Late last week my good friend John Henry Westin of Life Site News called to let me know that he had interviewed Bishop Elio Sgreccia, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life. During the interview the bishop was asked about Catholic hospitals handing out morning after pills in order to treat victims of criminal rape.
Now that the interview has been published, and I am elated to share the bishop’s comments with you. Bishop Sgreccia is actually not saying anything new, but he is confirming what we believe the position of every Catholic bishop should be: No morning after pills should be used for rape treatment.
Here is John Henry Westin’s report
According to Bishop Sgreccia the morning after pill may not be administered by Catholic physicians. The only Vatican opinion on the subject, absolutely prohibiting the use of the pill, was released by the Pontifical Academy for Life in 2000. Since then, however, the Catholic Health Association, advisor to many bishops conferences, has suggested that there is no moral impediment to using the pill in cases of rape.
When Westin asked Bishop Sgreccia if there was an exception in Catholic teaching regarding the morning after pill that would allow Catholic doctors to give the pill to victims of rape, the bishop responded, “No. It is not able to prevent the rape. But it is able to eliminate the embryo. It is thus the second negative intervention on the woman (the first being the rape itself).”
Further, Monsignor Andrew R. Baker who is a professor at the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas (the Angelicum) told Westin that the position of the Church on this question has not changed since the publication of the Pontifical Academy for Life document in 2000.
There have been many excellent theological analyses written over the past eight years on the morning after pill, the dangers inherent in that pill and the reasons why the pill must never be used. Yet we see some Catholic bishops and Catholic hospitals bowing to pressure from state legislatures and permitting what is clearly forbidden in Church teaching. Why this is happening remains a conundrum for many, but I would like to offer a couple of insights as I believe they apply in such cases.
When challenged with the possibility of being forced by law to do that which is contrary to Church teaching, the bishop has to make a choice. He can shut down the facilities, thus avoiding the possibility of violating Church teaching by succumbing to the pressure of an unjust law. On the other hand the bishop can agree with the law and argue that everything possible will be done to make certain that the rape victim is not already pregnant prior to providing the morning after pill. This second option is the choice made by the Connecticut bishops. It is the wrong choice.
I compare that choice with the statements
made by Archbishop Charles Chaput regarding HB 1080, currently being proposed in the Colorado state legislature.
To explain the problem first, HB 1080 seeks to impose restrictions on religious groups, forbidding them from hiring staff based on religion, and adding "sexual orientation" to the list of characteristics against which it is prohibited to "discriminate" in employment. HB1080 applies to religious groups that receive federal or state funding, which would include the organization Catholic Charities.
Archbishop Chaput warned that if the law is enacted it will place Catholic Charities in the position of having to close its doors. He said, “When it can no longer have the freedom it needs to be ‘Catholic,’ it will end its services. This is not idle talk. I am very serious.”
Archbishop Chaput has taken the correct position and, frankly, the only position a bishop should take when laws are proposed or enacted that literally force Catholic facilities to enact policies that directly contradict Catholic teaching.
Thus far, HB 1080 has made no movement toward being enacted, and my humble opinion is that the courageous opposition of the entire Colorado Catholic Conference under Archbishop Chaput’s leadership is the reason.
In fact, I would daresay that if the Connecticut bishops had taken a unified stand against the legislation requiring hospitals including Catholic hospitals to provide the morning after pill to victims of rape, that bill would have stalled as well. If the Connecticut bishops had made it clear that the passage of such a law would force them to shut down Catholic hospitals in the state, I am positive the law would have been withdrawn. However, now the law is in place, and to my knowledge, the Connecticut Catholic Conference is doing nothing legally or in any other way to challenge that law.
It is my fervent prayer that each and every Catholic bishop in the United States will take the bold steps needed to defend Catholic teaching against the draconian effects of unjust laws, for when that happens, as it surely must, we will see a whole new attitude on the part of elected officials who currently believe they can bully the Church into doing practically anything.