Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Shortest blog post ever

Episcopal spine alert: Bishop Olmsted stands up to diabolical evil.

Diabolical evil responds here.

If I were a bishop, I'd be tempted to place the whole expletive deleted hospital under interdict.

Which is why Sr. McBride and I are, in our own ways, excellent examples of why women should never ever ever be ordained.

40 comments:

Anonymous said...

Erin:

Although I consider myself to be a liberal, left-leaning Catholic, I have always been completely opposed to abortion, yes, even in the cases of rape or incest. I believe abortion terminates human life.

That said, this particular case has caused me to rethink my position.

I would say this: If the medical staff is doing all it can to save both lives and it appears that the mother is going to die from pulmonary hypertension (this, at 11 weeks!), then I think an abortion is justified.

Of course, I realize that neither you, nor I, and probably Olmstead have access to the woman's medical records. I am basing my opinion only on what I have read in the press, and that is all I have to go on.

I do recall following this story eight or nine months ago, and I recall reading that the woman was so sick that she could not be moved to another hospital.

What is the point of having two people dead? (This woman had a couple of young children at home, didn't she? Maybe a husband?)

You know, sometimes I think our Catholic religion needs a good dose of "common sense" which I think is lacking here on the part of Olmstead.

Now, as to the other issues raised: tubal litigations, dispensing of contraceptives, whatever, then I think Olmstead is on much firmer ground in disassociating the Diocese from CHW.

Bern

Red Cardigan said...

Bern, the operating principle is this one: it is always wrong directly and intentionally to take the life of an innocent human being.

A child may never be *killed* so that her mother may live. Sometimes, tragically, an attempt to treat a pregnant woman for a disease will end up taking her child's life (e.g., if the woman receives cancer treatment while pregnant). This is not a direct, intentional killing.

Pulmonary hypertension is most dangerous to the woman for the two or three days *after* birth. At 11.5 weeks I highly doubt there was any immediate problem being *caused* by the baby's presence. Frankly, I would not be surprised at all, with the horror stories I've heard from women who had medical crises while pregnant, to learn that treating both patients would simply have been more expensive, more complicated, and potentially more fraught with the peril of eventual litigation for the hospital than killing off the child at the outset was. I would love to believe that hospitals never, ever made a decision to kill an unborn baby based on such utilitarian principles--but then, this is modern America, after all, where "medical ethics" and "what we can get away with" are more frequently synonymous than we'd like to believe.

Consider this, too: 50 to 70% of babies born at 24 weeks gestation survive. Was it really impossible for the medical team to keep mother and baby alive for twelve and a half more weeks? That's hardly something the hospital should be proud of; in fact, I can't imagine any pregnant woman choosing such a hospital.

Nothing I've read about this case leads me to suspect that the woman was imminently dying; in fact, if she had been, she most likely would not have survived the abortion, as surgery other than trauma surgery (even surgery to cut a child into pieces and vacuum her out of her mother's body) will put too great a strain on a dying person to be of much help.

Anonymous said...

You seem to believe anything from the pro-life side that confirms your opinions, no matter how preposterous, and nothing from people who do not share your belief system.

Since you don't know what happened, you are not in a position to judge the situation. You do feel free to assume the worst of the hospital staff. Presumably the bishop didn't get to view the medical record either, due to privacy laws.

Pulmonary hypertension is not just a risk after pregnancy. If the woman was already suffering from it prior to the pregnancy, the pregnancy may well have been a threat to her life. If she was as sick as they say, then both mother and 11-week old fetus would have died and four young children would be motherless.

But golly, at least there wouldn't have been an abortion.

Anonymous said...

Erin:

Thanks for your response, which I certainly have to give serious consideration to!

I enjoy your blog very much even though, as I said, I am a left-of-center liberal.

Time to go to bed! It's 11:30 PM here in RI, and I have to get up at 5:30 AM to head off to Boston for work tomorrow. (It's a 2 hour commute each way!!!!!)

Bern

Red Cardigan said...

Anonymous coward, Bishop Olmsted *is* in a position to judge the situation, and has said that this evil abortion was not necessary. Truth is, this "Catholic" hospital has been involved in evil for quite some time:

http://frjohnehrich.blogspot.com/2010/12/st-joseph-hospitals-dirty-little-secret.html

At least now the hypocrites and toadies who run the place can't call it a "Catholic" hospital anymore.

romishgraffiti said...

