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                                    Christian Bioethics
                                    Non-Ecumenical Studies in Medical Morality
                                    Publication details, including instructions for authors and subscription information:
                                    Catholic Social Teaching and the Economics of Health
                                    Care Management
                                    Dennis P. McCann

                                    Online Publication Date: 01 December 2000
                                    To cite this Article: McCann, Dennis P. , (2000) 'Catholic Social Teaching and the
                                    Economics of Health Care Management', Christian Bioethics, 6:3, 231 - 250
                                    To link to this article: DOI: 10.1076/chbi.

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                                                                             2000, Vol. 6, No. 3, pp. 231–250                                         © Swets & Zeitlinger

                                                                             Catholic Social Teaching and the Economics of Health
                                                                             Care Management1
                                                                             Dennis P. McCann
                                                                             Agnes Scott College


                                                                             The author considers the issue of what it is for a health care institution to be intentionally
                                                                             Christian. He begins with a review of Catholic social teaching, and considers how this
                                                                             perspective is shaping Catholic thought and action regarding health care management and
                                                                             public policy reform. He then proposes some standards for intentionally Christian institu-

                                                                             Prior to the current crisis in health care, hospitals managed by Catholic
                                                                             religious orders were a significant aspect of the Church’s ministry in the
                                                                             United States. During the current crisis Catholic hospitals have been under
                                                                             significant economic pressure, and many of them have either closed their
                                                                             doors, been sold outright to private for-profit health care systems, or are
                                                                             managed now as joint ventures in partnership with private health care
                                                                                These economic pressures have been intensified for Catholic hospitals
                                                                             because of the long-term impact of the decline in religious vocations after
                                                                             Vatican II, and the consequent “greying” of the religious communities that
                                                                             sponsor and administer Catholic hospitals. The religious orders often are
                                                                             facing a simultaneous crisis in providing for a decent retirement for the
                                                                             aged members of their communities, who often are close to becoming a
                                                                             majority of the members in good standing.
                                                                                The cost structure of Catholic health care institutions, as a result, has
                                                                             changed significantly, even as competition with for-profit health care sys-
                                                                             tems and pervasive pressure to implement “cost-containment” strategies
                                                                             have intensified.
                                                                                The questions posed for this issue of Christian Bioethics thus are very
                                                                             timely and decisive for the future of Catholic health care institutions. Even

                                                                             Correspondence: Dennis P. McCann, Ph.D., Department of Religious Studies, Agnes
                                                                             Scott College, 141 East College Avenue, Decatur, Georgia 30030, U.S.A.
                                                                             232                          DENNIS P. MCCANN
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                                                                             before the current crisis, Catholic institutions were struggling with the
                                                                             issue of mission and/or Catholic identity. I became aware of their concern
                                                                             when, as founding director of DePaul University’s Center for the Study of
                                                                             Values, my work focused increasingly on the identity of the University as
                                                                             an “Urban, Catholic, Vincentian” institution of higher learning. As a Vin-
                                                                             centian institution, DePaul is part of the Vincentian “family” which in-
                                                                             cludes the health care and related institutions founded by the Daughters of
                                                                             Charity. Ten years ago I began inquiries into the health care institutions of
                                                                             the Daughters of Charity, locally, St. Joseph’s Hospital in the Lincoln
                                                                             Park neighborhood of Chicago, to find resources on how to address ques-
                                                                             tions of mission and Catholic identity. At that point my impression was
                                                                             that Catholic hospitals were ahead of Catholic universities in addressing
                                                                             this question.
                                                                                One of the things that became apparent to me was that active concern
                                                                             for the needs of the poor was a crucial element in the mission of Catholic
                                                                             hospitals, particularly those administered by the Daughters of Charity.
                                                                             The slogan of the Vincentian family, taken from the writings of St. Vin-
                                                                             cent dePaul, is to “Follow Christ by Evangelizing the Poor.” Hospitals
                                                                             faithful to this mission were to make the needs of the poor a special
                                                                             concern, over and above whatever pro bono policies toward indigent
                                                                             patients that all hospitals, in theory, are supposed to honor. Increasingly,
                                                                             Catholic social teaching, which has much to say about economic justice,
                                                                             but very little explicitly directed toward health care management, is re-
                                                                             garded by Catholic hospital administrators as a resource for sharpening
                                                                             their own thinking about mission. Like all segments of the American
                                                                             Catholic Church, these administrators found their thinking increasingly
                                                                             focused on questions of economic justice and the needs of the poor,
                                                                             because of significant public response to the NCCB’s pastoral letter
                                                                             (1986), Economic Justice for All: Catholic Social Teaching and the U.S.
                                                                             Economy. This document, too, has little to say about health care, but it
                                                                             does have much to say about the human costs of an economy that increas-
                                                                             ingly is focused on “the bottom line” to the exclusion of other human
                                                                                Because of my experience working with the Daughters of Charity ad-
                                                                             ministering St. Joseph’s Hospital, the responses that I give to the ques-
                                                                             tions to be considered in this issue will thus be informed by a review of
                                                                             Catholic social teaching, and how this perspective is shaping Catholic
                                                                             thought and action regarding health care management and public policy
                                                                             reform. After I have reviewed these developments, I will then try to
                                                                             formulate an answer to the specific questions posed by the editor of
                                                                             Christian Bioethics.
                                                                                            THE ECONOMICS OF HEALTH CARE MANAGEMENT                    233
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                                                                                              I. CATHOLIC SOCIAL TEACHING:
                                                                                          PRINCIPLES FOR HEALTH CARE REFORM

