Thursday, July 3, 2008

Drowning In A Quagmire Of Conscience And Beauracracy

Catholic leaders in Richmond are apologizing after a mix up enabled a 16-year-old illegal immigrant in a Catholic charity's care to get an abortion with help from charity staffers. {I had to read this line twice. Some mix up.}

Richmond Diocese Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo issued a statement in Monday's edition of the Catholic Virginian apologizing for lapses that led to the procedure staunchly opposed by the church.
The incident involved a Guatemalan teenager being cared for by Commonwealth Catholic Charities, through a program that arranges foster care for illegal immigrant children in the country without adult guardians.

Officials fired four of the Richmond-based charity's workers determined to have helped the girl travel to and from the January procedure, and who signed a consent form for the abortion. {This is a pretty clear cut case of aiding and abetting.}

"I express my profound apology for the loss of life of one of the most vulnerable among us," DiLorenzo wrote. "And I apologize for the profound embarrassment this has caused the Catholic Diocese of Richmond, and Catholics throughout the United States."

The bishop had advance knowledge of the January procedure, but he said he was told by the charity's executive director, Joanne Nattrass, that there was nothing they could do to intervene.
Nattrass issued a statement saying she learned Jan. 17 that the girl was scheduled to have an abortion the next morning.

The information was relayed to the bishop, who Nattrass said replied that "I forbid this to happen." But Nattrass said she and other authorities were led to believe they could not stop it.
It was unclear late Tuesday who told Nattrass the procedure was to take place or that it could not be stopped. Nattrass and a spokeswoman for the charity didn't immediately return calls seeking further comment from The Associated Press.

Meanwhile, authorities are investigating whether the charity or the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops violated state and federal laws. {This is where this mix up could get really expensive. Who paid for the abortion?}
The conference receives $7.6 million a year in federal funds to place unaccompanied illegal immigrant children in foster care until they're reunited with relatives, sponsored, or returned to their homeland.

Commonwealth Catholic Charities serves children in the Richmond area as a subcontractor of the bishop's conference. The conference "appears to have been aware of Commonwealth Catholic Charities' actions," Siegel wrote in his April 23 letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' deputy inspector general, Timothy Menke.
Federal law bans the use of federal money to pay for abortions with exceptions for rape, incest or threats to the life of the mother. Virginia law requires parental consent for an abortion for a girl under 18.


This story isn't just about a 16 year old girl obtaining an abortion with the help of employees working for a Catholic organization, or the failure of a Bishop to put a stop to it. It's way more complicated than that.

There is the legal question of whether or not an employee could serve as a legal representative for this minor and give consent for an abortion the minor wanted. This would be a question of Virginia state law. There is the federal issue of helping to provide for an abortion which didn't meet the requirements of rape, incest or threat to the life of the mother and it may not matter that Commonwealth Catholic Charities didn't fund the abortion. The fact is they are getting funds to take care of illegal emigrant children and their staff did help in the procurement of the abortion. Their is also the whole question of providing social services through faith based programs and the conflict between personal constitutional rights and the conflicting doctrines of the provider. It is also true that staff members did provide this young woman with a birth control device and information on how to use it, again, directly in violation of Church teaching, but well within the rights of the girl to ask for. She already has one child and didn't want another.

The diocese in the persons of Bishop DiLorenzo and Ms Nattas, is taking the position that staff members were "deliberately flouting Church teaching" and there wasn't enough time for the Bishop to act--24 hours--, especially given the fact he was given erroneous information. The problem with this is there was time for the Bishop to act and they had any number of options open to them. They could have contacted their lawyers and had them contact the clinic to see if the consent form was legally signed. They could have contacted the USCCB, the supervisory group for Commonwealth Catholic Charities, and asked them to transfer the girl elsewhere, perhaps to another charity which would not have had the dogmatic problems with her request. The fact is they sat on their hands and did nothing.

Four members of Commonwealth Catholic Charities were fired in March for their actions in this situation. The problem is that CCC employees did contact the appropriate channels when the situation first arose, not just the Diocese and the USCCB, but also the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Refugee Resettlement. They claim they did as they were directed, including advising the girl meet with CCC adoption representatives. The girl stayed steadfast in her choice. I'm not sure what else they could do at their lever of the food chain. Intervention would have had to come from above, but I guess the powers from above have decided termination of the employees is the correct intervention.

I don't know about that. The problem seems to be that no one could convince the girl to do otherwise than abort. That choice put her at odds with her care givers, and her care givers at odds with their bosses, and their bosses at odds with State and Federal Laws regarding abortion.

This seems to be a text book case of why the Faith Based Initiative strategy of President Bush has serious issues when it comes to the separation of Church and State. If the clash of consciences involved in these situations are solved after the fact, on the backs of the people who are caught in the cross fire, then nothing is resolved. Although it might make those doing all the shooting feel better about themselves, it doesn't prevent a future clash along the same lines.

