When Bishops do the right thing
Ought we rejoice in Lent? Well, Bishop Robert Vasa of Baker, Oregon, has given us the absolute best reason to rejoice in a penitential season: he yanked the title “Catholic” from a hospital in his diocese that refuses actually to be Catholic. What a refreshing development in episcopal leadership! In fact, Lent is probably the perfect time for such an act to take place because it is an exercise of discipline and courage, which we love to see in our prelates. Bishops who are true shepherds, and not politicians, strengthen us and enliven our faith – thank you, Bishop Vasa!
The point of contention that the good bishop had with the St. Charles Hospital in Bend, OR was the hospital’s practice of surgical sterilization. Apparently the Board of Directors thought that the Church’s clear prohibition of this practice was, uh, optional. So after a fair and timely investigation, the bishop could not convince the hospital administration to change practices and simply yanked the Catholic name and insignia from the building with the exception of the cross on top to remind them of their failure to live up to the challenge of the Cross. Can’t you hear the bishop wince when the president of the healthcare chain, James Diegel, said that the hospital had “an obligation to provide comprehensive health care services to our patients while remaining true to our values of compassion and caring for all”? This sounds like slimy Planned Parenthood language if you ask me. Outside of the fact that sterilization is the direct mutilation of an organ of the body and is not true health – care, the Church condemns the act in no uncertain terms as immoral. Well, the bishop was right not to tolerate that kind of nonsense – and the Church is stronger for it! One hates to think how many other nominally Catholic hospitals are getting away with the same thing due to lack of honest Church investigations into their practices.
In serving an international mission like HLI, I have a privileged chance to see many bishops around the world who actually do the right thing when the terms of their office require it, and their churches are generally vibrant and faithful because of their strong leadership. There are just a handful of bishops in the technologically-sophisticated western world, however, who exhibit the resolute moral courage that is required to remove the title of “Catholic” from an institution that is in rebellion against the authentic Faith; even fewer who have the guts to discipline a public figure who betrays the Faith in favor of his own leftist values. (Vice President Joe Biden, by the way, appeared in public on Wednesday with ashes on his forehead….) Yet, there is a growing trend in the United States toward greater episcopal strength and orthodoxy, and we have to applaud it when we see it because these bishops will be severely attacked and will need our support.
In a related case, Bishop Tobin of Providence, RI recently told Congressman Patrick Kennedy he couldn’t receive Communion and was assailed ferociously by the pseudo-Catholic Chris Matthews on MSNBC; yet, lo and behold, the dissenting congressman decided not to run for Congress in the next term. Are the two things related? One can’t know for sure, but I would still call it a net gain for Catholic orthodoxy. When bishops do the right thing – there is no telling what can happen, even in godless politics.
The name “bishop” in the original Greek mean “overseer.” In other words, he “watches over” his flock. We, as members of Christ’s faithful, truly long for the courageous oversight of bishops – our faith, our families and our souls need such pastoral care. If you haven’t already decided on a special intention this Lenten Season, please pray in a special way for our bishops; prayers, fasting, and sacrifices can be offered for their continued strength and defense of the Church.
~Rev. Thomas J. Euteneuer,
President, Human Life International