitals to file information from inpatient records. The group reportedly includes a self-described biostatistician who says she worked with four other people, including a computer scientist and a medical ethicist. The biostatistician says the group chose to remain anonymous because of “concern over job loss or retaliation.”
According to Our Sunday Visitor, the researchers said they were motivated by a desire to increase transparency and accountability in Catholic hospitals, to inform the public about practices in Catholic health systems, and to encourage accountability for the Religious sisters who own and run the systems. The researchers believe the unethical practices could be taking place nationwide.
The data used in the report covers procedures performed between 2000 and 2003 at the Texas facilities of Ascension Health System, CHRISTUS Health System, Franciscan Services Corporation, Sisters of Mercy Health System, Trinity Mother Frances Health System and St. Joseph Health System of Orange, California. The researcher said her group had to purchase the state data at a cost of $4,600 per year, with more recent data being prohibitively expensive.
The report says that, according to state data, 9,684 instances of allegedly unequivocal “sterilization for contraceptive purposes” were performed in the 2000-2003 time period. The state data also indicates 39 abortions were performed at Catholic hospitals during the same period, but such statistics may record morally licit procedures such as the removal of a stillborn baby or emergency services for an abortion performed elsewhere, according to Our Sunday Visitor.
The researcher told Our Sunday Visitor that the abortion coding used in the state data is complex and must be studied on a case-by-case basis.
Joining together with the Catholic Health Association, the six Catholic health systems examined in the report issued a statement saying they are committed to “serving in fidelity” the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services (ERDs), which are the national standards for Catholic medical ethics. The healthcare providers also said some of the report’s data could be open to interpretation “and cannot be taken to infer immoral practices.”
The statement further argued that the numbers may not “reflect current practices,” saying some data codes indicate licit “indirect” sterilizations or could be due to joint operating agreements, no longer in effect, that allowed non-hospital staff to perform sterilizations on-site.
“The Catholic health ministries in Texas are engaged in investigating and interpreting the meaning of the data in the report and are in direct conversations with their bishops,” the statement said, according to Our Sunday Visitor.
Professors of biostatistics consulted by Our Sunday Visitor said a surface review of the report’s methodology looked reasonable.
Obstetrician/gynecologist Dr. Lorna Cvetkovich at the Tepeyac Family Center in Fairfax, Virginia, told the magazine that many Catholic hospitals now have non-Catholic boards and administrators who see Catholic directives as impediments to financial solvency.
“They rationalize that if they don’t offer the full smorgasbord of contraception, abortion, sterilization, and Assisted Reproductive Technologies, patients will go elsewhere for those services, as well as for delivery of their babies, and thus they will lose the small financial margin which allows them to care for the underserved,” Dr. Cvetkovich said.
She added that the problem is compounded by “the great confusion over Catholic teaching on contraception and sterilization over the past 40 years.”
Catholic hospitals also face ethical dilemmas in hospital mergers and state legislation, some of which could require contraceptives to be distributed and sterilizations or even abortions to be performed.
The report on Texas Catholic hospitals and the data on which it is based has been posted at the whistleblower site Wikileaks.org. It is viewable at
Richmond, Va., Jul 3, 2008 (CNA) - The Diocese of Richmond has provided more information surrounding the January incident in which Commonwealth Catholic Charities of Richmond (CCR) staff and volunteers assisted a 16-year-old Guatemalan girl obtain an abortion.
Speaking to CNA, diocesan spokesman Stephen Neill said that Bishop Francis DiLorenzo, after learning late on January 17 of the abortion planned for the next day, specifically said “I forbid this to happen.”
“We want to be clear that the bishop was opposed to the abortion,” Neill told CNA, noting that Bishop DiLorenzo is himself a moral theologian.
The Guatemalan girl, who has another child, is a ward of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Refugee Resettlement and was in the foster care of CCR. CCR employees reportedly fit the girl for a contraceptive device two months before the abortion.
In January 2008 one CCR employee signed the consent form required for the minor’s abortion, while a CCR volunteer drove the teen to and from the abortion facility. Federal taxpayer funds are forbidden from being used for an abortion, while Virginia state law requires a parent, legal guardian, or custodian to sign a minor’s parental consent form to obtain an abortion.
The U.S. Department of Human Services is investigating to determine whether Virginia law was violated.