                                                                             Let us begin by asking, “What is Catholic Social Teaching?” Considered
                                                                             historically, it is the worldview of the Roman Catholic church articulated
                                                                             under conditions of modernization. Modernization is a social process
                                                                             whose origins are external to the Catholic church, in a way that they are
                                                                             not external to Protestantism, especially liberal Protestantism. Under con-
                                                                             ditions of modernization the church becomes aware of its distinctiveness
                                                                             or separateness from the mainstream of modern society. How and why the
                                                                             church should seek to engage with modern society, as Vatican II’s Gaudi-
                                                                             um et Spes makes abundantly clear, becomes an essential problem for the
                                                                             church’s continued mission in the world. Catholic social teaching is thus a
                                                                             worldview seeking to institutionalize itself as an ethos; it is a template for
                                                                             managing the often corrosive forces of modernization.
                                                                                Formally speaking, Catholic social teaching is a social vision, morally
                                                                             based, theologically grounded, publicly argued, and institutionally em-
                                                                                It is a social vision: it seeks to define the common good for a community
                                                                             of persons, based on its distinctive understanding of Scripture and Chris-
                                                                             tian tradition, the community’s own historical experience, as it has been
                                                                             tested by reason, that is, not by rationalist ideology, but by open-ended
                                                                             critical inquiry within the community.
                                                                                It is morally based: this vision highlights certain themes considered
                                                                             essential for interpreting the moral experience of the human race, such as
                                                                             respect for human dignity and social solidarity.
                                                                                It is theologically grounded: these themes reflect the church’s self-
                                                                             understanding of its relationship to God in Christ, a relationship in which
                                                                             all that the church would hope to accomplish comes as a response to God’s
                                                                             own initiative working in the world and through the church. Catholic
                                                                             social teaching thus increasingly makes its points in a Biblically oriented
                                                                             discourse, structured by the notions – as the NCCB pastoral letter on the
                                                                             US economy (1986) showed – of “Creation/Covenant/Community,” “Love
                                                                             and Justice,” and “Vocation and Stewardship.”
                                                                                It is publicly argued: Catholic social teaching, true to its origins in
                                                                             Medieval social philosophy, notably that of St. Thomas Aquinas, contin-
                                                                             ues to make its moral claim upon the world in terms of the Natural Law
                                                                             tradition. This is believed to represent a common ground available to all
                                                                             persons capable of using their reason and experience to discover truth.
                                                                             Roughly from the time of Vatican II (1962-1965), Catholic social teach-
                                                                             ing has developed this Natural Law tradition as a contribution to the
                                                                             234                          DENNIS P. MCCANN
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                                                                             world’s ongoing discussion concerning the theory and practice of human
                                                                                It is institutionally embodied: Catholic social teaching is not only the
                                                                             expression of moral and religious aspirations for a better life. It is also a
                                                                             philosophy of social and political action, in which various institutional
                                                                             sectors of modern society are critically assessed for the role they may play
                                                                             in implementing the priorities of Catholic social teaching. The strategy for
                                                                             social change implicit in the whole of Catholic social teaching is explicit
                                                                             in its second-order principle of subsidiarity.
                                                                                Having defined Catholic social teaching, we may now consider what, if
                                                                             anything, this tradition has had to say about health care, particularly the
                                                                             economics of health care and the ethical dilemmas involved in providing
                                                                             universal access to adequate health care. The most recent official and
                                                                             comprehensive statements of Catholic social teaching with reference to
                                                                             questions of economic and social justice are Pope John Paul II’s encyclical
                                                                             letter, Centesimus Annus, “On the Hundredth Anniversary of Rerum No-
                                                                             varum” (1991), and the pastoral letter of the National Conference of Cath-
                                                                             olic Bishops, Economic Justice for All (1986). Though neither of these
                                                                             statements is concerned even peripherally with the current debate over
                                                                             health care reform, they do illustrate how the general principles of Catho-
                                                                             lic social teaching may be related to public policy issues.
                                                                                Centesimus Annus is noteworthy not only because it continues the recent
                                                                             Papal tradition of issuing such encyclicals on the decade anniversary of
                                                                             Pope Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum, “On the Condition of Labor” (1891) – the
                                                                             encyclical celebrated by the Magisterium as the point of departure for the
                                                                             development of modern Catholic social teaching – but also because it is the
                                                                             first major statement issued after the collapse of communism in eastern Eu-
                                                                             rope. The posture of Catholic social teaching prior to 1989 had been one of
                                                                             evenhanded criticism of both atheistic communism and laissez-faire capi-
                                                                             talism, or, if you will, Manchester-style economic liberalism. “A plague on
                                                                             both your houses!” might be a useful way to think of its perspective in those
                                                                             days. Centesimus Annus breaks new ground in that, after honoring Leo
                                                                             XIII’s anti-communism, it seeks to situate the tradition as an ethically en-
                                                                             gaged critical perspective within the emerging global market system. Its
                                                                             tenor is clearly reformist, and it models a kind of constructive engagement
                                                                             with capitalism that was not characteristic of earlier Papal pronouncements.
                                                                                Thus it is not surprising that, while Centesimus Annus reaffirms Leo’s
                                                                             general principles, it merely mentions “health insurance” as one of the
                                                                             reforms that over the past century have been introduced “within the frame-
                                                                             work of greater respect for the rights of workers” (O’Brien and Shannon,
                                                                             1992, p. 451). Its only other mention of health-related concerns comes in a
                                                                                            THE ECONOMICS OF HEALTH CARE MANAGEMENT                    235
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                                                                             paragraph focused on the “specific problems and threats emerging within
                                                                             the more advanced economies and which are related to their particular
                                                                             characteristics.” Here, under the heading of “consumerism,” which is char-
                                                                             acterized as an ideology or tendency to promote “artificial consumption
                                                                             contrary to the health and dignity of the human person,” John Paul II notes
                                                                             specifically that “widespread drug use is a sign of a serious malfunction in
                                                                             the social system; it also implies a materialistic and, in a certain sense,
                                                                             destructive ‘reading’ of human needs” (O’Brien and Shannon, 1992, p.
                                                                             467). The point is that Centesimus Annus does not seek to revise the basic
                                                                             principles of Catholic social teaching so much as refine the church’s un-
                                                                             derstanding of the social world in which these are to be implemented. The
                                                                             capitalist market system, as such, is no longer the villain; but it does still
                                                                             tend to exacerbate social problems that may be deeper and more intracta-
                                                                             ble than problems of distributive justice.
                                                                                The NCCB pastoral letter, Economic Justice for All, is far more exten-
                                                                             sive and explicit in its references to the economics of health care. This,
                                                                             too, is not surprising; for it was written during the mid-1980s when public
                                                                             concern about rising US health care costs was growing once again. Early
                                                                             in the letter, in a section titled, “Urgent Problems of Today,” the bishops
                                                                             set the tone for their remarks on this issue by linking the economics of
                                                                             health care to the arms race. Resources that could be used, among other
                                                                             things, to ensure adequate health care for the poor are unavailable because
                                                                             of the excessive levels of expenditure for national defense (O’Brien and
                                                                             Shannon, 1992, p. 582). Far more significant is their reaffirmation – echo-
                                                                             ing the robust human rights doctrine spelled out in Pope John XXIII’s
                                                                             memorable encyclical, Pacem in Terris, “Peace on Earth” (1963) – of a
                                                                             “right to medical care” as among the “welfare rights” strongly supported
                                                                             by the Catholic social teaching:

                                                                               These fundamental personal rights – civil and political as well as
                                                                               social and economic – state the minimum conditions for social insti-
                                                                               tutions that respect human dignity, social solidarity, and justice. They
                                                                               are all essential to human dignity and to the integral development of
                                                                               both individuals and society, and are thus moral issues. Any denial of
                                                                               these rights harms persons and wounds the human community. Their
                                                                               serious and sustained denial violates individuals and destroys soli-
                                                                               darity among persons (O’Brien and Shannon, 1992, p. 598).

