Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Not Catholic enough?
How Catholic does an activity have to be to be called Catholic? This is a key question these days because of the Health and Human Services mandate that Catholic institutions must provide abortion causing medications and sterilizations. Under Obamacare, HHS has decided Catholic hospitals and universities are not Catholic enough to qualify for a religious conscience exception.

Since when does some bureaucrat in Washington DC get to decide how Catholic is Catholic enough? On what basis do they quantify their decision? Can you put Catholic activity on a scale and weigh it? Can you calculate a percent based on how many crucifixes are in patient rooms versus how many do not have one? Do you count how many employees wear a crucifix necklace? Does a plain cross count? Does an 99% ratio disqualify a Catholic hospital for a religious conscience exception? Is 49% enough? Does the Gideon Bible in the drawer count against the Catholic ratio? If there is one Catholic who works in a Catholic hospital who does not practice his/her faith according to Catholic doctrines, does that count against the whole hospital or all Catholic hospitals in the nation? Does each hospital's rating stand alone or is it an average of all Catholic hospitals in the nation? Who decides what is a Catholic activity and what is not? Is it the bishop or the board of directors? Do the employees vote on it? Is an activity Catholic only if it happens within the confines of a Catholic Church sanctuary? Anyone who would think that does not know how Catholics view being a Catholic.

Catholics have a saying. "Preach the Gospel, and when necessary, use words." Catholicism is a way of life. It is not confined to what happens on Sunday morning within the walls of a church. Catholics practice their faith, or should, by the way they live. It is not something you can put under a microscope or calculate mathematically.

I volunteered in a Catholic hospital for five months as a patient visitor. I also went to a secular hospital for seven months of chaplain training. This is just subjective evidence, but there is a big difference between the two hospitals. The difference is not anything that can be quantified objectively. The number of crucifixes in patient rooms in the Catholic hospital is noticeable. The mission statement is distinctively religious. Beyond that, you would not be able to quantify the Catholic activity there. Yet it is real.

When I was a volunteer patient visitor, I was happy when a patient's water pitcher needed to be refilled. Objectively, I was meeting a patient's need for hydration. As a Catholic, I was pouring a cup of cool water in His name (Matthew 10:42). I was doing what is commanded by love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 12:30). I was visiting the sick as Jesus told me to do in Matthew 25. I was doing what I read in James 2. I don't think I ever said the God word in all that time because I was instructed to not proselytize. This was before I went through chaplain training. At the secular hospital, I was also living my Catholic faith, but never proselytized. I talked about religious faith only when the patient indicated they were open to it. I prayed with many of them regardless of their religious affiliation. Despite what is obviously religious about my activity, the hospital was noticeably secular. It is in the air. Perhaps I wasn't there long enough to detect the motivation of the employees, but I sensed the difference. If I were going to choose which hospital would be a better place for living my Catholic faith, I would pick the Catholic hospital where I never prayed with anyone.

Many Catholic hospitals were started by religious orders of nuns/sisters and Brothers, some as far back as the Middle Ages. (The Catholic Church was the one and only Christian religion back then.) The Knights Hospitaller was founded by Blessed Gerard around 1023. ( The hospital was an invention of these orders. They provided protection and hospitality to pilgrims on the way to the Holy Land. Pilgrims sometimes got sick on the way, so the consecrated religious cared for them until they were able to travel again. This apostolate led to the founding of religious orders of nuns/sisters and Brothers dedicated to this apostolate. These men and women served as nurses and administrators. They also cared for people who were not pilgrims.

What right has anyone to say that a Catholic hospital is not Catholic enough to qualify for a religious conscience exception?

Does a Catholic school not qualify for a religious conscience exception because it teaches science to non-Catholics? Catholics invented the scientific method, which is based on the assumption that the world God created is orderly and therefore this order can be discovered and measured. That's why the scientific method didn't evolve in non-Christian nations. Do only theology teachers qualify as Catholic enough?

Catholics invented schools after the disappearance of classical Roman culture in Western Europe. Convent grammar schools were originally an apostolate of Benedictine monasteries in the Early Middle Ages (c. 500-1000). Students were originally candidates for monastic profession. In 1679 in Reims, France, a Catholic priest, St. John Baptist De La Salle, invented the "simultaneous method of education" for instructing multiple students in a classroom. Before that, there was one-on-one tutoring that was so expensive that only the rich or those preparing for religious orders could afford an education. De La Salle founded the Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools. St Elizabeth Ann Seton founded the Catholic parochial school system in the United States in 1808 and is founder of a religious order, Sisters of Charity. Twelve other religious orders trace their roots to that order or are based on the rule of Sts. Vincent de Paul and Louise de Marillac. The ideals and practices of the Ursulines and the Christian Brothers were exported to America in the convent and parochial schools of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Catholic schools are based on the dignity of the human person. It did not matter how wealthy one was. All should be educated. These schools were based on the assumption that people needed to be able to read so they could understand the Bible and pass on the faith. Does a Catholic school have to admit only Catholic students or discriminate in who they hire as teachers?

Catholics invented universities as far back as the Middle Ages. (That's why we wear those weird gowns at graduation. That's what students wore to class back then.) The Cistercians founded the University of Paris in 1240. They were originally an outgrowth of the local cathedral. Catholic men and women served as professors. This apostolate led to the founding of religious orders of nuns/sisters and brothers, such as Jesuits, Dominicans, and the Franciscans, dedicated to teaching in both grammar schools and universities.

What right has anyone to say that a Catholic school is not Catholic enough to qualify for a religious conscience exception? Does one have to understand the reasons why the Catholic Church teaches what it does or how to live the faith before one decides that? Aren't they Catholic enough simply by their essence regardless whether the activity appears religious or not?

Who has the right to judge Catholic doctrines as wrong or not being for the common good? Are not Catholic hospitals, Catholic schools, and Catholics universities institutions that promote the common good? In 2011, 554 Catholic hospitals treated 89,501,723 patients. There are 235 Colleges and Universities educating 804,826 students. (The Official Catholic Directory 2011, General Summary.)

Under Canon Law, the bishop of a diocese is the only one who has jurisdiction to decide what is Catholic and what is not, though there is no registered trademark on who can use that word in their title. In December 2010, the Most Reverend Thomas J. Olmsted, Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix, declared that St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center can no longer be considered Catholic because it failed to comply with the Ethical and Religious Directives of the Church when they elected to terminate a pregnancy and for other numerous violations for more than seven years. Bureaucrats in Washington DC and legislators should not have any say in what is Catholic enough and what is not. A federal regulation should never trump a Constitutional right to freedom of religion. The Constitution does not guarantee the right to a free abortion.

By the way, did you know Canon Law, the legal system of the Catholic Church, is the basis of civil law, the laws of evidence, and trial by jury? The Catholic Church invented those too.

Care to hear about the origin of the international banking system? Catholics invented that too.

The people who invented hospitals, schools, canon law, scientific method, and the banking system believed the same doctrines as the Catholic bishops who compiled the Bible at the Council of Chalcedon in 397. Is that Catholic enough?