WASHINGTON – In an exchange of letters with the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the head of the Catholic Health Association has affirmed that the local bishop is the “authoritative interpreter” of the ethical and religious directives that guide Catholic health care.
Sister Carol Keehan, a Daughter of Charity who is CHA president and CEO, said her organization “has a sincere desire to work with the church and individual bishops to understand as clearly as possible clinical issues and bring the majesty of the church’s teaching to that.”
In response to the letter, Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York, USCCB president, said the church must “speak with one voice” against the “increasing political and social pressures that are trying to force the church to compromise her principles,” including “the problem of illegitimate government intrusion in our health care ministries.”
The letters followed “conversations” among Sister Carol, Archbishop Dolan and Bishop Robert N. Lynch of St. Petersburg, Fla., who serves on the CHA board. Bishop Kevin W. Vann of Fort Worth, Texas, the bishops’ liaison to CHA, “was also part of the consultation,” according to a USCCB news release.
CHA and the USCCB took opposing stands on whether the health reform bill passed last March would adequately protect against the possibility of federal funding of abortion and guard the conscience rights of health care providers and institutions.