We have seen this movie before, and it ain’t The Bells of St. Mary’s.

We have seen this movie before, and it ain’t The Bells of St. Mary’s.

The conflict in Phoenix between Bp. Thomas Olmsted and St. Joseph’s Hospital exemplifies a deeper problem, which more and more is going to tear the unity of the Church in the United States.

St. Joseph’s Hospital, run by the Religious Sisters of Mercy with the administration of Catholic Healthcare West based in San Francisco, at the okay of their ethics panel, did a direct abortion.  They have also provided contraceptive services and, apparently, done other abortions, according to the statement made by Bp. Olmsted.

Since the Hospital’s administration will not obey the local bishop in these matters, the local bishop has determined that the hospital is not Catholic and may not identify itself as such.

The ultra-liberal National Catholic Reporter, condemned by the local ordinary in Kansas City, Bp. Charles Helmsing as long ago as 1968, today published that the Catholic Health Association has backed the hospital against the bishop. Under the direction of Sr. Carol Keehan, the CHA gave cover to pro-abortion “Catholic” Democrats to vote in favor of health care legislation which the Catholic bishops warned would provide taxpayer money for abortions.

Sr. Keehan parroted the statement released by St. Joseph’s Hospital after Bp. Olmsted’s decree, “They carefully evaluated the patient’s situation and correctly applied the ‘Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services’ to it, saving the only life that was possible to save.”  Of course, it is the local bishop who makes these determinations, not Sr. Carol and the Catholic Health Association, and the bishop disagrees.

Just as an aside, the Chairman of Catholic Health Association’s board is Catholic Healthcare West’s CEO, Lloyd Dean.

To our eternal shame there were also Catholics on the side of the Holocaust.

The liberal, small-c catholic left in the USA is evolving a parallel church, once again in this case under a “Magisterium of Nuns“, claiming the right to teach over and against the legitimate pastors of the Church, the bishops.

St. Joseph’s Hospital will go on functioning.  Many people will seek care there.  Many of those who are paying attention will decide to back the hospital against the bishop, determine that the administrators are the authentic interpreters of Catholic teaching, not the bishop.  This has played itself out in the past one more than one occasion.  The Donatist Church and Priscillianism come to mind.  Groups which break off from the Church will always have a following.

But the fact remains that St. Joseph’s Hospital in Phoenix is no longer a Catholic Hospital and it was the bishop who made that determination, not some corporate board who decided to jettison the baggage of the heritage of which they are so proud… when they are fund-raising.  The bishop removed the title.

“So what?”, some cynics will snicker.  “So the bishop took away their title.   Big deal.”   Others, perhaps of the more conservative stripe will fume that the bishop should have done even more, that his measures didn’t go far enough.

No.   This isn’t a “big deal“.  This is a huge deal.

“This changes very little”, some will say, “and it is only a symbolic move.”

Of course it is symbolic!  Symbols are, for Catholics, important and powerful.

You may be tempted to think, “Is that all the bishop can do?  Remove this symbol?  Remove the title ‘Catholic’?”  But, had this been a Methodist Hospital, would it matter if the hospital lost its “Methodist” title?  Would it matter if it kept it?  No, because symbols are not important to Methodists in the way they are to Catholics.  Catholicism is immersed in a profoundly symbolic world, like no other religion in history.

When a Catholic bishop issues a formal decree to confirm that you have stripped yourself of your Catholic identity, that is monumental.   This is what schism smells like, friends.

Be clear: the administration of the hospital stripped itself of its Catholic identity and Bp. Olmsted confirmed their decision.

Bp. Olmsted’s move reaches far beyond that one hospital.

Our proximity to Christmas, and this sad tale of conflict, leads me to the image of Bp. Olmsted playing the role The Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come, pointing his finger at a dismal future for “Catholic” institutions, hospitals, universities, which have eroded their Catholic identity to the point where they no longer accept the authority of the bishops to teach and discipline.  Instead, they embrace, once again, a Magisterium of Nuns.

We have seen this all before.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Emanations from Penumbras, Magisterium of Nuns, New Evangelization, Our Catholic Identity, The Drill, The future and our choices, Wherein Fr. Z Rants and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Father DiMaria says:

    “The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come.” I love it! Yes, the bishop is being prophetic. I am greatly edified by Bishop Olmsted’s courage to confront the “magisterium of the nuns” and “call a spade a spade.” It is my hope that many more Bishops will be willing to follow his example.

  2. rfox2 says:

    You’re absolutely right, Father. This is a huge deal. The bishop did a courageous and good thing both by removing the hospital’s Catholic status, and proclaiming the excommunication. Of course the world is going to view this as trivial, but at this point we should expect that. I hope other bishops follow his example. It isn’t acceptable to be Catholic in name but not in substance. God bless Bishop Olmsted!

  3. Jason Keener says:

    Amen, Father Z. I agree 100%.

  4. irishgirl says:

    Amen, Father Z–I agree 1000 % !
    Wish that many more Bishops would follow Bishop Olmstead’s example of how to ‘bish’!

  5. Jack Hughes says:

    Bp. Thomas Olmsted rocks

  6. surgedomine says:

    I wish bishops here in France had half his backbone.

  7. digdigby says:

    The issue, as Dietrich Von Hildebrand clarified it years ago in ‘The Charitable Anathema’ is the absolutely vital and CHARITABLE role of anathema, excommunication and discipline as the IMMUNE SYSTEM of the Church. Once upon a time Voltaire attacked the Church with all his vast intellect but – important point – he LEFT the Church. This is the what Von Hildebrand emphasizes: the enemies of the Church now STAY in the church leading countless souls to Hell.

  8. Tantum Ergo says:

    I’ve just finished reading Chapter 9, “The Sermon” from Melville’s “Moby Dick”:
    “Woe to him who seeks to please rather than appal!… Woe to him who seeks to pour oil on the waters when God has brewed them into a gale! Woe to him whose good name is more to him than goodness!… Delight to him who gives no quarter in the truth, and kills, and burns, and destroys all sin though he pluck it out from under the robes of Senators and Judges. Delight,–top gallant delight to him, who acknowledges no law or lord, but the Lord his God, and is only a partiot to heaven.”
    Pax tecum, Bishop Olmsted!

