Date of Award

5-2004

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Philosophy

Major Professor

Glenn C. Graber

Committee Members

John Hardwig, James L. Nelson, Julia A. Malia

Abstract

Catholic health care faces a difficult challenge in today’s secular society. Because they are directed by the teachings of the Catholic Church, certain services, such as abortion, sterilization and contraception, cannot be provided at Catholic health care facilities. This limitation on services has placed Catholic health care providers at odds with many in the communities which they serve. This conflict was exacerbated in the 1990s during the active period of mergers and acquisitions which left some communities with only one hospital, which was now Catholic. These moral conflicts often seem intractable.

This dissertation examines the nature of moral conflict and how these conflicts might be resolved. Many times when moral conflicts seem intractable we are pressed to compromise. But in countenancing moral compromise there is usually concern over the loss of integrity. After examining the nature and importance of integrity to the resolution of intractable moral conflict (and when moral compromise might be countenanced), the conflicts over reproductive services at Catholic hospitals are addressed. In many of these conflicts moral compromise is found to not preserve integrity and so we are left to examine how Catholic moral theology addresses these conflicts.

Finally, the teachings of the Catholic Church on contraception, sterilization and abortion are explored and applied to some ‘tough’ cases present at Catholic hospitals. Despite what is often understood about Catholic teaching in these areas, I show that Catholic moral teaching provides the tools to deal with these conflicts and, in some cases, can manage ‘compromise.’

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