One of the dumbest things I have read about Bp. Olmsted and St. Joseph’s formerly Catholic hospital

Via The Motley Monk I picked up this statement the President of Catholics for Choice, Jon O’Brien.  Even if you are not sure what to think about Bp. Olmsted (D. Phoenix) declaring that Sr. McBride was excommunicated for her approval of a direct abortion, or his removing the title “Catholic” from St. Joseph’s Hospital…. what do you think of the argument presented, below?

In response to Bishop Olmsted’s decision to disallow St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix, AZ, to call itself “Catholic,” the President of Catholics for Choice, Jon O’Brien, issued the following statement on December 21, 2010:

It’s sad that Bishop Olmsted is so intransigent that he cannot accept that the people seeking medical care at the hospital may need access to services that he finds unacceptable, [They may neeeeeed that abortion!] even though he, and we, know that Catholics use contraception and access abortion services at rates similar to the population as a whole. [Everyone does it!] It’s sad for the people of Phoenix that the local bishop has created such a spectacle over this issue, [What about the spectacle of a “Catholic” hospital where direct abortions are performed?] from the moment he sought to excommunicate Sister Margaret McBride [He didn’t exactly go out of his way tofind something against her.  She did it.] for sanctioning a life-saving operation [you mean… other than the baby who died…] to the threats issued to St. Joseph’s down to today’s punishment[It is also a corrective measure.] announced via press release. All of the people who work at the hospital know that their actions are driven by their consciences, from the doctors, nurses and other medical personnel right through to the administration and support staff. [He thinks conscience can be exercise apart from and against what the Church teaches.] They all acted in good conscience[Which they demonstrated by defying the bishop?  And what marvelous psychic powers he must have to know their consciences!] Can Bishop Olmsted say the same thing? [It would seem so.] The only possible silver lining also relates to people seeking medical services at the hospital. Now that Bishop Olmsted will no longer be influencing decisions about their medical care, [So… he thinks it is good that Bp. Olmsted separated the hospital from the Catholic Church in the diocese!] perhaps people seeking services at St. Joseph’s will be able to access the services they need in a timely manner – after consulting with their doctor and without concerns about whether the local bishop is influencing medical decisions. Ultimately, when a bishop stops pretending to be a doctor, the whole community benefits.  [And when people pretend to exercise a “magisterium” apart from and against that of the Church and the bishops, people risk going to hell.]

Apart from your positions.  What do you think of the argumentation?

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. A. J. D. S. says:

    The argumentation?

    First of all, O’Brien seems to think that the Church’s teaching on abortion is nothing more than an opinion that Bp. Olmsted just “happens” to hold, rather than a doctrine that he is, in fact, obligated to enforce as bishop of the diocese.

    Next, he uses a pretty pathetic argumentum ad populum, as if the dignity of the unborn were somehow dependent on the opinion of a majority of Catholics. Not surprising; O’Brien and his ilk think of the Church as being a merely political entity, through a hermeneutic of power and “empoweredness”. (And what exactly does O’Brien want here? When the majority of the “population as a whole” loses belief in God, will he be arguing for atheism as well? )

    Also, he seems to have a flawed understanding of what an excommunication is and what they’re for, as well as what a conscience is and how it relates to morality. (As you pointed out, Father.)

    Lastly, I can’t believe that the author of this statement could possibly call himself Catholic after those last three sentences. He says “when a bishop stops pretending to be a doctor, the whole community benefits”—doesn’t he know that what doctors are to bodies, priests and bishops are to souls? So it is completely within the bishop’s prerogative to exercise his authority on matters of faith and morals in his diocese. (Sometimes that means performing a little “amputation.”)

    When ignorant laypeople with gravely sinful viewpoints on the Church’s teaching about the sanctity of life stop pretending to be bishops, the whole community will benefit.

  2. Mrs. O says:

    What do I think? This is the (il) logic we were taught growing up – conscious trumps all which no one can force someone to act against there own but you are never told of the truths behind some of the teachings nor that on matters of faith and morals we should give to the authority of the church, provided it isn’t something sinful or wrong. This, to me, seems consistent, albeit very wrong, with what most Catholics have been taught. Fighting against it will be hard – same would apply to parents who have not disciplined thir children correctly – very hard but a must.
    The argument is consistent with what we were taught – will appeal to those that hold these views- but prayer, fasting and good basic catechesis can do much good. Their logic is popular and trendy but in the end as useful as a jello ladder. Truth will triumph.