Truth is, this "Catholic" hospital has been involved in evil for quite some time

That's correct. The whole no-one-really-knows-what-happened thing is baloney. This episode was just the final outrage on top of a pattern of defiance.

Sarahndipity said...

I’m a conservative, mass attending, NFP-using, prolife Catholic. I have marched in the March for Life, volunteered at a crisis pregnancy center, and prayed in front of abortion clinics.

But I am *really* torn about this case. To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure if I can agree with the Church on this one.

I know that there’s a difference between performing a procedure that indirectly results in the death of the baby and directly killing the baby. I know that doctors will sometimes recommend abortion because it’s easier for them or less likely to result in a lawsuit, not because it’s really necessary. If something other than abortion can be done to save both mother and child in difficult medical circumstances, then by all means it should be done.

I had always been told that direct abortion is NEVER necessary to save the mother’s life. But after reading about this case, I’m not sure if that’s always true. Apparently the woman was so sick they couldn’t even move her to another room. How could she have survived 12 more weeks?

I guess I don’t know how the Church hierarchy, who are not doctors, can be absolutely, 100% sure that abortion is never, ever, ever necessary to save the mother’s life. I honestly think that pro-lifers really *want* to believe that. I know I did. And *most* of the time, they’re right – direct abortion is not necessary. Except for the few rare cases where it is. Nobody wants to come out and say that if direct abortion is the only thing that will save the mother’s life, the mother must die, along with the baby. But that’s the Church’s teaching, apparently. And I don’t know if I can accept that.

To me, this case is similar to removing an ectopic pregnancy, which is allowed by the church. It’s not as if they performed an abortion on a healthy pregnant woman who thought the child would derail her career. In that case, the excommunication and stripping the hospital of its Catholic status would be perfectly justified. But this woman was near death. With a husband and other children.

I speak as someone who had a very dangerous complication in my last pregnancy (severe preeclampsia) which resulted in me developing pretty severe health anxiety and panic attacks afterward, and who is now pregnant again despite using NFP to avoid. And my situation wasn’t nearly this dire. If you haven’t been there, you can’t imagine the sheer terror.

I read online that if a women with pulmonary hypertension gets pregnant, there is a 50% chance she’ll die. You might say, oh, so it’s not *certain* she will die, but that is just an unacceptable risk. Can you really ask a woman who may not even be Catholic to take on that risk?

One thing I know for sure – if I ever get pulmonary hypertension, I’m never having sex again!!!!

Sarahndipity said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
romishgraffiti said...

I guess I don’t know how the Church hierarchy, who are not doctors, can be absolutely, 100% sure that abortion is never, ever, ever necessary to save the mother’s life.

They can be 100% sure because we can be 100% sure that the number of innocent human beings one is permitted to kill deliberately is zero.

To me, this case is similar to removing an ectopic pregnancy, which is allowed by the church.

Some of the defenders of the hospital admin have tried to suggest that this was something other than abortion, but as far as I know, the fetus was dismembered while it was still alive, and no one disputes this. That's direct killing which if it wasn't, the excommunicated parties would be screaming it was not a direct abortion. Instead they have stuck to the life-of-the-mother card which indicates they don't really dispute that it was a direct abortion.

Can you really ask a woman who may not even be Catholic to take on that risk?

Yes. The prohibition against deliberately killing the innocent is universal, not just some Catholic rule that only applies to Catholics.

Sarahndipity said...

A very detailed analysis of this case is here:

http://www.commonwealmagazine.org/blog/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/St.-Josephs-Hospital-Analysis.pdf

Apparently the woman was Catholic and initially refused to have an abortion in spite of a doctor's recommendations. The abortion was performed when she had already had right heart failure and was near death.

Red Cardigan said...

Sarahndipity, I understand your feelings on this issue (preeclampsia twice. HBP after third baby, preg cat D drug, at present). The problem is that no matter what the circumstances may be, we are not allowed directly and intentionally to take the life of an innocent human being. That principle can't be abrogated or brushed aside, not ever.