  9. mike cliffson says:

    I’m impressed by seeing Bishop Olmsted on video.
    That’s me.( So many things to remember in one’s prayers!) Is he the sucessor of the apostles God wants him to be for his diocese? How should I know? The persecution indicates it- he’s getting stick all right!
    One thing I do know as a parent – it’d would have helped me to know that something with “catholic” over the door could ,should, and if necessary WOULD have that removed before sending my kids to schools that deny inter alia Christ’s divinity and reduce the faith to “your opinion.” So much the more so a hospital.
    And God forgive me the scandal I cause myself by my sins as a Known catholic.

  10. Bishop Olmsted is an untiring and holy man. He took the whole Diocese of Gallup, NM as well as his own diocese for quite a while and never missed a beat in either diocese. My mom and step-dad are the caretakers of Saint Anthony’s Mission Church in McNary Az., which is in the Diocese of Gallup. When Bishop Olmsted stepped in for Gallup, he was all over that mountain (White Mountains) doing what a great bishop does. My mom and step dad got to know him well and they were quite taken with him. They were sad to see him have to let go of the Gallup Diocese but in God’s great mercy, Bishop Wall was installed and they are so pleased with him as well.

  11. TJerome says:

    I hope his brother bishops support him. My biggest fear is that some bishop will issue a maudlin statement undercutting what he just did and the left-wing loon media will play it 24/7. Bishop Olmstead is indeed a prophet. God bless him and grant him a long life.

    ps: The “Magesterium of Fake Nuns” is more like it.

  12. Rob Cartusciello says:

    This is just the beginning.

    Wait until the face off against the Magisterium of the University Professors.

  13. Steve T. says:

    I wrote His Excellency and commended him on his action. I also suggested that he require the Sisters of Mercy to leave his diocese, since the hospital administrator noted that nothing was changing, the Sisters would still be there.

  14. scarda says:

    Then, Fr Z, what are the implications/obligations for the faithful with regards to their actions involving this formerly Catholic hospital? Are we to avoid it, or can we freely use it within licit bounds for our health needs? If nothing really has changed except the Catholic affiliation, how can we bring pressure to bear on them?

  15. I suggest that we rename the Magisterium of Horrible Nuns, Professors, and Theologians.

    Let us call it “the Manglesterium”. [Keep it simple, so that it has more impact. The Magisterium of Nuns.]

  16. Gregg the Obscure says:

    This is tragic. Principally it is tragic because people are being killed and led into mortal sin. Secondly because it is impeding the Church’s legitimate ministries. Thirdly because it is taking away one of the paths by which people may find the fullness of God’s truth in His Holy Church.

    A bit over eleven years ago, I was still a protestant. In my work for CHW (in the Pasadena regional office), I was introduced to the USCCB’s Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services. Because of that document, I read Humanae Vitae. Reading Humanae Vitae, even though I started with an eye to trying to discredit it, led me into the Church.

  17. Serviam1 says:

    So should there be such a display of episcopal governance in Boston. Instead, we get silence. A parallel church of secular professionals (read: powerful “Catholic” laymen as Jack Connors, MGH/Partners Healthcare CEO, the largest procurer of abortion in New England) remains entrenched in our Chancery. The true locus day to day diocesan administrative oversight rests with this crowd, not our dear Cardinal. The silence in Boston is truly a scandal.

    Meanwhile, I’m afraid faithful Catholics in Boston are hung out to dry. 175 years of Catholic Healthcare (Caritas Christi) in Boston is being allowed to die without a whimper. It is being absorbed quietly into a secular corporate model of Cerberus Capital Management.

  18. PM says:

    “Many of those who are paying attention will decide to back the hospital against the bishop, determine that the administrators are the authentic interpreters of Catholic teaching, not the bishop.” If it’s a matter of discipline or authority, certainly the bishop’s interpretation should prevail. But there is also the question of truth–a matter of natural law, accessible in principle by any reasoning person, including even administrators. If what one reader called the “VERY LIBERAL” former Bishop of Phoenix were still in charge, presumably he would have had no problem with what St. Joseph’s was doing. There are perhaps other Catholic (or “Catholic”) hospitals in other dioceses who behave as St. Joseph’s does. If we refrain from the uncharitable assumption that the local bishops are incompetent, indifferent, or wicked, then we perhaps should conclude they find such practices unproblematic. But I don’t think we would be celebrating the fidelity of their hospitals to the authoritative teachings of their bishops.

    The appeal to authority, I think, fails to satisfy. It is OK for those of us who acknowledge a duty to obey, but may not carry much conviction with anyone else.

  19. Tantum Ergo says:

    The episcopate is a masculine, fatherly charism: it requires a loving, but firm hand that does whatever it takes to protect his children from destruction. Bishops are gravely responsible for the souls of those in their care. God bless our courageous bishops who have labored (though often in secret) to bring about the repentance of those who kick against the goad. Also, may God strengthen and encourage the bishops who are reluctant to take a stand. My hope and prayer is that Bishop Olmsted’s action will bubble over into other realms… and begin with Notre Dame et al!

  20. Joseph-Mary says:

    There has been an unofficial schism in the Church for many many years.

    Those not faithful to the teachings of the Holy Church and to the legitimate authority of superiors are truly something other than Catholic: they are called protestant because they protest against the Church. These ‘religious sisters’ and ‘theologians’ who thumb their nose at legitimate authority and teachings are not Catholic, only in name to lead the unsuspecting astray.

  21. Laura says:

    I agree with PM. I’m not so satisfied with the Bishops letter, and am not going to rush over and pat him on the back. I am glad to hear that he is a good Bishop, but after reading the statement of the hospital, I don’t know if what they performed was an abortion in the most horrible sense. They operated to remove the organ that was putting the greatest strain on the mother’s *failed* heart–the placenta.

    Everyone assumes that they hacked apart the baby, because that is what they’ve seen in their pro-life movies. But that is not the case in every situation, and D and Cs are often performed on women *after* they’ve given birth if there is any tissue remaining, even though they have a healthy baby on the outside.

  22. visigrad says:

    I would urge all of you to write Bishop Olmsted offering encouragement and prayerful support.

  23. Laura says:

    And let’s remember that many Holy Saints (like San Juan de la Cruz) were imprisoned and tortured by the “good authorities” of the Church in their day. Father Z is right, this isn’t new, this is business as usual for the Church. [LOL! Wow… was that a nimble distortion of what I said!]