  3. Gabrielle says:

    There’s an argument in there….?
    All I can see is emotional bombast- power to the peeple and wimmin.

  4. John Fannon says:

    Father, is this guy excommunicated? If not, why not?

    A pity that the Diocese cannot take legal steps to recover the moneys expended in setting up the foundation. A lesson learned for the future perhaps, to ensure that organisations: schools, hospitals, hospices etc set up with funds raised by Catholics should hold to their charter or face the consequences of having the funds recovered.

    Strangely enough there is an analogy with Anglican parishes deciding to accept the Holy Father’s offer and join the Coetus Anglicanorum. What happens to their parish church? No doubt the Anglican authorities will tell them politely to quit the premises. The Bishop of London has already signalled this.

  5. chonak says:

    Last time I checked CFC was still a paper organization with no members, funded by and speaking for a bunch of non-Catholic foundations that support population control and the sexual revolution: Buffett, Sunnen (condom manufacturer), Playboy, etc. As activist C. J. Doyle put it, “nothing but a well-funded letterhead”.

  6. What do I think? Dopey!

    Has this organization formally been denounced by the bishops since it carries the Catholic name? If not, when will this be done?

    I think the USCCB should have a page dedicated to US organizations, media, etc., that have been condemned or deemed “not Catholic” by their Ordinaries with links to the statements.

    The problem is that these statements and advisories are buried within any one of over 190 dioceses. There needs to a be a one stop shop and alphabetical listing. Perhaps then it would be a little easier for secular media to see that sources like this, the National Catholic Reporter, and the American Catholic Council are NOT Catholic.

  7. One more thing on my last point: Perhaps those behind Catholic News Service tweets will remove those sources like National Catholic Reporter, which has been condemned as “not Catholic” back in 1968, from among their “CNS Client” list on Twitter.

  8. Kerry says:

    Oh dear me, sad, sad, sad. He’s sad, she’s sad, were sad, they’re sad,I’m sad, are you sad too? Oh the poor suffering community, sad, sad sad. “All performed their tragic part”, (quote for you Father Z), there struts the President (sic.) of C. for C., there the high tide of conscience. Twaddle!

  9. Microtouch says:

    He needs our prayers.

  10. Actosrep says:

    “All of the people who work at the hospital know that their actions are driven by their consciences, from the doctors, nurses and other medical personnel right through to the administration and support staff. They all acted in good conscience.”

    As my mom used to tell me, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions”

  11. MattnSue says:

    There is no argumentation, Father. The whole statement makes for a nice, PR type statement, bashing the bishop. But it is not any argumentation. The only spot that could be called an argument is made at the end, when he states that it’s good to get the church out of medical decisions. This, however, contradicts the whole “how sad” position of the first 70% of the statement.

    This tells me what we’ve already known and have seen countless times repeated on this blog with other issues. There are people who enjoy being Catholic in name while acting as they please, as it allows them to get more press and more support when the Church does as it should and tries to correct them. If this hospital had courage, it would have instead said long ago “we want to do abortions, so we no longer want to be called a Catholic hospital.” The same with “catholics” for choice. If they truly respected their own (and the church’s) positions, they’d call themselves “former catholics for choice. ” But there are those who know how to work the game, and, just like as young children, they get more attention by acting out and being corrected then by trying to better themselves.

  12. momoften says:

    Hmmm…I like the generalization that says “all of the people who work at the hospital” Really, ALL OF THE STAFF?….or the generalization of ‘people seeking services’ under the guise of compassion. Sloppy, sloppy journalism–if you want to call it that.

  13. Andy Milam says:

    All I can really say is WOW! That particular line of argumentation is the same that has been argued over at The National Catholic Register in Jimmy Akin’s article. Humanist Secularism is very illogical.

  14. bookworm says:

    Just consider the source… “Catholics for Choice”. Makes about as much sense as “Quakers for War” or “Baptists for Booze”. Or “Jews for Hamas”.

  15. Do they have any problem with the United States federal government telling hospitals what to do? Will they also deny their new masters, when told to do something against their consciences? I highly doubt it: as far as I know, the Bishop of Phoenix does not own any prisons, military forces, or nukes.

