The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Doctrine and that committee's Subcommittee on Health Care Issues have recommended that the full body of bishops consider an addition to the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services regarding collaboration between Catholic and other health care organizations.
The information that potentially would be added to Section Six of the ERDs was included in a letter from Cardinal Gerhard L. Mueller, head of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, that he wrote in response to a dubium — or theological question — that had been submitted.
The letter declined to respond to the dubium because it applied to a specific situation in a diocese. In an attempt to provide some help, Cardinal Mueller's letter included a set of 17 principles to consider when evaluating a collaboration. These principles are based on the Principle of Cooperation and do not appear to contain new concepts. They are basically the principles that have been used by various ministries and dioceses when evaluating collaboration opportunities.
In addition, Cardinal Mueller was very clear on the value of Catholic health care, the necessity for collaboration and even the benefits of collaboration. His letter noted the importance of being open to collaboration with Catholic and non-Catholic partners. It also noted the importance of exercising care in structuring collaborations.
It is CHA's understanding that collaboration will be studied by the various Vatican committees and perhaps a special task force over the next year. If there is a recommendation to add new material to the ERDs following that study, it would be voted on by the entire body of bishops at a future meeting.
CHA recommended that the consultation during this study process include representatives from those who are negotiating these collaborations, their ethics advisors, their mission leaders and their sponsors.
CHA will keep members informed as this process moves along and will work closely with the USCCB office.
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