Bishop to hospitals: let women die, that’s an order

Yes really. This isn’t my usual hyperbole, it’s exactly what the bishop of Phoenix, Thomas Olmsted, tells the president of Catholic Healthcare West in an official letter dated November 22, 2010.

I now ask that CHW agree to the following requirements by Friday, December  17, 2010. Only if all of these items are agreed to, will I postpone any action against CHW and St. Joseph’s Hospital. Specifically, I require the  following in order for me to postpone any further canonical action directed  against St. Joseph’s Hospital:

1. CHW must acknowledge in writing that the medical procedure that resulted in the abortion at St. Josephs’ hospital was a violation of ERD 47, and so will never occur again at St. Joseph’s Hospital.

The medical procedure that resulted in the abortion at St. Josephs’ hospital was done to save the life of the mother when the only alternative was that both the mother and the fetus would die.

People don’t believe this when you tell them.


  1. StevoR says

    That’s the thing. What some of these people say is so outrageously, staggeringly, stupid and cruel and ugly and evil that it is *literally* hard for many people to believe it. To wrap their heads around the understanding that, yes, they’re actually serious about that. They actually mean these hateful, nonsensical utterly vilely fouled up things they say.

    Oh & then to many individuals because they’re *priests* supposedly “people of “god” who is “good” and “love” and “merciful” by definition” will have the extra “But, but, but preists are supposed to be good kind people! block arguing in their own heads that those good men therefore didn’t, couldn’t, wouldn’t have just said what they physically did.

  2. Adele Bandura says

    Hi Terrance,Thanks for your comment. NABI is from July 5-9, 2011 in Phoenix, AZ. Please see for more information. EVERYBODY LEAVES A FOOTPRINT.

  3. Sigmund says

    I remember the response at the time from some hospital spokesperson to the question of what you say to the woman in that situation:
    “We would hope that both the mother and the child survive”
    In other words they would refuse to carry out a medical procedure that all the evidence suggests is needed to save the mothers life and, instead, simply pray for a miracle?

  4. Francisco Bacopa says

    Maybe with the payouts from the sex abuse lawsuits and the declining number of Catholics cutting into donations they will have to sell off the hospitals. That will solve the problem.

    Also, I live in a large city. Tons of hospital choice here. Anyone out there know what percentage of communities are served only by a Catholic hospital? Do you live in a community like that?

  5. mdvalero says

    What is the benefit of being a Catholic hospital anyway, does the church give them money or something?

  6. Pteryxx says

    Anyone out there know what percentage of communities are served only by a Catholic hospital? Do you live in a community like that?

    I couldn’t find any comprehensive map of “abortion deserts” due to Catholic hospitals. Part of that’s because their affiliations change so fast due to healthcare consolidation. Here’s an overview:

    The restrictions at any given hospital may not be clear. “Women simply don’t know what they’re getting,” said Jill C. Morrison, senior counsel in health and reproductive rights at the National Women’s Law Center.

    The confusion is likely to increase.

    “We are starting to see what was rare in the past,” said Lisa Goldstein, who follows nonprofit hospitals for Moody’s Investors Service and predicts more such partnerships. The institutions themselves are grappling with how to remain true to Catholic doctrine and serve a broader community. About one-sixth of all patients were admitted to a Catholic hospital in 2010. In many smaller communities, the only hospital within miles is Catholic.

    (emphasis mine)

  7. says

    Let’s not forget the mother in this story has four other small children at home. If the Catholic church had their way, these four children would have grown up without their mother. Oh, and the nun who approved the life saving procedure was excommunicated.

  8. says

    Sigmund, yes I remember that too – just pious hope and/or “the hospital didn’t know for sure blah blah” – great reasons to shrug off the known medical facts and pretend everything will be just fine. We might as well start driving our cars head-on into traffic, because hey, we don’t know for sure what will happen. Pilots should stall the planes, pharmacists should give out poison instead of meds, chefs should mix a little shit into the confit of duck – cause ya just never know.

