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US bishops add directives for Catholic hospitals on mergers, collaboration

June 27, 2018 CNA Daily News 0

Washington D.C., Jun 28, 2018 / 12:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Catholic health care must remain Catholic, even in instances of collaborations or mergers with non-Catholic institutions, say new directives from the U.S. bishops.

The sixth edition of the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services was “overwhelmingly accepted” by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) at their spring meeting in Fort Lauderdale, said Bishop Robert McManus of Worcester, who chairs the USCCB’s subcommittee on health care, which was responsible for compiling the new directives.

Overall, the directives deal with a myriad of issues, including health care at the beginning and end of life, as well as pastoral and spiritual responsibilities of Catholic health care institutions to their patients.

The new edition includes multiple updates to the sixth section of the directives, which deal with collaborative arrangements with other health care organizations and providers, whether those are Catholic or secular.

The new and updated directives are a result of four years of study and consultation with the Vatican and with the National Catholic Bioethics Center, McManus told CNA.

They clarify, among other things, that Catholic health care institutions must maintain their Catholic identity and provide care consistent with Church teaching even in instances when they collaborate or merge with other healthcare institutions.

“The rule of thumb is a Catholic hospital in partnership with a non-Catholic hospital cannot formally cooperate with doing evil,” Bishop McManus said. Formal “cooperation (with evil) is always eliminated, it cannot be done.”

The directives state that formal cooperation with evil happens “not only when the cooperator shares the intention of the wrongdoer, but also when the cooperator directly participates in the immoral act….(and) may take various forms, such as authorizing wrongdoing, approving it, prescribing it, actively defending it, or giving specific direction about carrying it out. Formal cooperation, in whatever form, is always morally wrong.”

Material cooperation, on the other hand, occurs when “the one cooperating neither shares the wrongdoer’s intention in performing the immoral act nor cooperates by directly participating in the act as a means to some other end, but rather contributes to the immoral activity in a way that is causally related but not essential to the immoral act itself. While some instances of material cooperation are morally wrong, others are morally justified,” the directives state.

Material cooperation is never justified in actions that are “intrinsically immoral, such as abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide, and direct sterilization,” the directives state. Other situations of material cooperation may be more morally complex.

According to the bishops: “Reliable theological experts should be consulted in interpreting and applying the principles governing cooperation.”

Another important consideration in situations of collaborations and mergers is the principle of scandal, McManus said.

“Theological scandal, strictly speaking, means that I cannot do or say something that might cause someone else to enter into sin,” he said.

“So even if there is cooperation that has been justified by (as) material cooperation, if that might cause scandal, even after attempts to explain why a Catholic and non-Catholic institution are partnering, if there is the reality of scandal, that has to be avoided,” he said.

The directives also clarify the role of a bishop in overseeing collaborations of Catholic and non-Catholic institutions.

Joe Zalot, a staff ethicist with the National Catholic Bioethics Center, told CNA that these directives are necessary because health care collaborations are increasingly common, and can create complex situations when determining who has authority over these entities.

“Basically what’s happened is that many of the Catholic hospitals, historically they were founded and run by religious orders, particularly women’s religious orders, and as those orders are literally and figuratively dying out, there were not enough sisters to administer them,” Zalot said.

As a result, some Catholic health care institutions are now overseen by what are called juridic persons in canon law, which are legal entities recognized by the Vatican. Because these juridic persons exist within a diocese, or in some cases multiple dioceses, the local bishop or bishops share responsibility in ensuring the Catholic identity of these entities, Zalot said.

“What these directives are doing is recognizing that fact and trying to define the role of the bishop in terms of Catholic health care entities in his diocese. Essentially the bishop has oversight of what happens in his diocese,” Zalot said.

“What the bishops are saying is not new. What they’re doing is clarifying the role of the bishop in terms of Catholic entities in (their) dioceses,” he added.

Zalot said that for the most part, these directives usually do not pose problems for Catholic institutions that seek collaboration with non-Catholic ones.

“What (the bishops) are concerned with is ensuring the identity of the Catholic institution remains, even within these mergers. And actually it does happen, we see it, there’s hospitals that have been merged into or bought by a secular institution. But one of the elements of the contract or the purchase agreement is that these institutions remain Catholic,” he said.

