Scranton bishops ask Catholic higher ed to ensure fidelity in health services

Bishop Dougherty / Bishop Martino
Bishop Dougherty / Bishop Martino

.- Following a report of contraceptives being sold at a Pennsylvania Catholic university, the bishops of the Diocese of Scranton have asked the four Catholic institutions of higher learning in the diocese to provide information on their student health services to ensure that there are no practices which would violate Catholic teaching.

Bishop Joseph F. Martino and Auxiliary Bishop John M. Dougherty requested the information in an April 1 letter to Holy Cross Father Thomas J. O’Hara, resident of King’s College in Wilkes-Barre; Immaculate Heart of Mary Sister Anne Munley, president of Marywood University in Scranton; Michael A. MacDowell, president of Misericordia University in Dallas; and Jesuit Father Scott R. Pilarz, president of The University of Scranton.

According to an April 3 press release from the diocese, the bishops’ letter explains that their inquiry was prompted by a March 25 article in the student newspaper at St. Joseph University in Philadelphia. The article said that the university finds the “middle ground between Church doctrine and student healthcare.”

The article reported that the university’s director of student health services said the school’s location offers enough convenience and opportunity to encourage students to purchase condoms. Describing the students’ situation as “fortunate,” she also discussed the use of oral contraceptives.

“It’s always a fine line between staying within the values of the University, which we completely respect, and offering services to the students,” the director said. “We are fortunate that there are other medical centers in the area, and that there are health care providers other than us.”

Catholic teaching regards both premarital sex and the use of artificial contraception as sinful.

Bishops Martino and Dougherty said the position of the university indicates little respect for Catholic teaching.

Their letter to the four Catholic institutions under their jurisdiction requests documentation on the “policies, procedures, or practices” authorized by the schools, saying “it is especially important that the Diocese have assurance from you that no practice is occurring which would be in violation of Catholic teaching.”

The bishops cited Canon 810, Section 2 of Canon Law, which in they said notes “the duty and right of concerned diocesan bishops to be vigilant that the principles of Catholic doctrines are faithfully observed in Catholic institutions of higher learning.”

CNA contacted the Diocese of Scranton for further comment but did not receive a response by publication time.

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