What if a woman this same age, with four children and a congenital heart condition (but not pregnant), were rushed into the hospital? What if she were told that she needed a heart transplant right now, that not to have one would mean her death--and, as luck would have it, a homeless man slowly dying of cirrhosis of the liver in a room down the hall was her blood type and a perfect match for the heart transplant?

Come on, the world might say--the man's dying, and he's pretty worthless. Should we really have to wait until he dies naturally to take his heart and save this young woman with the four kids at home? Besides, he hasn't signed a donor card--we'll have to take his heart without his permission anyway, so is it really a big deal to hasten his death by a week or so? We're talking about saving a life, here. What sense does it make for *both* of them to die, when we can save her by just hurrying his death up a little?

If we object to this analogy and say, "Oh, but you're talking about an adult man who is viable on his own (if only for a little while) not about a fetus," then we've admitted that we assign value to human life based on conditions like age and condition of dependency--and once we start doing that, it's a pretty short trip to the horror of the commodification of all human life.

romishgraffiti said...

Come on, the world might say--the man's dying, and he's pretty worthless

I'll see your homeless man and raise you a hardened criminal. The moral calculus remains the same. "Let's deliberately kill this person, so that this person can live". is unacceptable.

Red Cardigan said...

Exactly. Which is why I think so many arguing in favor of the hospital (really arguing, not just pondering the issues, that is) have already accepted as a default the idea that the human fetus is less valuable than the human adult.

They get that idea from our sick and deranged culture--but they accept it uncritically and assume its value, which is why having it challenged by Bishop Olmsted is such a shock.

Sarahndipity said...

That's a good point, Red. I'll have to think on this some more.

The only problem is, in your scenario, it's always possible that they could find another heart from someone else who had already died. With the situation with the pregnant woman, the *only* way to save her was to perform the abortion. Also, the homeless man isn’t *causing* her death the same way the pregnancy is.

That’s the problem with using analogies to talk about abortion; there’s nothing in the world that’s quite like pregnancy.

Anonymous said...

Hi Erin,

I've found this whole scenario troubling since it first hit the news - not because I'm as ardently anti-abortion in all cases as you are, but I'm still not sure where I stand.

Like you, I suffered pre-eclampsia in my pregnancy. My BP shot way up in labor but we both got out of it alive. My baby was full term, so there was not a big question whether he would survive I'd needed an emergency C-birth.

I recall a post back on Rod's old blog, from a Catholic mother of several young children whose 4th or 5th pregnancy was terminated in a Catholic hospital with her priest by her side. Her eclampsia was not responding to treatment and the docs were sure she would not survive the day. They performed a C-birth but the premature baby died. That mom was still depressed and wrote that she wished she had died with her little daughter. I do believe it was the depression talking, because I can't believe she would want to leave her other children motherless. Still, it was clear from the post that her heart was broken.

I would like you to know, maybe this can be my Christmas present to you, that I am considering volunteering for BirthRight in my city. In all earnestness, as much as your writing style sometimes annoys me, your commitment to pre-born life has had an impact on my views of this issue - almost as much as my pregnancy did.

Blessings to you and yours during the Christmas season.

elizabeth

Amanda Borenstadt said...

Shortest blog post ever- yeah. But long comment thread. :)
Great points. I'm so glad you're standing up for unborn babies.

Sarahndipity said...

Elisabeth, I don't know all the details of that case you mentioned, but if they delivered a premature baby by c-section, then that's not an abortion. I take it they tried to save the baby.

John Thayer Jensen said...

@Sarahndipity:

but if they delivered a premature baby by c-section, then that's not an abortion. I take it they tried to save the baby.

This is what they did with my wife and our first. After three days' labour, she was nearly dead and they did a Caesar. Both she and our son survived, though he had some brain damage (some residual aphasia as a result) from the long period of oxygen deprivation.

Performing an operation intended to save the mother or the child is exactly right; performing an operation to kill the child, even as a means to saving the mother, cannot be.

jj

Anonymous said...

Sarahndipity,

Even though that was a legal procedure by Church standards, because they tried to save the baby, everyone involved probably knew the infant could not survive because it was simply not far enough along in its development (I believe she was in her fourth month).

