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.
I get and won't try to dispute why the Catholic Church is anti-abortion. But this incident, like similar ones before it, does somewhat perplex me: If the ethic at stake is the preservation of life, why is the life of a child considered more valuable -- as it apparently is in this case -- than the life of the mother? Or, in more abstract terms, than the lives of four other children who would have been deprived of the care of their mother?
For comparison's sake, I note that the Catholic Church more or less originated and provided the intellectual energy behind the "just war doctrine." Broadly speaking, it lets church members justify a course of action that always results in the maiming and killing of many innocent people—precisely so that greater harm, or evil, won't result from inaction.
I, for one, don't expect Catholic hospitals to start offering abortions right and left. Certainly, I'm not a Catholic. But Catholic hospitals provide much of the care available to people in rural and poor areas of the country, and it concerns me if they're being confined by policies that don't seem to place much value on the lives of actual living women.