Catholic health clinic fights back against defamatory video

Marisol Health threatens liberal advocacy group ProgressNow Colorado with legal action

Roxanne King

Marisol Health threatened legal action publicly May 23 against ProgressNow Colorado demanding that Marisol’s image and reference be removed from a propaganda video that mischaracterizes the women’s health care and implies it to be a “fake clinic.”

Marisol, which is run by Catholic Charities, held a press conference at its Denver clinic after its attorneys received no response from a May 17 letter giving ProgressNow, an aggressive liberal advocacy group, three days to meet their mandate.

“It’s a clear case of defamation, called libel, and we are prepared with Marisol to take this to the next level if ProgressNow and its affiliates don’t respond to our demand letter,” attorney Michael Norton said at the media event. “As of this moment there has been no response.

“That is not surprising for drive-by organizations like ProgressNow whose political interests outweigh truth. The truth here is that Marisol Health does provide comprehensive health care for women, it is a quality organization and it will do what it needs to do to defend its reputation.”

Norton was joined by Jan McIntosh, vice president of Marisol Services, and Dede Chism, co-founder and executive director of Bella Natural Women’s Care and Family Wellness, which partners with Marisol.

Through its partnership with Bella, Marisol runs clinics in Denver and Lafayette that provide a full range of women’s health care services provided by licensed medical professionals. Marisol’s health care services include comprehensive obstetrics, gynecological and prenatal care, infertility care, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections, pregnancy testing and ultrasounds, and abortion pill reversals.

On staff are three board-certified doctors, four nurse practitioners, a certified nurse midwife and case managers.

Through its partnership with Bella, Marisol runs clinics in Denver and Lafayette that provide a full range of women’s health care services provided by licensed medical professionals. (Photo by Vanessa Chavez | Marisol Health)

“We provide these services to all who come to our door no matter whether they are able to pay or not,” McIntosh said. “In fact 45 percent of our patients have no income or income less than $15,000 per year; 45 percent have Medicaid and 32 percent are uninsured.”

Marisol also offers counseling and social services to its patients who need them, McIntosh said. Those services include mental health and substance abuse treatment, domestic violence intervention, and housing for single expectant mothers, single mothers with children and single women who are experiencing homelessness.

“We are shocked and offended that an organization would use our name to make false statements about our licensed medical staff and seek to deter help for so many women who are often without food, housing, jobs, emotional support and quality medical care,” McIntosh said.

The ProgressNow video titled “Crisis Pregnancy Centers” includes photos of four crisis pregnancy centers in the metro-area, including the Denver Marisol Health clinic, as a woman, identified only as Aubrey, a 40-year-old art teacher, recalls her college experience of being referred to an unidentified clinic when she found herself with an unexpected pregnancy.

Aubrey relates that the pregnancy center lacked medical personnel outside of an ultrasound technician, which concerned her as she had a seizure disorder that could have been fatal to her pregnancy. As the video shifts to city scenes, bold white text over the photos declare: “There are more than 60 crisis pregnancy centers in Colorado; Staff rarely have any medical training; They often lie or refuse to provide accurate information.”

“It’s a clear case of defamation, called libel, and we are prepared with Marisol to take this to the next level if ProgressNow and its affiliates don’t respond to our demand letter,” attorney Michael Norton said at the media event May 23. (Photo by Vanessa Chavez | Marisol Health)

The video is posted to ProgressNow Colorado’s Facebook page. It is also on the No Fake Care website of ProgressNow affiliate, the Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights. COLOR also put up billboards around Denver that say, “In Your Neighborhood: Fake Health Center” and include the nofakecare.com web address.

The video and billboards are part of a trend by pro-abortion groups to undermine the work of pro-life pregnancy centers. The US Supreme Court is now deciding a case—National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra—to determine whether a California law that requires pro-life pregnancy centers to inform women of the availability of abortions elsewhere violates their First Amendment and free speech rights.

“We demand that all video footage of and references to Marisol Health on ProgressNow’s website or Facebook page, including the website or Facebook page of COLOR or any other ProgressNow affiliate, and posted to YouTube, be immediately deleted or redacted from all such websites, Facebook pages or YouTube postings,” Norton wrote in the letter to ProgressNow Colorado.

ProgressNow didn’t respond to requests from the Denver Catholic for comment.

Client response to Marisol Health is proof that its groundbreaking services are valued, Chism said.

“The forging of services between Bella and Marisol brings a new level to health care,” she said at the press conference. “The need for this innovative style, this new style of women’s health care, has been evident in the overwhelming response we have received in the last three and half years … in the caring for over 5,000-plus patients.”