                                                                             As far as the NCCB is concerned, there’s no question whether valid human
                                                                             rights doctrine thus includes a “right to medical care.” The important and
                                                                             vexing question, instead, is how to implement such rights:
                                                                             236                           DENNIS P. MCCANN
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                                                                               Social and economic rights call for a mode of implementation differ-
                                                                               ent from that required to secure civil and political rights. Freedom of
                                                                               worship and of speech imply immunity from interference on the part
                                                                               of both other persons and the government. The rights to education,
                                                                               employment, and social security, for example, are empowerments
                                                                               that call for positive action by individuals and society at large
                                                                               (O’Brien and Shannon, 1992, p. 598).

                                                                             As we shall see, how the right to medical care is implemented is an illus-
                                                                             tration of Catholic social teaching’s principle of subsidiarity.
                                                                                The pastoral letter’s other references to health care occur within this
                                                                             framework of human rights doctrine. Since a major concern of the letter
                                                                             overall is to secure, as the title indicates, Economic Justice for All, most of
                                                                             these references occur in the context of special concern for the poor and
                                                                             the marginalized. In moving from abstract generality to concrete policy
                                                                             proposals, the letter makes explicit the “moral priorities” that the church
                                                                             would urge upon society as a whole. The highest of these priorities is “the
                                                                             fulfillment of the basic needs of the poor,” especially those who “lack the
                                                                             minimum necessities of nutrition, housing, education and health care”
                                                                             (O’Brien and Shannon, 1992, p. 600). It is in this context that the bishops
                                                                             highlight the health care needs of female-headed, single-parent house-
                                                                             holds (p. 619), of farm workers (p. 630), and of the poor of the developing
                                                                             nations (643). In emphasizing their needs, the bishops urge policies that
                                                                             support rather than undermine the stability of families (p. 625), and poli-
                                                                             cies that are consistent with Catholic teaching on family planning (p. 644).
                                                                             Currently existing government health care programs, such as Medicare
                                                                             and Medicaid, are specifically praised as “successful” in enhancing “the
                                                                             life expectancy and health status of the elderly and disabled people” and in
                                                                             reducing “infant mortality” and greatly improving “access to health care
                                                                             for the poor” (p. 622).
                                                                                Because the letter’s discussion of public policy is directed toward the
                                                                             problem of poverty, it does not consider the larger question of a compre-
                                                                             hensive overhaul of the entire health care system, such as emerged in
                                                                             debates over the health care reforms proposed by the Clinton administra-
                                                                             tion. There is no agenda for radical change in health care policy here, but a
                                                                             religiously motivated impulse toward incremental reform in the direction
                                                                             of inclusiveness or an expansion of coveage under existing programs. Nor
                                                                             is this simply an omission. The principle of subsidiarity, first articulated in
                                                                             Pope Pius XI’s encyclical, Quadragesimo Anno, “After Forty Years”
                                                                             (1931), requires that government intervention in society be of a limited
                                                                                             THE ECONOMICS OF HEALTH CARE MANAGEMENT                      237
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                                                                               Just as it is gravely wrong to take from individuals what they can
                                                                               accomplish by their own initiative and industry and give it to the
                                                                               community, so also it is an injustice and at the same time a grave evil
                                                                               and disturbance of right order to assign to a greater and higher associ-
                                                                               ation what lesser and subordinate organizations can do. For every
                                                                               social activity ought of its very nature to furnish help to the members
                                                                               of the body social, and never destroy and absorb them (p. 60).

                                                                             First articulated as a basis for resisting the totalitarian tendencies of Italian
                                                                             Fascism that were then threatening the autonomy of church-related institu-
                                                                             tions, the principle of subsidiarity makes the needs of the human person
                                                                             and the capacity of his or her primary communities – such as the family –
                                                                             to fulfill them, the ultimate criterion of government intervention. The
                                                                             assistance (“subsidium” and, hence, “subsidiarity”) provided must em-
                                                                             power citizens to fulfill their own social responsibilities, and never usurp
                                                                             or preempt what persons living in communities are capable of doing for
                                                                                The principle of subsidiarity thus implies a theory of limited govern-
                                                                             ment, not necessarily democracy, but still a role for the State that is
                                                                             constrained by the natural capacities of persons and communities to act
                                                                             responsibly in their own behalf. As such it provides first of all a prima
                                                                             facie rule for interpreting and implementing Catholic human rights doc-
                                                                             trine. Rights, as we’ve just seen the NCCB’s pastoral letter describe
                                                                             them, are “empowerments,” not government entitlements. Rights are to
                                                                             be fulfilled in and through the ordinary operations of myriad social
                                                                             institutions, private and public; government is expected to intervene to
                                                                             safeguard rights only as a last resort, that is, only when the government’s
                                                                             action provides the “subsidium” that social institutions need in order to
                                                                             carry out their own responsibilities more effectively. Given this view of
                                                                             the social order, it is not surprising that though Catholic social teaching
                                                                             strongly supports access to adequate health care as a human right, it is
                                                                             noticeably cautious about endorsing any policy that would tend to preempt
                                                                             the existence of private health care institutions, both for-profit and not-
                                                                                The principle of subsidiarity thus helps account for what otherwise may
                                                                             seem like a vague and perversely unfocused understanding of the practical
                                                                             processes involved in fulfilling a strong commitment to “welfare rights.”
                                                                             The State has a role to play, according to Catholic social teaching, but so
                                                                             do all other social instititutions and the persons whose lives unfold within
                                                                             them. Affirming a right to health care does not necessarily entail disman-
                                                                             tling the current “mixed” system of health care delivery. Catholic social
                                                                             238                          DENNIS P. MCCANN
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                                                                             teaching cannot be interpreted in such a way that its commitment to social
                                                                             justice becomes a pretext for undermining the private hospitals and other
                                                                             health care institutions that have emerged as an integral component of the
                                                                             Church’s own mission and ministry.
                                                                                Despite the paucity of past references to the economics of health care,
                                                                             the principles of Catholic social teaching have become increasingly im-
                                                                             portant as a resource for thinking about economic and social justice in
                                                                             Catholic health care institutions. Richard A. McCormick’s contribution to
                                                                             the Park Ridge Center’s Project X survey of world religions, Health and
                                                                             Medicine in the Catholic Tradition: Tradition in Transition (1987), is an
                                                                             important example of this trend. Though it, too, was penned before the
                                                                             current controversy over health care reform, it defines the problems of
                                                                             “access to health care” and “allocation of resources” as the two “most
                                                                             pressing issues… [to be] considered under the rubric of justice” (1987, p.
                                                                             75). McCormick’s review of Catholic tradition takes the form of a com-
                                                                             mentary on a document, “Ethical Guidelines for Catholic Health Care
                                                                             Institutions,” that had been offered to provoke discussion on precisely
                                                                             how Catholic institutions can work to implement not only Catholic social
                                                                             teaching, but all other aspects as well of Catholic moral theology relevant
                                                                             to health care. The Guidelines are comprehensive, covering everything
                                                                             from Catholic theological interpretations of health, sickness, and well-
                                                                             being, to specific policies for implementing Catholic teaching on abortion,
                                                                             birth control, euthanasia, and other controversial questions.
                                                                                Below are numbers 4 through 10 of the Guidelines, that address ques-
                                                                             tions of social and economic justice in health care:

