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Tussling Over Jesus

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Tussling Over Jesus

By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF

The National Catholic Reporter newspaper put it best: "Just days before Christians celebrated Christmas, Jesus got evicted."

Yet the person giving Jesus the heave-ho in this case was not a Bethlehem innkeeper. Nor was it an overzealous mayor angering conservatives by pulling down Christmas decorations. Rather, it was a prominent bishop, Thomas Olmsted, stripping St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix of its affiliation with the Roman Catholic diocese.

The hospital's offense? It had terminated a pregnancy to save the life of the mother. The hospital says the 27-year-old woman, a mother of four children, would almost certainly have died otherwise.

Bishop Olmsted initially excommunicated a nun, Sister Margaret McBride, who had been on the hospital's ethics committee and had approved of the decision. That seems to have been a failed attempt to bully the hospital into submission, but it refused to cave and continues to employ Sister Margaret. Now the bishop, in effect, is excommunicating the entire hospital — all because it saved a woman's life.

Make no mistake: This clash of values is a bellwether of a profound disagreement that is playing out at many Catholic hospitals around the country. These hospitals are part of the backbone of American health care, amounting to 15 percent of hospital beds.

Already in Bend, Ore., last year, a bishop ended the church's official relationship with St. Charles Medical Center for making tubal ligation sterilizations available to women who requested them. And two Catholic hospitals in Texas halted tubal ligations at the insistence of the local bishop in Tyler.

The National Women's Law Center has just issued a report quoting doctors at Catholic-affiliated hospitals as saying that sometimes they are forced by church doctrine to provide substandard care to women with miscarriages or ectopic pregnancies in ways that can leave the women infertile or even endanger their lives. More clashes are likely as the church hierarchy grows more conservative, and as hospitals and laity grow more impatient with bishops who seem increasingly out of touch.

Catholic hospitals like St. Joseph's that are evicted by the church continue to operate largely as before. The main consequence is that Mass can no longer be said in the hospital chapel. Thomas C. Fox, the editor of National Catholic Reporter, noted regretfully that a hospital with deep Catholic roots like St. Joseph's now cannot celebrate Mass, while airport chapels can. Mr. Fox added: "Olmsted's moral certitude is lifeless, leaving no place for compassionate Christianity."

To me, this battle illuminates two rival religious approaches, within the Catholic church and any spiritual tradition. One approach focuses upon dogma, sanctity, rules and the punishment of sinners. The other exalts compassion for the needy and mercy for sinners — and, perhaps, above all, inclusiveness.

The thought that keeps nagging at me is this: If you look at Bishop Olmsted and Sister Margaret as the protagonists in this battle, one of them truly seems to me to have emulated the life of Jesus. And it's not the bishop, who has spent much of his adult life as a Vatican bureaucrat climbing the career ladder. It's Sister Margaret, who like so many nuns has toiled for decades on behalf of the neediest and sickest among us.

Then along comes Bishop Olmsted to excommunicate the Christ-like figure in our story. If Jesus were around today, he might sue the bishop for defamation.

Yet in this battle, it's fascinating how much support St. Joseph's Hospital has had and how firmly it has pushed back — in effect, pounding 95 theses on the bishop's door. The hospital backed up Sister Margaret, and it rejected the bishop's demand that it never again terminate a pregnancy to save the life of a mother.

"St. Joseph's will continue through our words and deeds to carry out the healing ministry of Jesus," said Linda Hunt, the hospital president. "Our operations, policies, and procedures will not change." The Catholic Health Association of the United States, a network of Catholic hospitals around the country, stood squarely behind St. Joseph's.

Anne Rice, the author and a commentator on Catholicism, sees a potential turning point. "St. Joseph's refusal to knuckle under to the bishop is huge," she told me, adding: "Maybe rank-and-file Catholics are finally talking back to a hierarchy that long ago deserted them."

With the Vatican seemingly as deaf and remote as it was in 1517, some Catholics at the grass roots are pushing to recover their faith. Jamie L. Manson, the same columnist for National Catholic Reporter who proclaimed that Jesus had been "evicted," also argued powerfully that many ordinary Catholics have reached a breaking point and that St. Joseph's heralds a new vision of Catholicism: "Though they will be denied the opportunity to celebrate the Eucharist, the Eucharist will rise out of St. Joseph's every time the sick are healed, the frightened are comforted, the lonely are visited, the weak are fed, and vigil is kept over the dying."

Hallelujah.

http://www.nytimes.c.../27kristof.html

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The hospital had to kill one to save another. The church says not to kill one at all. The hospital saw nothing wrong at all to take a precious life. The hospital is now going to move on and do as it wants anyway and will hardly lose money and probably gain monetarily from this. The hospitals were started by the Catholics to serve the needy and was welcomed to do so. The hospital can now be as greedy as they want.

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the 27-year-old woman, a mother of four children, would almost certainly have died otherwise.
I would hate to consider the prospect of four motherless (probably young) children. The article didn't say whether the woman could become pregnant again in the future; all else equal, she should have a good decade or more of fecundity at her age now.

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When one believes that the life of the unborn child is just as valuable as a human, or just as worthy of protection as the mother, then this situation comes down to a simple act of deciding -which life has more value in saving.

It's not triage, where you save the life most likely to survive..... but that you save the life which you think "should" be saved.

This course of action might be fine for some but it runs contrary to the teaching on this issue with the Catholic Church, period.

It should also be noted, the information given above are not "the whole truth".

This was not the only abortion performed by this Catholic hospital nor the only course of action which runs contrary to Catholic teaching... and when the Bishop looked closer at the practices going on... and the hospitals firm stance that they would

continue on with un-Catholic type services...... well it was only natural that the Catholic brand should be removed from the facility.

Who could disagree that they Catholic church or any organization has a right to remove its self from involvement, should a conflict of interests or principles arise?

... And Just for the record, no one, not even a Bishop can evict Jesus from that hospital or anywhere else.... if his presence is desired.


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"Those people who will not be governed by God


will be ruled by tyrants."



William Penn

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