Activists asking Aldermen to discriminate, Catholic leader claims
A letter from a group with "Catholic" in its title criticizing Chicago City Council for approving a multi-million-dollar subsidy to Illinois' largest Catholic health care system is asking city aldermen to discriminate, claims the vice president of a faith-based advocacy group.
Chicago aldermen would discriminate against Presence Health if they were to respond to Catholics for Choice's critical letter by revoking the subsidy, which was approved in January, Catholic Citizens of Illinois Vice President Kevin Edward White told Chicago City Wire.
"The question practically answers itself," White said. "More important, [the letter's position] is not only discriminatory but, to the extent it deliberately targets Catholics, [it discriminates] unlawfully."
Revoking the Presence Health subsidy also would violate constitutionally guaranteed religious freedoms, White said.
"No person or entity ought to be penalized by the government, whichever party is in control of a legislature, for refusing to engage in conduct that he or she believes violates either their conscience or their religious beliefs.
In its two-page letter to Chicago City Aldermen, Catholics for Choice expressed its "deep concern, shared by our allies across the state," about the $5.6 million subsidy to Presence Health approved by a 31 to 18 City Council vote in January.
"While Catholic health care facilities provide quality care in a number of areas to Chicagoland residents, the experiences of those seeking reproductive health services in Catholic hospitals are deeply troubling," the letter said. "It is a critical element of due diligence for local policy makers to be aware of the shortcomings of Catholic hospitals and health care systems, especially in regards to reproductive health care."
The letter claimed that Presence Health Care "adheres" to "a set of religious-based rules written and enforced by Catholic bishops.
"Those Directives allow women to be treated as second-class citizens in facilities supported by public dollars," the letter continued. "This is wrong. At a time when your colleagues in Springfield are working to expand access to reproductive health care across the state, it is especially objectionable that the City of Chicago would turn a blind eye when making funding decisions to leave so many vulnerable residents without access to critical care."
The letter acknowledges Chicago's 16 Catholic hospitals that serve 2.3 million patients a year but accused those hospitals of "blatant discrimination against those who do not follow the dictates of the bishops in these matters, Catholics and non-Catholics alike."
Dated Feb. 21, five days before city-wide elections that included all alderman seats, the letter was signed by Catholics for Choice President Jon O'Brien. Despite including "Catholics" in its name, Catholics for Choice is a misnomer, White said.
"Catholics for Choice is in no sense 'Catholic,' White said. "It routinely advocates for policies contrary to Catholic beliefs. As a result, it has been publicly denounced regularly by the American Bishops Conference and numerous individual Bishops and Cardinals."
The group's lack of standing as a faith-based organization is clear in its letter to city aldermen, White said.
"Even in the letter referenced, Catholics for Choice grossly misstates Catholic doctrine," he said. "Arguing that an individual's conscience trumps all, for example. Were we each our own church, claiming to be a member of the Catholic Church – or any other church – would be stripped of all meaning."
Catholics for Choice accusing Presence Health of treating women like second-class citizens is ironic, White said, because Catholics for Choice advocates such treatment and "proves their utter alienation from and opposition to the Catholic Church."
"As Pope Paul VI predicted in Humanae Vitae, and as few reasonably can dispute, the introduction of legalized abortion has caused grave harm to the status of women everywhere and is brutalizing us all," White continued. "Abortions destroy human lives, roughly half of them females. To pretend otherwise denies basic biology and genetics. Women who have had abortions suffer grievously as well, emotionally and often physically. Anything that encourages one to engage in such an act is to treat them as worse than second-class citizens."