  16. Let’s pretend I’m all in favor of “choice”.

    1. Why would I want to mandate that a certain operation be available at every single hospital in Phoenix?

    2. Why would I insist that abortion is Catholic? Nobody shows up at Jehovah’s Witnesses meetings claiming that blood transfusions are JW.

    Now, you could argue that hospitals can’t afford to stay open without offering abortions, or that all responsible hospitals offer it. In that case, the hospital should be glad to get rid of the Catholic label, and “Catholic Healthcare” should be dropping the adjective like a dirty shirt. But for some reason, they want to be associated with such a benightedly primitive, horrendously cruel system of religious belief and ethics, even as a Lord High Shaman of said religion attempts to drive them away. Hmmmmmmmmm. It’s almost as if they believe all those primitive ethics make patients feel safer and think they’re more likely to get good care. Hmmmmmmmm.

  17. TJerome says:


  18. Supertradmum says:

    The author does not understand that it is the duty of every adult Catholic to form one’s conscience to the Teaching Magisterium of the Holy Catholic Church. To be a Catholic means entering into the struggle of one’s own sin and conforming one’s mind to the mind of Christ. Creating an independent conscience is not what either Newman or other spiritual guides have meant by the formation of conscience. God bless Bishop Olmsted. He is trying to help the adults on the board and in the hospital form their adult consciences.

  19. Young Canadian RC Male says:

    This argument’s quality and journalism is as desireable as excrement Fr. However this clearly demonstrates sad absence of the average person’s understanding of the Four last things and morality/moral theology.

    I’m not suprized though as the general message amongst the internet and blogosphere is that Church catechesis is pitiful and it’s rare to get any teaching in moral theology or for priests to preach about Hell from the pulpits. And you wonder why people write this garbage and you have to smear “blood” over their articles. They simply don’t know or understand or know of sin, moral theology, and hell to know Bishop Olmstead’s actions.

  20. motheroften says:

    Not sure if someone has already posted the link to the National Catholic Bioethics Center. They do a nice job explaining their position and backing up Bishop Omsted. Its worth reading.

  21. chcrix says:

    “The author does not understand that it is the duty of every adult Catholic to form one’s conscience to the Teaching Magisterium of the Holy Catholic Church. ”

    True, but the author is not a Catholic – whatever he may think.

    The argumentation is all right I suppose – given that it is supporting a position that is explicitly not Catholic.

    I’ll use the example of the retired Episcopal bishop John Shelby Spong. His views on theology are perfectly acceptable – for a non-Christian. Indeed, his views are very close to what my own were for several decades of my life. The difference between us is simply that I didn’t have the opportunity and effrontery to hold my hand out and accept a paycheck for acting as a nominal Christian bishop.

    The author here has the same problem. His principal error is to call himself Catholic. He is entitled to defend his views in that context. He is not entitled to build a Catholicism of his own definition.

    St. Joseph Hospital should (in honor) have explicitly renounced the Catholic moniker and not forced the bishop to revoke it. Similarly, the nun concerned should either renounce her orders or accept correction.

  22. jamesthedisciple says:

    Ooh, that’s Rich & Delicious!

  23. Peggy R says:

    This is weak boiler plate stuff–it’s all the bishop’s fault.
    –The bishop is insisting that his own whim be followed–has nothing to do with real moral thinking or Catholic teaching.
    –The bishop is beyond his field of expertise and should shut up.
    –The bishop is really the guilty sinful one.
    –The bishop did this to Sr. Macbride; she bears no responsibility for her excommunicated state.
    –We can do whatever we want!!!!!

    I ‘loved’ the writer’s use of “disallow” in the first para. Talk about dancing around the facts.

  24. irishgirl says:

    This ‘statement’ is not worth the paper it’s supposedly printed on. As Kerry said, ‘Twaddle’, and Tjerome said, ‘Sophomoric’!
    You really pulled it apart, Father Z-thanks for all the ‘comments and emphases’!
    Bravo to Bishop Olmstead for his courageous stand! Especially because today is the Feast of St. Thomas Becket!

  25. Jim Dorchak says:

    Fr. Z, I have a question about the ownership of these hospitals and the real estate involved as well as the monies that are made. Does the Diocese have any claim to these assets? It would seem to me that they should especially since they have been using the name “CATHOLIC” for how ever many years, but I do not know.
    I would just be wondering why the perpertrator(s) get to leave with the spoils? I mean if it had the name “Fr Z’s Hospital for Traditional Catholics” and you had a staff running it for you, would you not have rights to the property? Just a small question $$$,$$$,$$$.00. You may or may not know the answer.


