Judie Brown
Catholic teaching under attack by Catholics ... again!
By Judie Brown
May 22, 2010

Phoenix, Arizona, has become the focal point in an ongoing discussion within Catholic ethical circles about the killing of one patient to allegedly save the life of another. As we wrote a couple of days ago, http://www.all.org/newsroom_judieblog.php?id=3050 Bishop Thomas Olmsted, in his statement regarding an abortion in a Catholic hospital, made it perfectly clear that the Church does not permit the taking of one life for the alleged good of another's life. According to Catholic teaching, which was repeated by Bishop Olmsted http://www.catholicsun.org/2010/may/15/DIOCESE-STATEMENT-051410.pdf , "The direct killing of an unborn child is always immoral, no matter the circumstances, and it cannot be permitted in any institution that claims to be authentically Catholic."

Now, it seems that the truth is about to take an additional beating among those who would give their eye teeth to see the Catholic Church soften her teaching to accommodate a little bit of abortion. Though this less-than-Catholic position represents the opinion of those who believe that there are instances when a preborn child can be sacrificed for the so-called sake of saving the mother's life, this has never been Catholic teaching. The tragedy of this continuing public debate contributes to the ongoing dissent that seems to be the fare among some Catholics, whether here or abroad.

As the Holy Father pointed out when answering a question about the possible relationship between the third secret of Fatima http://catholicism.about.com/b/2010/05/14/the-third-secret-of-fatima-and-clerical-sexual-abuse.htm and "the Church's suffering for the sexual abuse of minors," http://www.all.org/newsroom_judieblog.php?id=3051 "The greatest persecution of the Church does not come from external enemies, but is born from the sin within the Church."

Indeed, the record over the entire history of the Church attests to that fact. Today, this is the case with the Phoenix debacle. As I have watched this unfold in the secular media, I must ponder the question that perhaps this current upheaval is somehow rooted in the Archbishop Rino Fisichella controversy that began last year. Recall the words of Archbishop Fisichella who commented on the abortion of twins that was carried out on a nine-year-old mother in Recife, Brazil. Fisichella disparaged the actions of the archbishop of Olinda and Recife, José Cardoso Sobrinho, who excommunicated the physicians who killed the babies and the mother of the girl who permitted the killing. According to Vatican watchdog reporter, Sandro Magister http://chiesa.espresso.repubblica.it/articolo/1339160?eng=y :

    Fisichella's article was entitled "On the side of the Brazilian girl," and took a position on the case of a Brazilian girl who was already fertile at the age of nine, was raped repeatedly by her young stepfather, became pregnant with twins, and was given an abortion in the fourth month of gestation.

    Her case, Fisichella writes, "made the pages of the newspapers only because the archbishop of Olinda and Recife was quick to declare the excommunication of the doctors who helped her to interrupt the pregnancy." Instead, "before thinking of excommunication," the girl "should first of all have been defended, embraced, comforted" with that "humanity of which we churchmen should be expert proclaimers and teachers." But "that's not what happened."

    And he continued:

    "Because of her extremely young age and precarious health conditions, the life [of the girl] was in serious danger from her pregnancy. What should be done in these cases? It is a difficult decision for the doctor, and for the moral law itself. Decisions like these [...] have to be made every day [...] and the doctor's conscience is left alone to decide what is the best thing to do."

    At the end of the article, Fisichella addressed the girl directly: "We are on your side. [...] There are others who deserve excommunication and our forgiveness, not those who allowed you to live."

Much to the chagrin of the archbishop of Olinda and Recife at the time, not a one of his repeated attempts to respond to Fisichella was ever printed by the Vatican newspaper. And, to this very day, Archbishop Fisichella has never admitted that he erred in his statements.

Even pro-abortion Frances Kissling, http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2009/jul/09071410.html founder of Catholics for a Free Choice, applauded the Fisichella statement. That alone should have given him cause to rethink, though sadly it has not.

Those who would welcome a watering down of Catholic teaching regarding the murder of the innocent always impose suffering on the Church from within when they haggle. It does not matter whether they are disparaging Catholic teaching on contraception, homosexuality, abortion or any other sexual sin, the harm to the Church is the same.

