CFFC Challenges Bishops’ Closed-Door Policy on Healthcare; Criticizes Decision not to Discuss Vatican Call for New Policy on Sterilization Openly at NCCB Meeting
Washington, DC–Catholics for a Free Choice President Frances Kissling today criticized the decision by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (NCCB) to remove a discussion about proposed changes to the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services from the agenda of its annual meeting. Under pressure from the Vatican, the NCCB had proposed a series of revisions to the Directives that would close an interpretation of church teaching that allows some Catholic-affiliated hospitals to provide tubal ligations (female sterilization), a procedure forbidden by the Catholic hierarchy.
“We are distressed by the sudden decision of the NCCB to remove discussion of this important matter from its meeting agenda. Some 11 million women in the United States below age 45 rely on sterilization to prevent pregnancy and assist in planning their families. This issue is too important to be left unresolved. The policy that the NCCB ultimately decides on will have a major impact on the availability of women’s health services in mergers between Catholic and non-Catholic hospitals currently under negotiation. Women, hospitals and the regulatory agencies that govern hospital mergers have a right to know in a timely matter what the bishops’ policy on sterilization will be,” said Kissling.
In a statement released Friday, the Catholic Health Association said that a new draft of the proposed revisions to the Directives has been developed and circulated: “The suggested modifications of a resource group of theologians and ethicists…were presented at a meeting with representatives of the bishops’ conference last Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2000.”
Noting the closed nature of the deliberations, Kissling called for any revisions to the Directives to take place in a manner that is open to public review and comment. “Once again, the bishops are treating healthcare as if it were a private matter. It is not. It is a community matter. This issue must be revolved in an open, deliberate, but timely, manner,” she said.