The BLOG: Faith and Law

Some sanity: Reason prevails (for now) in a case of conscience

Good news comes out of California in the case reported in the NBP last week. A state court judge had indicated that he will not coerce a Catholic hospital to perform a sterilization procedure that violates Roman Catholic moral doctrine. That judge has now affirmed his earlier ruling, denying a request for an injunction that would have compelled the hospital to violate the conscience of those who operate the hospital.

The plaintiff, Rebecca Chamorro, asked the judge to require the hospital to perform the procedure on the ground that refusing to do it would constitute sex discrimination. The judge observed that the hospital’s policies prohibit hospital employees from performing sterilization of both men and women, consistent with Catholic teaching, and sensibly reasoned that refusing to participate in Chamorro’s sterilization was therefore not discrimination on the basis of sex.

This logic is not difficult to grasp. It’s a rather straight-forward syllogism. Yet the Left is predictably devolving into the usual histrionics, which they exhibit whenever conscientious people decline to participate in actions they understand to be wrong.

The ACLU and its agents in the news media are trying to make it seem as though Mercy Medical Center, a hospital operated by the Sisters of Mercy of Auburn, is waging a war on women. An ACLU representative opined that Mercy Medical Center’s provision of medical services as an offering of its religious mission “presents a real threat to a woman’s ability to access health care.”

And a headline in the Los Angeles Times dutifully hyperventilates, “Here’s another case of a Catholic hospital interfering with patient care.” The columnist decries “a developing crisis in American healthcare, which is tied to the evolution of Catholic hospital chains into a major provider of medical services — and the sole provider of some services in some communities.” The putative crisis is that religious hospitals “impose” religious doctrines on their patients.

Let’s get our heads around this. Roman Catholic medical professionals provide quality medical care in communities where other medical providers are either willing or unable to provide that care. They provide that medical care in large part because of their religious convictions, which include the conviction that sterilization of the sexual organs is intrinsically harmful to the human person. And because Roman Catholic hospitals do all that good work motivated by that well-considered concern for human health and flourishing, they are accused of denying patients the opportunity to receive health care. The same hospital without which there would be no patient care is, in the view of the Left, interfering with patient care.

More and more, the Left insists that sexual and sexual-identity claim-rights must prevail over economic, religious, moral, and conscience liberties. Reason has very little to do with their assertions, and almost no effect on those making the assertions.

Fortunately, reason is prevailing (for now) in this case.

Adam J. MacLeod

Adam J. MacLeod

Adam J. MacLeod is a member of the Maine and Massachusetts (inactive) bars and an Associate Professor at Faulkner University, Jones School of Law. He is the author of “Property and Practical Reason” (Cambridge University Press) and dozens of articles in journals in the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia, many of which can be accessed at his website.