  24. PostCatholic says:

    It is interesting to see folks cheer the increasing definition of division in your Church, rather than lament it. I realize that abortion politics may be an area of doctrine in which compromise isn’t possible, but your post and the comments thereafter point to a larger dichotomy of liberal vs. conservative. How would you heal divisions?

  25. benedetta says:

    Actually Laura Fr. Z didn’t say this is not new. He said it was huge! Sr. McBride is quite comfortable it seems and is far from being tortured and imprisoned by what you castigate as the “Church.” BTW, St. John of the Cross was tortured and imprisoned by Carmelite religious who wished to continue their high livin’ liberal & permissive ways. As Mark Shea says, check thou it out. Forthwith…

  26. Ed Mechmann says:

    So, once again, we have the Catholic Health Association trying to establish itself as an alternate Magisterium when it comes to interpreting the Ethical and Religious Directives. This is very brazen, since the ERD’s themselves state very plainly that “The diocesan bishop has final responsibility for assessing and addressing issues of scandal” (ERD 71).

    This is precisely the danger that Cardinal George and Archbishop Dolan have warned against.

  27. EoinOBolguidhir says:

    A question for Father Z: can an excommunicated person still claim to be religious? Can an order still claim an excommunicant as a member? Perhaps we need a canonist. I don’t think we can call her Sister McBride anymore. Miss McBride sounds more appropriate.

    Suburbanbanshee: I don’t think you need to directly state that theologians are guilty of propagating an alternate magisterium: every heresy has a theologian for a father. Collectively they are probably the LAST people to whom anyone should listen when they speak about religion or the faith.

  28. Young Canadian RC Male says:

    TJerome says:
    22 December 2010 at 12:23 pm
    “I hope his brother bishops support him. My biggest fear is that some bishop will issue a maudlin statement undercutting what he just did and the left-wing loon media will play it 24/7. Bishop Olmstead is indeed a prophet. God bless him and grant him a long life. ps: The “Magesterium of Fake Nuns” is more like it.”

    I wish in a sense you hadn’t said that TJ. Now I fear that it will happen as it did in past like in my country, Canada. That would be history repeating itself, like the CCCB at the time of the late 60’s who stupidly released the “Winnipeg Statement” that basically extended a certain digit of the hand to Pope Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae and made it erroneously “OK” in Canada and perhaps elsewhere for birth control to be used by Catholics. If the media was a voracious wolf then, Today it is a ravenous beast pumped with steroids and I’m not sure our Vatican will react to it in timely fashion with its media capabilities limited in the inner circle (one cardinal with a Blackberry and a few people with e-mails, sad. Wormwood and his Uncle are three steps ahead of “the Enemy” already on that front.)

  29. Abigail Burke says:

    Should those of us who use the CHW system be concerned about the hospitals in our areas? Does anyone know if there is some sort of FAQs page or contact where we can find out if this sort of thing is happening at our hospital? Thank God that many of us have a choice of what health care facility we can use, and being that fortunate, I want to make sure I use one that upholds the teaching and morality of the Church, as well as supporting her legitimate authorities.

  30. Laura says:


    Yes, I know who tortured and imprisoned San Juan de la Cruz… they were technically authorities over a lowly brother. This was legal and in fact, they considered San Juan de la Cruz excommunicated. Legal, but clearly not moral.

  31. Father Z says: The ultra-liberal National Catholic Reporter, condemned by the local ordinary in Kansas City, Bp. Charles Helmsing as long ago as 1968, today published that the Catholic Health Association has backed the hospital against the bishop.

    Dear Father – I hope you include that in every post in which you mention the National Catholyc Reporter just to keep pounding the point home. Isn’t it interesting that the media always go to the NCR for opinion on Catholic matters when it is not Catholic.

  32. EXCHIEF says:

    There is a war to be won, and it will not be lest some battles are won in the process. We certainly have our battles lined up. The “catholic” health care BUSINESS ought to be the collective focus of the Bishops. But at the same time dissident clergy, heretical “catholic” politicians, and (non) “catholic” colleges and universities need be in the rifle sights of orthodox Catholics as well. We have our work cut out for us. If the Bishops collectively will not stand up then individual Bishops like Bp Olmstead need the backing of we the “Catholic Militant” even more. St. Michael gird us for these battles.

  33. Laura says:

    And I must say, the uncharitable attitude towards others on this blog is suffocating. People can be critical of aspect of the Church, and still love her. I was doing no “castigating”– how can I inflict sever punishment on the Church by remarking on an aspect of history? It is a fact that people who were high ranking officials in the Church have made mistakes in the past. Stating that is not a “sever reprimand.” Gird up thy loins.

  34. Laura says:

    Diane at Te Deum Laudamus , your website is *beautiful*. I wonder if you have read the report from the hospital? Initially I was thinking the doctors did in fact act in haste, but it states pulse/ ox levels, etc. that are so low I do not see how the baby could survive. The probability of death *in this case* was close to 100 per cent (her heart was failing, in fact the right side had stopped working).

    This breaks my heart.

  35. Brad says:

    Laura: you forgot to mention how the crusaders were war-mongers. That’s always next on the talking points.

  36. Laura says:

    Brad, Merry Christmas!

  37. Scott W. says:

    It is interesting to see folks cheer the increasing definition of division in your Church, rather than lament it.

    No, it is not the division we are cheering; it is the cheering of the all-t00-rare example of shepherds reaffirming Truth. [C’mon. They are getting better and better. Brick by brick.]

  38. Scott W. says:

    And note something regarding the CHA’s statement. During this whole time every defender of the hospital went to great pains to insist that no one knew enough details about this case to make a case for or against the hospital. They even implied or directly stated that the bishop didn’t have the knowledge and/or medical competence to do what he did. But now the CHA is saying the directives were followed. Well, which is it?

  39. gkeuter says:

    I just wrote an email to Bishop Olmsted to express my support for him. I would encourage everyone to do the same. You can send him an email at .

  40. gkeuter says:

    Oops. The address did not stick. Here is the email address for Bishop Olmsted.


