Monday, March 13, 2006

Papillo and the Freedom to Blow Whistles

The Hartford Courant, in an editorial that oddly is not available online, has joined a chorus of voices protesting that Victim Advocate James Papillo has in his testimony at a public hearing “crossed the line” and wandered into “religious” territory.

The Courant cites as proof the following statement made by Papillo to an Associated Press reporter: “victims here are being used as a hook to further an agenda they are hiding … The issue is an attack on the Catholic institutions.”

First of all, it should be noted that the offending statement, which might be made by any atheist or agnostic editorialist, is untainted by religious doctrine. Whether Papillo’s statement is true or false is a separate question that would depend upon facts unexplored in the Courant’s editorial, but the statement itself is not a religious proposition on the order of “I believe in One God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth ...” Papillo was not here stating any of the doctrines of his faith; he was asserting a political proposition.

As it happens, the very same issue of the Courant that included the paper’s editorial protesting that Papillo had “crossed the line” in his testimony also contained a heartwarming story celebrating a whistleblower case that had been decided in favor of the First Amendment. The title of that story was: “`Great Day' For Rights.”

According to the story, U.S. District Court Judge Dominic J. Squatrito ruled against Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, who had been defending the “right” of the state to prevent a police officer from disclosing information about a case to the press. The judge ruled that a state police policy restricting troopers from talking to the media was unconstitutional. Following the judgment of the court, Blumenthal decided on a settlement to “avoid a lengthy, costly litigation when there can be an agreement that serves the public interest." Blumenthal said he would “advise other state agencies to establish policies similar to the one being put in place by the state police.”

It is not known whether Blumenthal intends to send the advisory letter to Lieutenant Governor Kevin Sullivan, who earlier had called upon Governor Jodi Rell to fire Papillo for having exercised his right to give inconvenient testimony at a public hearing.

What is the real difference between the information conveyed by the police officer to the press and the information conveyed by Papillo at a public hearing, which eventually made its way into the press? And why should the gag removed from the officer’s mouth now be placed in Papillo’s mouth?

The controversy between Catholic hospitals and groups supporting legislation that would force Catholics to violate their religious precepts has been boiling on the front burner of many newspapers for weeks. Some facts, important in settling the controversy, have arrived very late in the discussion. Readers of the Courant who wanted to know how many rape victims had been referred to other hospitals were given some indication – only today – of the number of rape victims referred by Catholic hospitals because they were either pregnant or ovulating.

Some readers may have been misled by incomplete early reports. Today’s Courant provided a statistic for three Catholic hospitals: “St. Vincent's Medical Center in Bridgeport, St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center in Hartford and the Hospital of St. Raphael in New Haven report that they have treated a total of just over 100 sexual assault victims a year … St. Vincent officials said they could recall only one of 50 sexual assault victims treated last year who were referred elsewhere to receive emergency contraception.”

So then, here is the state of the growing controversy so far:

1) Connecticut’s legislature, at the behest of pro-abortion interest groups, has constructed a law that forces Catholics to defy the cannon laws of their church regarding abortion and risk incurring the penalties prescribed in such laws. One of the penalties for assisting in the procuring of an abortion is excommunication.

2) When a political appointee, Victim Advocate Papillo, makes a political statement at a public hearing that he can recall no rape victim who had complained to his office concerning treatment at Catholic hospitals, he may be silenced for “crossing the line.”

3) Newspapers, traditional defenders of freedom of the press, should characterize such statements as have been made by Papillo as “religious” and falling on the other side of the line that protects them from unwanted political pressure to shut their traps.

4) Providing first responders with instruments that may detect ovulation and protocols requiring them inform rape victims that Catholic hospitals will not administer an abortifacient in such cases is not a sensible solution to the present controversy.

Is everyone comfortable with all this?
Post a Comment