A July 1 press release from Commonwealth Catholic Charities stated that its Executive Director Joanne D. Nattrass said she was notified the afternoon of January 17 that the girl was scheduled to have an abortion the next morning. Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo was notified by Nattrass that afternoon.
“Based on erroneous and incorrect information provided to Nattrass, the Bishop was told it could not be stopped,” the press release said.
Four CCR staff members connected to the abortion were fired in March.
"The four people were deliberately flouting Catholic church teachings," Neill said to the Richmond Times-Dispatch. "The church teaches [that] abortion is wrong."
Responding to criticisms of Bishop DiLorenzo, Neill said "he's feeling like he's being made the bad guy.”
“He's fought abortion all his life."
According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, one of the fired staff members wrote a letter in April to the Commonwealth Catholic Charities board of directors. In the letter, the former staff member said that when staff learned in January that the girl planned to have an abortion, the staffers sought guidance from Commonwealth Catholic Charities senior management and informed the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which contracts with the federal government to provide services for undocumented minors. The letter writer also said that staff contacted the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Refugee Resettlement.
"We met with the young woman and her foster family," she wrote. "We insisted that the young woman learn about all the other options available to her -- including meeting with CCC's adoption staff and learning about resources to help her if she decided to keep the child."
The former CCR staffer wrote that Nattrass told the staff on January 17 that they “could not provide any material support for the abortion . . . could not pay for it or provide transportation."
"We complied with these orders, and sadly, the young woman made her own decision the following day and the pregnancy was terminated," the letter said.
Hyderabad, India, Jul 3, 2008 (CNA) - Catholic evangelization, outreach initiatives and charitable work in Pakistan are continuing in the face of opposition from Muslim hard-liners and the country’s harsh laws punishing those found guilty of insulting Islam, according to Bishop of Hyderabad Max Rodrigues. The Church’s uplifting view of women and a recent translation of the Bible into the local language have assisted such efforts in the southeastern province of Sindh.
Speaking in an interview with the international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), Bishop Rodrigues said, “The task of evangelization in a theocratic country, strongly Islamicized… is a difficult thing, but in my diocese there is a large tribal apostolate.”
The bishop said that Catholic pastoral work was revolutionizing attitudes towards women, which he said is a key part of the Church’s appeal.
“The pastoral teams have changed the way that people think, and uplifted the status of women – women were seen as chattel, they had never sent girls to school as didn’t see the value in educating them, but now they send them to school as well,” he told Aid to the Church in Need.
Another important development is the ACN Child’s Bible, translated into the local language and distributed in the country two years ago.
“It is a most beautiful thing to have a Child’s Bible in Sindhi, as most people speak Sindhi as well as their tribal language. Adults can read it and understand it,” Bishop Rodrigues said.
Church outreach takes place in the face of state discrimination against non-Muslims and strict blasphemy laws whose punishment theoretically involves life imprisonment and even death for those who are convicted of insulting Mohammed or abusing the Qur’an.
Such laws are “like a sword dangling over our heads,” the bishop said. “You have to defend yourself. They don’t have to prove the accusation – their honesty is considered to be enough as they are Muslim.”
“Many of these cases don’t even reach the courts. It is announced at the local mosque and then the mobs come,” he continued.
Two years ago in the Sindh town of Sukkur, two churches, a convent and a school were attacked after a Christian convert to Islam accused his father-in-law of burning pages of the Qur’an.
Parishioners from the attacked St. Mary’s Church are still meeting in a partially damaged school hall and have seen no progress on plans to rebuild their 19th-century church building.
Vatican City, Jul 3, 2008 (CNA) - The head of the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints, Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, met with Pope Benedict today to present him with 14 causes for canonization in their various stages. Among those approved for advancement towards sainthood are Fr. Damien De Veuster, a Belgian missionary to Hawaii, and the parents of St. Therese of Lisieux.
The miracle attributed to Fr. Damien is the cure of Audrey Toguchi, a 79-year-old retired schoolteacher who became ill in 1997 with a cancerous lump on her left thigh.
Upon discovering her cancer, Toguchi went to Fr. Damien’s grave and asked him to intercede for her healing. She then underwent surgery, but her doctor informed her afterwards that he could do nothing more since the cancer had spread to her lungs. Toguchi turned once again to Fr. Damien and the cancer soon began to inexplicably disappear of a four month period. To watch a video on Fr. Damien click here.