  9. machintelligence says

    I could be wrong about this, but didn’t the hospital administration tell the Bishop that when they wanted advice from him on medical ethics, they would ask for it. And wasn’t his response to close the hospital chapel? This was over a year ago and I can’t find any references.

  10. says

    @ 10 – Yes I think so. I think I included that somewhere at the time – I did a lot of posts on this; the three I re-posted just now are only a sample.

    But of course 1) other hospitals may respond differently, 2) what they are doing is a violation of a federal law as well as immoral, 3) it’s well worth knowing what they want to do even if they can’t always make it happen.

    I’ll see if I can find a reference.

  11. says

    They can’t do it legally, but on the other hand, the feds are not enforcing the law. That’s what the ACLU is working on.

    It’s a motherfucking outrage.

  12. says

    machine, yes, here you go –

    The leadership of St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix is saddened today following Bishop Thomas Olmsted’s announcement that he has revoked his endorsement of the hospital as “Catholic.” At his direction, the hospital will remove the Blessed Sacrament from the chapel and will no longer celebrate Mass there.

    “Though we are deeply disappointed, we will be steadfast in fulfilling our mission,” said Linda Hunt, President of St. Joseph’s. “St. Joseph’s hospital will remain faithful to our mission of care, as we have for the last 115 years. Our caregivers deliver extraordinary medical care and share an unmatched commitment to the wellbeing of the communities they serve. Nothing has or will change in that regard.”

  13. machintelligence says

    Thanks. I’m glad they told the Bishop to go peddle his papers somewhere else.

  14. ismenia says

    Could the bishop face prosecution for trying to coerce the hospital into committing a crime that could result in homicide?

  15. crowepps says

    You might find the 5/18/10 press release from the Diocese Office of interest as well:

    ” Second, the mother’s life cannot be preferred over the child’s. Both lives are equal, both have an eternal soul and both are created by God. No one has the right to directly kill an innocent life, no matter what stage of their existence.

    It is not better to save one life while murdering another. It is not better that the mother live the rest of her existence having had her child killed.”

    The mother is supposed to want to die along with her child. And if she isn’t willing, the only moral thing to do is leave her no choice.

  16. Art says

    People have to remember that the Catholic church is entirely about ‘drop-kicking souls for Jesus through the goal post of life’. In their tiny little confused minds they think that suffering, pain, degradation and suffering are all secondary considerations to getting souls onto the imaginary good side of an angry God so they can be happy and fulfilled for eternity. Death itself is of little consequence to them as long as those who die make it over the goalpost.

    As perverse and destructive belief as there ever was. But it is always good to keep this core belief in mind when talking to Catholics and they speak of right and good.

  17. GJ says

    My mother had what doctors later learned to be “Incompetent Cervix.” When you have this, your first pregnancy (that would be me) goes just fine. After that the cervix becomes incompetent and subsequent fetuses basically just fall out of you.

    After I was born my mother had 7 miscarriages. It’s nasty. One of my earliest memories is finding blood on the bathroom floor after my mom had been rushed to the hospital.

    During one of these miscarriages she started to bleed out. She needed to have the pregnancy terminated, but she was (unfortunately) in a Catholic hospital and they refused to do it. She nearly died.

    I’ve been told by other Catholics in the last few years that the Catholic Church no longer takes such a barbaric view, and that when a woman starts to miscarry the pregnancy can be terminated. Apparently that has changed, and women are once again expendable as they were in the 1950s and earlier.

  18. Mattir says

    This is why my mother, back in the 1960s, refused to have her children in a Catholic hospital, and why I would not see a Catholic Ob/gyn today.

  19. says

    It appears to me that it is at base an issue of authority and power. Whatever of that the Catholic Church has, it seeks to maintain and increase. Thus formulations like the one cited at #19: “Both lives are equal, both have an eternal soul and both are created by God.”

    This presumably has been derived by theologians from biblical first principles. Not that it matters much, but I cannot recall any part of either testament where it is pronounced upon explicitly.

    Both mother an foetus are alive, in the sense that a flying bird, a grazing cow and a parasitising bacterium are all alive. But the lives are clearly not equal in the sense of any being. Both mother and foetus are becoming, and the adult mother is further along the road of becoming than is the foetus. This is everywhere recognised by the church in practice, when it does not insist on giving every miscarried foetus the last rites or a funeral.