  26. Gail F says:

    This is one of those arguments that picks a position and goes from there — without ever proving that the position is correct. The guy’s position is that whatever your conscience tells you (assuming that you have one and pay attention to it in the first place) is right. A stupid position, considering that my conscience might tell me a completely different thing from yours, and they can’t both be right — but that is the standard thing being taught about consciences these days: be true to your heart, your heart can’t steer you wrong, etc. etc. etc. You don’t have to worry about rules and figuring out what is right and wrong from evidence or principles, your conscience magically steers you right every time.

    The only argument for Catholic hospitals performing abortions, etc., that I have heard that holds water is this one: Sometimes a Catholic hospital is the only one around, and if a person is not Catholic he/she should not have to put up with medical services withheld because of someone else’s religious beliefs. As if, say, the Jehovah’s Witnesses operated the only hospital in your town but would not give you blood transfusions during surgery. The Catholic position is still defensible: Surely a hospital with Catholic rules is better than no hospital; no one else is prohibited from setting up a hospital with different rules; Catholics have the right to set up hospitals with their own rules and no doctors/nurses/staff should be forced to perform a procedure or prescribe a medicine that conflicts with his/her beliefs; etc.

  27. MrTipsNZ says:

    The argument seems to proceed thus:

    -is abortion medically necessary?
    -competent conscience determines the necessity
    -a doctors conscience decides its necessary
    -if its medically necessary, then its also morally acceptable
    -bishops should not try and be doctors
    -hence, perhaps Catholics should get out of healthcare (for that is the simmering insinuation near the end of the article)

    Of course, what Mr O’Brien fails to be even about is that 1) doctors should not attempt to be Bishops, and 2) they are not as competent in morals as Bishops

    Coming from New Zealand and not having a Catholic healthcare structure, I can’t comment on the impact this might have but it seems pretty clear what O’Brien is heading towards: get those troublesome Catholics out of healthcare delivery.

  28. I’d like to read the statement sent out after Jesus cleared the Temple. ;)

  29. LaudemGloriae says:

    The Bishop didn’t excommunicate anyone. The parties involved excommunicated themselves. The Bishop is not a medical doctor nor does he have any power over patient care. He does have authority over faith and morals and that applies to institutions under his pastoral care, like the hospital. Institutions that choose not to be guided by the faith and morals properly taught by the Bishop ought to separate themselves. Herein is what galls me about the situation with the hospital and all such defiant entities: if they don’t want to be Catholic, they should peacably separate themselves instead of stubbornly defying Catholic teaching and playing the victim when they are reproached. It’s cowardly and pernicious.

    One wonders how many financial resources were poured into this hospital in good faith only to be betrayed by the stewards of it.

  30. Stephen Anthony Gregory says:

    Perhaps I am missing something here. This is an argument? It lacks any of the forms I learned in my Logic class.

    What is more interesting to me is that bit at the end about the bishop encouraging people TO get their medical services from St. Joseph Hospital. I suspect this is the case, most bishops want their faithful to use diocesan affiliates. In the far end of my diocese, for example, the Catholic hospital, from what I have heard, does not provide the same quality of care as the other (secular or Protestant) hospital but the diocese wants diocesan employees to use it any way and they give incentive to use it by how the insurance through the diocese works. Where I am, the Catholic hospital is a top notch facility, Deo gratias!

    That said, if people aren’t paying attention to their bishops instructions regarding abortion and contraception, why would they listen to his suggestion to use St. Joseph Hospital? The biggest concern might be if anything will change at this facility or others just because they no longer will have recourse to the Sacraments. This is especially true if we are talking about a diocese wherein there are many priests who dissent over “reproductive care” who might take it upon themselves to offer the Sacraments against the order of the bishop. This could easily be the case many places.

  31. KAS says:

    God bless Bishop Olmsted for doing the right thing! I am a fan of any Bishop who stands up and does his job as God’s Servant! Way to Go, Bishop Olmsted! WHOOP!