The miracle credited to the parents of St. Therese involved the healing of Pietro Schiliro, an Italian newborn who was born in 2002 with partial lungs. The condition was so grave that doctors could do nothing and Pietro’s parents immediately had him baptized.
The Schiliro’s also began a novena to St. Therese’s parents and within a few weeks the Pietro made an unexpected recovery. To watch a video on Luis and Zelia Martin click here.
The full list of those advancing along the road to sainthood along with the various steps being recognized is listed below.
- Blessed, Fr. Damian de Veuster, Belgian professed priest of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary (1840-1889).
- Blessed Bernardo Tolomei, Italian founder of the Olivetan Benedictine Congregation (1272-1348).
- Blessed Nuno di Santa Maria Alvares Pereira (ne: Nuno), Portuguese professed layman of the Order of Friars of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel (1360-1431).
- Servant of God Luis Martin, French lay man (1823-1894) and Servant of God Maria Zelia Guerin Martin, French lay woman (1831-1877).
- Servant of God Francesco Giovanni Bonifacio, Italian, killed in hatred of the faith at Villa Gardossi, Italy (1912-1946).
- Blessed Nuno di Santa Maria Alvares Pereira (ne: Nuno), Portuguese professed layman of the Order of Friars of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel (1360-1431).
- Servant of God Stephen Douayhy, Lebanese patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites (1630-1704).
- Servant of God Bernardino Dal Vago da Portogruaro (ne: Giuseppe), Italian archbishop of the Order of Friars Minor (1822-1895).
- Servant of God Giuseppe Di Donna, Italian bishop of Andria, of the Order of the Blessed Trinity (1901-1952).
- Servant of God Maria Barbara of the Blessed Trinity Maix (nee: Barbara), Austrian foundress of the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (1818-1873).
- Servant of God Pius Keller (ne: Hans), German professed priest of the Order of St. Augustine (1825-1904).
- Servant of God Andres Hibernon Garmendia (ne: Francisco Andres), Spanish professed brother of the Institute of Brothers of Christian Schools (1880- 1969).
- Servant of God Chiara Badano, young Italian lay woman (1971-1990).
Vatican City, Jul 3, 2008 (CNA) - Today Pope Benedict made two Canadian bishop appointments: Bishop Pierre-Andrew Fournier, as the metropolitan archbishop of Rimouski, and Bishop Pierre Morissette as the bishop of Saint-Jerome. Both are replacing prelates who reached the age of 75, the age of resignation according to Canon Law.
Bishop Pierre-Andre Fournier will succeed Archbishop Bertrand Blanchet. The current auxiliary of Quebec was born in 1943, was ordained in 1967, and was consecrated a bishop in 2005. Bishop Fournier received a licentiate in theology from Laval University, in Quebec City, and a master's degree in pastoral studies from the University of Sherbrooke.
The Archbishop-elect will serve 142,832 Catholics and 107 priests in the Archdiocese of Rimouski.
The Pontiff also appointed Most Rev. Pierre Morissette as bishop of Saint-Jerome to succeed Bishop Gilles Cazabon O.M.I. Born in 1944, the bishop was ordained a priest in 1968. In 1987, he was appointed by Pope John Paul II as Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Quebec City before being sent to become the bishop of Baie-Comeau.
Bishop Morissette holds a master’s degree from Laval University and also licentiates in theology and social sciences.
The Diocese of Saint-Jerome has 415,000 Catholics and 145 priests.
Havana, Cuba, Jul 3, 2008 (CNA) - Experts from the National Office of Statistics and of the Latin American Center for the Elderly said this week that Cuba has one of the oldest populations in Latin America and that by 2020 there will be more elderly people than children in the country.
The Prensa Latina news agency quoted experts from the organizations who said that for the first time in Cuba, “by 2020 there will be more elderly than children.” In 1985 11.3% of the population was above the age of 60. At the end of 2007, the number had risen to 16.6%.”
According to projections, in two or three decades Cuba could become the country with the highest percentage of elderly in all of Latin America, with a life expectancy of 78.
The U.N/ has singled out Barbados and Cuba as the two Latin American and Caribbean countries with the greatest number of elderly in the short term.