As to my personal feelings, I truly believe the Roman Catholic Church should get out of the Faith Based Initiative Programs. They should just bite the bullet and let the millions of dollars go if they can't in conscience guarantee they will protect the rights of their clients when it comes to sexual and reproductive choices which are legal in this country. Especially in cases like this young Guatemalan teenager who isn't under their care by her choice. I may or may not agree with her choice, but I certainly respect her courage in sticking with her choice. It's just too bad the cost of that choice isn't being paid by the people in power who set the game up by these particular rules. But then, isn't that always the case?


  1. I agree with you Colleen, that the "Roman Catholic Church should get out of the Faith Based Initiative Programs." "The conference receives $7.6 million a year in federal funds to place unaccompanied illegal immigrant children in foster care until they're reunited with relatives, sponsored, or returned to their homeland." These federal funds should perhaps go to Guatemala or Mexico to fund programs there that will allow people to start their own businesses, get a higher education or something along those lines that would end the need for their leaving their homeland and family to begin with. One would think that might be a better option than what we have currently.

    I wonder if there are more cases such as this and if this is just the tip of the iceberg appearing in this faith-based bureaucracy?

  2. I'm curious about missing items in all of this.

    The girl was 16, which in most states is below the legal age of consent and could implicate the father in statutory rape charges. I dont know how Virginia law reads, but if the father is over 18, then I would think that would technically satisfy the rape portion of the requirement.

    She already has one child. Were both children conceived in this country? Was she pregnant before or after she was transferred into their care? If after, where was the breakdown in care that allowed that to happen?

    Who and where are the fathers? Why is that avenue not being investigated?

    There are a lot of unanwsered questions here that need to be asked. Regardless, this will probably get very ugly, and create a lot of unfortunate collateral damage.

  3. I agree with both of you. If that 7.6 million dollars was going to the source of the problem and not the results everyone would be better off.

    Carl, I don't know that we'll ever find out about the fathers of the birthed child and the aborted fetus. Societiy doens't really delve into male sexual accountabilty and I seriuosly doubt any DNA evidence was kept from the fetus. That's more than likely why abortion is tolerated in this country--no evidnece kept, no charges. I just wonder if the girl wasn't prostituting herself and that's why she wound up in foster care. She says it was her boyfriend, but what does that mean?

    The whole story has interesting wholes as you point out. But when it comes to the action of supervisory staff there is no doubt they failed to prevent this abortion. Maybe they shouldn't have succeeded as in this country it really was her choice.

  4. RE: “My Pedophile Priest Supports Traditional Marriage”

    Love the graphic at top of the last post. This actually happened in Springfield, Mass., and the pedophile priest turned out to be the bishop !

    Of the four diocesan bishops of Massachusetts, Bishop Thomas Dupre was the most enthusiastic campaigner against gay marriage in 2003. He made it a point to visit local parishes to rally them against gay marriage.

    At the same time, Dupre was protecting pedophile priests, including by destroying their personnel files. One such pedophile was the notorious Richard Lavigne (since defrocked). Lavigne remains the only suspect in the murder of an altar boy, though authorities don’t have enough evidence to charge him with the murder. (You can google all this).

    When good priests protested, Dupre punished them, including removing one pastor who called the police when Lavigne was lurking around children at his church.

    So in 2003, Bishop Dupre was very busy campaigning against gay marriage, while protecting pedophiles and punishing good priests.

    But the plot thickens.

    In February, 2004, Bishop Dupre suddenly resigned for “health reasons” and moved out of the chancery in the middle of the night. The next day, news stories appeared that Dupre himself was being charged with past child molestations.

    Dupre checked himself into the St. Luke Institute, and was indicted by a grand jury, the first sitting bishop to be so charged. However, he escaped prosecution because the statute of limitations had expired. To this day, no one is quite sure where Dupre is hiding.

    Meanwhile, the Mass. Conference of Bishops had just spent $1 million to mail a brochure to every Catholic household in the state, decrying gay marriage. (This while they were cutting Catholic Charities funding).

    On front of the brochure was the color photo of Bishop Thomas Dupre -- now known as Bishop Depraved -- with his quotes about the need to “protect children” from homosexual marriage. The timing couldn’t have been better for gay marriage advocates.

    Yes indeed, our pedophile bishop, Thomas Depraved, was a staunch supporter of “traditional marriage.” Surely God, or karma, has a sense of humor !

    -- John K

  5. John, as you can see from the article I posted today, your story about Bishop Dupre touched a chord. My sojourn on was enlightening to say the least. They should call it

    I may do a post in the next couple of days about Bishop Nienstedt again. It looks like he's the new spokesman for homophobic theology. I guess he feels Burke has taken all the available 'sugar' from the abortion and women's priests issues, so his territory is those evil gays. I'm sure you won't find his signature on any request for the canonization of Mychal Judge.
    Speaking of which, I found this wild site which lists canonized saints suspected of being gay or having gay tendencies. For some unsurprising reason I found St Augustine on that list. Interesting verses from his Confessions which one has to read as all about a significant gay love. Very interesting given Benedict's penchant for all things Augustine. Maybe gorgeous George is Benedict's version of Augustine's love of his soul.