Catholic Is as Catholic Does in Phoenix

Catholic Is as Catholic Does in Phoenix

We are so grateful to Bishop Thomas Olmsted from the Archdiocese of Phoenix, Arizona, that words cannot express our joy! For the first time in a very long time, a shepherd of the Church has put his foot down lovingly and with no hint of compromise. explains what went down:

In late 2009, an abortion took place at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix after a hospital ethics committee deemed the abortion necessary to save the life of the mother. Sister Margaret Mary McBride, the hospital’s vice president of mission integration, was a member of the committee that made the decision and has since been assigned new duties.

However, the hospital has steadfastly defended the abortion, stating:

At St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center, our highly skilled clinical professionals face life and death decisions every day. Those decisions are guided by our values of dignity, justice and respect, and the belief that all life is sacred.

We have always adhered to the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services as we carry out our healing ministry and we continue to abide by them. As the preamble to the Directives notes, “While providing standards and guidance, the Directives do not cover in detail all the complex issues that confront Catholic health care today.”

In those instances where the Directives do not explicitly address a clinical situation—such as when a pregnancy threatens a woman’s life—an Ethics Committee is convened to help our caregivers and their patients make the most life-affirming decision.

In this tragic case, the treatment necessary to save the mother’s life required the termination of an 11-week pregnancy. This decision was made after consultation with the patient, her family, her physicians, and in consultation with the Ethics Committee, of which Sr. Margaret McBride is a member.

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What is stunning about the statement is the arrogant tone suggesting that the Catholic directives are inadequate when addressing a life and death decision that includes the intentional killing of one of the two patients involved. This prompted Bishop Olmsted to make a public statement on the matter:

I am gravely concerned by the fact that an abortion was performed several months ago in a Catholic hospital in this Diocese. I am further concerned by the hospital’s statement that the termination of a human life was necessary to treat the mother’s underlying medical condition.

An unborn child is not a disease. While medical professionals should certainly try to save a pregnant mother’s life, the means by which they do it can never be by directly killing her unborn child. The end does not justify the means.

Every Catholic institution is obliged to defend human life at all its stages; from conception to natural death. This obligation is also placed upon every Catholic individual. If a Catholic formally cooperates in the procurement of an abortion, they are automatically excommunicated by that action. The Catholic Church will continue to defend life and proclaim the evil of abortion without compromise, and must act to correct even her own members if they fail in this duty.

We always must remember that when a difficult medical situation involves a pregnant woman, there are two patients in need of treatment and care; not merely one. The unborn child’s life is just as sacred as the mother’s life, and neither life can be preferred over the other. A woman is rightly called “mother” upon the moment of conception [biological beginning] and throughout her entire pregnancy is considered to be “with child.”

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The direct killing of an unborn child is always immoral, no matter the circumstances, and it cannot be permitted in any institution that claims to be authentically Catholic.

As our late Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, solemnly taught in his encyclical The Gospel of Life, a “direct abortion, that is, abortion willed as an end or as a means, always constitutes a grave moral disorder, since it is the deliberate killing of an innocent human being” (The Gospel of Life #62).

The Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Healthcare Institutions (ERDs) are very clear on this issue: “Catholic health care ministry witnesses to the sanctity of life from the moment of conception until death. The Church’s defense of life encompasses the unborn and the care of women and their children during and after pregnancy” (ERD, Part Four, Introduction). The ERDs further state that “Abortion (that is, the directly intended termination of pregnancy before viability or the directly intended destruction of a viable fetus) is never permitted. Every procedure whose sole immediate effect is the termination of pregnancy before viability is an abortion. … Catholic health care institutions are not to provide abortion services, even based upon the principle of material cooperation. In this context, Catholic health care institutions need to be concerned about the danger of scandal in any association with abortion providers” (ERD 45).


Bishop Olmsted borrowed this moment in time to teach a valuable truth about the difference between the consistency of Catholic teaching and the incredibly weak interpretation frequently mouthed by those claiming to be faithful while acting in a way that is contradictory. This was made clear by  Catholic Healthcare West, which oversees St. Joseph’s Hospital. The company sent a letter to Bishop Olmsted on Monday defending McBride’s and the hospital’s actions, claiming, “If there had been a way to save the pregnancy and still prevent the death of the mother, we would have done it. We are convinced there was not.”

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There is perfect clarity in Catholic teaching, which can be enunciated without embellishment. Apparently Catholic Healthcare West disagrees, but that does not change the fact that an intentional abortion is an act of killing … a human being dies.

It is for this reason that we publicly expressed our sincere gratitude to Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted. We invite you to do likewise.

To contact Bishop Thomas Olmsted:

Diocese of Phoenix
400 East Monroe Street
Phoenix, Arizona 85004-2336
Phone: 602-354-2000 
Fax: 602-354-2427
E-mail: //