  41. vmanning says:

    Absent immediate, forceful,consequential and public discipline of Carol Keehan by the ordinary with authority, the magisterium of nuns will continue to promote schism.Forget the USCCB;they are irrelevant ecclesiatically and remain largely the Democrat Party at prayer.Attrition by aging should eventually thin the ranks of bishops whose values were programmed by the 1960’s pop culture. They seem to be as out of touch with American Catholics that go to Mass as the Obama administration.

  42. Laura asked me: I wonder if you have read the report from the hospital?

    Yes, Laura. I read the report. I’m wondering what was done for this poor woman after she clearly told them a month prior that she did not want an abortion. The very next entry has her coming to the hospital in an emergency. Did the hospital tell her to restrict sodium in her diet? Did the hospital release her on medications aimed at treating her underlying pulmonary hypertension? What kind of insurance did she have? An abortion is very cheap in contrast to giving a patient long term care, up to and including hospitalization if necessary. This says nothing of the cost of dealing with a preemie in intensive care.

    A careful reading of the report reveals that much information is not given to us. We are given information very selectively.

    Here is an example of a doctor who explains what must be done for women with PH during pregnancy, and immediately after delivery. Where measures such as these taken by this caring hospital for a woman who clearly wanted to keep her baby? Here is a more recent slide presentation by this doctor with more details for medical professionals

    Here is another doctor discussing pregnancy and PH.

    The only thing that report has done for me is raise more questions. I would love to know what financial factors went into their recommendations based on the woman’s ability to pay, or insurance.

  43. Does anyone know who Sr. Keehan’s bishop is?

    In which diocese is Catholic Health Association?

    Has their “Catholic” status been yanked yet? If not, what are they waiting for?

  44. Clarification: Has anything been put out by a bishop about the use of the Catholic name by CHA?

  45. JMJ2in1 says:

    This is a HUGE deal because I am old enough to remember a darker time when no Bishop would publicly admonish any person or institution that went against Church teaching. There is a new WIND blowing. Praised be to God!

  46. mike cliffson says:

    Let alone it’s not only that, this abortion was thrashed out all over internet weeks back.
    Murder is murder.

  47. Scott W. says:

    No, it is not the division we are cheering; it is the cheering of the all-t00-rare example of shepherds reaffirming Truth. [C’mon. They are getting better and better. Brick by brick.]

    Ok, strike the “all-too-rare” so it doesn’t obliterate my main point–countering the bad faith assertion that we are cheering for division.

  48. It seems that the Chairman of Catholic Health Association’s board is Catholic Healthcare West’s CEO, Lloyd Dean.

  49. Charles E Flynn says:

    The trashing that took place a few weeks ago pales in comparison to this one, in which Mark Shea and Anne Rice dispute one another (405 comments and counting):


  50. benedetta says:

    Laura, nice to say “San Juan de la Cruz” in the original Spanish. Reminds me of Buddy Elf in “Elf”…”Francisco…Fran – cis -co…” Nice how it rolls off the tongue. Ah, the Romance languages!

    So are there other bishops who are making big mistakes or is your assessment limited to this particular one in this instance then. I mean because the sex scandal has haunted the quite liberal chanceries.

    First you wanted to talk all about the medical procedure, then you want to talk Church history and give the time tested revisionist examples of the Church as inquisitor. Now you say you love the Church but remain critical. It’s all great but when we attempt to respond then you accuse everyone here of lacking charity. Which, with all due respect seems a euphemism for, “Shut up.” or, even “Got to…” We are all, you included apparently, quite capable all on our own of making snide remarks.

    Getting back to the widening division, is it your position that there is no legitimate exercise of a Bishop with respect to Catholic teaching in an institution? Or are you nonchalant about that but see this as a women’s health issue. So?

  51. oratefratres says:

    Here is Bishops Olmsted’s official News Conference regarding St. Joseph’s hospital and the deceleration of Excommunication. Below is the Diocese of Phoenix’s Vimeo video link.


  52. UncleBlobb says:

    It is interesting to see folks cheer the increasing definition of division in your Church, rather than lament it. … but your post and the comments thereafter point to a larger dichotomy of liberal vs. conservative. How would you heal divisions?

    The actual division is not in its essence a political one, i.e. between conservative and liberal, but is a religious one, between orthodox and heterodox. And those of us who shout for joy at the actions of Bishop Olmstead may perhaps appear to lack charity to some unless seen with this correct hermeneutic. Those of us who see until recently no shepherds defending orthodoxy in The Church are quite elated as those who feel the great pleasure in exhaling, as in breathing the word “Finally!” Although sad and frustrated to the n’th degree with dissenters from within the Church leaving it, we are primarily happy that bishops in The Church are re-drawing a line clearly about what it truly means to be Catholic, and we hope to be within that circle with Jesus Christ and the faithful. Defining what is orthodox, and what is not, is a necessary first step to healing the division between orthodox and heterodox.

  53. benedetta says:

    Laura, you’re not throwing a nutty now are you? Because I took note of your comment before about men not understanding…us chicks gotta stick together, right?

  54. Randii says:

    The reality is that there is a defacto schism in the US church. There is no real unity at the grassroots level and has not been for a long time. I’d guess most US dioceses are affirming as is the one I live in.

    The church is more like the Episcopal church than many think. With no real definitve authority at a practical level.

    The laity believe what they want to believe. The US institutional church is quite progressive. If push comes to shove with the US government requiring Catholic hospitals to perform abortions I expect a large majority of Catholic hospitals will sever their ties with the church and go their own ways. As have the colleges.

    The horses are out of th barn and the new bishops can be conservative as you like but the laity and the institutional church will not go along. Again, for all practical purposes no one is in charge.

    The church has itself to blame for this. The Vatican issued many documents over the past 30 years but they never filtered down to the local churches. Instead of creating documents no one paid attention to the Vatican would have been better served if it has enforced fidelity to the “rules” instead of aquiescing to exceptions to the rules. And allowing education/catechisis to totally collapse.

    At this point it’s hard to see the US church being “put back together”. If anything, if Rome did have the courage to deamnd fidelity, the defacto schism would become real. The US church would mostly go it’s own way and break with Rome. It would financially cripple Rome which IMO is one reason Rome has let the US church go its way for decades now.

  55. WBBritton says:

    Excita, Domine, potentiam tuam, et veni!