                                                                               4. A health care institution relates to United States society and culture
                                                                               in significant ways:
                                                                               a) it can be seen as a microcosm of the larger society and its value
                                                                               b) it has strong bonds of interdependence with major dimensions of
                                                                                   this society: legal, economic, technological, political, profession-
                                                                                   al. In all of these societal relationships, institutions are presented
                                                                                   with challenges regarding justice. Responses to these challenges
                                                                                   should be shaped by the social teachings of the Church.

                                                                               5. The employer/employee relationship demands particular attention.
                                                                               A just structure in this relationship calls for fairness and mutual ac-
                                                                               countability. Only in this way will the health care institution become
                                                                               a model of the justice it recommends to the broader society.
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                                                                               6. Independent practitioners are an important part of the health care
                                                                               institution’s community. They are, then, accountable for the same
                                                                               standards of justice as are the salaried employees.

                                                                               7. Concern for justice means that the health care institution will also
                                                                               turn outward to meet the needs of the underserved and the poor and
                                                                               do everything possible to influence public policy in this direction.

                                                                               8. The health care institution should take seriously its responsibility
                                                                               to work for an equitable distribution of health care resources, both
                                                                               within the institution and in society as a whole. This includes in-
                                                                               volvement in areas of law and public policy.

                                                                               9. Minority races have suffered deeply at the hands of our society.
                                                                               The same is often true in Catholic health care institutions, both with
                                                                               regard to employees and patients. Catholic institutions should play a
                                                                               leading and aggressive role in redressing this imbalance, especially
                                                                               with regard to opportunities for advancement and respect for the
                                                                               dignity of patients.

                                                                               10. A similar justice concern about the welfare of women – both
                                                                               patients and employees – should characterize a Catholic health care
                                                                               institution. Women and men should be afforded the same respect and
                                                                               consideration with regard to diagnoses and treatment. Women em-
                                                                               ployees should have equal opportunity for employment and career
                                                                               development, and their work should be fairly compensated, i.e., in
                                                                               accord with the principle of equal pay for work of equal value (Mc-
                                                                               Cormick, 1987, p. 10–11).

                                                                             McCormick’s comments on this segment of the Guidelines attempt an
                                                                             honest appraisal of the cultural climate in which Catholic health care insti-
                                                                             tutions operate in the United States. “Becoming institutions of Christian
                                                                             priority is a monumental undertaking. We are not tuning an instrument in
                                                                             the orchestra; we are attempting to redefine the orchestra itself....” The
                                                                             Catholic health care facility, whether we like it or not, is often “a micro-
                                                                             cosm of the larger society,” and thus it will tend to carry both the strengths
                                                                             and weaknesses of the larger society. Following Daniel Maguire’s think-
                                                                             ing, McCormick outlines a systematic contrast between “American” jus-
                                                                             tice and “Biblical” justice, in which the former clearly comes off second
                                                                             best to the latter. Though Maguire’s sharp contrast is problematic, it does
                                                                             help fill out what McCormick has in mind for Catholic hospitals seeking to
                                                                             240                          DENNIS P. MCCANN
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                                                                             become “institutions of Christian priority.” Clearly, such institutions must
                                                                             be countercultural, to the extent that Christian values themselves have
                                                                             become countercultural in the USA today.
                                                                                At the same time, McCormick recognizes that such a transformation
                                                                             must meet the formidable challenges involved in the structures of interde-
                                                                             pendence, legal, economic, technological, political, and professional, that
                                                                             bind Catholic institutions to their peers, both public and private. On the
                                                                             one hand, then, each of the guidelines involves a certain amount of con-
                                                                             sciousness-raising regarding how far Catholic hospitals have fallen short
                                                                             of their professed Christian aspirations. On the other hand, each seems to
                                                                             go no further than urging more concerted efforts to do better. Such a
                                                                             posture may reflect the moral anguish experienced daily by Catholic health
                                                                             care administrators, such as the Daughters of Charity managing the daily
                                                                             affairs of St. Joseph’s Hospital. But, except in a few sensitive areas, such
                                                                             as prohibiting abortions, the guidelines do not clearly draw the line on
                                                                             what, minimally, it takes for any hospital honestly to claim a Catholic
                                                                             identity for itself.
                                                                                A telling example of this syndrome is the results McCormick cites
                                                                             from a survey – conducted by the California Association of Catholic
                                                                             Hospitals (CACH) – of Catholic hospital administrators and their spon-
                                                                             soring religious communities on the question, “Health Care of the Poor.”
                                                                             The vast majority of those responding agreed with the statement, “One of
                                                                             the primary reasons for Catholic hospitals is to provide health care to the
                                                                             poor.” But a similar proportion also agreed that Catholic hospitals, in the
                                                                             current environment are not “doing the best they can to respond to the
                                                                             needs of the poor” (McCormick, 1987, p. 80). The CACH’s set of recom-
                                                                             mendations for doing more for the poor, however, are diffuse, suggesting
                                                                             incremental reforms and promoting fresh initiatives on a variety of levels.
                                                                             Consistent with the principle of subsidiarity, the recommendations entail
                                                                             a lot of networking, but they do not envision a complete overhaul of the
                                                                             health care system as such. McCormick rightly notes the modesty of what
                                                                             is being proposed and what has been accomplished. The recommenda-
                                                                             tions are only a beginning, one more indication of a “tradition in transi-

