Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Diocese of Scranton: Catholic Moral Teaching and Proper Medical Care Don't Mix

Diocese of Scranton leaders Bishop Joseph F. Martino and Auxiliary Bishop John M. Dougherty have asked the presidents of four area Catholic colleges and universities to provide information about their student health services in order to insure that no practice is occurring which would be in violation of Catholic teaching.

According to the diocesan press release, the reason for the bishops' request was an article in the March 25 edition of "The Hawk" — the student newspaper at St. Joseph University in Philadelphia — which described how the university, in its words, finds the "middle ground between Church doctrine and student healthcare". From the article:

Although the university adheres to its Catholic values in opposing the use of contraceptives to prevent childbirth, the Health Center provides certain services to Saint Joseph's students that are often unavailable at other schools.

So, just like the other Catholic schools, Saint Joseph's Student Health Center does not dispense condoms or other birth control methods for contraception but does provide STI testing.

Unlike other schools, according to Laura Hurst, St. Joseph’s Director of Student Health Services:

"We can prescribe birth control for a medical necessity such as extremely bad cramps that are disabling to the students," she said. "I know some of the other Catholic institutions in the area, such as La Salle, are stricter in their distribution policy."


While Catholic tradition has long discouraged the use of oral contraceptives at universities, Hurst maintained that the prescription of such drugs can lead to medical benefits when use is recommended by a physician.

"It [oral contraception] does decrease your cramps and bleeding, and makes periods more regular, doctors even use it for acne," she said.


"We follow the Catholic/Jesuit values, and that hasn't changed at all," said Hurst. "It's always a fine line between staying within the values of the University, which we completely respect, and offering services to the students. We are fortunate that there are other medical centers in the area, and that there are health care providers other than us."

The problem with Ms. Hurst's position? Turns out that discussing the noncontraceptive uses of the Pill and pointing out that easy access to condoms for sexually active people is a good thing indicates little respect for Catholic moral teaching, according to Bishop Martino and Bishop Dougherty.

Bottom line: When providing proper medical care goes against your religion's moral teachings no wonder you need all the moral clauses you can get the State to impose on the public at large as cover for getting away with inflicting substandard care on unsuspecting patients.


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