Caracas, Venezuela, Jul 3, 2008 (CNA) - In a press release the Diocese of Venezuela of the Anglican Church said this week it “has no ties” to the so-called “Reformed Catholic Church,” a group of dissidents who support the government of Hugo Chavez.
“We want to make it clear, in the name of the Worldwide Anglican Communion, that Leonardo Marin Saavedra, the self-proclaimed archbishop of the ‘Latin American Anglican Church,’ is not recognized as such. Therefore, he is not Anglican. To be Anglican is to be in canonical communion with the Primary See of Canterbury.
“We regret that this confusion completely beyond our control has moved into our country through the recent creation of the ‘Reformed Catholic Church of Venezuela’,” the press release states.
For his part, Cardinal Jorge Urosa of Caracas told Union Radio that the new religious sect is completely “incoherent.” “It is a church made up of dissidents who want to become big players of a schismatic religious movement,” he said, adding that it has no unity of purpose and is causing disturbance to “the religious and ecclesial order.”
Cardinal Urosa reminded Catholics they cannot exchange Jesus Christ “for one of the gentlemen pretending to usurp the name ‘catholic church’ in order to present themselves as the true followers and pastors.”
“The Church of Jesus Christ is not a church that seeks power, but rather service and the preaching of love, and not opposition to a specific government,” he said
La Paz, Bolivia, Jul 3, 2008 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Cardinal Julio Terrazas Sandoval, reaffirmed this week his willingness to serve as a facilitator in the dialogue between Bolivian president Evo Morales' government and opposition leaders.
“The Church will be available as many times as necessary to help bring the two sides together,” the cardinal said upon arriving in the city of Cochabamba.
He reiterated his call to both sides to solve the crisis through dialogue. The situation facing the country requires reflection and evaluation, he added. “We must not let conflicts become worse,” the cardinal stated.
Rome, Italy, Jul 3, 2008 (CNA) - The secretary for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Archbishop Angelo Amato, explained this week that “Christian truth is not only for experts but for everyone, it is not only a theoretical truth but also a practical one. It’s not a truth only for academia but also for daily life.”
In an article published by “L’Osservatore Romano” entitled, “The truth is shown by putting it into practice,” Bishop Amato said this truth has to do with “Christian simplicity, far from Gnostic fables. Not only wise men but also simple people have contributed to the spread of Christianity.”
Often times, the archbishop wrote, the Fathers of the Church “call Christians ‘true philosophers’(…) ‘Who reads Aristotle? How many people are familiar with Plato or his books, or at least his name? On the other hand, the whole world knows about our simple people and our fishermen, the fame resounds throughout the world. Therefore we need to present their simple words with simple language as well,” he said.
Archbishop Amato went on to stress that “Christian simplicity is not simplistic or superficial. It points to a higher knowledge that surpasses the dialectic of philosophers and rectors and is successful by reaching all.”
With regards to the question of truth in other religions, the archbishop stressed that inter-religious dialogue must be carried out carefully and without improvisation, lest “we run the risk of banalizing or even betraying our convictions and those of others.”
Christianity’s claim upon the truth is found at the heart of its identity, he said, as evidenced by not only sound reasoning but also by the exemplary lives of its believers.
“Such truth was spread not by coercion but by persuasion,” he added, because “at the foundation of the Christian’s proclamation is the principle of freedom.”
Toronto, Canada, Jul 3, 2008 (CNA) - The awarding of the Order of Canada to Dr. Hans Morgentaler, an abortionist who helped overturn anti-abortion laws in Canada, has prompted a past honoree to return the decoration amid calls for Morgentaler’s award to be revoked. The Catholic bishops of Canada have also added their voice to the fray, saying the selection of Morgentaler “discredits the Order of Canada” by decorating a man who has “attacked the most vulnerable, the unborn.”
The 85-year-old Morgentaler, who is sometimes referred to as “Canada's Father of Abortion” and “Canada’s Father of Secular Humanism,” is credited by some with leading the charge to legalize abortion under all circumstances in Canada. He began his efforts by opening an illegal abortion clinic in Montreal in 1969.
In 1988 the Canadian Supreme Court issued a ruling, which bore Dr. Morgentaler’s name, striking down abortion-restricting provisions in the criminal code, ruling they violated a woman’s constitutional right to “security of person.”
On Tuesday the Canadian Governor-General’s office confirmed Morgentaler has been named as a member of the order and will receive his insignia at a ceremony at a later date.
