Pope Francis on conscientious objection by health care practitioners

La Croix misrepresents papal statement

Sean Murphy*

Pope FrancisAn article in La Croix International, “Pope reminds health workers to put patients first” includes a subtitle, “Conscientious objectors told that human dignity demands exceptions sometimes be made.” (La Croix International, 20 May, 2019)

The subtitle reflects speculation by critics unidentified by the article’s anonymous author(s) that the Pope’s comments were aimed at “pro-lifers who may object to performing an abortion, even though the mother may, for various reasons, risk serious and even life-threatening physical or psychological trauma should she try to conceive.”

La Croix appears to be alone among news agencies in putting this “spin” upon the Pope’s address (Compare reports by Crux, Vatican News, ANSA, and the Catholic Herald, for example).

“[T]o put patients first” accurately conveys one of Pope Francis’ messages to the Italian Catholic Association of Health Care Workers.

“Conscientious objectors told that human dignity demands exceptions sometimes be made” does not.

Nothing in the text of the of the Pope’s address remotely suggests that human dignity sometimes requires health care workers to set aside their conscientious convictions and their objections and do what they believe to be wrong.

Pope Francis said nothing of the kind.  But that is precisely the kind of demand made by activists and even state authorities in a number of countries, even (as in Canada) to the extent of forcing unwilling practitioners to be parties to killing their patients or helping them commit suicide.

The misrepresentation exemplified in the La Croix article supports such attacks on freedom of conscience (and religion) and exacerbates the problems faced by healthcare practitioners attempting to resist them.

What Pope Francis actually had to say warrants attention by anyone who wants to understand the exercise of freedom of conscience by health care practitioners.

He noted that “any medical practice or intervention on the human being must first be carefully assessed if it actually respects human life and dignity (“di ogni pratica medica o intervento sull’essere umano si deve prima valutare con attenzione se rispetti effettivamente la vita e la dignità umana.”) .

When health care practitioners refuse to provide procedures or services, it is typically because they have made that assessment,and consider the interventions contrary to the good of the human person and subversive of the integrity and dignity of human life: in brief, harmful to the patient.

Conscientious objection in such circumstances, the Pope said, does not just reflect the need to preserve one’s personal integrity, but “also represents a sign for the healthcare environment in which we find ourselves, as well as for the patients themselves and their families” ( “ma rappresenta anche un segno per l’ambiente sanitario nel quale ci si trova, oltre che nei confronti dei pazienti stessi e delle loro famiglie. “)

In many situations, this “sign” may well be a sign of contradiction to the dominant ethos, likely to trigger violent emotional reactions and repression by state or professional authorities. Hence, for purely pragmatic reasons, it behooves objecting practitioners to be careful in expressing themselves. Beyond this, Pope Francis offers advice that reflects the actual practice of practitioners who responsibly exercise freedom of conscience:

La scelta dell’obiezione, tuttavia, quando necessaria, va compiuta con rispetto, perché non diventi motivo di disprezzo o di orgoglio ciò che deve essere fatto con umiltà, per non generare in chi vi osserva un uguale disprezzo, che impedirebbe di comprendere le vere motivazioni che ci spingono. È bene invece cercare sempre il dialogo, soprattutto con coloro che hanno posizioni diverse, mettendosi in ascolto del loro punto di vista e cercando di trasmettere il vostro, non come chi sale in cattedra, ma come chi cerca il vero bene delle persone. Farsi compagni di viaggio di chi ci sta accanto, in particolare degli ultimi, dei più dimenticati, degli esclusi: questo è il miglior modo per comprendere a fondo e con verità le diverse situazioni e il bene morale che vi è implicato.

The choice of the objection, however, when necessary, must be made with respect, so that what must be done with humility, so as not to generate an equal contempt, which would prevent the understanding of the true motivations that drive us. Instead, it is good to always seek dialogue, especially with those who have different positions, listening to their point of view and trying to transmit yours, not as someone who goes up in the chair, but as someone who seeks the true good of people. Be the traveling companions of those around us, especially the last, the most forgotten, the excluded: this is the best way to fully understand the different situations and the moral good that is involved.

Source: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Discorso del Santo Padre Francesco all’ Assocziazone Cattolica Operatori Sanitari (ACOS).  Sala Clementina, Venerdì, 17 maggio 2019.

Photo by Nacho Arteaga on Unsplash

Conscientious objection must be respectful, pope tells health care workers

Crux

Junno Arocho Esteves

ROME – When doctors, nurses and health care workers conscientiously object to a procedure to protect the life and dignity of their patients, they must do so respectfully, Pope Francis said.

Without respect, conscientious objection can be “a reason for contempt or pride” that would impede dialogue “with those who hold different positions” and mask the true reason of that objection, which is to the seek the patient’s well-being, the pope told a group of Catholic health care workers May 17 at the Vatican. . . [Full text]

Pope Francis: Freedom of conscience in danger in ‘Christian countries’

Catholic News Service

Courtney Grogan

Rome, Italy, Mar 31, 2019 / 03:45 pm (CNA).- Pope Francis decried the regression of freedom of conscience in “Christian countries” during an in-flight press conference Sunday, telling reporters on his return trip from Morocco, “let’s not accuse Muslims”.

When asked by a French reporter about a criminal law in Morocco that prohibits enticing a Muslim to convert to another religion, Francis responded, “Let’s not accuse Muslims. Let’s accuse also ourselves.”

“Today, we Christians have the danger that some governments will take away our freedom of conscience, which is the first step toward freedom of worship,” Pope Francis said March 31.

