Bishop Alvaro Corrada of the Diocese of Tyler, Texas, has apologized for his lack of oversight following the confirmation of allegations that Catholic hospitals in Texas were performing direct sterilizations in contravention of Catholic medical ethics.
Writing in a November 21 public statement in the Catholic East Texas newspaper, Bishop Corrada referred to a whistleblower report charging that Catholic hospitals in the state had performed “a large number of tubal ligations.” The report’s findings were publicized in the July 13, 2008 issue of Our Sunday Visitor.
“Initially both Catholic hospitals in the Diocese of Tyler responded that they were in compliance with the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Services,” Bishop Corrada wrote. “Sadly, subsequent investigation reveals that there had been a serious mis-interpretation of the ERDs and that in fact many direct sterilizations had been done and continued to be done at the time of the article.”
His statement continued:
“As a Bishop, I am deeply saddened and upset by this news. As Bishop of the Diocese of Tyler, I have to admit my failure to provide adequate oversight of the Catholic Hospitals as regards their protection of the sacred dignity of each human person.”
Saying this “unacceptable situation” has “many causes and complications,” he noted he will continue to work with Catholic hospitals in his diocese and with the other bishops of Texas in order to “bring an end to immoral procedures and to put in place some method of ongoing accountability and transparency of monitoring both protocols and actual practices.”
Bishop Corrada added that Catholics must ensure that all people seeking health care at Catholic institutions will be treated “with respect and dignity as Jesus teaches us,” saying the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Services (ERDs) have been approved to ensure “the sacred dignity of each patient is protected and defended.”
His statement closed by noting Catholic hospitals’ response to the report.
“In response to their own investigation of the matter, CHRISTUS St. Michael's in Texarkana has discontinued all tubal ligations. They report a favorable response from their local medical community.”
Trinity Mother Frances had experienced a fifty percent reduction in its number of tubal ligations prior to the release of the report, the bishop stated. Bishop Corrada explained that Trinity Mother Frances is “a large health care system” and remarked that it is developing plans to comply with an “authentic interpretation of the ERDs,” especially ERD 53 which prohibits direct sterilization.
Bishop Corrada’s statement did not address the whistleblower report’s contention that abortions may have been performed at Catholic hospitals in Texas. According to Our Sunday Visitor, state data used in the report indicated 39 abortions were performed at Catholic hospitals during the period of 2000 to 2003, but such statistics may have recorded morally licit procedures such as the removal of a stillborn baby or emergency services for an abortion performed elsewhere.
CNA contacted the Diocese of Tyler for clarification on the abortion allegations and spoke with Father Gavin Vaverek, Promoter of Justice in the Diocese of Tyler.
“There was, I believe, only one possible abortion case in our diocese, at the Texarkana hospital,” he explained, noting the case involved complications resulting from an abortion.
“That case was of a woman who was admitted for an abortion, in the same way someone would be admitted for a gunshot wound. It was because of an abortion, not for an abortion,” he emphasized to CNA.
“That was the only case we had. There’s certainly no problem in taking care of someone who had an abortion.”
As for procedures classified as abortions at Catholic hospitals in other dioceses in Texas, Father Vavereck noted the ambiguity in the reports and said in those cases too “there will likely be extenuating circumstances.”