  56. benedetta says:

    Randii, I wouldn’t necessarily agree with you that no documents issued by the Vatican in the last thirty years have filtered down. But it is interesting that the Vatican doesn’t go around aggressively enforcing things contrary to the “Church-as-old-time-inquisitor” portrayals of some. In the present situation, apparently the practices date back decades. So it’s not as though all of a sudden a bishop rushes in and pulls the rug out…this corporation has chosen its route as a business matter to the tune of billions over decades. If you look at the facts that side, which has thumbed its nose and provoked for quite a while and now though it will continue to reap the cash, now wishes to also portray itself as the little victim. It seems that the hospital set its course on a divergent path from the Church years ago and it also seems that this was done not as part of an overall vision of being true to some sort of higher ideals or calling but in the final analysis to grow as a business entity and generate and garner the maximum profit. It saw a niche in the market and preferred to cater to it instead of standing up for the values of the Church. Even secular analysis will tell you this is what the practice of medicine has come down to. We’re talking billions for this hospital system. In the face of this dehumanization, the Church continues to assert the dignity and inherent value of individuals.

  57. Laura says:


    I’m laughing audibly!

    Your questions are fair and I didn’t mean to accuse everyone of being uncharitable. Just the uncharitable ones (lol). But if you even question the reasoning, people tend to assert that we aren’t Catholic enough. If it is the truth then the truth should be able to stand up to some questions, right?

    I think we should always follow our bishops, even bad ones. But that does not mean we cannot question them–it does not mean that we cannot demand reasonable explanations. With the case of San Juan de la Cruz, even though he was horrible tortured– he produced the most beautiful work during that time. I’m a big proponent of the Flannery O’Connor quote that we ” have to suffer as much from the Church as for it.”

    But at the same time I am also an American woman, and a mother. I could have easily been that woman there. I know in my heart that a mother of four would not accept killing her child in her womb lightly. I think people tend to trivialize that. People read D and C and think that that equals dismembered baby. Which is a distortion of the truth; many women have D and C procedures following healthy, live babies being born or miscarriages. Just the fact that that procedure takes place, doesn’t mean that a baby was torn limb from limb.

    And I’m so tired of anyone who questions this action being labeled a “liberal.” And of course this is connected to the Authority of the Church in America following the sex scandal. A priest in the high school I attended was removed for abusing children. So it isn’t some liberal conspiracy to me–it is very close to home. But please note that nowhere did I initiate the discussion of the sex scandal here.

    Diane, thank you for your reply.
    I’ve read that the woman had medicaid. So it isn’t like she could exactly go shop around for a better doctor. She was not under the care of the hospital until she was in the ER, with heart failure. So they could not have told her *anything*.

    I just wonder what people think families like this are supposed to do? Die in the street?

  58. Scott W. says:

    Your questions are fair and I didn’t mean to accuse everyone of being uncharitable. Just the uncharitable ones (lol).

    For future reference, only pull the pin on the “uncharitable” grenade if you are willing to call out specifically what was said that was uncharitable and give a rationale for why it is uncharitable. Otherwise it’s just rhetorical blackmail.

    As far as questioning bishops. No one said one couldn’t. But the there are solid reasons for trusting the bishop and not CHW–For one, the hospital isn’t appealing over the bishop’s head which they are perfectly entitled to do. Indicating they know they haven’t got a leg to stand on. For another, the bishop is not doing this based on soley this incident, but on a whole list of formal cooperation with activities not in line with Church teaching. That is, the hospital doesn’t want to be in line with Catholic teaching.

    And just as an aside, as far as “I know in my heart that a mother of four would not accept killing her child in her womb lightly.” Agonizing over a moral dilemma does not make an evil act good. One might as well say, “I know in my heart that a husband would not accept blowing away his adulterous wife lightly.”

  59. benedetta says:

    Well if we say just for purposes of argument that it was indeed a terrible situation and that the hospital believed it was not directly taking the life of the baby, and after months and months of trying to defend it the Bishop raised the possibility of the hospital undergoing some sort of diocesan training such that he could assure the faithful of consistent Catholic practice going forward, well, what would be the harm in that. We spend a lot of time discussing the horrific situation which was finally presented but it seems that on balance that situation presented and the hospital took that particular action whilst in the context of decades of going its own way with respect to Catholic teaching. Whatever way you want to come down on whether the directives agreed upon by the Bishops permitted the direct taking of the child’s life, what the Bishop in fact said about the decision was that he cannot verify — going forward — that the hospital will be following Catholic teaching. That is all. So it would appear that the hospital itself basically in so many words told the Bishop to go away and forget it, going forward. Not only have they not been following Catholic teaching all along, but, they will not even work with their own diocese in which they are situated, nor necessarily follow the directives promulgated by the entire conference of Bishops. This is about whether the faithful can rely that the place is an authentically Catholic institution, now having already discussed the tragic incident and trying to get on with life, by doing some rather innocuous things with the diocese. The hospital by its own actions is saying that the faithful can not so rely on it by not extending basic cooperation. As a corporate entity with millions and millions in profits, it has made a rather cold and calculated move that it would rather invest in cooperating with what the Church considers immoral rather than recognize the spiritual needs of its Catholic consumers.

  60. Kate Asjes says:

    Dear Laura,

    I think you came close to winning me over–if the oxygen levels and heartbeat of the baby were so low that he couldn’t survive anyway, and the baby was too young to survive outside the womb should the mother die, why not save the mother and be sure one would live? But then I thought, if the oxygen and heartbeat were too low to sustain the life of the baby, why not let the baby die naturally, while doing everything possible to maintain the life of the mom?

    Someone close to me had a trisomy baby. One doctor did EVERYTHING in his power to persuade the mother to abort the baby NOW (even before she could consult her husband about test results). Why the big hurry, if that baby would most likely die before birth naturally?

    What if you learned that your child (age 1) had a disease that would most likely take his life at age 4. Wouldn’t you be troubled if the doctors encouraged you to kill your 1 year old now, rather than deal with the cost and hassle of caring for him for 3 years? Wouldn’t you do everything in your means to keep him alive? Again, why the big hurry to get that child dead? Where’s the faith in God, in miracles? Yes, the “medical professionals” think they are God.

  61. Laura says:

    Hi Scott,
    Point taken, please see Brad’s comments above re: uncharitable.

