Church and State

Where Catholic Beliefs and Public Needs Collide – Published on Spiegel Online International, by Frank Hornig, Barbara Schmid, Fidelius Schmid and Peter Wensierski, January 24, 2013 (Photo Gallery).

Rape victims are being turned away, and divorced employees are losing their jobs. Catholic hospitals, kindergartens and nursing homes — which are primarily tax-funded — are causing problems for Germany’s social welfare state. But some politicians are fighting back. 

The origins of the Cellitine sisters and their beneficial ministry date back to late 13th-century Cologne, when the nuns devoted themselves to the “care of the sick, the weak and the poor.”

Their original mission has expanded into a corporation encompassing 16 nursing homes and 10 hospitals. The only problem is that care is precisely what has been lacking there recently. Wanting nothing to do with a possible early termination of a pregnancy, doctors working for the Cellitines turned away a woman who was seeking help shortly before Christmas, despite the strong suspicion that she had been raped.

Last week, the order publicly downplayed the case when it made national news, calling it “very regrettable” and “a misunderstanding” … //

… Avoiding the Morning-After Pill:

The so-called “morning-after pill,” a drug that can be administered to rape victims to prevent pregnancy, lies at the center of the controversy.

On December 15, a 25-year-old woman came to an emergency medical facility in the Nippes neighborhood of Cologne, claiming that she had been raped. The doctor on duty, Irmgard Maiworm, treated the victim. She notified the police and prescribed the morning after pill.

Maiworm then informed the nearby St. Vincent Hospital, which is run by the Cellitine order, that she was transferring her patient there for evidence-gathering purposes. But her Catholic counterparts refused to help. The Hospital of the Holy Spirit, also run by the nuns, likewise turned down Maiworm’s request. The doctors at the church-run hospitals told her that their ethical guidelines required them to reject the patients. “I could hardly believe it,” Maiworm says.

The Catholic doctors’ reluctance is in keeping with the policies of Joachim Meisner, the conservative archbishop of Cologne. “Rape victims are transferred to other facilities,” says his spokesman, “if the intention to take the ‘morning-after pill’ is evident.”

Victims’ rights groups are protesting. “Refusing to administer the morning-after pill to women who have been raped constitutes failure to render assistance, which is unjustified according to the Bible and incomprehensible according to Christian values,” says Annegret Laakmann of the nationwide group Frauenwürde (Women’s Dignity). “With this position, the official church is discriminating against raped women once again.”

Anette Diehl of Frauennotruf Mainz, a women’s emergency hotline, also wants to see a change in church policy. “A woman who has been raped needs comprehensive assistance right away. She can’t simply be turned away for religious reasons in the middle of treatment and consultation.”

Catholic organizations run some 420 hospitals throughout Germany. In their employment contracts, their roughly 165,000 employees are generally required to comply with the guidelines of bishops and the heads of religious orders. In fact, in some areas, the Catholic Church exerts a strong influence on the social welfare state. The church even has a monopoly in some rural areas, where it controls many facilities, from kindergartens to hospitals to nursing homes.

This complicates things for church employees. Since doctors, educators and caregivers often have no alternative to working for Catholic organizations, they are forced to comply with their guidelines.

Growing Power over Formerly Public Institutions: … //

… (full text).


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