“And as far as I know, most secular institutions don’t have a problem with that,” he added. The directives just help to ensure that “what is happening in a Catholic healthcare institution actually is Catholic, and you’re providing care consistent with the teachings of the Church.”

While discussing the revision of the directives at the general assembly in Fort Lauderdale, Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore noted that three of the five Catholic hospitals in Baltimore are already in collaborative arrangements, and that the new revision “doesn’t answer every question, but it does offer helpful guidance.”

Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington said the revision “walks a very clear path through many complex issues,” preserving the theological principle of the autonomy of individual dioceses in pastoral ministry. It “makes clear there should be collaboration between dioceses, without taking away the autonomy of the individual bishop.”

The USCCB voted to approve the revised Ethical and Religious Directives June 14, by a vote of 183 to 2, with 2 abstentions.


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Father Weinandy discusses Gnosticism Today

June 27, 2018 CNA Daily News 0

Denver, Colo., Jun 27, 2018 / 12:01 pm (CNA).- Father Thomas Weinandy, OFM Cap., is a member of the Vatican’s International Theological Commission, an accomplished professor of theology, and a prolific author. His most recent book is Jesus Becomi… […]

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US bishops disappointed by Supreme Court decision upholding travel ban

June 27, 2018 CNA Daily News 2

Washington D.C., Jun 27, 2018 / 11:51 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has expressed disappointment with a Supreme Court ruling upholding President Donald Trump’s travel ban, which prohibits nationals from several countries from entering the U.S.

“The travel ban targets Muslims for exclusion, which goes against our country’s core principle of neutrality when it comes to people of faith,” said the statement, issued by Bishop Joe Vásquez of Austin, who chairs the U.S. bishops’ migration committee, and Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, who chairs the religious freedom committee.

“We are disappointed in the Court’s ruling because it failed to take into account the clear and unlawful targeting of a specific religious group by the government,” continued the statement.

“The Catholic Church takes a strong stand against religious discrimination, and we will continue to advocate for the rights of people of all faiths, as well as serve migrants and refugees through our various ministries.”

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court voted 5-4 to uphold the ban. Chief Justice John Roberts authored the majority opinion in Trump v. Hawaii, which fell along ideological lines.

The Court found that President Donald Trump was acting within the limits of his authority when he announced a travel ban on nationals from seven countries. The policy prohibits entry into the U.S. of most nationals from five majority-Muslim countries: Libya, Syria, Iran, Yemen, and Somalia.

A change to the policy, enacted a few weeks before the Supreme Court was to hear the challenge to the ban, also prohibits entrance of nationals from North Korea, and to certain government officials from Venezuela and their immediate families.

The U.S. bishops’ conference, along with Catholic Charities USA and the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC), had filed a friend-of-the-court brief in opposition to the travel ban. The groups argued that the ban was a violation of the free exercise clause of the First Amendment.

Trump, however, has emphasized the decision as necessary to protect Americans against terrorism and other violence.

A statement from the White House June 26 called the ruling “a tremendous victory for the American People and the Constitution.”


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Religious superior recommended restoration of faculties for St. John Cantius founder

June 26, 2018 CNA Daily News 1

Chicago, Ill., Jun 26, 2018 / 02:15 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The religious superior of Fr. C. Frank Phillips, former pastor of St. John Cantius Parish in Chicago, recommended last month that Chicago’s archbishop permit the priest to return to public ministry, CNA has learned.

In a May 21 communique to Cupich obtained by CNA, the priest’s superior recommended that Fr. Phillips “should not return to the parish as its pastor,” but supported the possibility that Phillips might exercise priestly ministry in some other setting.

Phillips, 68, has been accused of misconduct involving adult men. He was removed as pastor of St. John Cantius March 16, and prohibited from public ministry in the Archdiocese of Chicago by Cardinal Blase Cupich.

Since then, Fr. Scott Thelander, SJC, has served as parish administrator ad interim.

Fr. Phillips, who is canonically a member of the Congregation of the Resurrection, had served at St. John Cantius parish since 1988.

In 1998, Phillips founded the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius, with the approval of Cardinal Francis George of Chicago and Resurrectionists.

The Archdiocese of Chicago forwarded unspecified allegations to the Resurrectionists in March.

