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Posts Tagged ‘Bishop Thomas Olmsted’

My article in today’s LifeNews.com

Bishop Thomas Olmsted, of the Phoenix, Arizona Diocese took the extraordinary step last week of removing Saint Joseph Hospital’s Catholic status.

The measure comes after last May’s confrontation between Sister Margaret McBride, the hospital’s administrator who gave permission for an 11-week pregnant woman with a severe case of pulmonary hypertension to have an abortion, and Bishop Olmsted who notified her in private that her actions were formal cooperation in the child’s death, and therefore incurred a laetae sententiae (automatic) excommunication.

Much confusion swirls around this case, and needs to be cleared in the interest of defending the good name of a good bishop.

First, a recap of the initial controversy last May. Pulmonary hypertension is a gravely serious condition that is exacerbated by pregnancy. Testing done at Saint Joseph’s indicated a fairly advanced stage of the disease, and it was deemed that the 27 year-old mother of four would in all likelihood not make it to term with her pregnancy. Termination of the pregnancy was advocated as the means of saving the life of the mother. Thus, the ethical crossroads.

The moral guide for hospitals and healthcare institutions is spelled out in Ethical and Religious Directives of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (ERD’s). Directives #45 and #47 both spell out the rules for dealing with a case such as this, and Bishop Olmsted, a Doctor of Canon Law, has made it clear that this case did not fall within the parameters of these directives and what is known as the Principle of Double Effect.

In essence the principle states that a lifesaving procedure that cannot be delayed, such as the removal of a cancerous uterus before the baby can be taken in a Cesarean section at viability (~25 weeks gestation), is permissible so long as the death of the baby is the indirect and unintended effect. The life-saving treatment and resolution of a disease with immediate lethal consequence if no treatment is rendered is the good effect. The unintended death of the baby is the bad, or second (double) effect.

Such circumstances are extremely rare, given how early a baby can be delivered before full term at 40 weeks. The mother’s life must be in immediate danger and the treatment of her disease, which would also result in the death of the baby, cannot be forestalled. The case at Saint Joseph’s did not rise to the level of Double-Effect, as the baby was the sole target of intervention.

While the assessment on the part of physicians was dire, no treatment of the disease was even attempted. There are several medications that can be employed to attempt a reduction in the severity of the disease, none of which appear to have been dispensed in this case. From that point on, the actions of the hospital and Sister McBride pointed toward more than an isolated and extreme case where the decision to abort could have been simply dismissed as one bad judgment call.

There are several hospitals within a three-mile radius of Saint Joseph’s, some mere blocks away, where this woman’s husband could have taken her for the recommended abortion. They were no more than ten minutes from any number of facilities that would have performed the abortion, if that was what the couple wanted. All reports of the incident indicate that at no point was the couple told that Saint Joseph’s does not target babies for death as a means of treating a disease. Again, no evidence has surfaced that the physicians attempted to treat her medically.

This is a critical distinction that separates Catholic healthcare from its secular counterparts. Many physicians resort to abortion as a defensive strategy to avoid potential litigation. Others have signed on to the eugenics agenda and aggressively promote abortion for Down Syndrome and other babies with trisomic disorders, spinal tube defects such as spina bifida and anencephaly, and a host of other imperfections.

Patients who seek Catholic healthcare do so because of the assurance that the facility and its clinicians adhere to the ERD’s. They do so because they seek the assurance that they will be told the truth and treated in accord with Catholic moral norms, and not railroaded down the disastrous path American medicine has decided to follow. The Phoenix case is an excellent example of what happens when rebels take charge and deceive their patients and the bishop.

At the time, I remarked to peers in medicine and to groups I was invited to address that there had to be much more to this story than meets the eye. No Catholic hospital faithful to the ERD’s and the Magisterium, within a stone’s throw of several other hospitals, makes such a decision, especially without consulting the local bishop. I opined, and was pilloried for it, that Sister McBride was presiding over a shadow healthcare system that was active in promoting an agenda that ran counter to the mission of the Church. Nobody commits first-degree murder as a first crime. No Catholic hospital administrator, especially a professed religious, signs off on such an abortion for the first time in the manner in which Sister McBride conducted herself.

There was an arrogance, an independent and defiant air about it that pointed to something deeper and darker, something that would eventually come to light.

This past week, Bishop Olmsted shared with the world the extent to which there has been a shadow system operating for over a quarter of a century, performing abortions, sterilizations, and dispensing all manner of contraception. Sister McBride, as it has now been revealed, is hardly the compassionate administrator who made a good-faith, though horrific decision.

In Part II, how Bishop Olmsted was lied to, lied about, what happens next in his courageous pushback against the rebellion within his healthcare system, and its implications nationally for Catholic healthcare.

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Many will recall the battles earlier this year on this blog when I defended Bishop Olmsted for declaring that Sister Margaret McBride, R.S.M. excommunicated herself by approving an abortion at Saint Joseph’s. I wrote several posts on this issue:

FIRST

SECOND

THIRD

FOURTH

FIFTH

SIXTH (How Catholic Bioethics is guided)

SEVENTH (An article on Double-effect)

EIGHTH

Many came out in defense of this monstrous nun. But nobody ever starts with an abortion like this. Now the explosive truth has been revealed, and it’s eye-popping!!

