Some time back Bp. Cupich decided, for completely incoherent reasons, to stiff arm 40 Days for Life, as well as to try to crush any involvement by clergy and seminarians in this fine, widely approved by American bishops, peaceful witness to human life. He partly backed down, due to embarrassing publicity (as near as I can tell). But his icy treatment of the prolife movement in Spokane continues. Witness this recent letter to me from John Weingarten, who heads Spokane’s 40 Days for Life:
I’m working on another anti-Catholic/anti-life problem at our largest “Catholic” hospital in Spokane, Sacred Heart Medical Center. After hearing numerous reports that women patients who give birth at Sacred Heart are routinely offered tubal ligations and/or have artificial birth control recommended to them, I communicated my concern to Bishop Cupich about a year ago. The response was less than useful.
Three weeks ago, I sent him another letter with a request for a response within a couple of weeks. In it, I told him I planned to make this issue public if he chose not to take this issue seriously.
So far, one woman who worked at Sacred Heart and was offered a tubal ligation when she was a patient there, has agreed to go public with the story. I’m looking for others who are willing to speak up, but there seems to be enough anecdotal evidence that it’s time to move forward with this story.
I sent the following letter via certified mail to Bishop Cupich on November 8th and confirmed with his secretary Mary Cole that he did receive it.
Here’s the letter I sent. Please feel free to use it and also don’t hesitate to let me know if you have any questions prior to posting, if you choose to post this.
Thanks so much for all you do, and for your help with this.
November 8, 2011
Dear Bishop Cupich,
In a previous letter, I wrote to you about numerous reports I and others had received from women who had been patients at Sacred Heart Hospital. After delivering a baby, these women were asked what sort contraception they would be using; or they were offered tubal ligations. In your response a couple of months later, you stated that you had contacted Dr. Andrew Agwunobi, then CEO of Providence, and that he had assured you everything was being done in accordance with Catholic ERDs.
I sent you a reply on January 24, 2011, expressing my appreciation for the attention you paid to the issue, but at the same time requesting additional guidance about what we should do in the future when such reports come to our attention.
On the one hand, reports of hospital practice in conflict with Catholic ERDs may reflect a misunderstanding of the ERDs or inaccurate perception of what is actually occurring at the hospital. On the other hand, they may reflect an inadequate understanding by Hospital personnel of what the ERDs require, or of the commitment that a health care provider makes when providing care at a Catholic hospital. Since my previous letters, I’ve heard even more reports from women who have been patients at Sacred Heart and corroborated what we told you in the first letter. I just heard from a woman who observed such practices while she was employed at Sacred Heart, and then experienced them when, as a patient, she was offered a tubal ligation as though it were standard procedure—which it apparently is. She has given me permission to give you her name and contact information so that you can verify these facts to your satisfaction. She is also willing to have her name and story publicized if it will help move Sacred Heart Hospital toward fostering a culture of life.The lack of response to my previous letter left me wondering whether you were both inclined and able to exercise the type of oversight that the Hospital apparently requires. While I lack the authority that you, as Bishop, have over institutions that identify themselves as Catholic, I have some ability as well as responsibility to call attention to practices that are in grave conflict with Catholic moral teaching. Because you would be significantly more effective in accomplishing this goal, I would very much prefer that you address the situation directly. However, in the absence of a response from you, I intend to accept the offer of this brave woman to make her story public—along with many others who have had similar experiences. I would profoundly regret the damage that would ensue from publicizing the disconnect between the ideals of a Catholic hospital and the practice at Sacred Heart, but I would regret even more the silence at the continuation of the evils that these reports suggest.
Women (and men) who are admitted to Sacred Heart Hospital for medical treatment ought to have the confidence that the treatment they receive will be consistent with Catholic moral teaching. Although many patients are not Catholic, and many hospital personnel are not Catholic, the practices within the hospital should consistently reflect Catholic teaching. In many ways it is precisely the non-Catholic patients and non-Catholic hospital personnel who are most likely to be harmed by a failure to ensure that Catholic values in health care are not only preached but practiced.
I apologize in advance if this letter seems abrupt or impertinent. But in the belief that it is my moral duty to take these steps, I hope that you will forgive any defect in the manner of presentation.
I’ll look forward to your response within the next couple of weeks.
I got this letter a couple of weeks ago and figured, “Maybe the bishop is just busy”. So I waited with the expectation that, surely, a Catholic bishop would respond to a respectful letter from a member of his flock with a legitimate concern about a grave matter. I wrote John a day or two ago and asked if he’d ever heard back from Bp. Cupich.
The good people of the prolife movement in Spokane deserve better than this contemptuous treatment from their shepherd. He’s treating devoted children of the Church (and friends who are ready to serve him) like enemies. Why?