    The point was that D and C does not always mean abortion of a living baby.

  62. bookworm says:

    I think Bendetta hit the nail on the head here. The common presumption seems to be that Bp. Olmsted is “punishing” this hospital with loss of its Catholic affiliation solely for a single abortion done (allegedly) to save the life of the mother. In reality, that one act was simply the “straw that broke the camel’s back” after many years of activities contrary to Catholic ethics and morals.

    If this had genuinely been a case of hospital officials making an honest mistake in an extremely rare emergency situation, I would think they would have responded to the Bishop’s inquiries with assurances that everything possible would be done to keep it from happening again. Obviously, that did not happen in this case.

  63. eulogos says:

    Laura, It doesn’t matter whether they cut up the 11 week old baby or removed it from the womb whole it some way. Either way it constitutes killing the baby. But I don’t think they were going to do a C section on this very sick mother, or induce uterine contractions to expel the baby. In this case the most gruesome procedure would be the one medically easiest on the mother physically, so I would guess that is what they did. Morally it matters very little though.

    Diane points out a lot of things which could be done to try to save the mother, which should have been done, and which may or may not have worked. But suppose the hardest possible case, and only this abortion will save the mother’s life, and without it both will die. It is still not moral for us to take the baby’s life directly. In this case the outcome of the moral course is much worse from the human and emotional perspective than the outcome from the immoral course. But we cannot perform an intrinsically immoral act to obtain a better outcome.
    The church is not so much concerned that no one should die, but that no one should sin.
    Susan Peterson

  64. Laura says:


    I agree with everything you’ve said.

  65. TJerome says:

    “It seems that the Chairman of Catholic Health Association’s board is Catholic Healthcare West’s CEO, Lloyd Dean.”

    No “conflict of interest” there! Move along. I think we may be into interdict time!

  66. Laura said: I’ve read that the woman had medicaid. So it isn’t like she could exactly go shop around for a better doctor.

    If anyone has seen something indicating that the mother was on Medicaid, please provide a link here.

    If she was on Medicaid then it may explain a lot. An abortion is very cheap at a mere few hundred dollars.

    That’s the point: Poor women or women with lousy insurance, are pushed into having their baby murdered because it is the cheapest solution. Authentic compassion for the mother would encompass her desire to have the baby.

    I would still like to know what measures doctors took to help the poor woman control her pulmonary hypertension after she left the hospital a month prior. Obviously, she was stable enough to release the first time, but then had to come back a month later.

    What excuse would the hospital have given one month earlier had she consented to the abortion they were encouraging her to have at that time? Obviously, it was not an immediate life threatening situation then, or she would not have made it out of the hospital. St. Joseph’s claims on her second trip in, she was “dying” and they could save only one life.

    Was she “dying” a month earlier when they encouraged her to have the abortion?

    Many things are not adding up. Since the hospital has released only selective information. No where do they tell us what measures were taken to help this woman once she made the decision to take a risk by continuing her pregnancy.

  67. Dave N. says:

    I applaud Bp. Olmsted’s actions–would that more bishops (D’Arcy?) had had this amount of conviction.

    There was an interview with Bp. Olmsted and some other diocesean officials on Immaculate Heart Radio this afternoon. Unfortunately, the high road was not always taken and they came across as a bit vindictive and acerbic, imo. Bishops need more training on dealing with the press.

  68. Dave N – can you elaborate on what you meant about “not always taking the high road” in that radio show?

  69. Regarding Lloyd Dean and his position with Catholic Health Association (CHA), this Business Week profile seems to indicate it was a past position, but does not give dates:

    Mr. Dean served as Chairman of Trustees at Catholic Health Association Of The United States

    Source: http://investing.businessweek.com/research/stocks/private/person.asp?personId=1595880&privcapId=161315&previousCapId=292891&previousTitle=WELLS%20FARGO%20&%20CO

    However, Lloyd Dean is a member of the Executive Committee:


    Nice. Sr. Keehan is President and CEO of CHA and she backs Lloyd Dean – CEO/President of CHW, in opposition to the bishop.

  70. catholicmidwest says:

    Fr Z,
    You said, “The conflict in Phoenix between Bp. Thomas Olmsted and St. Joseph’s Hospital exemplifies a deeper problem, which more and more is going to tear the unity of the Church in the United States.”

    I believe that you are absolutely correct with this statement. I also believe that we have got to get out of the healthcare business as soon as possible, and that the actions of this bishop are spot on and the correct thing to do.

    Why do I say this? We don’t have the people to staff these hospitals correctly, or rather we REFUSE to staff them exclusively with Catholics and catholic-sympathizers, so that now, they have become secular hospitals that are Catholic-in-name-only. Therefore we are tossed around by these secular entities (healthcare facilities) that desire more than anything to participate in the therapeutic status quo–abortions, birth control, mercy killing, fertility treatments followed by “fetal reductions,” euthanasia, and all the rest of the therapeutic manipulation of life in which Americans routinely participate. [The extent of the manipulation that goes on is one of the worst unheralded scandals in American life, BTW.] Some of this is mandated by public desire; some by insurance agencies; some by the federal government. The basic manipulation of life is only going to get worse as the standard of living in the US falls, and as the federal government intervenes.

    We cannot allow healthcare agencies affiliated with us to shove us around and confuse the public about what our bigger mission is! We cannot allow the federal government or some insurance agency to shove us around either. The Catholic church does not exist primarily to dispense pills and take out tonsils. We are NOT primarily medical therapists, and the general public needs to know that. **Rather, we are here to spread the gospel.** If we aren’t going to get our crap together and perform our primary mission in all of our endeavors like we’d ought to do, then we need to get rid of those endeavors.

  71. catholicmidwest says:

    I don’t agree with you on many of your personal views, but today regrettably, I have to agree with some of the practical statements you have made.

    There is a de facto schism in the US. Many parties are involved in one way or another. Even in cases where the bishop of a diocese thinks he has “definitive authority” as you put it, his word is usually watered down by the time it gets to the people, in most cases by his own chancery or the priests of his own diocese. Many lay Catholics are members of this schism too, but not all. Many people go along with it because it’s all they have ever been taught or they want to be “nice” (equating “nice” with religion) and don’t know any better. However, I would hazard a guess that it’s a smaller proportion that would bolt than you might think if Rome were actually to lay down the law in some fashion. And I would guess that if people were faced with a stark choice, more than you think would come over to the side of the Church in Rome. But certainly not all, and you are quite right about that point. Maybe something like half would leave if the alternative “church” had the properties to appeal to them and some of the real estate, etc. (Wild A$$ guess, based on observations.)

