- United States Catholic bishops on Tuesday approved new directives that would allow Catholic providers to more easily merge, partner with or acquire secular systems without compromising their positions on abortion, birth control, euthanasia and other healthcare practices forbidden by the church.
- The directives are intended to provide moral guidance to bishops who oversee hospital transactions in their dioceses. They are intended "to ensure that Catholic healthcare institutions neither cooperate immorally with the unacceptable procedures conducted in other healthcare entities with which they may be connected nor cause scandal as a result of their collaboration with such other entities."
- It is unclear at this time exactly how the new directives will impact current and future relationships between Catholic and secular providers, but the new measures passed overwhelmingly in a 213 to 2 vote.
There are a couple of factors that likely influenced this move. On an ideological level, the issue of how to balance fair access to healthcare with religious beliefs has been in the national limelight this year with the Hobby Lobby decision, so it's not surprising that the church has chosen 2014 to address its policies. More practically, with the never-ending march towards consolidation of varying kinds in the industry, Catholic institutions can't necessarily afford to shun secular providers who perform sterilizations, abortions and other care to which the church objects.
"Twenty years ago we were talking about cooperation today we are involved in such things as buying physicians' practices, [and] different groups are looking at what we're doing and who we can work with in insurance coverage," said Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Centre, NY. "It makes it really very important for us to do the best we can to illuminate Catholic principles in cooperation."