“Think of the Christian doctors and hospital institutions that do not have the right of conscientious objection, for example, for euthanasia. How? The Church has moved on and you Christian countries go backwards?” he told the French reporter. . . [Full text]

Vatican summons Belgian order to Rome over euthanasia policy

Catholic Herald

Simon Caldwell

Vatican officials want to hear in person why Brothers of Charity board members insist on allowing the euthanasia

The Vatican is planning to summon members of a Belgian nursing order to Rome to explain why they are refusing to ditch a policy which allows doctors to kill psychiatric patients in Church-run homes.

Senior Vatican officials want to hear in person why board members of the Organisation of the Brothers of Charity insist on allowing the euthanasia of non-terminally ill patients in the face of a top-level order to reverse the policy. . . [Full text]

 

‘Utterly outrageous’: Belgian Catholic care group denounced by Church over euthanasia plans

Christian Today

James MacIntyre

A furious row has broken out within the Catholic Church over the Belgian Brothers of Charity, who are refusing to comply with a Vatican order to stop providing euthanasia for the people it cares for.

The UK-based Catholic priest Alexander Lucie-Smith has described the behaviour of the Brothers as ‘utterly outrageous,’ and pointed out the crucial fact that the order is lay-run.

In a statement released in Flemish, French and English, the organisation said it ‘continues to stand by its vision statement on euthanasia for mental suffering in a non-terminal situation’ and goes on to make the incendiary claim that it ‘is still consistent with the doctrine of the Catholic Church. We emphatically believe so.’ . . . [Full text]

 

Belgian Brothers of Charity defy Vatican over euthanasia

The group has refused to reverse its decision to allow euthanasia in its hospitals

Catholic Herald

The Belgian Brothers of Charity have defied the Pope and announced they will continue offering euthanasia at their hospitals despite being ordered to stop.

The group said in a statement that it “continues to stand by its vision statement on euthanasia for mental suffering in a non-terminal situation” and that they “emphatically believe” the practice is compatible with Catholic teaching . . . [Full text]

 

Pope demands that Belgian Catholic hospitals stop euthanasia

BioEdge

Michael Cook

Earlier this year a group of Catholic hospitals and clinics for the mentally ill in Belgium announced that it would allow doctors to perform euthanasia on its premises. The group is linked to a religious order, the Brothers of Charity.

Earlier this month Pope Francis issued an ultimatum: this must stop by the end of August. He also ordered the three Brothers who serve on the 15-member board to sign a letter stating that  they “fully support the vision of the magisterium of the Catholic Church, which has always confirmed that human life must be respected and protected in absolute terms, from the moment of conception till its natural end.”

If the board refuses, the hospitals could lose their affiliation with the Catholic Church.

One of the board members is Herman Van Rompuy, a former President of the European Council and Belgian Prime Minister. He tweeted that “The time of ‘Roma locuta causa finita’ is long past.”

Brother René Stockman, the head of the Brothers of Charity, is a Belgian but opposes the stand taken by the local members of his own order. He commented: “The central point and the foundation within Christian ethics is that life is absolute, which cannot be touched. Life is a gift from God and entails an assignment. And because life is absolute, it is a state worthy of protection.”

A spokesman for the Belgian group acknowledged that it had received a letter from the Vatican but said that it had not yet responded.

 


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Top European leader blasts Pope for telling Catholic hospitals not to euthanize patients

Lifesite News

Lisa Bourne

BRUSSELS, Belgium, August 16, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) – The former European Council president took a shot at papal authority on social media last weekend, inferring that Pope Francis should not have input on whether a Belgian Catholic religious order allows its hospitals to euthanize patients.

“The time of ‘Roma locuta causa finita’ has long been over,” Herman Van Rompuy tweeted in Dutch on Sunday.

The phrase ‘Roma locuta causa finite,’ is Latin for “Rome has spoken, the case is closed.” It originates from an early fifth-century statement by St. Augustine and references the ultimate authority held by the pope.

The tweet was in reply to canon law professor Kurt Marten’s tweet publishing the list of trustees for the Belgian Brothers of Charity, showing Van Rompuy serves on the Board. . . . [Full Text]

 

Pope orders religious order to stop offering euthanasia in its hospitals

Aleteia

Vatican Radio

A religious congregation is being ordered by the pope to stop offering euthanasia in the hospitals it sponsors.

According to Vatican Radio, Pope Francis has ordered the Belgian arm of the Brothers of Charity to stop allowing the euthanizing of patients in its psychiatric hospitals. .

Pope Francis also ordered Brothers of Charity who serve on the group’s board to sign a joint letter to their Superior General declaring that they “fully support the vision of the magisterium of the Catholic Church, which has always confirmed that human life must be respected and protected in absolute terms, from the moment of conception till its natural end.” . . .[Full text]

In Argentina’s religious freedom row, politics makes strange bedfellows

Crux

Ines San Martin

ROME – Argentina didn’t exist as a nation when Shakespeare inspired the line “politics make strange bedfellows,” but if the Bard were around today, he might well look to the pope’s native country for proof, where the once leading conservative rival of the future pontiff and Amnesty International find themselves in an unlikely alliance over a proposed religious freedom law.

In the case of Archbishop Héctor Rubén Aguer of La Plata, seen as the country’s most fiercely traditional prelate on matters such as the legalization of abortion and contraception, he insists the law could threaten the Church’s protected status under the country’s constitution, while Amnesty International fears the law could deprive Argentine youth of their sexual rights. . . [Full text]