This is what occurred when Fisichella wrote his erroneous comments and it is what is occurring now as Catholic health care professionals publicly decry Bishop Thomas Olmsted for defending truth and Catholic orthodoxy. One can only surmise from these public scandals that some within the Church have a vested interest in deconstructing Catholic teaching in the area of sexuality and morality. When such people issue contradictory statements and literally attempt to destroy a fundamental truth of the Ten Commandments, what else can one conclude?

And as the diocese of Phoenix makes clear in the question-and-answer series they have published regarding the reasons why Sister Margaret McBride and other staff from St. Joseph's Catholic Hospital were excommunicated from the Church http://www.catholicsun.org/2010/phxdio-stjoes/Q-AND-A-ST-JOSEPH-HOSPITAL-FINAL.pdf :

    Sr. McBride held a position of authority at the hospital and was frequently consulted on ethical matters. She gave her consent that the abortion was a morally good and allowable act according to Church teaching. Furthermore, she admitted this directly to Bishop Olmsted. Since she gave her consent and encouraged an abortion she automatically excommunicated herself from the Church. "Formal cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave offense. The Church attaches the canonical penalty of excommunication to this crime against human life." (Catechism of the Catholic Church #2272) This canonical penalty is imposed by virtue of Canon 1398: "A person who procures a completed abortion incurs a latae sententiae excommunication.

The diocese goes on to explain why anyone involved in the decision to abort the child is also excommunicated, which is precisely as it should be. That is the reason why Archbishop José Cardoso Sobrinho acted correctly in 2009 and why Bishop Olmsted has acted in the same way.

But the Catholic hospital administration begs to differ, opining in a public statement http://www.fiercehealthcare.com/press-releases/st-josephs-statement-abortion : "We have always adhered to the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services as we carry out our healing ministry and we continue to abide by them." St. Joseph's further insists, "In this tragic case, the treatment necessary to save the mother's life required the termination of an 11-week pregnancy."

A public suggestion that the "termination" of the preborn baby's life was necessary is wrong, plain and simple. The hospital's public statement betrays their alliance with those who work overtime devising new and clever ways to turn the truth on its head and make it appear that there is some sort of compassion involved in choosing to kill a defenseless preborn child.

Fr. John Ehrich, STL, medical ethics director of the diocese of Phoenix, reiterated what Bishop Olmsted said by explaining http://www.catholicsun.org/2010/phxdio-stjoes/Medical-Ethics-Director-Statement-05172010.pdf :

    Today we often hear people say, "I'm against abortion unless in cases of rape, incest or situations that threaten the life of the mother." The Catholic position is much simpler; "We are always against abortion." Every abortion is murder since it constitutes the unjust killing of an innocent life. Thus, it can never be justified under any circumstance.

    The question might arise, "Isn't it better to save one life as opposed to allowing two people to die?" One thing we must always remember is that no physician can predict what will happen with 100% accuracy. We will never be able to eliminate all risks associated with pregnancy. What we should not do, however, is lower risks associated with pregnancy by aborting children. It is not better for a woman to have to live the rest of her existence knowing that she had her child killed because her pregnancy was high risk.

    When we try to control every possible situation in life, we end up playing the role of God. As people of faith, we know that our lives are always in God's hands. In these situations, the reality of our dependence upon Him becomes ever more clear and pronounced.

If we at American Life League could get a single message through to those like Archbishop Fisichella, Sister McBride, the spokespeople for Catholic Healthcare West and any others who wish to propound on Catholic moral teaching, it would simply be this: Abortion is an act that always results in the death of a human being who is in every sense as valuable to God as his or her mother. There can never be a reason to directly kill one person for the sake of saving another.

We are eternally grateful to God for the clear teaching that has been set forth by Bishop Thomas Olmsted and those with whom he works in the area of Catholic medical ethics. We pray that all of his fellow bishops will be equally as clear in their teaching and that, when all is said and done, the Church will not be made to suffer again by those who cannot see or prefer to ignore the truth.

During these final weeks of the Church's Year for Priests http://www.vatican.va/special/anno_sac/index_en.html, we give special thanks to God for Bishop Olmsted, Archbishop José Cardoso Sobrinho, Pope Benedict XVI and all those ordained men who would lay down their lives before they would compromise the truths set forth by God, His Word and His Church.

© Judie Brown


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Judie Brown

Judie Brown is president and co-founder of American Life League, the nation's largest grassroots pro-life educational organization... (more)


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