    The Church needs a defining moment when the cell switches from ‘non-life’ to ‘life’, with the full kit of rights in its view; which it maintains also happens to be the view of God. Its own code of morality (ie theory; definitley not practice) depends on the acceptance of these instantaneous, defining transitional switches from non-this to this and non-that to that. Marriage, for example, occurs at the instant the priest pronounces the two people ‘man and wife’; death occurs at the moment the heart beats its last; one moment you are in the laity; at the next you are an ordained priest.

    The reality: the fact that pregnancy and gestation are the periods in which a single cell GRADUALLY BECOMES a mewing puking baby, which will in turn gradually go through each of the later stages is much harder to deal with legalistically. This in my opinion has definitely been shown by Peter Singer’s writings on the ethical issues surrounding the human use of animals. Mature mammals and birds are far more perceptive, aware, rational and sentient than any human embryo or foetus. But reality is harder to deal with than are notional instantaneous flip-flops and quantum jumps.

    Similarly, though there are laws against both dangerous driving and exceeding the speed limit, it is the latter which is more commonly resorted to and easiest to prove. Guilt is routinely established on evidence obtained by electronic devices.

  20. cag says

    There have been a few blog posts lately that have discussed respect of the person, not the belief. In the case of Thomas Olmsted, I am perfectly willing to suspend any form of respect. I’m sure that with a little encouragement that lack of respect can be expanded to include all clergy that are anti human.

  21. Svlad Cjelli says

    Behind the political spin lies a demand for ritual human carving and cannibalism.

  22. Svlad Cjelli says

    Catholicism is well documented to favour cannibalism, although their execution seldom succeeds due to their delusionary state.

  23. Shelley says

    I don’t know any of the details of this abortion, so I would need to know more to make an informed comment. Why wasn’t this baby (and mother) rescued via C-section? What kind of abortion was performed (partial-birth possibly)? Why would the mother have died as a result of giving birth to this baby? The Catholic Bishop might have found out that the abortion was unnecessary to save the life of the mother, and the mother’s life could have been saved without an abortion. It is only heresay that it was to save the life of the mother.

  24. Chiroptera says

    Shelley, #29: It is only heresay that it was to save the life of the mother.

    Well, according to one source I found:

    The patient, who has not been identified, was 11 weeks pregnant and suffering from pulmonary hypertension, a condition that the hospital said carried a near-certain risk of death for the mother if the pregnancy continued….

    But the Catholic Healthcare West officials, in their letter, asked Bishop Olmsted to clarify the directives, citing another section that reads: “Operations, treatments and medications that have as their direct purpose the cure of a proportionately serious pathological condition of a pregnant woman are permitted when they cannot be safely postponed until the unborn child is viable, even if they will result in the death of the unborn child.”

    Sounds like the hospital determined that it was very probably that death was imminent unless the pregnancy was terminated.

    The Catholic Bishop might have found out that the abortion was unnecessary to save the life of the mother, and the mother’s life could have been saved without an abortion.

    According to the link:

    Bishop Olmsted cited a section of the directives that reads: “Abortion (that is, the directly intended termination of pregnancy before viability or the directly intended destruction of a viable fetus) is never permitted. Every procedure whose sole immediate effect is the termination of pregnancy before viability is an abortion….”

    Adding that “no physician can predict what will happen with 100 percent accuracy,” Father Ehrich said, “What we should not do … is lower risks associated with pregnancy by aborting children. … When we try to control every possible situation in life, we end up playing the role of God.”

    Sounds like it is the official position of the diocese that no abortion is to be permitted in its hospitals under any circumstances.

    Do you have any additional information that may change how this looks?

  25. says

    Shelley, the Catholic bishop also might have sprouted wings and gone for a tour of Disney World, but he didn’t. He did not find out that the abortion was unnecessary to save the life of the mother. It is his policy and the UCCB policy and Vatican policy that abortion is forbidden even if it is needed to save the mother and the fetus can’t be saved. You don’t get to go making up “he could have”s to avoid realizing what they’re insisting on.

