.- Controversy over alleged unethical sterilizations performed at a Catholic hospital continues in the Diocese of Tyler as Trinity Mother Francis Hospital and the local bishop dispute whether the hospital has performed tubal ligations and if the procedures violated Catholic medical ethics.
A statement from the hospital insists it does not perform direct sterilizations and reports that the provincial superior of its sponsoring religious order hopes to meet with Bishop of Tyler Alvaro Corrada.
However, an official with the Diocese of Tyler accuses the hospitalâs statement of being equivocal and reports that the hospital erroneously does not consider tubal ligations to be direct sterilizations.
The hospitalâs December 11 statement states: âTrinity Mother Frances does not perform direct sterilizations.â
The statement claims that âMedically necessary indirect sterilizationsâ are permitted as provided in âthe second sentence of ERD #53.â Medical necessity is determined on a case-by-case basis by OB/GYN physicians in consultation with the hospitalâs ethics committee.
Catholic Health Services ERDs, or Ethical and Religious Directives, are guidelines that have been laid out to inform medical institutions and professionals about Catholic medical ethics.
The hospital claims to have had âongoing communicationâ since âat least July 2008â with the Diocese of Tyler regarding the alleged ethics violations. It also reports that the Provincial Superior of the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth, Trinity Mother Francesâ religious sponsor, has requested a personal meeting with the bishop.
Father Gavin Vaverek, Promoter of Justice in the Diocese of Tyler, responded to the hospitalâs statement in an e-mail obtained by CNA. He said that Bishop Corradaâs investigation found that the hospital had performed tubal ligations, but had reduced the number of procedures by fifty percent.
âThe bishop explicitly noted that most of these [procedures] were tubal ligations which Trinity Mother Frances had been allowing and continued to allow because it was using a âserious mis-interpretationâ of Catholic teaching,â he wrote.
The bishop issued a December 1 statement calling on the hospital âpublicly to admit its error and pledge to cease the procedures.â
âIt does not deny offering tubal ligations,â the priest said about the hospitalâs statement.
âHaving admitted the procedures, Trinity Mother Frances now wishes to continue them in the face of clear teaching and directive of the bishop by reasserting its discredited opinion that the procedures really are not âdirect sterilizations.â Essentially, it is saying the bishop is wrong when he asserts that tubal ligations are direct sterilization.â
Father Vaverek noted that the ERD cited by the hospitalâs statement refers to a Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith document which âexplicitly states that tubal ligations are direct sterilizations that may never be justified and that any procedure to render a patient infertile to avoid dangers from future pregnancies are direct sterilizations.â
It âdenies utterlyâ tubal ligations and other direct sterilizations are therapeutic procedures that can be considered medically necessary.
âAnd it states that all contrary opinions are mistaken and may not be used at Catholic hospitals to justify tubal ligations and other direct sterilizations by the evasion of calling them âindirect sterilizations.â The Vatican statement cited in the footnote, in fact, is directed precisely against the sort of claim Trinity Mother Frances is trying to make.â
In a Friday phone interview CNA spoke more about the matter with Father Vaverek.
âBishop Corrada was very saddened that the hospital chose to release such an equivocal statement without communicating it to the diocese directly,â Father Vaverek said. âThe diocese has always released its public statements to the hospital prior to their release.â
Father Vaverek said the bishop was also saddened that the hospitalâs statement did not address the issues âin any substantive fashion.â
He also questioned the hospitalâs description of its communications with the diocese as âongoing.â He reported that there had been âsome initial contactâ between the bishop and the hospital in connection with the initial investigation into the alleged ethics violations, but âthere has been limited contact since then.â
âThey have not replied to the bishopâs letters asking for a direct reply,â the priest told CNA, before criticizing the hospitalâs statement.
âIt says less than nothing. At best, it is a very equivocal statement.â
Referring to the statementâs assertion âTrinity Mother Frances does not perform direct sterilizations,â Father Vaverek argued: âStrictly speaking, the only way one can interpret that is that they are no longer doing tubal ligations. But I donât believe that is the case.â Instead, Father Vaverek believes that the hospital erroneously considers tubal ligations to be a form of indirect sterilization.
âIndirect sterilization has to deal with a present pathology, and that is not the case in tubal ligations,â he continued, referencing several statements made by the Congregation on the Doctrine of the Faith.
âThe hospitals have never put forward an argument that they do not do tubal ligations,â he stated.
Father Vaverek also disputed the hospital statementâs claim that the Provincial Superior of the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth has requested a personal meeting with the bishop.
âThe provincial has not requested a meeting with the bishop, as far as the bishop knows.â
CNA contacted Trinity Mother Frances for comment but did not receive a response by press time. CNA also tried to contact the hospitalâs vice-president of legal counsel without success.