About Me

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Australian philosopher, literary critic, legal scholar, and professional writer. Based in Newcastle, NSW. My latest books are THE TYRANNY OF OPINION: CONFORMITY AND THE FUTURE OF LIBERALISM (2019); AT THE DAWN OF A GREAT TRANSITION: THE QUESTION OF RADICAL ENHANCEMENT (2021); and HOW WE BECAME POST-LIBERAL: THE RISE AND FALL OF TOLERATION (2024).

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

More cruelty from the Catholic Church

I've left this issue alone so far, as Ophelia Benson is covering it well at Butterflies and Wheels, but I must add just a few observations.

The story concerns a Roman Catholic hospital in Phoenix, Arizona, which has now been stripped of its Catholic status by the local bishop. Since the hospital is not actually funded by the church, this seems like a case of "good riddance". Funding apparently comes from the state, and perhaps other sources, but not, so we are told, from the Diocese of Phoenix. Presumably it will now simply be a public hospital like any other.

Why was the hospital stripped of its religious status? Mainly because an emergency abortion was performed on a woman who was 11 weeks pregnant, in order to save her life. That was required by law, which is at it should be: we expect hospitals to take whatever steps are necessary to save our lives, and the state has perfectly good secular reasons to demand that they do so. These days, Catholic hospitals act as parts of local health networks, and anyone can find herself needing treatment in the local Catholic hospital, depending on which healthcare institution has the expertise and resources, and is nearby. There is no good reason for exemption of Catholic hospitals from the general law that we all have to rely on.

Now, I'm not stupid enough to think it realistic or desirable to force the Catholic Church to maintain its affiliation with organisations that act contrary to its "morality". No, let it strip hospitals of being "Catholic" if they obey the law. It can do this to as many as it likes. If that means that none of them are ultimately "Catholic", so be it. Many of these are fine institutions that have no need for any ongoing blessing from the cult that originally have founded them.

Meanwhile, we get to see just how cruel Catholic "morality" really is. In this case, the Church would prefer to force an adult woman, with real hopes, fears, and suffering - someone in urgent need and possibly feeling terrified - to die, rather than destroy a biological entity that is not even wired up neurologically to feel pain, and is certainly nowhere near capable of experiencing fear or psychological suffering, or of holding hopes for its future. Which is the appropriate subject for our compassion and solicitude?

The day when the Roman Catholic Church finally withers and dies cannot come too soon as far as I'm concerned. The good thing about stories like this, which show the organisation's true colours, is that they are likely to hasten that day.


Unknown said...

You make the church's position sound better than it really is. There was no choice between the fetus and the woman. The only choice was save the woman but not the fetus or let them both die. The church wanted to leave the decision up to god, killing the woman and the fetus.

Shaun said...

As I understand the case, the 11 week year old fetus was likely to die anyway. I just can't believe that Catholic church would condemn the mother to death simply to allow the fetus to die. Never mind the impact of her husband and children.

It is not about Catholic morality. It is about a small-minded Bishop engaging is a turf war over authority.


Russell Blackford said...

Yes, there was no real hope for the fetus anyway as I understand the case. But you can't destroy it, so the theory goes, in order to save a woman's life.

Shaun, I'm afraid it is about Catholic morality. This is, in fact, orthodox Catholic moral teaching, and other bishops have backed this guy's position.

Ophelia Benson said...

It is about Catholic morality, at least according to the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Rorschach said...

Maybe the MyHospitals website here in Australia should make mention of whether Hospitals are in any way connected to the Catholic Church, to give people a choice. Do you really want your life to depend on the decison of a Catholic ethics committee, should the situation arise ?