Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Bishop Olmsted, Church Teaching and a Complicated Situation

Perhaps you remember last spring when there was controversy when Bishop Olmsted rebuked Sister Margaret McBride who served as the administrator of St. Joseph hospital, and on the hospital’s ethics committee, which authorized an abortion to save the mother’s life. It was an extremely complicated situation. The patient, a pregnant woman, had pulmonary hypertension which threatened her life. Unfortunately her pregnancy aggravated her illness and heightened her probability of dying from it. An abortion was procured at St. Joseph Hospital by the approval of Sister McBride. St. Joseph’s was (and as of today still is) a Catholic hospital, obliged to adhere to Catholic doctrine regarding abortion. Bishop Olmsted caught flack because people thought that he excommunicated Sr. McBride when that wasn’t the case at all. According to Canon Law Sr. McBride by her very actions excommunicated herself (latae sententia) from the Church by her action (Canons 1329 and 1398). She facilitated the direct killing of a human being. She may have saved the woman’s life, but that noble end does not justify the intrinsically evil means. Now Bishop Olmsted has said that he will strip St. Joseph’s hospital of its Catholic status if the hospital refuses to guarantee compliance with Church teachings. My praises go out to Bishop Olmsted for standing up for the Catholic faith and Church teaching and ensuring that a Catholic hospital abide by Church teaching.

From USA Today:
Two months of discussions followed but, according to Olmsted, did not resolve the question of whether the procedure was allowable. In the November letter, Olmsted said that he did not believe CHW intended to change its policies.

Olmsted's three demands were contained in a Nov. 22 letter sent to Lloyd Dean, president of Catholic Healthcare West. The bishop wants the hospital to give him more oversight of its practices to ensure it complies with Catholic health-care rules, provide education on those rules to medical staff and acknowledge that the bishop is correct in a dispute over a procedure the diocese says was an abortion.

"There cannot be a tie in this debate," Olmsted wrote. "Until this point in time, you have not acknowledged my authority to settle this question."
"Because of this, I must act now," he wrote, to ensure "no further such violations" take place at the hospital and to "repair the grave scandal to the Christian faithful that has resulted from the procedure."

The hospital personnel are using the principle of double effect to justify their actions but that does not apply in this case.  In my next post I will cover the principle of double effect.

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