The allegations were investigated by an independent review board organized by the Resurrectionists, and by provincial leaders. The results of that investigation were forwarded to the Archdiocese of Chicago by Fr. Gene Szarek, superior of the USA province of the Resurrectionists, along with his own proposal for a resolution.

Szarek sent on May 21 a “votum”- an official opinion- to the Archdiocese of Chicago, in response to the findings of the review board. CNA has obtained a copy of that votum, which did not specify the nature of the allegations made against Phillips.

Citing “a certain amount of ambiguity between the allegations of the accusers and the testimony of witnesses, including Fr. Phillips himself,” Szarek said he would instruct Fr. Phillips to undergo a psychological evaluation, “and possible sensitivity training in the very near future.”

Fr. Szarek said further that Fr. Phillips should not return to St. John Cantius Parish as its pastor, considering both his age “and out of respect for the Cardinal’s own preference.”

The superior also wrote that it “seems fair and just to restore the canonical faculties of Fr. Phillips” because “no civil or ecclesiastical crime had been established.”

He noted that Fr. Phillips’ accusers “thought that his removal from the parish was all that they desired.”

Fr. Szarek also wrote that since Fr. Phillips is founder of the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius, “the ideal would be his restoration as their superior general.”

The Canons Regular are incardinated in the Chicago archdiocese, and their assignments are made by the Archbishop of Chicago, Fr. Szarek noted, so “there is no fear that Fr. Phillips could possibly interfere in some way” with the archbishop’s decisions.

“The historical reality of his being the Founder and his ongoing provision of spiritual leadership would be salutary for all,” Fr. Szarek stated, adding that Fr. Phillips “would obviously not reside” at St. John Cantius Parish.

“If the above recommendation is unfeasible, then at least he and the Canons should not be prevented from communication.” A prohibition on communication between Phillips and the Canons Regular had not previously been reported.

Despite Fr. Szarek’s proposal, Cardinal Cupich declined to allow Fr. Phillips to minister publicly. Ordinarily, a priest prohibited from public ministry is able to celebrate Mass only in private, and not able to hear confessions or celebrate other sacraments, unless a person is in immediate danger of death.

“We accept the Archdiocese’s decision that Fr. Phillips’ faculties for public ministry will remain withdrawn and that he not return as pastor of St John Cantius and as Superior of the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius,” Fr. Szarek wrote in a June 24 letter to the parishioners of St. John Cantius parish.

Paula Waters, a spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Chicago, told the Chicago Tribune June 25 that though Fr. Phillips had not been found to have violated civil or canon law, there was other information that justified barring him from exercising public ministry.

“There are standards for behavior,” Waters told the Tribune.

Stating that the review board recommended that Fr. Phillips not return to St. John Cantius as pastor “and on other factors, the cardinal decided that his faculties to minister would remain withdrawn,” she said.

When asked about the removal of Fr. Phillips’ faculties, a Chicago archdiocese spokeswoman told CNA June 26 only that “it was recommended that Fr. Phillips not return to ministry at St. John Cantius” in the Resurrectionists’ investigation report.

In his letter informing the St. John Cantius community of Cardinal Cupich’s decision, Fr. Szarek wrote: “While we know this news will disappoint some of Fr. Phillips’ supporters, we hope everyone will come to understand that this process was conducted with prayerful deliberation and sincere compassion.”

Protect our Priests, a group formed to support and assist Fr. Phillips had issued a statement June 20 saying that Fr. Phillips had been “exonerated”, saying the review board “concluded that Fr. Phillips has not violated any secular criminal, civil or canon law.”

Protect our Priests stated that the review board, consisting of three leaders from the Chicago area who are not members of St. John Cantius parish, interviewed “the detractors and several witnesses, persons who personally know the accusers, and other individuals who came forward to testify in defense of Father Phillips’ integrity.”

The group added that Cardinal Cupich had directed that members of the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius not be interviewed by the board.

The group stated June 20 that “We … remain confident that in this process, justice and truth will prevail over the mendacity, falsehoods, spitefulness and malevolent connivance from which this unpleasant episode originates; and that the accusers, who recklessly have besmirched their own reputations in this matter, will too choose to make themselves ‘free’, by each of them individually presenting an unconditional retraction.”

St. John Cantius parish was founded in 1892 by the Congregation of the Resurrection, according to the church’s website, and each of its pastors has been a member of that congregation.