University of California Pressures Catholic Hospitals to Adopt Secular Ethics

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Six ambulances are parked at the emergency entrance to St. Mary Medical Center in Apple Valley, Calif., January 12, 2021.
(Mike Blake/Reuters)

Medical conscience is the most important religious-liberty issue currently pending in the United States. At stake is whether doctors, nurses, phamacists, and other medical professionals and/or institutions will be forced to participate in medical procedures that violate their religious or moral beliefs as a condition of remaining licensed or avoiding professional discipline.

Catholic hospitals are on the frontline of this brewing constitutional battle. California is leading the charge, trying to pressure Catholic hospitals to provide abortion, assisted suicide, and transgender surgeries, claiming that refusing to allow these legal procedures is “discrimination.” For example, the California supreme court has allowed a discrimination lawsuit to be brought against Dignity Health for refusing to remove the uterus of a transgender patient who identifies as male.

Now, UC Health Regents have voted to begin breaking the existing affiliation between UC and Catholic hospitals if the latter don’t adhere to the “values” of secular instituions. From the Sacramento Bee story:

An amended policy, proposed by [Regents] Chairman John John Pérez and passed by the regents, gives UC-affiliated hospitals with policy-based restrictions until the end of 2023 to adjust their services to comply to the new guidelines, or the UC will phase out the partnership.

Pérez’s amendments also say that partner hospitals must provide procedures to all people on a non-discriminatory basis, meaning that a transgender person can receive the same exact services that any other person would receive.

Time out! This is entirely misleading. Transgender patients can and do receive the exact services “any other person would receive” in Catholic hospitals. Their broken legs will be set. Cancer surgeries will excise tumors. Diabetes will be treated.

Moreover, Catholic hospitals will not excise healthy organs such as genetilia or uteruses from anyone — gay or straight, transgender or binary, etc. For example, any biological female who presented for removal of a healthy uterus would be refused based on Catholic moral teaching that prohibits the removal of organs without serious pathology and taking actions that sterilize the patient, again absent pathology. That’s not discrimination. It’s a consistent policy that applies to all patients who enter a Catholic hospital.


Part of this push to secularize is also about assisted suicide. Perez complained that Catholic hospitals don’t permit the full array of “end of life services.” Since no hospital refuses hospice care, it is obvious what he was complaining about.

UC Health’s actions are pressuring Catholic hospitals to cease being Catholic — even if means that otherwise underserved patients lose access to local hospital care. For example, about 35,000 UC Health patients would be dramatically underserved if the hospital system breaks with Catholic hospitals.

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Why is this dispute happening now? Because in the old days, the moral values of “secular” and “religious” hospitals were in general accord under the maxims of the Hippocratic Oath. Today, that is no longer true. And the secularists don’t believe in comity. It is their way or the highway.

Will Catholic hospitals buckle? I don’t know. It is hard to stand on a principle when patients needing care might have a more difficult time accessing it. But if that ever happens, blame the secularists’ attacks, not Catholic hospitals for operating consistently with the values under which they were established to operate.

This much is sure. The pressure for religious health-care institutions and individual medical practitioners to conform to secular values is only going to increase in coming years, particularly as the Biden administration and Democratic Congress continue to push hard aport on medically related issues.


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