Bishop Demetrio Fernandez of Tarazona in Spain has defended the right of Catholic chaplains to work in hospitals, saying that spiritual care is a right of the infirm and not a privilege of the Church, as the Socialist Party has sought to portray it.
In a message, Bishop Fernandez said the attempt to expel chaplains from local hospitals was due to a desire to “eliminate God from public life,” as the presence of priests “is the living presence of God in the world of health care, in order to respond to a right and need of the infirm. Suppress chaplains and we will have expelled God from hospitals.”
Such a move would also take important ethical guidance away from patients and family members, he said. “The sick and their families go to him (the chaplain) during the long hours of illness and find in him consolation and many times guidance in how to act.”
“Chaplains are a hindrance to the plans against life that are being and will be implemented,” the bishop continued. “Respect for life from conception to natural death is a matter of common sense, which chaplains continually reiterate.” Likewise, he said, the work of chaplains is not to proselytize, as “they do not minister to those who are of other religions.” “If the sick person is Jewish or Muslim, they have the right to be visited and cared for by a minister of their own faith,” he said.
For this reason, Bishop Fernandez concluded, the campaign against chaplains has been “intentionally unleashed,” and therefore intervention by the justice department has been requested.
Bishop Fernandez thanked chaplains for their pastoral work and said he hoped that “on my own death bed I will have at my side a Catholic priest who will help me pass from this world to the next in the peace of God.”