More on the Catholic Church’s ‘fetuses are not people’ defense

You have to hand it to the Catholic Church. When it comes to inventing tortured reasoning to justify its own failings, it stands alone. No doubt the millennia of experience trying to explain why people should believe in a god or accept the authority of the pope or what happens to babies who die before being baptized (Do they go to limbo? If so, for how long?) gives them a lot of practice.

This expertise is now on display as they try to deal with the negative fallout from the decision of Catholic Health Initiatives that runs over 170 hospitals for the church to argue (successfully) that they were not liable for the death of a woman’s twin fetuses in Colorado as a result of medical malpractice since fetuses are not persons. Furthermore the Catholic hospital tried to pressure the bereaved husband to drop the case by threatening to sue him for legal expenses and attempting to garnish his wages, forcing him to declare bankruptcy.

The idea that fetuses are not persons flatly contradicts long-standing Catholic teaching and has angered fellow anti-choice activists.

Southern Baptist ethicist Richard Land said the hospital failed to live up to its pro-life principles. “There’s a difference between being legal and being right,” Land said. “Either a fetus is a person or it’s not.”

The Catholic Church has trotted out its usual defense, familiar from countless cases of pedophilia and sex abuse by priests, that they had no idea that this had happened, extended their condolences to the families, and would look into the matter.

The three Catholic bishops in Colorado said Thursday (Jan. 24) that they’d recently learned of the death of Lori Stodghill and her two unborn children and expressed their condolences.

The bishops said they could not comment on ongoing legal disputes. But they said they will review the litigation and policies of Catholic Health Initiatives to ensure they conform with Catholic teaching.

Really? The bishops in the same area who ultimately oversee the work of anything done in the church’s name in their dioceses were not aware of such an explosive case right under their noses, especially since a similar one occurred recently in neighboring Arizona?

In 2010, St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix lost its standing as a Catholic hospital after doctors there performed an abortion they believed was needed to save a mother’s life. Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted of Phoenix said the hospital should have followed Catholic teaching, which bans any direct abortion.

Amy Haddad, director of the Center for Health Policy and Ethics at Jesuit-run Creighton University in Omaha, Neb., said that in the Phoenix case, church leaders said there was no room for compromising Catholic teaching.

In Colorado, another hospital seems to be ignoring church teaching as well, she said.

“That inconsistency is morally troubling,” she said. “It demands more of an explanation than the letter of the law.”

I can resolve Ms. Haddad’s puzzlement. There is only problem if you are looking for consistency in the application of Catholic moral doctrine. If instead the principle that the church lives by is that money counts more than anything else, then its behavior is perfectly consistent.