    Catechesis & education has totally collapsed, yes. And that is the fault of the Church, local national & international. Plenty of blame to go around. Complete mess; epic failure.

    I’ve said for years now: You pay now or you pay later. The longer the Church puts off making it absolutely clear, in practical terms, what she is about, the more it’s going to cost to do so in the end when she finds it absolutely necessary or perish. There is no gentle accommodation; no easy way out. The longer we put it off, the sooner that day of choice comes. There is no other way for this to work out. Truth makes truth claims; it does not make suggestions. Therefore she must make truth claims far & wide, top and bottom, the same truth claims the church has always made. And those truth claims are, and always have been, disputed by the powers of evil who gain in strength most rapidly in the dark –and who also make claims concerning the state of the world and eternity.

    In the case of the healthcare thing, if we keep going as we are, we end up being tossed around by the US Federal government and I’m not sure it can get much worse than that short of being tossed around by the devil himself. We need to get out of that business NOW. We can’t handle it in our current condition, and we need to have the prudence and wisdom to understand that or it will be a fiasco that will hurt and hurt and keep on hurting, and furthermore, it won’t help our mission one bit for that to happen. Not one bit.

  72. bookworm says:

    “We need to get out of that business NOW.”

    I would like to make a suggestion nearly as drastic: I think it might be time for Church institutions to give up, or at least stop worrying about protecting, their tax exempt status. For one thing it really ties their hands as far as their ability to address specific political and social issues.

    Back in March the Illinois Supreme Court ruled against a downstate Catholic hospital that had been stripped of its tax-exempt status on the grounds that it didn’t render enough charity care to the needy (there may have been other reasons but I don’t remember what they were at the moment). The Catholic Health Association sided with the hospital in this case, of course.

    The adverse ruling was announced not long after CHA had endorsed Obamacare, which made me think that it was a sort of poetic justice… if CHA thinks government funded health care is so wonderful that they are willing, literally, to sell their soul for it, then maybe it’s high time they also share in paying for it.

    Most of you have probably heard of Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker Movement. Now while I don’t agree with a lot of what they are known for, I think Day was onto something with her opposition to tax exemption for church institutions on the grounds that the government should neither encourage nor discourage charity — it should be done for its own sake. (She also didn’t think relying on the government to care for the poor was a great idea and was no fan of the New Deal.) To this day, many Catholic Worker houses are NOT tax exempt.

  73. bookworm says:

    Also, just to clarify, Bp. Olmsted has stated that Catholics are still free to seek medical care at the affected hospital, just as they are free to seek care at any non-Catholic hospital.

  74. catholicmidwest says:

    I agree with you about Church facilities hankering after tax deductions, except for one (very major) thing. If we stop worrying about tax exemptions, we will not be able to compete financially and the hospitals won’t survive anyway, particularly once we get into the whole insurance/medicare/medicaid business of funding medical care. It’s just not realistic, but then, it’s not necessary to our mission anymore like it was a millennium ago, when there was no medical care except us and we could play by our rules exclusively.

    As to your last point, of course. That hospital is a secular hospital like any other secular hospital and should be treated no different than any of the rest of them. It’s a place to go for medical care, providing you watch yourself and avoid being taken by the therapeutic nuts that hang around hospitals in general.

  75. HenZeppelin says:

    “They didn’t preform an abortion. They just removed an organ called a placenta.” Is this a new form of obfuscation or has it been around awhile?

  76. catholicmidwest says:

    I would like to suggest that perhaps the Church’s responsibility when it comes to health care is no longer running the hospitals, but RATHER educating the people about what choices they moral have when they go into a hospital. And that should be informed by Catholic thinking about life, death, morality and mortality. Up til now, the church has been failing in this regard, as evidenced by the statistics regarding life issues: abortion, birth control, killing grandma off early, euthanasia, number of fertility procedures, etc.

    Now, I recognize that getting our crap together to actually teach our members how to manage their health care is harder than keeping these Catholic hospitals operating according to secular status quo. But that’s no reason at all not to shift gears because we need to for the sake of our mission.

  77. Actosrep says:

    It appears that this event may have been the “straw that broke the camel’s back.” My understanding, based upon the bishop’s statement, is that the hospital has also been providing contraceptive services as well as performing voluntary sterilizations. Catholicmidwest to your point, part of my own personal mission as a trained bioethicist and RCIA candidate is to show the laity the wisdom in church teachings as it relates to making ethical health care decisions. For those of you that are not aware, the National Catholic Bioethics Center http://www.ncbcenter.org/NetCommunity/Page.aspx?pid=399# has a full time ethicist on call in order to assist with ethical emergencies. Their number is (215) 877-2660 and they are available 24/7.

  78. catholicmidwest says:


    The problem is that I never know what the qualifications of any “center” like that one really truly are (except for what they say they are.) A lot of “Catholic centers of this or that” are not to be trusted. In this culture, all one has to do is slap the word “Catholic” on the door, and credibility becomes a Rohrschach test for the gullible. As an example, the CHA (CATHOLIC Health Association) is completely endorsed by some dioceses and many religious orders, as is the CATHOLIC Campaign for Human Development which is a huge crock of BS, even though it says Catholic in its name. Many of these outfits even get some of their funding from the collection plate.

    This kind of thing is rampant in the church and because they haven’t done anything about it, those of us in the laity have to fend for ourselves pretty much when it comes to practical details.

    The foundation of any moral advice I’ll listen to has to come solidly from Rome and continuity with tradition for me to listen. Not to be rude or anything, but that’s how it has to be for me to believe it.

  79. letchitsa1 says:

    Diane, to answer your questions:

    Does anyone know who Sr. Keehan’s bishop is?

    Her biography says she is based out of Washington, DC. If that is accurate, I believe that would make her bishop the newly-minted Cardinal Wuerl.

    In which diocese is Catholic Health Association?

    The CHA is based out of the Archdiocese of San Francisco.

