Faith conflicts with reality for Catholic doctors
Catholic physicians say they are often forced to defy the Church’s social teachings on abortion and artificial birth control, which the government and NGOs have made available throughout the country in an effort to control Bangladesh’s population.
Birth control has been heavily encouraged in this country of more than 152 million people – the eighth most populous on the planet – since the 1990s. Abortion is illegal here unless the life of the mother is in danger, but doctors say it is a common practice.
“I’ve refused to kill fetuses many times,” said Dr June Jacqueline Gomes. She said turning women away means the patients will never return to her practice. Because of those repercussions, few of the country’s 90 Catholic doctors dare to refuse to perform abortions.
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The doctor said she has performed “hundreds” of ligations – tying women’s tubes to prevent pregnancies, which is also against Catholic teachings.
Dr Gomes was attending the recent program, “Faith in the life of Medical Professionals,” organized by the Catholic Bishops’ Commission for Healthcare and Association of Catholic Doctors in Bangladesh.
Several doctors at the program said it was difficult to be faithful to religious teaching while performing their professional duties.
“After I passed MBBS, I got training on Menstruation Regulation [MR], which is a kind of induced abortion,” said Dr. Anthony Albert, 55, who works in a private hospital in Dhaka. “But I have done hundreds of MRs in my life, otherwise I might have lost my job.”
Holy Cross Bishop Theotonious Gomes of Dhaka, head of the commission and keynote speaker at the workshop said a Catholic doctor shouldn’t just look for money.
“Catholic social teaching puts human life on top of everything and we never support destroying life. Even if our faith collides with reality, we need to stick to our faith,” said the prelate, a theologian.
Bishop Gomes added that they are currently thinking of installing a ‘model Catholic hospital’ in the country, where people can receive treatment in accordance to Catholic social teachings.
Sister Mary Olympia, a doctor nun from Associates of Mary Queen of Apostles congregation says she often tell patients that abortion is murder and that it is illegal, although she noted that there are both legal and moral exceptions.
“I often feel the Church needs to relax its rules as they don’t consider all situations,” she said. “Sometimes, without an abortion a mother can die or without artificial birth control the family of a partner with HIV can break down.”
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