May 11, 2023

The Forced Government Takeover Of a Catholic Hospital – And a Subtraction Story

The ABC in Australia is today reporting the forced takeover of a Catholic hospital by the Australian Capital Territory’s government in Canberra.

The Catholic Hospital, with the rather cute religious order name of “The Little Company of Mary” was acquired without the consent of the local Catholic Archbishop.

The ABC reports the Archbishop’s vicar-general, Richard Thompson:

“The archbishop or the archdiocese has not been consulted in any way, as I understand it. It opens up the question for us — does that now mean that all institutions in the ACT [are] now potentially open for a government acquisition?”

Of course the answer to that is probably yes. And it will probably extend to other organisations outside of the health system. Anyone want to guess which institutions might be in the firing line?

Why do I say that? Well here’s the ABC in conversation the head of the local chapter of the Australian Medical Association (that most ideologically-neutral of all associations in our country).

Walter Abheyeratna, the ACT president of the Australian Medical Association, told ABC radio the decision was good for Canberra hospital patients.

“There’s no doubt that Calvary Health Care’s done an incredible job over the decades, but the complexity of having the public health system being governed by a different organisation threw a lot of spanners in the works,

Professor Abheyeratna said it was important to deliver public healthcare services without being bound by ideology.

Two things: First, if you’re in a glass house, don’t throw stones. When you’ve waited seven hours in an overloaded public system, or when the ambulance sits with you in the back of it for hours, or when you end up getting sent home because there’s not staff to see you, then the public system isn’t simply complex, it’s sick itself.

But do you know what’s sicker? And sadder? The sheer blindness to one’s own ideological position, such as that held by the good professor. Did you catch that reported comment? It’s important to deliver public health care services without being bound by ideology?

It’s risible. It’s the subtraction story that Charles Taylor talks of in A Secular Age: the idea that somehow if we rid ourselves of all the ideological religious dogmas and myths we somehow arrive at bedrock “reality”. We subtract the nonsense from the culture and we get truth. We are no longer bound by ideologies and are hence free to make rational decisions in the best interests of the public good. That’s the good professor’s blind spot right there – he believes his own subtraction story.

In other words the view from nowhere. It’s the height of arrogance to claim that you have no ideology of your own. Only those blinded to their own ideologies claim such a lofty position. It’s the claim of a Bolshevik who sees every other position contrary to their own as reactionary, not valid, and therefore suppressible. Or killable.

And you can imagine the howls of outrage should a conservative government enact that measure against a progressive private entity. There’d be street protests. Street performers. Artistic renditions replete with face-painting for the . Besides does anyone believe that post-partum abortion in a hospital setting, or euthanasia of old, young, depressed, anxious etc, does not spring from ideology? Please!

The good professor then follows up with this:

This now gives us an opportunity to design a healthcare system in an efficient way.

Ah, good old efficiency. The goal of all tyrants. Mind you, only truly organised tyrants manage efficiency. The sheltered workshop of the Canberra intellectual and ideological bubble hasn’t managed efficiency in the past, even in the money-soaked capital of the country. As a local Canberra parish priest observed:

“They’ve got great trouble running their own public hospital at the moment. Why would you have confidence in them running another public hospital?”

As noted above the question was raised by a church leader as to what other privately run organisations the government might forcibly acquire on the grounds of efficiency and the dream of an ideologically-neutral stance. To which I would say to Christian schools, “Watch this space”.

As a friend of mine observed as he watches the slow suffocation of Christian education in our country, from the supposed “non-ideologues”:

Governments don’t want to take over Christian schools, that’s too hard, and would involve too much money and infrastructure. They just want to co-opt them for their own ideological agendas without doing any the heavy lifting of building and growing them.

Ah, but all in the name of efficiency and freedom from ideology of course.

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