The Catholic bishops assert that their Religious and Ethical Directives should drive health care policy in all Catholic health care institutions. And when anyone disagrees, the bishops say their religious freedom rights and conscience rights are being infringed.
Let’s forget for the moment that Catholic health care institutions in each state are largely funded by taxpayers and privately insured patients, most of whom are not Catholic. Let’s also forget that the executives who run health care institutions make multi-million dollar salaries. And let’s forget that in many areas, patients have no nonCatholic options for where they receive their medical care. Instead, let’s just focus on some elementary math.
Under the bishops’ theory of institutional conscience rights, the conscience that matters when it comes to Catholic health care are those of the Catholic bishops, because they’re the ones who mandate medical ethics policies and have final responsibility for all ethical issues. According to Wikipedia, there are three Catholic bishops in Washington State: The archbishop of Seattle, the bishop of Yakima, and the bishop of Spokane. And according to the Washington State Office of Financial Management, there were 6.7 million Washingtonians in 2010. Given that the ACLU estimates that 47% of hospital beds in WA state will be Catholic-owned or controlled by the end of 2013, according to the bishops’ own math, each bishop’s conscience has ultimate authority for making ethically-related healthcare decisions on behalf of 1,049,666 nonbishop consciences. (That’s 6.7 million Washingtonians times .47 divided by three bishops.)
Should one bishop’s conscience rights outweigh the conscience rights of 1.049 million nonbishops?