This just in from The Arizona Republic: Bp. Olmsted now threatens to strip St. Joseph's Hospital of its Catholic standing unless the hospital does these three things:

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.

Of course, one part of the dispute about the case in question is whether the hospital DID comply with the Ethical and Religious Directives that guide Catholic hospitals. The Directives state BOTH that "Abortion (that is, the directly intended termination of pregnancy before viability or the directly intended destruction of a viable fetus) is never permitted," AND:

47. Operations, treatments, and medications that have as their direct purpose the cure of aproportionately serious pathological condition of a pregnant woman are permitted when theycannot be safely postponed until the unborn child is viable, even if they will result in the death ofthe unborn child.

It is not at all clear in the controverted case whether what was done can properly be termed "abortion" at all, but rather falls under Directive 47. As the very unclarity of the Directives makes clear, the moral question hinges on the intentions of all involved in the particular circumstances, not on the specific procedure performed. Rather than admit the complexity of the case, the bishop wants to force agreement with his judgment, under which both mother and fetus would have died. (And that's even before we take us whether his announcement of the excommunication of the sister involved amounted to defamation under Canon Law!)The hospital was founded by the Sisters of Mercy, and Catholic Healthcare West, the organization to which the hospital now belongs, is under the authority of Archbp. Niederauer of San Francisco.My question is this: why doesn't the hospital first appeal to Niederauer, then, if he refuses to get involved, why don't they simply point out to Bp. Olmsted that, while under Church Law he can restrict who uses the appellation "Catholic," he does NOT have a copyright to the term under US Law? If the administrators at St. Joseph's believe it to be a Catholic hospital, they should continue to use the name, and let the canonical chips fall where they may. The bishop does not own Catholicism, in his diocese or elsewhere. This would require serious nerve on the part of the Sisters of Mercy. However, the RSM's I know are people of faith, intelligence, and backbone. Come on, sisters--be the change!

Lisa Fullam is professor of moral theology at the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley. She is the author of The Virtue of Humility: A Thomistic Apologetic (Edwin Mellen Press).

Also by this author

Please email comments to [email protected] and join the conversation on our Facebook page.

© 2024 Commonweal Magazine. All rights reserved. Design by Point Five. Site by Deck Fifty.