  32. Martial Artist says:

    What an appallingly dishonest argument on the part of Mr. Jon O’Brien. But, having said that, it is fairly obvious that anyone who belongs to the organzation of which he is President is dishonest even to themselves, whether intentionally or out of some delusion. The “product” he is selling would vanish from the marketplace if everyone were brutally honest in thought, word and deed. Something tells me that is not going to happen short of Christ’s return. And I am quite confident that Mr. O’Brien’s earning a salary from peddling this sort of tripe is not conducive to his dealing with his own self-deception. Those who said he needs our prayers are correct, if understating the case—he needs the prayers of all Christians including all of the Saints.

    Pax et bonum,
    Keith Töpfer

  33. Gabriel Austin says:

    Am I mistaken to remember that two OB/GYNs at the hospital said that the abortion was not medically necessary?
    The decision was a medical mistake. We have heard of those.

    [P.S. for Fr. Z.: Please stop using the word “dumb” to mean “stupid”].

  34. jcn0903 says:

    What ever happened to logic and argument?

  35. RuariJM says:

    This case has, as far as I can tell, simply been reported on in an hysterical, anti-Church manner. One thing I have noticed missing from all the reports, though is a dispassionate analysis and reporting of any other therapies that were tried.
    Did the lady in question get warfarin, oxygen or diuretics treatment?
    Or more complex, channelled therapies like calcium channel blockers, endothelin receptor antagonists, phosphodiesterase 5 inhibitors, or prostaglandins? If she did, what happened? If she didn’t, why not?
    I’d just like to be absolutely certain that all other avenues were exhausted before the route of ’emergency operation’, that the bleeding hearts of those who advocated the abortion had, indeed, bled their full of compassion and professional care, before undertaking an operation that at least two of their own staff said was unnecessary.

  36. RuariJM: Rightfully or wrongly, the hospital is invoking “privacy” concerning the patient’s treatment.

  37. Tony Layne says:

    All of the people who work at the hospital know that their actions are driven by their consciences, from the doctors, nurses and other medical personnel right through to the administration and support staff. They all acted in good conscience.”

    Again we see the “primacy of the individual conscience”, to which many dissidents appeal as warrant and justification for their being “pro-_____ Catholics”. I have even seen one person refer to paragraph 1776 of the Catechism to justify calling the primacy of conscience “the central tenet of Catholic teaching”! If she had looked just a bit further, though, this is what she would have read:

    A human being must always obey the certain judgment of his conscience. … Yet it can happen that moral conscience remains in ignorance and makes erroneous judgments about acts to be performed or already committed.

    This ignorance can often be imputed to personal responsibility. This is the case where a man “takes little trouble to find out what is good and true, or when conscience is by degrees almost blinded through the habit of committing sin” (Gaudium et Spes, 16). In such cases, the person is culpable for the sins he commits.

    Ignorance of Christ and his Gospel, bad example given by others, enslavement to one’s passions, assertion of a mistaken notion of autonomy of conscience, rejection of the Church’s authority and her teaching [emphasis mine], lack of conversion and of charity: these can be at the source of errors of judgment in moral conduct.

    One rule that applies in every case (see paragraph 1789) is that a Catholic may never do evil for the sake of a good result (cf. Rom 3:8). “A good intention … does not make behavior that is intrinsically disordered … good or just. The end does not justify the means” (1753). And, “[i]t is therefore an error to judge the morality of human acts by considering only the intention that inspires them or the circumstances (environmental, social pressure, duress or emergency, etc.) which supply their context. There are acts which, in and of themselves, independently of circumstances and intentions, are always gravely illicit by reason of their object …” (1756, emphasis mine).

    Jon O’Brien’s assertion that the people responsible for the decision to violate the EDs were “acting in good conscience” is hardly tenable. The conviction that one is justified in his actions is not the same as good conscience, else we could say that the loons who blow up abortion mills and kill abortion doctors are also “acting in good conscience”—you can’t deny one without denying the other. I also find ludicrous his suggestion that a doctor’s simple assertion of “medical necessity” puts the analysis beyond the reach of ethical scrutiny, as if doctors were incapable of having malformed consciences or defective reasoning by virtue of their training and certification. I find even more ridiculous his apparent belief that, by stripping St. Joseph’s of their Catholic name, Bp. Olmsted somehow lost influence among the faithful of Tucson or his succession to the apostles.

    Someone once cracked that the line for “cafeteria Catholics” forms right behind Martin Luther. I hope, as the bricks go up, the entrance to the cafeteria is quickly and finally blocked.

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