Bishop’s Letter to CHW Leaked: Hospital to Lose Catholic Status
This morning the Arizona Republic has published a story about a confidential November 22 letter that Bishop Olmsted has sent to the managers of Phoenix’s St Joseph’s hospital, San Francisco-based Catholic (In Name Only) Healthcare West, also known as C(INO)HW.
The copy of the letter that the paper has is the stamped as “received” by C(INO)HW President Lloyd H. Dean, and it is no surprise that it is his office that has leaked the letter in an attempt to take their fight with the bishop into the Court of Media Opinion, where stories like “Mean Bishop Yells at Plucky Nun” or “Courageous Hospital Staff Defies Murderous Celibate with Funny Hat” are golden.
It is also no surprise that it is C(INO)HW who has decided to fight this one out in the media, and not the Bishop. Phoenix Catholics already know that our shepherd is not in the business of publicly correcting the dissent, disobedience, and scandal that are as much a part of the Church in Phoenix as they were of the Church of Corinth in St Paul’s day. Our Man in the Mitre is a vigilant shepherd, but he always works quietly and personally with tough cases, as a good pastor should; when nasty stuff in Olmsted’s diocese goes public, it’s always the wayward sheep that are doing the bleating. (Sidebar: when I went looking for a link to the sad 2009 case of excommunicate ex-priest and gay activist Chris Carpenter, I came across this unintentionally hilarious take on the old story from the East Valley Tribune’s notorious anti-Catholic bigot-columnist Lawn Griffiths. The headline? “Father Chris Carpenter Breaks with Catholic Diocese.” Right. Bishop Olmsted and all ye in communion with him: I hereby excommunicate you from the One, Holy, and Apostolic Church of Chris.)
Catholic Phoenix readers should really read the Bishop’s letter in its entirety. The circumstances that have necessitated its writing are lamentable—namely, the hospital’s performance of an induced abortion as a “life-saving” measure back in late 2009, a hospital nun’s approval of the procedure and her automatic excommunication, and the hospital’s continued public insistence that life-saving abortions are consistent with Catholic doctrine. But the bishop’s letter is a powerful and heartening portrait of a shepherd preparing to use his crosier not to try to pull the wayward in, but to push dissimulating wolves out of the fold.
In the letter, Bishop Olmsted takes on C(INO)HW’s claim in a previous letter that “many knowledgeable moral theologians have investigated this case…(it) is a very complex matter on which the best minds disagree.” (Note to dissident Catholics: this kind of thing makes you look really silly. “On the one hand, we have the Catechism and the Magisterium; on the other, we have someone with a degree from Georgetown whom we are paying, and she says something else. What’s a Catholic supposed to believe?”)
The Bishop’s reply:
In effect, you would have me believe that we will merely have to agree to disagree. But this resolution is unacceptable because it disregards my authority and responsibility to interpret the moral law and to teach the Catholic faith as a Successor of the Apostles…Thus far, you have insisted that you are not doing anything wrong, but that your interpretation (of the USCCB’s directives on Catholic health care) simply differs from my own. According to Catholic teaching, though, there cannot be a “tie” so to speak in this debate.
Until this time, you have not acknowledged my authority to settle this question, but have only provided the opinions of ethicists that agree with your opinion and disagree with mine.
If actions speak louder than words, your actions communicate to me that you do not respect my authority to authentically teach and interpret the moral law in this diocese. Moreover, your actions imply that you have no intention to acknowledge that what happened at St Joseph’s hospital was morally wrong…
What comes next is the Bishop’s announcement of what will probably be painful medicine to many—but perhaps not to his “patient”, who may be under heavy moral anesthesia: Olmsted asks one last time for compliance on a series of issues, while stating bluntly that he is not hopeful for any motion at all from C(INOH)W or St Joe’s, and then drops the deadline that explains why the letter was leaked this week:
I intend to publicly revoke my endorsement of St Joseph’s as a “Catholic” hospital unless I hear from you by Friday, December 17.
Sadly, we can be sure that there is no constructive response forthcoming from C(INO)HW this Friday. They released the letter so that they and their spokesmen and their army of media allies can control this story for a couple of days before the Bishop has to do what he says he is going to do on Friday.
Sadly, this will mean no licit Mass or chapel at St Joe’s. St Joseph’s Catholic Hospital will soon be “a hospital in the Catholic tradition” thanks to the mixture of ignorance, arrogance, and outright evil of all those complicit in last year’s tragic abortion.
Merry Christmas to you, too, CHW and St Joe’s.