                                                                               We are challenging the imaginations and the pocketbooks of our
                                                                               society. And we who struggle to do it are not from Mars or mainland
                                                                               China – we too bear the stamp ‘Made in America’. But we have also
                                                                               been nurtured by a religious tradition that holds out a vision. Our
                                                                               struggle is both within ourselves and in our communities (1987, p.
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                                                                                 The national debate over President Clinton’s proposals for health care
                                                                             reform, of course, did generate significant Catholic response later on.
                                                                             Informed lay Catholic opinion tended to favor Clinton’s proposals with
                                                                             some modifications, but a significant minority also lined up behind a more
                                                                             radical approach to health care finance, for example, “single-payer” poli-
                                                                             cies mirroring the Canadian health care system. Given the legacy of Cath-
                                                                             olic social teaching and its emphasis on the priority of the common good,
                                                                             it comes as no surprise that very few informed Catholics were comfortable
                                                                             simply with allowing the markets to decide questions of who gets access to
                                                                             health care and how scarce health care resources are to be allocated. At the
                                                                             same time, informed Catholic opinion tended to be wary of any wholesale
                                                                             government takeover of the health care system. Whatever the economic
                                                                             benefits of a single, government administered system, Catholic opinion
                                                                             tends to fear that such a system will impose certain values and standards,
                                                                             particularly with regard to procedures like abortion, fertility therapy, fam-
                                                                             ily planning, etc., that diverge significantly from Catholic belief and prac-
                                                                             tice. Catholic caution regarding any radical departure from the current
                                                                             “mixed system” of health care delivery and finance thus is best explained,
                                                                             not as a failure of nerve in the face of measures that, it is alleged, would
                                                                             guarantee “economic justice for all,” but rather as a commitment to a
                                                                             certain view of the human person as embodying values that transcend
                                                                             considerations – as important as they are – of cost-effectiveness and eco-
                                                                             nomic justice.
                                                                                 The best recent Catholic thinking on health care reform has occurred
                                                                             under the auspices of the ongoing Seminar on Business Ethics at George-
                                                                             town University’s Woodstock Theological Center. In October, 1993, the
                                                                             Center sponsored a forum on ethical considerations in the business and
                                                                             financial aspects of health care, with three panelists, each representing an
                                                                             important constituency for health care reform: the medical profession, the
                                                                             insurance industry and the academic community. The panelists struggled
                                                                             to achieve ethical clarity about the basic thrust of reform given the con-
                                                                             straints imposed by the current embodiment of the “mixed system,” one in
                                                                             which “third party payers,” namely insurance companies, necessarily
                                                                             pledged to make a profit for their investors, increasingly hold the key to
                                                                             whatever cost-containment or fiscal responsibility is now operating within
                                                                             the system. Obviously, leaving the financial decision-making about
                                                                             health care primarily in the hands of the insurance industry creates a
                                                                             host of ethical dilemmas, particularly for the professional care-givers, the
                                                                             doctors, nurses, and other health care practitioners, who feel themselves
                                                                             caught between their patient’s needs and the policies of the insurance
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                                                                                These dilemmas were to have been eased to some extent by the Clinton
                                                                             reform effort, but in the absence of major Congressional legislation the
                                                                             Woodstock seminar went ahead and developed a statement, Ethical Con-
                                                                             siderations in the Business Aspects of Health Care (1995), which offers
                                                                             guidlines for moral action even as the national debate remains unresolved
                                                                             on the economics of health care. The statement is systematic and compre-
                                                                             hensive. It formulates principles and faces squarely the dilemmas that
                                                                             health care professionals encounter in the fierce trade-offs between patient
                                                                             welfare and fiscal responsibility. As such it provides a useful illustration
                                                                             of how Catholic social teaching may be applied or extended to complex
                                                                             institutional environments.
                                                                                At first glance, the statement’s relationship to Catholic social teaching
                                                                             may seem, if not nonexistent, at least disappointingly unemphatic. The
                                                                             statement contains no explicit references to God or Jesus Christ, nor to sin
                                                                             and grace; no explicit reference to Catholic social teaching or to certain of
                                                                             its standard themes such as social justice, solidarity, or subsidiarity. The
                                                                             lack of a theological horizon here is less an omission than a result of a
                                                                             deliberate decision, rightly or wrongly, to propose an ethical consensus
                                                                             that transcends the limitations of distinctively confessional traditions.
                                                                             How, then, is it shaped by Catholic social teaching? In light of my summa-
                                                                             ry of Catholic social teaching, it is clear that the statement echoes many of
                                                                             the substantive insights found in the tradition. Here is an important charac-
                                                                             terization of the statement’s ethical framework:

                                                                               Respect for human dignity is fundamental, providing a basis for com-
                                                                               passion, honesty, integrity, and confidentiality, each of which will be
                                                                               discussed separately. While there are differences, often quite sharp,
                                                                               within our society about how to interpret and specify this fundamen-
                                                                               tal value, it is strongly affirmed within the major religious and philo-
                                                                               sophical traditions of our pluralistic society. Compassion, in turn,
                                                                               provides the basis for the central tenet of the social covenant between
                                                                               health care providers and society: that health care professionals must
                                                                               be committed, first and foremost, to the welfare of their patients
                                                                               (Woodstock Theological Center, 1995, p. 18).

                                                                             A normative concept of “human dignity” thus is given as the warrant for
                                                                             acknowledging universal access to health care as a right (pp. 23 and 37),
                                                                             and other rights that patients are regarded as having, such as a right to
                                                                             confidentiality (p. 28), and the right to know whether the physician is also
                                                                             playing the role of a “gatekeeper” on behalf of the health care provider (p.
                                                                             39), a role that may undermine the physician’s ability to act as the pa-
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                                                                             tient’s most effective “advocate” within the system. Indeed, though the
                                                                             statement does not elaborate on the normative basis for its own perspec-
                                                                             tive on human rights, in light of the tendency for all health care “needs” to
                                                                             become entitlements, it calls for deeper ethical reflection on the basic right
                                                                             to health care and its public policy consequences:

                                                                               But our political system makes it very difficult for anyone in author-
                                                                               ity to address head on any questions about what level of care consti-
                                                                               tutes an irreducible minimum human right, or even what level should
                                                                               constitute a civil right that citizens and legal residents in the United
                                                                               States would be entitled to receive. Yet, without some such discus-
                                                                               sion, there seems to be no way to set an upper limit on how much of
                                                                               society’s resources should be spent in this way, and expenditures on
                                                                               the health care entitlements that have already been promised to our
                                                                               citizens continue to rise (p. 14).