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story misstated what the propaganda video actually said in reference to Marisol Health. It has been updated to more accurately reflect the mischaracterization of Marisol Health by ProgressNow.

COMING UP: The priesthood is more than just a job

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In October, the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazonian Region will be held at the Vatican. On the agenda: a discussion on the possibility of ordaining married men to the priesthood in that region, due to a particularly dire lack of vocations. The news has reawakened discussion on priestly celibacy in general, and whether the time has come to relax the requirement on a wider level. And so, I figured it was time to revisit the subject here, as well.

To set the tone, I’d like to begin my discussion with a very short quiz:

Q: Why does the Roman Catholic Church require lifelong celibacy for ordained priests?

  1. Because sex is bad, dirty and evil, and our priests should not defile themselves;
  2. Because we don’t want to have to support priests’ families out of collection funds;
  3. None of the above; or
  4. Both of the above.

The correct answer would be C, none of the above.

So why, then? Why on earth would these men have to give up the possibility of marriage and children, just because they want to serve God as priests?

Priestly celibacy is a discipline of the Church, not a doctrine. It could change. The rule has already been relaxed in relation to married Episcopalian priests who convert to Catholicism. In this era of widespread priest shortages, and even wider-spread scandals, should we consider expanding that exemption, and remove the requirement of priestly celibacy entirely? Wouldn’t a married priesthood encourage more men, and perhaps healthier men, to respond to the call of God?

Perhaps. But at what cost?

Discussions about the elimination of priestly celibacy are not new. They’ve been around as long as priestly celibacy itself. One of the periods of particularly spirited discussion on the subject was in the late 1960’s. In response, Pope Paul VI wrote an encyclical entitled Sacerdotalis Caelibatus. In it, he explained the reasons for the Church’s long history of priestly celibacy, and he enumerated three “significances,” or reasons, for the tradition:

Christological: The priesthood isn’t just a job. It is a state of being. It encompasses his entire existence. It places a mark on his soul — a mark that will follow him into eternity. The priest is ordained by a bishop, who was ordained by a bishop, who was ordained by another bishop, in an unbroken chain that goes clear back to the apostles. And through that sacramental ordination, and the power and grace it conveys, the priest stands in persona Christi —  in the person of Christ. He has the power to consecrate the Eucharist — to turn bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ. He can forgive sins.  And so, standing in the person of Christ, the priest seeks to be like him in all things. He imitates Christ’s life, which includes Christ’s celibacy.

But, you say, Christ also had a beard. Does the priest have to imitate that, too? How far do we have to take this whole imitation thing? Well, the question we must ask is: What was integral to Christ’s ministry? Was celibacy integral? What would it look like if Christ had married and had children? He would have had to work to support them. He would have had to provide them a home.  No iterate preaching, moving from town to town. Jesus was not going to be an absentee husband and father. It was the freedom of celibacy that allowed him to give himself totally to the service of the Father and the Father’s children. So yes, I’d say it was integral. The beard, not so much.

Ecclesiological:  This basically means it is about the Church. Our understanding of a priest is not that he’s a single guy, a bachelor. He, like Christ, is in fact “married” to the Church. You’ve heard all that talk about how the Church is the “bride of Christ.” We really believe that. And the priest, standing in persona Christi, likewise becomes the Bridegroom, giving his life for the Church, and especially for the part of the Church he serves. He doesn’t just offer his “workday” to us, the flock.  He offers his life. He serves us as a husband serves his wife. (And we the faithful, as good “wives”, should likewise be going out of our way to love and care for our priests.)  His attention and affections are not divided between his bride, the Church, and an earthly bride and family. He has far greater freedom than a married man — freedom to not only serve his flock, but to pray and meditate and to grow closer to the Christ whom he represents on this earth. Which then prepares him for further service to the flock.

Eschatological: This means it’s about the next life. Remember my last column, about the Poor Clare Sisters who make the radical choice to live this life as if were already eternal life, focusing only on Christ? Well, priests participate in that too. Scripture says that, in Heaven, we will neither marry nor be given in marriage. (Mt 22:30) Priests and consecrated religious foreshadow that here, reminding us that everything that happens in this life is just a prelude to the life to come.

And so, for all of these reasons, I oppose the wholesale elimination of the requirement of priestly celibacy. I realize that we already have exceptions. I know several of those “exceptions,” and I think they are wonderful people and wonderful priests. But I think they would acknowledge the difference between the exception and the rule, and that the loss of priestly celibacy would change our understanding of the character and charism of the priesthood. The priesthood would be increasingly perceived as just another career choice — one to be entered and left at will.

And whatever the priesthood may be, it is definitely not just another job.

Featured image by Josh Applegate on Unsplash