Sunday, January 24, 2010

Abortion Contracts is the New Bingo of the Catholic Church

In what should be quite familiar to the Boston prolifers, Manchester prolifers are battling for the soul of Catholic healthcare.

According to Kathleen Souza of New Hampshire Right to Life, "Dartmouth is involved in abortions throughout the state, heavily involved in fertility research, em­bryonic stem-cell research, selective-reduction abortion — almost everything the Church is against." The diocese is in danger of surrendering the independence of its 330-bed hospital, she said, in a convoluted agreement that integrates it with Dartmouth-Hitchcock.

But John McCormack, the bishop of Manchester, counters that, although he gave preliminary approval to the affiliation in July so the review process could start, he won't sign off on the deal if it violates Catholic ethics. "I am committed to preserve Catholic Medical Center to be a true Catholic healthcare institution, one that fulfills all the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic hospitals," he said in a statement posted at, a website promoting the plan.

The un-doing of Catholic conscience protections, which Cardinal O'Malley began in Boston, is quietly spreading.

Like Cardinal O'Malley, Bishop McCormack claims he won't sign off on the abortion contracts he is executing if they violate Catholic ethics.

It's a little frightening he wouldn't know it's paradoxical.

Following the strategy Cardinal O'Malley used to "sign off", McCormack has brought in Catholic "ethical experts" to show him how to flow the cash into diocesan bank accounts to bring about "a healthier tomorrow" for diocesan coffers.

When a handful of Catholics exposed Cardinal O'Malley's original deal, which had the diocese taking an up-front ownership role in the arrangement, the National Catholic Bioethics Center (Cardinal financed) was called to the scene of the crime to give Catholics the impression there is an ethical way to carry out the abortion contracts while getting the money into the diocesan bank accounts as originally planned.

The immoral contract went forward with Caritas playing the exact role it had always intended to play where the rubber hits the road but there was paper shuffle with ownership structure. The money is changing hands. The Catholics lost their conscience protections. The children are losing their lives.

The counsel of the National Catholic Bioethics Center was never released.

While Cardinal O'Malley has thus far been able to keep the arrangement close to the vest, the New Oxford review article gives us a hint of how the ethics of omission (the cessation of teaching women about natural law and moral principle, i.e., telling the woman abortion is the killing of her child and supplying her with alternatives) and commission (forcing Catholic healthcare workers to paint abortion in a positive light and send the woman forward) intentionally hides how they financially benefit in the subterfuge :

Catholic Medical Center (CMC) would receive more Medicaid and Medicare revenue from an affiliation with Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, a teaching hospital in Lebanon, according to Andre Martel, a former state senator and leader of the ad-hoc "Save CMC" movement. Martel testified at one of three public hearings last fall that CMC is thriving — with a $99 million surplus — so it could easily continue independently, without a secular partner.

The money from the abortions will be diverted to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center while the Catholic Medical Center will receive more Medicaid and Medicare revenue.

They go out of their way to bury it clearly indicates they know the arrangement doesn't pass the sniff test.

It's akin to partnering with Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun and saying the money lining the Bishop's wallet came from the concierge services and so the arrangement is ethically sound.

The Manchester pro-life group has been quite aggressive:

Led by Souza and Hagan, both former state legislators, the 25,000-member New Hampshire Right to Life has filed a "Memo of Opposition" with the New Hampshire attorney general and submitted more than 500 pages of documentation contending that the merger violates both Catholic ethics and charitable public-trust laws.

Here's some confirmation that the "ethics" of a "healthy tomorrow" is also about ownership interests in the business of surrendering the unborn to be executed, Catholic conscience protections and moral health services to patients is about ownership structure:

The medical boards of both CMC and Dartmouth-Hitchcock must sign off on a final affiliation agreement. Federal and state anti-trust approval is also needed. Ultimately, Bishop McCormack and the New Hampshire attorney general's office have final say over the plan, which could still be amended.

The reorganizational structure is intricate enough that in November the state hired a law firm, to be paid for by CMC and Dartmouth-Hitchcock, to unfold its complexities. Souza likened it to "Russian nesting dolls" in that when one layer opens, another is revealed. For example, one section of the agreement, posted online, stipulates that most decisions are "expected" to originate locally by CMC and its Dartmouth-Hitchcock Manchester affiliate. But another section calls for Dartmouth-Hitch cock to become the new "sole member" of CMC's parent company, which means that the diocese basically relinquishes the hospital's independence.

As was done in Boston, the paper trails of the ethics reviews has also been kept secretive:

Diocesan spokesman Kevin Donovan responded to that charge in a December 10 e-mail. "The opinions from Catholic ethicists are advisory and not definitive," he said, and were meant to remain confidential. Also, the final agreement may change before it reaches the bishop, so previous analyses would be outdated. "When the bishop reaches his determination, he will clearly indicate the reasons for his decision," Donovan said.
This excellent article, written by Gail Besse, gives some insight into the advice the Cardinal received from NCCB:

To avoid problems in Catholic-secular hospital mergers, parties would be wise to specify in writing the actual terms of ethical practice required, suggested Fr. Tadeusz Pacholczyk, director of education for the National Catholic Bioethics Center.

His advice was followed in Rhode Island, where the Diocese of Providence under Bishop Thomas Tobin recently merged St. Joseph Health Services with the secular Roger Williams Medical Center. On October 29 the Rhode Island attorney general approved the new holding company, CharterCare Health Partners.

"You can't assume the pieces will come together, so we discussed everything," said Msgr. Paul Theroux, vice-chairman of St. Joseph's board. "We wrote in reserved powers for the bishop in terms of preserving Catholic identity. We were upfront with Roger Williams, and they were willing to make some concessions. They agreed never to perform abortions, euthanasia, or embryonic cell destruction. It's written into the bylaws of CharterCare. They agreed they would not accept funding for embryonic stem-cell research. If others joined in the future, they'd also be bound by these restrictions."

If this was their advice to Cardinal O'Malley, he rejected it. CommonwealthCare commits all of these moral evils.

Numerous people have asked the Cardinal to release the report of the NCBC. He has refused.

Instead, the Cardinal thanked the NCCB in the public square, tactically giving the appearance the NCBC blessed his arrangement. Since the arrangement is ethically unsound, the Cardinal chose to do significant harm to the injury of the National Catholic Bioethics Center.

I hope New Hampshire Catholics are not treated to a similar indignity.

In Manchester, Bishop McCormack's next move will be a monumental one — one that could have national and historic implications. For all who care about the increasingly tenuous future of Catholic health care, it is a situation that bears watching — and praying about.


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