I suppose most of you reading these words have at one time or another visited a hospital. Perhaps you have even spent a few days in the hospital, or maybe you were just visiting a friend. I visit a lot of hospitals and I have come to recognize the beauty of the Catholic hospitals. There is something different about a Catholic hospital. You feel it immediately. Perhaps it is a tangible and living extension of our faith put into action. Bishop Murphy writes that “Catholic health care is one of the greatest contributions of the Church to our nation.” The “Mission Statement” of Catholic Health Care “advocates for the poor and underserved, and serves the common good. It conducts its health care with respect for the dignity of each person.”
Our Diocese here on Long Island has the most hospitals of any diocese in the country. You of course make that possible by your support. Our 6 hospitals provide 2000 hospital beds and 800 nursing home beds. The Long Island Catholic hospitals employ over 17,000 people and 3,000 volunteers with revenues exceeding $2.3 billion. Our Catholic hospitals on Long Island admit 85,000 patients per year and deliver 6,000 babies. They visit over 300,000 homes per year and see more than a quarter of a million people in the emergency room each year. On a daily basis we care for over 2,000 individuals with special needs and substance abuse. And that is just on Long Island!
What would we do without our Catholic hospitals? We are starting to find out. Catholic hospitals were mostly built in poor areas, consistent with their mission of service to the poor and most in need. In New York City, Saint Vincent Hospital cared for more people with AIDS than any other hospital. The Archbishop of New York, Cardinal O’Connor would go late at night to the AIDS wards to empty bed pans and care for the dying. That of course was never reported in the news. In 2010 Saint Vincent Hospital was forced to close. It was the last Catholic hospital in New York City.
This week I read an article by Dr. Grazie Christie who serves as an advisor to Catholic hospitals. She writes of the intervention of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) which is angry that Catholic hospitals will not perform abortions. They plan to sue Americans who work in Catholic hospitals, but who will not perform abortions. Dr. Christie gives us some interesting facts: 1 in every 6 patients in the United States is cared for in a Catholic hospital. Catholic hospitals cared for over 20 million ER visits, 100 million outpatient visits and 5 million admissions. Nationwide we employ 800,000 workers. Catholic hospitals save more lives and release patients sooner than non-Catholic hospitals. Like our education system, Catholic hospitals show better results than non-Catholic schools and hospitals. Dr. Christie reminds us that it was the Catholic Church that invented hospitals in its care for the sick. The church began building hospitals in the early 4th century and continued to care for the sick in its monasteries and convents throughout Europe.
Because the very nature of Catholic health care is to promote and defend the dignity of every human life, abortion would contradict that inviolable principal. Yet Dr. Christie shows us the hypocrisy of the American Civil Liberties Union because they claim to support the right of religious persons to practice their faith without government interference; all the while demanding that Catholic hospitals set aside their morals and religious convictions and be forced to perform abortions. If Catholics will not contradict their religious principles, then all government support will be removed from Catholic institutions and Catholic churches will be stripped of non-profit benefits. What happened to the ACLU’s purpose: “the right of religious persons to practice their faith without government interference?”
So the question remains: What will happen when Catholic Health Care is forced out of business because it will not perform abortions? Who will step in? Who will take the place of Catholic hospitals—the best health care in the history of the world? Dr. Christie answers on a gloomy note. “Those who will suffer most will be those whose needs are the most: the poor, AIDS patients, the elderly and those with special needs.”
You better stay healthy!
– Fr. Gerard Gordon