Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley and Caritas Christi Healthcare System have again commented on Caritas Christi’s cooperation in a joint venture which may provide abortion services, saying its participation is “consistent with Catholic identity.” The archdiocese said in a statement that there are “active discussions” being held to make “acceptable modifications” to the arrangement.
The Caritas Christi Health Care network, which is affiliated with the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, joined in a partnership with Centene Corp. subsidiary Celtic Group, LLC to enter into Commonwealth Care, Massachusetts’ subsidized health program.
The Centene-Caritas Christi partnership, in which Centene’s Celtic Group is the senior partner, established CeltiCare as a for-profit HMO to manage the Commonwealth Care contract awarded by the state government.
On Monday afternoon, benefit information at the CeltiCare site listed abortion services for $0, $50 and $100 depending on the participant’s health plan. Another CeltiCare document, dated May 21, lists “Family Planning and Reproductive Services Providers” and provides information about four Planned Parenthood affiliates.
In a Wednesday statement from the Archdiocese of Boston, Cardinal O’Malley, who is Archbishop of Boston, and Caritas Christi President Dr. Ralph de la Torre commented on Caritas Christi’s involvement.
The statement said that the proposed arrangement has been submitted for analysis to the National Catholic Bioethics Center (NCBC), which provides guidance for Catholic health systems.
“Caritas is in active discussions with Celtic Group and CeltiCare with a view to making acceptable modifications to their arrangement,” the statement said.
Commenting in the statement, Dr. de la Torre explained that when a patient seeks “such a procedure,” Caritas health care professionals will be “clear” that the hospital does not perform them and that the patient must “turn to his or her insurer for further guidance.”
According to Dr. de la Torre, this is the current practice in the Caritas system in its work with other insurance companies under state laws that mandate access to “procedures not provided within the Caritas system.”
“Caritas Christi is dedicated to providing quality health care to the citizens of the Commonwealth, especially the poor, in a way that expresses our unwavering commitment to Catholic teaching,” he added.
Catholic health care efforts are especially important at the present, Dr. de la Torre added, saying many Massachusetts communities are facing “an unprecedented need” with some areas’ unemployment rates approaching 18 percent.
For his part, in the Wednesday statement Cardinal O’Malley reaffirmed that it has always been clear to him that Caritas Christi has been “consistently faithful” in its commitment to comply with Catholic moral teaching.
In any revised agreement among Celtic Group, CeltiCare and Caritas Christi, the cardinal wrote, “under no circumstances” will Caritas perform procedures prohibited by the Catholic Bishops’ Ethical and Religious Directives (ERDs) for Catholic Health Care Services or refer any patients to other providers who “perform or procure such procedures.”
Cardinal O’Malley said that ministry to the poor and caring for the unborn are “central tenets” of the ERDs and are “at the very heart of Catholicism.”