A Catholic hospital must now offer “Medical Assistance in Dying” (MAiD) among its services. The facility is Saint Martha’s Regional Hospital in Antigonish, Nova Scotia.
According to a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation story, “the organization that administers hospitals in Nova Scotia” made the decision.
The Catholic Identity
Saint Martha’s claims to be the “the only catholic hospital in the province.” The “c” in lower case speaks volumes about Saint Martha’s Catholic identity.
In many ways, the hospital surrendered its Catholic identity in 1996. At that time, the order that owned and ran the hospital, the Sisters of St. Martha of Antigonish entered into an agreement with the Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA). Ownership and responsibility for the hospital’s finances passed to the NSHA while the Sisters would continue to operate it. The Authority agreed to “respect the hospital’s religious values.”
The sisters believed the State would honor their agreement when the issue of assisted suicide came to light. As recently as January 2019, Sister Brendalee was quoted as saying, “It is named in the agreement that we don’t do suicide. We believe in protecting life until the end.”
The “end” came in less than a year. The catalyst was a law professor at Dalhousie University, Jocelyn Downie. This issue was tailor-made for her abilities. Her page on the University’s website describes her as one who “works at the intersection of health care ethics, law, and policy. She has a particular interest in end-of-life law and women’s health.”
Professor Downie’s statement in Canada’s Global News contains all of the expected elements, “The bottom line is that a faith-based institution should not be allowed to impose its faith, its values, on the citizens of a community who may not share them.”
The State’s decision allowed the Sisters to save face by hiding behind a technicality.
The order’s statement, signed by Sister Brendalee Boisvert, its “Congregation Leader,” said that “The Nova Scotia Health Authority has assured us that Medical Assistance in Dying will not take place in St. Martha’s Regional Hospital.”
That is true, as far as it goes. The actual suicide procedures will take place in the Antigonish Health and Wellness Centre. According to one report, the Centre is in “a building connected to the hospital;” another says that it is “a section of St. Martha’s Regional Hospital complex.” One wonders if the patients even know when they pass from one facility to the other.
Perhaps the Sisters of Saint Martha can take some comfort in the fact that suicide will take place in a part of the building with another name. Such reassurance is an illusion. The hospital facilitates the procedure. The Church and the secular State went head-to-head, and the Church – once again – lost.
Another Catholic healthcare organization, Covenant Health, which operates facilities in Canada’s Alberta Province forged a similar settlement in December 2018. However, even such face-saving gestures as this may not be enough to satiate the hunger of the pro-death faction. David Khan, leader of the Liberal Party in Alberta, stated his view plainly, “This really doesn’t go far enough for us.”
Part of the problem lies in the Canadian liberal government’s approval of assisted suicide. Another element is the country’s completely socialized health care system. So such a situation would be less cut and dried in the United States – but that does not make it impossible.
The Sisters of Saint Martha traded their hospital in return for access to the government’s financial resources. The result is that the Church’s hospital has lost the ability to follow Her teachings. It became simply another arm of the State. Institutions are not Catholic because they have the name of a saint over the door. They are not Catholic because a diligent search of their web page will reveal the word “catholic.”
Institutions are Catholic when they teach, follow, and implement the doctrines of the Holy Roman, Catholic and Apostolic Church.
In the United States, many Catholic charitable organizations use public monies in their work. In several states, Catholic schools get public funds to purchase non-religious textbooks, offer special education programs, transport students, feed impoverished students, or buy computers. Many students borrow federally guaranteed money to pay for Catholic university educations. Some of those same universities get federal research grants.
In most cases, those institutions enter such arrangements in the same spirit that could have motivated the Sisters of Saint Martha in 1996. To the extent that acceptance of these monies does not violate the moral law by supporting things like abortion or assisted suicide, these institutions can accept them. However, they must immediately reject funds when they come attached to support for immoral programs. They would, thus, do well not to rely too heavily on government aid should they need to take a stand.
Now, those sisters are learning a bitter lesson. It is one that should concern all. When Church and the modern secular State resources are mixed, the will of the State will usually prevail. Indeed, when the Church abandons one of her functions, it will be taken up in a far more brutal form by the State.
Advancing the goals of the secular State is not the reason that Christ created the Church. In situations like that of these Canadian hospitals, they must make the difficult decision to operate on the resources that God will provide for them. Any other decision is just adopting a slow form of assisted suicide.