    Has their “Catholic” status been yanked yet? If not, what are they waiting for?

    Probably not, and don’t hold your breath waiting for it to happen. Abp Niederauer is on the record for not excommunicating pro-abortion politicians because he doesn’t believe in politicizing the Eucharist. Holding such a view, he will not likely strip any undeserving organization within his archdiocese of its Catholic title. At the very least – his stance has made it clear he prefers a path of least resistance.

    Clarification: Has anything been put out by a bishop about the use of the Catholic name by CHA?

    The only thing I have seen from this bishop is a statement acknowledging that Bishop Olmstead has the right to act as he sees fit against these organizations within his diocese. Well, duh!

  80. Actosrep says:

    I can certainly understand your position. Having read a number of their publications and especially owing to the reputation of the president, Dr. John Haas, I feel comfortable in saying that the Center is firmly in line with Rome. Here is a link to Dr. Haas’ bio http://www.ncbcenter.org/NetCommunity/Page.aspx?pid=268 As always, I encourage folks to do their own digging and arrive at their own conclusions.

  81. Dave N. says:

    @ Diane,

    I consider the bishop’s act actually to be one of profound charity, in hopes that this will be a wakeup call for some of the administrators and workers at CHW along with those who participate in Mercy Care.

    In the radio interview I referred to, the whole event came across (to me at least) as yet another in a long string of politicized battles in the culture war–particularly in the responses of the canon lawyer for the diocese. (I can’t remember his name.) There was a lot oppositional “us” and “them” language but not many specifics provided about what “they” did, even after the interviewer provided very leading, softball questions. In summary, they sounded more like lawyers or politicians trying a case in the media than agents of the Church. Foremost, I couldn’t detect any sign of the profound charity which I mentioned above, which I still believe is the substance of the bishop’s act. This is far more than just a political spat within the Catholic Church and I thought a GREAT opportunity lost to give the faithful a deeper understanding of what’s going on here.

  82. @Dave N.

    Hmmmm…. you might see if there is an audio archive of the thing. I’d be interested in hear it.

  83. My comment with link is awaiting moderation (it’s not good to use more than one link lest it end up in moderation).

    I just listened to the 37 minute interview. It is excellent and I recommend other readers to listen to this very detailed interview.


    @Dave N. – this was a necessary and detailed interview. It was the nuts and bolts and wasn’t meant as a pastoral piece to bring people comfort, but to explain facts. I think it was perfect.

  84. On that last post, the interview was done by Immaculate Heart Radio. Featured, were Bishop Olmsted and the diocesan canon lawyer who worked with him on the case. They get into a range of issues surrounding this.

  85. Jack Hughes says:

    Dear bookworm

    Just think how many Religious congregations would go under if they wern’t worried about their tax exempt status. Even non-mendicant congregations such as the Benedictines of Mary and the Carmelite Monks of Wyoming who earn their bread by the work of their hand have problems making ends meet by that alone, never mind the complications of not being tax exempt. take away that and many of them who live hand to mouth as it is would likely just fold.

    Now in a Catholic society special priviledges would be given to Priests and Religious as a matter of coures e.g. the Benefit of the Clergy but sadly there are very few (if any) ‘Catholic’ societies these days.

  86. Randii says:

    I agree with some above that it’s past time for the Catholic church to get out of the hospital/health care business. it’s a model that worked centuries ago when there were no hospitals. That is no longer the case.

    Why not shift resources to education? Given the secular public schools now is the time to be opening – not closing religious schools. Unfortunately at a time when education is more critical than ever the church is getting out of primary/secondary education. Ironically Christian schools are booming and opening up at a pace to match the closing of Catholic schools – at least in my area.

  87. catholicmidwest says:

    Catholic schools aren’t really very productive by metrics useful to the church, although they do provide a good prep school education in many cases, which has helped with the upward mobility of the Catholic population in general. They also keep kids out of public schools which are even worse, much worse, and that’s a boon to parents who don’t want their kids acting any nastier than usual. Nevertheless, we have many dissident teachers and professors in Catholic schools and colleges. Not much often gets conveyed that’s useful to the mission of the Church, and many graduates subsequently leave in spirit, body or both. There’s only one thing worse than not being taught anything, and that’s being taught lies in the guise of truth, which inoculates one against the truth. That we have going on in our schools, unfortunately.

    A better use of our time & money would be genuine adult education, if Catholics could be convinced to put some honest effort into it. I’m not sure if that is possible, however. It’s not been part of the Catholic experience in the last century or two to attend real bible study or real catechesis meetings where one can ask questions and really think about how things must be, read the works of others (popes, saints, fathers of the church, Scripture, etc), and try to understand what Catholics are supposed to do.

  88. catholicmidwest says:

    And mind you, Randii,
    I don’t have any touchy-feely leftist BS in mind as the reading material. I’m talking about reading about Jerome and Augustine, the Old & New Testaments and the documents of the council of Nicea for starters. Catholics should know this stuff and they should know where what they are supposed to believe has come from.

  89. Pingback: Clarification… Ding… Dong… Ding | Fr. Z's Blog – What Does The Prayer Really Say?

  90. bookworm says:

    Re my suggestion that Catholic institutions stop pursuing tax-exempt status: I realize that would probably mean the end of many institutions and religious orders, and is certainly not a step to be taken lightly. However, it’s entirely possible that many institutions that would go under due to loss of donations made with tax exemptions in mind, are doomed to go under at some point anyway due to lack of vocations, loss of their essential mission, etc. Again, this would not be an easy or lightly considered step but if it were done, I believe those institutions or orders or apostolates that the Holy Spirit wanted to survive would find a way to survive — because people would support them anyway, tax deduction or no. The Church has survived a lot worse.

    As for Catholic education: catholicmidwest suggests that “genuine adult education” would be a better use of our time and money. There may be something to this. If you educate the adults properly, they will in turn teach their children properly, which is as it should be. You know how the flight attendants on airplanes always say that adults traveling with children, in case of emergency, should put on THEIR oxygen mask or life vest first before doing so for the child? That’s because THEY have to be capable of aiding the child if the child is to be saved. The same principle is at work here.

    Also, a parish could put together an absolutely top-flight adult education program with nationally-known speakers on a regular basis, refreshments, child care, etc. for a fraction of the cost of operating a parochial school.

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