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Why would a Catholic agency ask for involvement with the abortion industry?

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Mar 04, 2009

Why is a Catholic health-care agency actively seeking involvement in a program that would involve abortion referrals?

Caritas Christi, the health-care arm of the Boston archdiocese, is assuring the public that Catholic hospitals would not perform abortions, nor even make abortion referrals. But the abortions would be done, the referrals would be made, under the terms of a government contract that Caritas Christi-- in partnership with another health-care agency-- hopes to win. [See today's CWN News Brief.]

Caritas Christi and its secular partner, Centene Corporation, are competing for a lucrative contract to provide health-care insurance for low-income clients in Massachusetts. As the state agency that administers this program prepared to weigh the bid, the question naturally arose whether clients would have access to the full range of services mandated by the state law, including abortion. The answer came with many qualifying phrases, but the answer was Yes.

The proposal by Caritas Christi and Centene was apparently designed to preserve the ritual purity of the Catholic health-care agency. The Caritas Christi hospitals would not be directly involved in the abortion business. Instead they would be part of a partnership, with a third-party agency handling the blood money.

The fact remains that if the contract is approved, there would be no hospital in the Boston area that was not involved, directly or indirectly, with the abortion business. While Catholics elsewhere in America fight against the Obama administration's plan to jettison the "conscience clause" protecting health-care personnel, that clause would become a moot point for pro-life health-care workers in Boston.

And again-- this point cannot be emphasized too strongly-- this wretched situation would occur not because the government forced Caritas Christi into an morally untenable position, but because the Catholic health-care agency deliberately sought to be involved.

Until recently Caritas Christi was unambiguously owned and operated by the Archdiocese of Boston, with the archbishop as chairman of the board and the chancellor and vicar general also serving as board members. But the health-care agency has suffered financial and administrative difficulties, and last year the attorney general of Massachusetts stepped in to demand a restructuring of the board, allowing greater government oversight. Today Caritas Christi declined to identify the members of the reconstituted board, or even to say whether or not Cardinal Sean O'Malley remains the chairman. But in announcing the agreement with the attorney general, Caritas Christi assured the public that the agency would remain faithful to the moral teachings of the Catholic Church. CWN learned that at least one priest of the Boston archdiocese, Father J. Bryan Hehir, remains on the board, with a mandate to protect the agency's Catholic identity.

Since the Boston Globe first revealed the Caritas Christi involvement in the bid for this state contract, several different voices have been clearly heard. Pro-life activists in Boston have expressed their shock. Pro-abortion activists, seizing the advantage, have pressed for greater assurance that the Catholic agency would not interfere with the abortion business. Caritas Christi has walked a public-relations tightrope, trying to reassure worried Catholic without provoking new demands from the abortion lobby. But one voice has been silent. To date, the Boston archdiocese had refrained from comment, referring questions back to Caritas Christi.

Let us hope and pray that when the Boston archdiocese finds its voice, it will deliver an emphatic message that the Catholic Church does not want, and will not seek, any connection, however remote, with the culture of death.

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