Introduction: A Not Unrealistic Scenario
Imagine visiting or worse, being hospitalized as a patient in a medical center wherein women had to wear burkas, prayers were heard on intercoms, health professionals and others ritually reminded themselves and others around them that God is great and, most concerning of all, selected medical procedures standard in non-sectarian institutions were strictly verboten.
No, Muslims are not taking over American medical facilities. It's worse than that. The Holy Roman Catholic Church is.
This fact presents many of the same problems that any other religious sect sponsorship might entail - symbology that amounts to religious propaganda. In the case of Catholic medical institutions, it includes omnipresent statues of saints, a holy mother and depictions of a corpse hanging on an ancient execution device. But, these are simply irritants or annoyances compared with the main concern. The main concern is one that every American would have who favors personal freedoms to choose from the best options medical science has to offer - the imposition of dogma over science.
In Catholic medical institutions, dogmas that might be viewed as irrelevant or ridiculous by non-Catholics have the effect of eliminating medical options otherwise available. The situation brings to mind an observation by James Randi: We have fought long and hard to escape from medieval superstition. I, for one, do not wish to go back.
The Catholic Takeover
Catholic medical organizations are buying secular, non-profit institutions in many parts of the nation. Ownership allows conservative bishops to impose their faith-based Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services over everyone who come under the influence of Catholic hospitals. Patients are affected whether they are Catholic or not. Say goodbye to a full range of services all adults, particularly those who do not subscribe to Catholic dogma, have a right to access.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) has been tracking this worrisome trend. In late June, a letter was sent to Washington State officials warning about the problems associated with the Catholic health care takeover in that state. At least eight secular medical institutions are affiliating with Catholic organizations. Alarm bells should be ringing, and not just in Washington but all over the country.
In every case of Catholic ownership, control or affiliation, all citizens affected lose access to constitutionally protected forms of medical care. Catholic institutions are governed by rules that uniformly restrict what church leaders consider morally bankrupt and intrinsically immoral (e.g., contraception!) medical practices. This means dogma and church doctrine trump quality patient care and citizen choices. Already, according to FFRF, Catholic ownership and control of medical facilities has diminished access to and treatment for conception, contraception, abortion, miscarriage, voluntary sterilization and end-of-life care. It may also lead to discrimination based on marital status or sexual orientation.
Who, other than the most devout and subservient Roman Catholic, would want that?
When the Catholic Church gains control of a medical facility, the focus is as much on prohibiting medical services of which it disapproves as providing services not restricted by church dogma. Catholic medical institutions forbid all forms of abortion, including instances in which the woman's life or health is endangered and in cases of incest and rape. Also barred is testing on embryonic blastocysts or in-vitro fertilization for use in stem-cell research.
At least for the non-religious, such religious beliefs should have no place whatsoever in the availability of a full range of medically warranted care services. The only guidelines should be what is viewed as in the best interest of the patient based upon secular tenets and ethics of the medical profession. Roman Catholic medical organizations uniformly express their mission, purpose and work in terms rooted in the Catholic religion. No one who is not a Catholic should be subjected to limits or anything else based upon the Catholic religion. Furthermore, it is well known that not all or even most Catholics support all the restrictions church institutions impose in the facilities they control.
What should matter to everyone, including cafeteria Catholics who think for themselves, is what medical science advises, regardless of what the Pope or the bishops claim for church doctrines. As FFRF's lead attorney observed, This all-male conclave of professional celibates has no business dictating terms that deny the health and wellness of others, especially women.
In the State of Washington, sterilization is not allowed in hospitals that have been taken over by the Catholic medical complex, even when doctors determine it can save the patient's life. In addition, assisted suicide, legal in Washington, is not permitted or even discussed at church-controlled facilities.
Imagine that you are at an unmistakable end-stage of life, and every medical adviser acknowledges that there is no future quality of life left for you, only an indeterminate period of relentless suffering. Imagine further that you have a clear and unshakeable desire to bring your life to a close and that you have the support of your family and friends for doing so. Then consider that the medical institution where your fate is controlled is controlled by the Catholic Church, and it takes the following view of things: Patients experiencing suffering that cannot be alleviated should be helped to appreciate the Christian understanding of redemptive suffering. (Source: Bishops' Directive # 61.)
I don't know what you might do under conditions of such dogmatic entrapment contrary to what I view as my own Constitutional rights, but I would make every effort to obtain some serious weaponry in order that I could share my redemptive suffering with as many religious officials as possible. My only regret might obtain from an inability to lure Cardinal Timothy Dolan and/or other Catholic propagandists to approach within range of my benevolent intentions.
Adding to the horror of this trend is the fact that Catholic medical institutions get a good share of their funds from local and federal taxpayers. Thus, people who live in areas affected by these mergers are forced to pay for hospitals that will deny them needed and desired medical services.
How outrageous is all this? Beyond the pale, in my opinion. But, it is not a new development. In Politics, Power, and the Church: The Catholic Crisis and Its Challenge to American Pluralism (1987), Lawrence Lader deplored the influence of the Catholic church on secular affairs. He wrote, The Catholic hierarchy still rejects pluralism when many of its moral beliefs and dogma are in dispute. Through legislation on divorce, school prayer, abortion, and a host of issues, it has sought to legalize its moral codes. Lader supported the separation of church and state, noting that: Catholic power, allied with fundamentalism, has threatened the American tenet of church-state separation and shaken the fragile balance of our pluralistic society. In 1988, he filed a lawsuit to eliminate the church's tax-exempt status because of its extensive political lobbying. Unfortunately, the action was not successful. In Politics, Power, and the Church, Lader he stated that the Catholic church remains rooted in the past, an autocratic structure through which the pope and bishops make all decisions, and their constituents follow them without question. (Source: Sabrina Gaylor, FFRF's Freethought of the Day, August 6, 2013.)
What might you do about all this?
What can you do about it? Individually, probably not so much but in concert with others, such as FFRF and concerned secular groups, maybe slow down or halt the encroachment on our liberties that Catholic expansion into medical dominance represents.
On a daily basis, I think of the subtitle of Christopher Hitchen's book, God is Not Great, namely, that religion poisons everything. (When in a more lyrical mood, I think of Shelley's reference to it in his poem Queen Mab - that it had taintest all thou look'st upon!)
This truly dreadful man-created nonsense hardens hearts and imprisons minds, is the foundation of persecution, ignorance and savagery and acts even to this day as the enemy of reason, science, love and happiness.