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a ringing-- well, maybe jingling -- defense of conscience

By Diogenes (articles ) | May 28, 2010

 At an April panel discussion at Boston College on "conscience clause" exemptions for health-care workers, Father J. Bryan Hehir spoke first. The priest who frames public policy for the Boston archdiocese delivered this message, as reported in Boston College Magazine:

If we don't achieve a "fair adjudication" to thorny questions such as whether a gynecologist who refuses to perform abortions must refer a patient to an abortion provider or whether a pharmacist can be required to supply a morning-after contraceptive, we put at risk the health-care profession, the patient requesting the services, and the role of non-profits in the social welfare system, Hehir said.

To be fair, the phrasing of that message (apart from the 2-word quote) was done by the magazine reporter, not Father Hehir. We can blame the reporter for using telltale terms like "abortion provider" rather than "abortionist," and "morning-after contraceptive" rather than "abortifacient pill." Still, assuming that the reporter came within shouting distance of Father Hehir's intent, let's take a closer look:

...we put at risk the health-care profession, the patient requesting the services, and the role of non-profits in the social welfare system,...

 What's missing from that list of endangered values? The individual conscience: which was, you may recall, the subject of the evening's panel discussion. Father Hehir's concern about health-care institutions and non-profit agencies was expressed clearly enough to make an impression on the Boston College Magazine reporter. His concern for individual Catholics who might be compelled by law to perform immoral actions wasn't so memorable. 

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  • Posted by: jjen009 - May. 28, 2010 6:06 PM ET USA

    We put the patient at risk?? Aren't 'we', by not helping with abortion, protecting the patient?? Perhaps I am confused - or perhaps someone is :-)

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