                                                                             The statement also uses the language of vocation, covenant, and steward-
                                                                             ship in order to situate certain points that it wishes to make about ethical
                                                                             responsibility in health care management. Nevertheless, these references
                                                                             are minimal, with the exception of the term, “social covenant,” though
                                                                             even here the term tends to echo one of the campaign themes elaborated
                                                                             early in Clinton’s 1992 bid for the U.S. Presidency, rather than anything
                                                                             overtly Biblical. The most frequently invoked term indicating the moral
                                                                             framework operative in this statement is “responsibility,” which is elabo-
                                                                             rated on a multiplicity of interrelated levels, systemic, institutional, pro-
                                                                             fessional and personal. What the statement says about responsibility, as in
                                                                             the other points it makes, is entirely consistent with Catholic social teach-
                                                                             ing, but it is not explicitly related to this tradition. The statement’s chief
                                                                             contribution, then, is to model a way of thinking responsibly and concrete-
                                                                             ly about the conflicting priorities that health care professionals are likely
                                                                             to face in seeking to fulfill the “social covenant” that binds their profes-
                                                                             sion to the needs of their patients while also fulfilling their contractual
                                                                             obligations to the health care providers who employ them. No hard and
                                                                             fast rules are laid down, but a detailed set of “checkpoints” are outlined
                                                                             that any conscientious health care professional will want to observe in
                                                                             making ethical decisions.
                                                                             244                           DENNIS P. MCCANN
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                                                                                     II. THE PROSPECTS FOR A CHRISTIAN APPROACH
                                                                                            TO HEALTH CARE ADMINISTRATION

                                                                             In light of this review of Catholic social teaching and its impact on Amer-
                                                                             ican Catholic attempts to grapple with the current crisis in health care, let
                                                                             me now take up the questions that this issue of Christian Bioethics is
                                                                             meant to address. Some of these focus on the question of whether the
                                                                             Christian communities can or ought to weigh in with distinctive public
                                                                             policy proposals for resolving the crisis. Such, I gather, is the point of
                                                                             asking whether “intentionally Christian organizations” might “attempt to
                                                                             provide equal access to high cost/low yield treatments or primarily low
                                                                             cost/high yield treatment with the option that one could purchase more if
                                                                             one posessed the funds.” This and similar questions regarding health care
                                                                             “rationing” and “appropriate standards of care” are primarily public policy
                                                                             questions. Not only have such questions been the focus, as we have seen,
                                                                             of discussions within the American Catholic community, they are also
                                                                             regarded as crucial for creating the kind of societal support system in
                                                                             which Catholic health care institutions could do a better job of fulfilling
                                                                             their mission as “intentionally Christian organizations.” The Woodstock
                                                                             statement concludes with a “A Request for Institutional Arrangements that
                                                                             Support Ethical Behavior”:

                                                                               Policies and customs can help to clarify responsibilities and support
                                                                               ethical decision making, or they can exacerbate conflicts of interest,
                                                                               create incentives for unethical choices, and undermine accountabili-
                                                                               ty. Because ethical decision making is so important to healthy human
                                                                               relationships, institutional arrangements that send contradictory mes-
                                                                               sages about what is appropriate, or that undermine or discourage
                                                                               ethical decision making, are socially destructive (1995, p. 36).