Father Lucien Larre, a priest in Coquitlam, British Columbia who was awarded the Order of Canada in 1983 for his work with troubled adolescents, said on Wednesday he was “compelled in conscience to return my Order of Canada to Ottawa.”
According to a news release from the Archdiocese of Vancouver, Father Larre said he did not want to show any disrespect for the Governor General and he was not condemning Morgentaler or his sincerity.
“But I believe in my heart that he is horribly wrong and that the advisory committee made a terrible mistake,” he said.
Recipients of the Order of Canada “should be an inspiration to most Canadians,” he said, but elevating Morgentaler to the Order of Canada “degrades” the award for those who believe in the sanctity of human life.
The priest said he was not acting as a representative of the Archdiocese of Vancouver but as a “private citizen struggling with a matter of conscience.”
Father Larre founded several Bosco Centers for disabled, emotionally disturbed and addicted adolescents.
Dr. Morgentaler spoke to the press about his award at his Toronto clinic on Wednesday.
"I'm actually surprised that the reaction is not more violent than it is," Dr. Morgentaler said, according to the Globe and Mail. "There are many groups, especially on the fundamentalist side and the Catholic right, who are adamantly opposed to the rights of women to have abortions, especially safe abortions."
A July 2 press release from the Catholic Organization for Life and Family (COLF) called for the award to be revoked.
“In 1988,” the group said, “a Supreme Court decision that bears his name removed all legal barriers to abortion at any stage of pregnancy – since then, nearly two million future citizens have lost their lives to abortion. Is that the outstanding achievement that has been a service to this nation?
“Canada has its heroes, and they deserve to be recognized; however, it is neither heroic nor admirable to cause the death of unborn children, the most vulnerable of all Canadians. COLF therefore urges the Harper Government to take the necessary action to ensure that the decision to award the Order of Canada to Dr. Morgentaler be revoked.”
The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a July 2 statement in response to the announcement of Morgentaler’s award, calling it a “serious error.”
The statement cited the motto for the Order of Canada, “Desiderantes Meliorem Patriam,” which means “They desire a better country.”
“Far from improving our country,” the bishops said, “Mr. Morgentaler’s actions continue to create controversy and division in our nation. In the name of freedom of choice, he has encouraged the development of a culture of death and has thus attacked the most vulnerable, the unborn.”
“Awarding such a decoration in this context discredits the Order of Canada. It amounts to an inadmissible affront to the numerous Canadians who dedicate their lives to the protection of the most vulnerable, especially the unborn.”
Washington D.C., Jul 3, 2008 (CNA) - Seeking lower gasoline prices, the “Pray at the Pump Movement” has been holding prayer vigils at gas stations around the country. On Monday, the group’s founder, Rocky Twyman, spent the afternoon outside of the Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Washington praying and collecting signatures petitioning Saudi Arabia to release more oil.
Twyman, who is a member of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, hopes to deliver the petition to the Saudi oil minister to encourage the country to increase its production from 200,000 to 1.2 million barrels of oil per day.
"Our people are really suffering through this crisis," Twyman told Cybercast News Service. "We need the Saudis to release at least 1.2 [million] barrels of oil per day for about the next six months until we can get everything settled in America ... If they can just do that for us, then this will help us get through this crisis."
"I think we have just entered a new phase. We were in the prayerful phase, but now we're going into a more activist phase, because we feel that whole faith without works is dead," he continued.
Twyman is also known for having helped begin the first national campaign to encourage African Americans to become bone marrow donors.
Vatican City, Jul 3, 2008 (CNA) - Today at Castelgandolfo, the Holy Father received the Governor General of the Solomon Islands, Sir Nathaniel Rahumaea Waena. In the meeting, Benedict XVI discussed country’s state of affairs while the Secretary for the Relations with the States, Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, thanked him for encouraging youth to participate in the upcoming World Youth Day.
A statement from the Vatican Press Office described the discussions in between the Pontiff and Sir Waena as focusing on “the current political and social situation of the country, and on the significant contribution of the Catholic Church, especially in the fields of education, healthcare and human promotion.”
The secretary for Relations with States, Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, also “thanked the governor general and the authorities of the Solomon Islands for their generous outreach to young people who wish to participate in the forthcoming celebration of World Youth Day in Sydney, Australia, recognizing the formative importance of the event."