Weather Forecast


The best way to heal is sometimes silence

Dr. Jack Cassell is a healer. But not for everyone. The 56 year old urologist from Mt. Dora, Fla., recently posted a notice on his office door, "If you voted for Obama, seek urologic care elsewhere. Changes in your healthcare begin right now, not in four years." Inside his office is a printed healthcare plan interpretation that reads, "This is what the morons in Washington have done to your health care. Take one, read it and vote out anyone who voted for it." But Dr. Cassell says he will not question patients or refuse health care "because that would be unethical."

But the foremost rule of medical ethics is "first, do no harm." That is usually cited as part of the Hippocratic Oath but it is not. The question I raise here is whether, as a healer, he should do no harm, but heal all those who come to him for healing and leave politics out of it. When Ronald Reagan was shot in 1981 and was being wheeled into surgery he said, "I hope all you people are Republicans," but he was just kidding.

Our spiritual leaders are healers too. They're not subject to the "first, do no harm" ethic but they should be. Pope Benedict XVI's personal preacher, Rev. Raniero Cantalamessa, preached that the allegations that the Pope covered up sex abuse cases are so ruthless as to be comparable to the collective violence suffered by the Jews. Jews and victim's groups took immediate offense to that statement because violence to the Jews lead to the gas chambers and incinerators of the Holocaust and no amount of discomfort as a result of relentless criticism can compare to that. Rev. Cantalamessa, a Papal healer should have known that statement would only make things worse.

Then a day later, the leader of the Anglican Church in England, Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, also a leading healer issued the statement that the Roman Catholic Church of Ireland had lost all credibility because of it's mishandling of the cases of sexual abuse by priests in that country. He pointed out the an Irish friend had told him recently that it was quite difficult in some parts of Ireland to walk down the street wearing a clerical collar. The Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, said that he had, "rarely felt personally so discouraged," as when he heard Williams' opinions.

Other Catholic clerics have referred to the criticism of the church's handling of priests sex abuse cases as evidence of, "anti Catholic hatred." That is seriously over-hyped rhetoric.

This commentary is not in defense of political correctness (don't say anything that is offensive regarding race, gender, sexual orientation, culture, handicap, age, etc.). We have become too sensitive and too quickly offended. Rather this is a suggestion that certain "healers" should have the good judgment to keep their mouths shut rather than making statements that not only fail to heal, but make things worse. Doctors from coast to coast have supported or opposed healthcare reform, but they have kept their opinions separated from their medical practices. This is the kind of professionalism we expect and are entitled to.

As to clergy comment, yes the Catholic Church has a clergy sexual abuse scandal going -- in Milwaukee, in Ireland and elsewhere in Europe. And yes there are many critics within the Catholic Church. Criticism from within is legitimate and probably objective. But there are lines that "healers" in leadership positions should not cross. What good purpose is served by an Anglican leader in England being critical of Catholic administrative practices in Ireland? Does the Anglican Church expect to gain converts by sniping at the Catholics? Criticism across denominational lines in an effort to recruit the discontented is petty and not becoming of religious leadership. Then, for the Papal preacher to compare suffering the pain of criticism with the anguish of the Holocaust or for others to claim "anti-Catholic hatred" is a totally foolish overreaction.

There is a time to heal, a time to speak, a time to tone down the extreme rhetoric, a time to mind your own business and a time to be silent.