Now that the truth has come to the Bishop’s attention about what a vipers pit that “Nun” has been running, Bishop Olmsted let fly. Here is the Bishop’s own official statement, released through his Office of Communications.

Merry Christmas from Coming Home to one of the few Eagles among our Bishops! God bless you, Bishop Olmsted.

St. Joseph’s Hospital no longer Catholic
Statement of Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted
December 21, 2010

Jesus says (Cf. Mt 25:40), “Whatever you did for the least of my brothers and sisters, you did for me.”

Caring for the sick is an essential part of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Throughout our history, the Church has provided great care and love to those in need. With the advent of Catholic hospitals, the faithful could also be confident that they were able to receive quality health care according to the teachings of the Church.

Authentic Catholic care in the institutions of Catholic Healthcare West (CHW) in the Diocese of Phoenix has been a topic of discussion between CHW and me from the time of our initial meeting nearly seven years ago.

At that first meeting, I learned that CHW already did not comply with the ethical teachings of the Church at Chandler Regional Hospital. The moral guide for Hospitals and Healthcare Institutions is spelled out in what are called the Ethical and Religious Directives of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. I objected strongly to CHW’s lack of compliance with these directives, and told CHW leaders that this constituted cooperation in evil that must be corrected; because if a healthcare entity wishes to call itself Catholic (as in “Catholic” Healthcare West), it needs to adhere to the teachings of the Church in all of its institutions. In all my seven years as Bishop of Phoenix, I have continued to insist that this scandalous situation needed to change; sadly, over the course of these years, CHW has chosen not to comply.

Then, earlier this year, it was brought to my attention that an abortion had taken place at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Phoenix. When I met with officials of the hospital to learn more of the details of what had occurred, it became clear that, in the decision to abort, the equal dignity of mother and her baby were not both upheld; but that the baby was directly killed, which is a clear violation of ERD #45. It also was clear that the exceptional cases, mentioned in ERD #47, were not met, that is, that there was not a cancerous uterus or other grave malady that might justify an indirect and unintended termination of the life of the baby to treat the grave illness. In this case, the baby was healthy and there were no problems with the pregnancy; rather, the mother had a disease that needed to be treated. But instead of treating the disease, St. Joseph’s medical staff and ethics committee decided that the healthy, 11-week-old baby should be directly killed. This is contrary to the teaching of the Church (Cf. Evangelium Vitae, #62).

It was thus my duty to declare to the person responsible for this tragic decision that allowed an abortion at St. Joseph’s, Sister Margaret McBride, R.S.M., that she had incurred an excommunication by her formal consent to the direct taking of the life of this baby. I did this in a confidential manner, hoping to spare her public embarrassment.

Unfortunately, subsequent communications with leadership at St. Joseph’s Hospital and CHW have only eroded my confidence about their commitment to the Church’s Ethical and Religious Directives for Healthcare. They have not addressed in an adequate manner the scandal caused by the abortion. Moreover, I have recently learned that many other violations of the ERDs have been taking place at CHW facilities in Arizona throughout my seven years as Bishop of Phoenix and far longer.

Let me explain.

CHW and St. Joseph’s Hospital, as part of what is called “Mercy Care Plan”, have been formally cooperating with a number of medical procedures that are contrary to the ERDs, for many years. I was never made aware of this fact until the last few weeks. Here are some of the things which CHW has been formally responsible for throughout these years:

• Contraceptive counseling, medications, supplies and associated medical and laboratory examinations, including, but not limited to, oral and injectable contraceptives, intrauterine devices, diaphragms, condoms, foams and suppositories;

• Voluntary sterilization (male and female); and

• Abortions due to the mental or physical health of the mother or when the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest.

This information was given to me in a meeting which included an administrator of St. Joseph’s Hospital who admitted that St. Joseph’s and CHW are aware that this plan consists in formal cooperation in evil actions which are contrary to Church teaching. The Mercy Care Plan has been in existence for 26 years, includes some 368,000 members, and its 2010 revenues will reach nearly $2 billion. CHW and St. Joseph’s Hospital have made more than a hundred million dollars every year from this partnership with the government.

In light of all these failures to comply with the Ethical and Religious Directives of the Church, it is my duty to decree that, in the Diocese of Phoenix, at St. Joseph’s Hospital, CHW is not committed to following the teaching of the Catholic Church and therefore this hospital cannot be considered Catholic. The Catholic faithful are free to seek care or to offer care at St. Joseph’s Hospital but I cannot guarantee that the care provided will be in full accord with the teachings of the Church. In addition, other measures will be taken to avoid the impression that the hospital is authentically Catholic, such as the prohibition of celebrating Mass at the hospital and the prohibition of reserving the Blessed Sacrament in the Chapel.

For seven years now, I have tried to work with CHW and St. Joseph’s, and I have hoped and prayed that this day would not come, that this decree would not be needed; however, the faithful of the Diocese have a right to know whether institutions of this importance are indeed Catholic in identity and practice.

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