                                                                             The point made here seems to be a specific instance of the assertion made
                                                                             in the NCCB pastoral letter, regarding businesses’ “right to an institution-
                                                                             al framework that does not penalize enterprises that act responsibly” (1992,
                                                                             p. 606). The minimum to be hoped for from public policy is that health
                                                                             care reform legislation should not create any additional obstacles that
                                                                             would prevent health care professionals from acting responsibly, which,
                                                                             according to the Woodstock statement means acting first in the best inter-
                                                                             ests of their patients.
                                                                                The Woodstock statement, consistent with the overall thrust of Catholic
                                                                             social teaching, thus does not advocate any particular model for health
                                                                             care reform. But it does highlight the ethical criteria that any useful reform
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                                                                             must meet. First, the program must provide “a decent minimum care for
                                                                             all” (1995, p. 36). Anything short of that will only intensify the ethical
                                                                             dilemmas generated by the current system, and thus further strain the
                                                                             integrity and credibility of health care professionals who are forced to use
                                                                             their ingenuity to make the system work in spite of itself. Second, for the
                                                                             reform program also to be fiscally sound, society must set certain limits to
                                                                             the resources it is willing and able to devote to health care. Health care
                                                                             rationing of some sort will be a part of any reasonable and just solution.
                                                                             Better that rationing be based on explicit social consensus than imposed as
                                                                             the consequence of decisions postponed or evaded. Finally, since – what-
                                                                             ever the final shape of reform legislation – any policy is still likely to
                                                                             generate fresh dilemmas, it is better to anticipate these dilemmas and
                                                                             recognize that no system can eliminate the role-conflict that health care
                                                                             professionals are likely to suffer as they seek to fulfill all the demands
                                                                             society makes upon them. Educating health care professionals in how to
                                                                             deal responsibly with these conflicts becomes essential to the success of
                                                                             any reform program.
                                                                                The Woodstock approach to the public policy dimension of health care
                                                                             reform thus is minimalist, but not disappointingly so. The statement may
                                                                             be overly concerned not to give the impression of seeking to impose a
                                                                             distinctively Catholic or “intentionally Christian” agenda. But the source
                                                                             of this concern is not spiritual tepidity or religious indifference, but a
                                                                             profound respect for the religious and cultural pluralism that is character-
                                                                             istic of American society and politics in the late 20th century. Consistent
                                                                             with the principles of Catholic social teaching, especially the principle of
                                                                             subsidiarity, the Woodstock statement does not look to the government
                                                                             policy-makers to favor or to foster an intentionally Christian health care
                                                                             system. The government’s role in health care reform is to devise a system
                                                                             that meets basic and – so the Catholic tradition believes – universal stand-
                                                                             ards of justice based on our commonly shared respect for human dignity.
                                                                             Were the government to succeed in this effort, its results would neither
                                                                             usurp the role of “intentionally Christian” health care institutions nor im-
                                                                             pede the development of such. That’s all, it seems, that informed Ameri-
                                                                             can Catholic opinion is prepared to ask of Washington, no more and no
                                                                                If asked to speculate on this basis about whether Catholic hospitals
                                                                             should attempt to provide “equal access to high cost/low yield treatments
                                                                             or primarily low cost/high yield treatment with the option that one could
                                                                             purchase more if one posessed the funds,” I can only point out that, since
                                                                             Catholic hospitals are private institutions, and thus essentially oriented to
                                                                             what their patients and benefactors are willing and able to pay for, neither
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                                                                             option as such is easily achievable for them. Clearly, they are not in a
                                                                             position to offer “equal access to high cost/low yield treatments,” if equal
                                                                             access means offering them significantly below their actual costs. Many
                                                                             informed Catholics would clearly prefer to reorient the church’s health
                                                                             care institutions to the “low cost/high yield” profile, but such may also be
                                                                             impossible, in the absence of significant health care reform legislation.
                                                                                A promising middle ground may be emerging between these two op-
                                                                             tions. Increasingly, the various Catholic religious orders – whose tradi-
                                                                             tions and, of course, loyalties are quite distinct – have begun exploring the
                                                                             possibility of collaborating on major strategic decisions such as the acqui-
                                                                             sition of new high-cost technology in a given locale, or developing a
                                                                             division of labor, especially in high-tech specializations, so that not every
                                                                             Catholic hospital would have to provide the whole range of high cost/high
                                                                             tech treatments, but that all such treatments could still be available within
                                                                             the local association of Catholic hospitals. Understandably, there is resist-
                                                                             ance even to this modest reform, for some fear that it is tantamount to
                                                                             collusion or price-fixing for Catholic hospitals to seek not to compete with
                                                                             each other in providing the full range of medical treatments, and others are
                                                                             skeptical in the face of the fiercely competitive posture that Catholic reli-
                                                                             gious orders and their health care institutions have often exhibited toward
                                                                             one another in the past. Here, too, the factors weighing in against a radical-
                                                                             ly countercultural transformation in Catholic health care are formidable.
                                                                                The second set of concerns underscored by the editors of Christian
                                                                             Bioethics is, of course, the ongoing challenge of founding and administer-
                                                                             ing “intentionally Christian” health care organizations. What would such
                                                                             an organization look like in the perspective of Catholic social teaching?
                                                                             Would it mean, as the issue editor asked me, that the ideal Catholic hospi-
                                                                             tal be one in which patients were “cared for only by Catholic physicians
                                                                             and Catholic nurses under the standards of care outlined by the tradition,
                                                                             with a focus first on God’s good purposes, even in the midst of suffering?”
                                                                             I find that ideal not only hard to imagine, but actually contrary to the basic
                                                                             thrust of Catholic social teaching, especially after Vatican II. It makes as
                                                                             much sense as mandating that all faculty members at a Catholic university
                                                                             must be Catholics, and that all courses in one way or another must afford
                                                                             an opportunity for theological reflection. Let me explain why such a strat-
                                                                             egy is likely to be both ineffective and inappropriate.
                                                                                It is likely to be ineffective for reasons apparent in McCormick’s obser-
                                                                             vations about the “Made in America” label that Catholic health care insti-
                                                                             tutions wear sometimes proudly and sometimes for simple reasons of truth
                                                                             in advertising. The patients as well as the health care professionals who
                                                                             minister to them are religiously, culturally, and ethnically diverse; and
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                                                                             given the markets in which private health care institutions must operate,
                                                                             any attempt to restrict this diversity risks making the institution less at-
                                                                             tractive both to patients and professionals, and thus less cost-effective as
                                                                             well. It would also be inappropriate because, in Catholic institutions shaped
                                                                             by the reforms of Vatican II, diversity is seen as a positive value to be
                                                                             honored for its own sake. Obviously, for an institution to claim a Catholic
                                                                             identity, its mission must be consistent with Catholic values and priorities.
                                                                             But the way of framing the mission, i.e., the terms in which it is described
                                                                             and implemented, will seek to identify a common ground that all partici-
                                                                             pants can share, a nonsectarian translation of values and priorities rooted
                                                                             in the Catholic identity but not exclusive to it. Cultivating a distinctively
                                                                             Catholic identity is part of what it means to be an “intentionally Christian
                                                                             organization”; but, after Vatican II, so is acknowledging and welcoming
                                                                                In order to balance both aspects of what it means, after Vatican II, for
                                                                             Catholic institutions to be “intentionally Christian,” there must be a strong
                                                                             Catholic presence in the institution, i.e., health care professionals who are
                                                                             “intentional” about their faith, or at least are open to opportunities to grow
                                                                             in faithfulness as they mature professionally. There should be opportuni-
                                                                             ties, invitations to participate “intentionally” in the religious mission of
                                                                             the institution, and its founding community. But religious affiliation as
                                                                             such cannot and should not be a condition of employment. Not everyone
                                                                             will want to answer such invitations. But those who come to see their
                                                                             careers tied increasingly to the history of a particular institution are likely
                                                                             to find comfort and challenge in taking advantage of whatever opportuni-
                                                                             ties there are to understand the history of the founding religious communi-
                                                                             ty, its distinctive experience in health care, and the distinctive spirituality
                                                                             that sustains it.
                                                                                It is my experience that health care professionals working in Catholic
                                                                             hospitals may feel a greater sense of community with, say, the Daughters
                                                                             of Charity, than with something as large and problematic as the Roman
                                                                             Catholic Church and its checkered history. Honoring the local traditions of
                                                                             the founding community may be an effective way of sustaining the Catho-
                                                                             lic identity of the institution, or at least of inviting lay Catholic and non-
                                                                             Catholic professionals to participate in it on their own terms.
                                                                                The implications of claiming a Catholic identity include a willingness
                                                                             to abide by institutional guidelines that honor Catholic moral teaching on
                                                                             controversial questions like abortion and sterilization. After Vatican II,
                                                                             Catholicism is open to diversity, but that doesn’t mean that “anything
                                                                             goes.” Catholic teaching on abortion and sterilization claims to be reason-
                                                                             able in that it does not require Divine revelation to understand the evils
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                                                                             involved, nor does the teaching rely exclusively on Scriptural warrants. As
                                                                             long as the Catholic community remains convinced, rightly or wrongly,
                                                                             that its teachings are reasonable and thus in principle binding upon all
                                                                             human beings, Catholic institutions will continue to implement these teach-
                                                                             ings in their own institutional policies, and understandably so.
                                                                                This, too, is implicit in the statements we have considered, and it is ex-
                                                                             plicit in McCormick’s discussion of comprehensive “ethical guidelines for
                                                                             Catholic hospitals.” Nevertheless, McCormick rightly cautions against an
                                                                             overly restrictive approach to institutionally sanctioned medical procedures.
                                                                             While he, too, insists that Catholic hospitals must uphold Catholic teaching
                                                                             on abortion, he does not agree that, because they prohibit abortion proce-
                                                                             dures, they should also prohibit, for example, amniocentesis (1987, pp. 140-
                                                                             142). While it may be true that the fetal defects disclosed in an amniocente-
                                                                             sis test might be considered by some as sufficient moral justification for
                                                                             having an abortion, the amniocentesis procedure can and ought to be evalu-
                                                                             ated ethically independent of the morality of abortion. The disclosure of a
                                                                             serious defect may not necessarily result in abortion, and Catholic hospitals
                                                                             should provide opportunities for counseling in support of continuing the
                                                                             pregnancy. That the patient and her physician may decide to have an abor-
                                                                             tion elsewhere, in McCormick’s view, does not affect the moral legitimacy
                                                                             of having the testing procedure available to those who have need of it. This
                                                                             strikes me as a reasonable position. The Church’s teaching is observed by
                                                                             the institution, without unduly restricting the freedom and responsibilities
                                                                             of either patients or health care professionals.
                                                                                The patient or health care professional who feels that his or her own
                                                                             conscience is violated by the Catholic hospital’s policies restricting or
                                                                             prohibiting procedures like abortion and sterilization, of course, have an
                                                                             option. No one is forcing him or her to use the services of a Catholic
                                                                             hospital or to work within one. Any reasonable person, even if he or she
                                                                             disagrees with the church’s teachings, will understand how and why it is
                                                                             that an institution claiming a Catholic identity would, in its own policies,
                                                                             observe the church’s teachings governing what the church regards as seri-
                                                                             ous moral issues. Of course, before any health care professional is hired by
                                                                             a Catholic hospital he or she should be fully informed about any such
                                                                             policies, afforded the opportunity to discuss them, and then asked for his
                                                                             or her cooperation. A willingness to work within these policies and not
                                                                             against them is and ought to be a condition for employment in a Catholic
                                                                             hospital. Similarly, patients should also be informed. Insisting on the right
                                                                             and the duty of Catholic hospitals to enforce Catholic teaching regarding
                                                                             grave violations of what are believed to be common moral principles,
                                                                             however, in no way undermines the institution’s commitment to diversity.
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                                                                             Indeed, it lends an appropriate gravity to such a commitment, for it makes
                                                                             clear that welcoming diversity does not mean indifference either to the
                                                                             legacy of one’s own tradition, or to commonly shared human values.
                                                                                Becoming an “intentionally Christian organization,” as the issue editor
                                                                             implies, involves much more than honoring, and where necessary, imple-
                                                                             menting policies consistent with Catholic morality. It also involves ad-
                                                                             dressing deep questions regarding spirituality, ministering to the spiritual
                                                                             needs of both patients and health care professionals, and making sure that
                                                                             both patients and professionals have the opportunity to discern and strug-
                                                                             gle with “God’s good purposes, even in the midst of suffering.” The insi-
                                                                             tution’s invitation to respond to these questions has usually been delivered
                                                                             by hospital chaplains or health care professionals involved in pastoral
                                                                             ministry. Given the Catholic hospital’s commitment to diversity, its pasto-
                                                                             ral care teams should include or be capable of networking with profession-
                                                                             als representing a variety of religious traditions, so that no patient is de-
                                                                             prived of spiritual comfort and challenge from his or her own community.
                                                                                The challenge of discerning meaning in human suffering, and its signif-
                                                                             icance for health care, is not met simply by providing opportunities for
                                                                             pastoral care. This also becomes a policy question. Distinctively Catholic
                                                                             attitudes and practices regarding suffering and death should, and increas-
                                                                             ingly are, leading Catholic health care professionals to consider the role of
                                                                             palliative care and hospices for the terminally ill as an important part of
                                                                             their institutional mission. The virtual neglect of palliative care in Ameri-
                                                                             can medicine is, in the eyes of many Catholic professionals, the single
                                                                             biggest factor influencing the shift in public opinion toward increasing
                                                                             acceptance of physician-assisted suicide. Catholic institutions and all oth-
                                                                             ers seeking to become “intentionally Christian” should consider making
                                                                             palliative care a priority, so that patients can find in such institutions an
                                                                             appropriate setting for struggling with distinctively Christian attitudes and
                                                                             practices in the face of suffering, especially toward the end of one’s life.
                                                                             The provision of hospices where the dying may be enabled, through inno-
                                                                             vative drug therapies and other forms of advanced medicine, to participate
                                                                             meaningfully in the mystery of death, without unnecessary pain and dis-
                                                                             comfort, in a setting where they may still respond to God’s call to share in
                                                                             the mystery of Christ’s own death and resurrection – this ought to become
                                                                             an increasingly visible sign of the institution’s commitment to becoming
                                                                             an “intentionally Christian organization.”
                                                                                The irony is that making palliative care a priority may also help Catholic
                                                                             hospitals to become more cost-effective, and thus contribute in some small
                                                                             way to easing the current crisis in health care. But the economic attractive-
                                                                             ness of palliative care is no reason to despise it! What I’m suggesting, in
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                                                                             conclusion, is that there is and need be no contradiction between a responsi-
                                                                             ble concern for “the bottom line,” i.e., for a reasonable and appropriate con-
                                                                             cern for the business aspects of health care and “Christian values.” After all,
                                                                             a responsible concern for the bottom line is simply another name for “stew-
                                                                             ardship,” which ever since Genesis has been honored as a Christian value.
                                                                             There are right ways and wrong ways to be concerned about the bottom line,
                                                                             just as there are right ways and wrong ways to do business ethics. But an
                                                                             “intentionally Christian organization” has absolutely no stake in promoting
                                                                             the fallacy that business ethics is an oxymoron, or that a concern for the
                                                                             bottom line is inherently immoral. One could just as well argue that “inten-
                                                                             tionally Christian organization” is an oxymoron, and that any attempt to
                                                                             institutionalize Christianity is inherently immoral. The Catholic tradition in
                                                                             health care, like Catholic social teaching as a whole, continues to trust that
                                                                             the truth of the matter lies elsewhere.