    If you don’t know the facts, try looking them up.

  26. julian says

    And this is why you need to kick the church out of the hospital business.

    I forget where I saw it (may have here at FTB) but someone actually broke down the funding Catholic Hospitals receive and the largest share comes from federal funding. The Church doesn’t actually have any major responsibilities (not management, funding or providing trained professionals) and yet they get to dictate the hospital’s stance toward medical issues.

    Obviously I can’t find a link otherwise I would provide it.

  27. Loopy G. says

    I’ve always said this about the Catholic clerisy: the only thing more dangerous than a wolf in sheep’s clothing is a wolf in SHEPHERD’S clothing. It’s obvious that the church is more interested in magisterium than in the lives of their parishioners.

  28. says

    The physicians had two options: 1) to perform an abortion, kill the embryo, and save the life of the woman. 2) To do nothing except pray for a miracle, give comfort care, and do nothing else while the woman died and the embryo died shortly thereafter due to the failure of its life-support system (the woman).

    In most ethical systems, consequences rule. Option 1 results in one dead body. Option 2 results in two dead bodies. Option 1 is the only moral choice.

    But the Catholic Church has a foundational principle that one must never perform a sinful act, no matter how minor, even if the result was positive, no matter how major. Since the Church regards the killing of an embryo as a serious sin an abortion is out of the question. Both the woman and embryo must die.

  29. cgilder says

    Speaking of hospital “deserts”, the uber-liberal, rather large city of Austin, Texas, has NO non-Catholic hospitals. There is one hospital up in Round Rock, about 30 miles away, that doesn’t appear to be religiously affiliated. Even the public hospital downtown is run by Catholics. They had a convoluted system by which women on public assistance could receive birth control & sterilization without violating the “rules.” It was a separate Women’s Health section within the hospital that the Travis County Hospital District controlled. Too bad the Texas Legislature specifically targeted that section’s funding for elimination this year (it was the only one like it in the state, so of course, that couldn’t be allowed…).

    I had my water break at 16 weeks several years ago, and I just had to sit in a hospital bed & wait for my fetus to finish dying. They’d come check for a heartbeat every few hours, because it had to be completely dead before they could do the D&E. No one mentioned it at the time, but one of the reasons my water broke was because I had a placental abruption, and I was having occasional bleeding. What if the placenta had separated completely before fetal death? Would they have still made me wait, while hemorrhaging, for that heartbeat to stop? I was too traumatized to think it through, but I’m glad I didn’t have to find out the answer. There weren’t any other hospitals in the city that I could transfer to stop the stupidity, either.

  30. Ian Eiloart says

    Do you have a copy of a letter from the hospital, explaining the procedure that the Bishop refers to?

  31. Godless Heathen says

    cgilder @37,

    Wait… the University of Texas doesn’t even have a medical school with a non-Catholic hospital???

  32. dianne says

    the uber-liberal, rather large city of Austin, Texas, has NO non-Catholic hospitals.

    As someone who has observed medicine in Austin for a number of years, my advice is to never get sick there. I went to medical school in San Antonio and if we were told there was a transfer from Austin we knew to expect badness.

  33. says

    The Conservative government of Ontario forced some hospital amalgamations in hopes of achieving economies of scale, which didn’t happen; what did happen was the loss of contraceptive, sterilization, and abortion services to women as the Catholic part of the deal would refuse to allow them in the new, amalgamated hospital.

  34. says

    Actually, the Catholic Church is making shit up, since the Old Testament (the only one that says anything about men in bed together or that spilling your seed on the ground is wrong) clearly states that killing a woman is murder while killing a fetus is a lesser offence deserving only a fine.

    Mattir, good for your mother!

  35. Jeff Blanks says

    “People don’t believe this when you tell them.”

    But but but HIPPIES!! An Occupier took a dump somewhere! Stop raping people!!

    Y’know, we need to be comparing notes, and then asking: Would you rather deal with HIPPIES or deal with these people?


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