MORAL NORMS FOR CATHOLIC HOSPITALS
AND CATHOLICS IN HEALTH SERVICES
We join all men of good will in their efforts to provide a higher level of human life for all our people. We know that the swift growth-rate of our population is a cause of national concern, and we are even more aware of the anxiety with which our individual families face this problem.
As Christians of the Philippines in this present era, we must find truly human solutions to this problem: that is, a solution in conformity with the Divine Plan, which will genuinely advance the quality of our way of life. If we are to be true to ourselves, then our solution will be an expression of our basic values, including: the sacredness of human life, the primacy of love, the true nature of human sexuality, the stability of marriage and family life, and the unique value of every child.
We are proud to belong to a people with these deep spiritual values. If these values are weakened or lost, our people cannot hope to reach a higher level of human life. If we can refer to this heritage of human values as the ‘soul’ of our nation, then we cannot risk this ‘soul’ for the hope of greater material prosperity. Higher economic standards would bring little consolation if we become morally bankrupt. Because Christ has given us the task of teaching and guiding, we would like to share with you some thoughts about these matters.
From the moment of its conception, life must be guarded with greatest care, while abortion and infanticide are unspeakable crimes (Gaudium et Spes, 51). Every procedure whose sole immediate effect is the termination of pregnancy before viability is an abortion, which, in its moral context, includes the interval between fertilization and implantation of the embryo.
Sterilization, whether permanent or temporary, for men or for women, may not be used as a means of contraception (Humanae Vitae, 14). Procedures that induce sterility, whether permanent or temporary, are permitted provided these two conditions are present: a) they are immediately directed to the cure, diminution or prevention of a serious pathological condition, and are not directly contraceptive, and b) a simpler treatment is not reasonably available (Humanae Vitae, 15).
Similarly excluded is every action which, either in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, whether as an end or as a means, is intended to render procreation impossible (artificial contraceptives) (Humanae Vitae, 14) Individual priests or Catholics, even theologians, who hold divergent views from the doctrine enunciated above, act on their own capacity as individuals, and not as official extensions of the Pastors of the Church, the Bishops. Accordingly, their personal opinions do not constitute a solid basis for the formation of one’s conscience.
1. In all his activity a man is bound to follow his conscience faithfully, in order that he may come to God, for whom he was created. It follows that he is not to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his conscience. Nor, on the other hand, is he to be restrained from acting in accordance with his conscience, especially in matters religious (II Vatican Council: Declaration on Religious Freedom. No. 3).
2. How is the function of conscience to be applied to the task of transmitting human life? The parents themselves should ultimately make this judgment, in the sight of God. But in their manner of acting, spouses should be aware that they cannot proceed arbitrarily. They must always be governed according to a conscience dutifully conformed to the divine law itself, and should be submissive toward the Church’s teaching office, which authentically interprets that law in the light of the Gospel (II Vatican Council: Declaration on Religious Freedom, No. 50).
3. Catholic health services have the responsibility of giving witness to their faith and moral convictions regarding specific procedure and their behavior.
4. This witnessing, in particular, must testify to respect for human life at every stage of its existence, for the integrity of the human person in all his dimensions, for the vocation of the human person to sanctity.
Directives for Catholic Hospitals
1. Catholic hospitals must give public notice of their commitment to the value and integrity of human life, and hence, of their refusal to provide facilities and services for induced abortion, contraceptive sterilization, or the administration of artificial contraceptives.
2. This policy must clearly be enunciated to all physicians holding privileges in the hospital, and to all health care personnel employed in the hospitals. Agreement to this policy is a condition for privileges in the hospital.
Directives for Religious Administering Hospitals*
Religious may not continue to administer and/or work in a hospital which exploits their presence to create in the mind of the public the impression that they approve of immoral procedures being followed in the hospital, but they may not be directly involved in any of those procedures.
Directives for Catholic Personnel Employed in Non-Catholic Hospitals
1. In hospitals where services for direct abortion or contraceptive sterilization are offered, Catholic physicians, nurses and medical attendants should notify the hospital in writing, of their conscientious refusal to directly participate in such procedures.
2. When compelled to do so, they should protest to the administrator or to competent superiors, this violation of conscience as an act of injustice.
3. In their professional contact with colleagues of different convictions, they should, when questioned, explain candidly and with much tact, their own convictions, taking care not to pass judgment on the motives of their collegues or patients. They must be prepared, moreover, to accept the sacrifices required by living according to their convictions, such as accepting consequent misunderstanding, unfair treatment, or alienations. In this they are merely following the lot of our Lord.
4. They must pay careful attention to patients suffering from the tension that a weakening conviction in society on the value of life in its incipient stage, tends to produce. The assistance of the chaplain may be suggested.
5. An aborted fetus at any stage of pregnancy, is entitled to baptism, at least conditionally.
6. An excommunication is attached to deliberately induced abortions. This applies to those directly responsible for creating the decision, and implementing the decision to induce abortion. In practice, this will involve: the mother of the fetus, her advisers, and the surgeon, and those whose cooperation was indispensable for the abortion to take place. Nurses and other assistants generally do not incur this penalty. No excommunication is attached to contraceptive sterilization.
For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines:
(Sgd.)+TEOPISTO V. ALBERTO, D.D.
Archbishop of Caceres
December 8, 1973
* By Catholic Hospitals we mean: those that are owned, controlled, and/or recognized as such by the local ordinary.
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MORAL NORMS FOR CATHOLIC HOSPITALS AND CATHOLICS IN HEALTH SERVICES