Catholic Church issues decree ….
Catholic Church rules …
Catholic Church releases policy …

Rules, rules, and more rules. Such is the tone of the coverage of the Ordinary Minister of the Media on the CDF responses to questions from the USCCB on artificial nutrition and hydration for those in a ‘vegetative state.’ Like so many nameless bureaucrats locked in the basement of the Vatican issuing policies, commands, and decrees. The vestment clad functionaries are clearly out of touch with the needs of real people. The Vatican and the Catholic Church are all about rules anyway. Just one more rule to ignore, right?

Coverage and headlines such as these convey the sense that the Church is only about rules and not particularly concerned about the reality on the ground. But that is not the half of it. Worse is this quote from the Reuters report which is widely running that is wildly misleading if not a downright lie.

The Catholic Health Association called for careful study of the statement and advised member hospitals in the meantime to continue providing artificial nutrition and hydration only as long as the benefits outweighed the burdens involved.

The clear implication of this unattributed quote is that the CHA plans to completely ignore the CDF document. Responses calling for ‘careful study’ are just another way of saying ‘we plan to completely ignore you.’ However, I took the time to check the CHA website for their statement and it is unequivocally supportive of the CDF clarification. You be the judge:

The Catholic health ministry is grateful for the clarification provided today by the Holy See’s Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith (CDF) concerning the provision of artificially administered nutrition and hydration to patients in a persistent vegetative state.

The CDF document makes two important points. First, the provision of artificially administered nutrition and hydration to patients in a vegetative state is morally obligatory except when they cannot be assimilated by the patient’s body (and, hence, don’t achieve their purpose) or cause significant discomfort. Second, artificially administered nutrition and hydration cannot be discontinued for a patient in a persistent vegetative state even when physicians have determined with reasonable certainty that the patient will never recover consciousness. This is due to the fact that the person in a persistent vegetative state retains his or her fundamental human dignity and, therefore, must be provided ordinary and proportionate care which includes nutrition and hydration.

In addition to welcoming this reaffirmation of the value of each life, CHA is pleased to see the Catholic bishops of the United States affirm the wonderful witness to life by families, caregivers, and those who labor each day to make facilities for the care of these vulnerable patients possible.

The Reuters report clearly conveys the opposite view to the very clear statement of the CHA. Is this intentional misreporting? I do not know but I find the fact that the statement is completed unattributed rather telling. Either way, the tone of the article is deliberately downplaying any potential impact of the CDF statement by using terms like ‘Vatican Rules’ and by providing unattributed quotes that attempt to prove that even the Catholics are ignoring it. This only compounded by the fact that the quote is in direct contradiction of the official statement of the CHA.

Reuters should immediately amend the story and cease its agenda driven reporting.