                                                                             1. This paper is dedicated to the Daughters of Charity with whom I have worked as a
                                                                                faculty member at DePaul University in Chicago and from whom I have learned the
                                                                                meaning of the Vincentian motto, “To Follow Christ through Evangelizing the Poor,”
                                                                                especially Sr. Jean Maher, D.C. I wish also to thank Dr. Gerhold Becker, Director,
                                                                                Centre for Applied Ethics, Hong Kong Baptist University. This paper was researched,
                                                                                conceived and written entirely during my residence at the Centre as University Fellow
                                                                                in the Spring semester of 1998.

                                                                             Centesiums Annus (1991).
                                                                             Gaudium et Spes (1965).
                                                                             McCormick, R.A. (1987). Health and Medicine in the Catholic Tradition: Tradition in
                                                                                    Transition, Crossroad Books, New York.
                                                                             National Conference of Catholic Bishops (1986). Economic Justice for All: Pastoral Letter
                                                                                    on Catholic Social Teaching and the Economy, National Conference of Catholic
                                                                                    Bishops, Washington, D.C.
                                                                             O’Brien, D.J. and T.A. Shannon (eds.) (1992). Catholic Social Thought: The Documentary
                                                                                    Heritage, Maryknoll, Orbis Books, New York.
                                                                             Pacem in Terris (1963).
                                                                             Quadragesimo Anno (1931).
                                                                             Rerum Nevarum(1891).
                                                                             Woodstock Theological Center (1995). Ethical Considerations in the Business Aspects of
                                                                                    Health Care, Georgetown University Press, Washington, D.C.

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