US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Bishop v. hospital: Abortion row continues in Phoenix: UPDATE 2

By Bryan Cones | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

UPDATE 2: The diocese has stripped St. Joseph Hospital of its Catholic affliliation after negotiations between the diocese and the hospital's parent company, Catholic Healtcare West, failed to reach an agreement, according to the Arizona Republic.

I fear this is a sign of things to come; this particular situation is the health care reform bill in miniature.

More than a year after a pregnant woman received an abortion at St. Joseph's Hospital in Phoenix, Bishop Thomas Olmsted has issued an ultimatum to the hosptial and its parent company, Catholic Healthcare West, to (among other things) admit he was right or lose the hospital's Catholic affiliation, which would mean that Mass could no longer be celebrated there or the blessed sacrament reserved.

UPDATE: The following statement appears on St. Joseph's Hospital website:

"St. Joseph’s and Catholic Healthcare West continue to be in dialogue with Bishop Olmsted and we hope to achieve a resolution. We believe that all life is sacred. In this case we saved the only life we could save, which was the mother’s."

This is a really unfortunate turn of events in my view, an already tragic situation compounded by a bishop that seems overly concerned about respect for his authority and judgment. Even if the hospital ethics committee did make a mistake in November 2009 case of a pregnant woman and mother of four whose health was judged to be imminently threatened by the preganancy, I see no reason to escalate the situation in this way. 

As I wrote in my column on this particular situation, hard cases make bad law. This particular case is not the one to make an example of. No one is arguing that the abortion was morally good, only that it was, in the judgment of the ethics committee, the least bad option in a complex moral situation. Charity demands that we trust the good will of those closest to the situation, even if or when we personally (or officially) think they may have made a mistake.