How is that not an abortion by any other name?

Please don't get me wrong - I'm not arguing for any position here. I perceive a legalism here that confuses me. If the Arizona hospital had used a C-section to "deliver" the 11-week fetus, would that not have been an abortion than?

There seems to be a semantic game at the point when we all know that when mom dies so does her very young fetus, whereas her death won't impact "the dying drunk down the hall" one way or the other, to reference Erin's valiant attempt to describe a parallel situation. Pregnancy simply doesn't have an apt analogy.

Maybe Erin or some of you can point me to Catholic teaching links after the holiday.

Peace to all of you, and good will towards all men!

elizabeth

eulogos said...

If they delivered the baby before it had a reasonable chance of survival, that was an abortion, and having the priest by her side doesn't change that. I'd say with current level III NICU care, reasonable chance of survival = 25 weeks. Maybe 24. This was not " a legal procedure by Church standards" if she was only 16-20 weeks pregnant.

The moral law here does present some very painful scenarios. Sometimes "trying to save both" may indeed mean both will die. But Catholic ethics is not "outcome based." It has to do with the intrinsic nature of acts.

Susan Peterson

Red Cardigan said...

Elizabeth, you have made my day. God bless you, and Merry Christmas!

Red Cardigan said...

Oh, and as to the premature delivery: if we don't know exactly how far along the mother was, we really can't say. If she was 23 or 24 weeks pregnant--well, at 24 weeks chances of fetal survival are decent, and that's considered the point of viability by many. If the baby was delivered *knowing* there was no chance of survival, that's different, and was an abortion. But I would hope that this was not the case.

L. said...

As a thoroughly secular Catholic, I can only cheer the official declaration of another secular "Catholic" hospital! Woo-hoo!

I gave birth to one of my children in a "Catholic" hospital, and the doctor had no problem at all with my "my-life-before-the-baby's-at-all-times" birth plan (and even offered to surgically sterilize me after the c-section). None of that "trying-to-save-both,-even-if-one-will-almost-definitely-die" stuff for me -- no way.

I think Omsted's move was great, because people like me won't be afraid of going to that hospital now that everyone knows it's not Catholic, and only "Catholic."

So the only think I really disagree with here is....Erin, I don't agree with you on some things, but I think you would make an excellent priest, or even a bishop. Heck, if the Church ever allows married woman to be ordained, you've got my support!

Geoff G. said...

It kind of bothers me how blithely some people seem to be able to deal with this. This really strikes me as a rather terrible situation.

Eulogos:

But Catholic ethics is not "outcome based." It has to do with the intrinsic nature of acts.

This sounds dangerously close to a tenet of liberalism...as long as your heart was in the right place, who cares if your actions do more harm than good?

Conservatives often talk about unintended consequences and for very good reason. Paying attention to unintended consequences necessarily means that you have to look at the actions you take in an "outcome based" manner.

***

One thing that's worth asking here is whether there was any scenario at all where the baby survived.

If there wasn't, then perhaps the hospital did the right thing.

If there was, then the bishop is right.

I'm not a doctor, nor do I have all of the medical facts in the case. So it's probably best that I shut up.

***

I will agree that the hospital and health care chain do seem to have been violating Catholic teachings fairly flagrantly, and the removal of the its Catholic status was probably long overdue.

But this seems to me to be a really bad case to hang your hat on if that's what you want to do.

Sarahndipity said...

What Geoff G said.

I am also pretty flabbergasted at the lack of compassion for this poor woman from conservative Catholics. I just keep thinking "that could have been ME on that operating table." This situation is pretty much the worst thing that could possibly happen to a Catholic mother.

romishgraffiti said...

I am also pretty flabbergasted at the lack of compassion for this poor woman from conservative Catholics.


Respectfully, this is a cheap shot. No one I've listened to on this subject disputes that this family suffered and especially the mother. No one disputes that this is a very hard case. No one disputes that the idea of something similar is happening to commentors personally is awful. It makes sense to talk about what IS in dispute and not much about what isn't. It certainly doesn't translate into lack of compassion.

God bless,

Scott W.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

When I first read a reference to the ACLU sueing to force Catholic hospitals to perform abortions, I thought, there they go again, trying to force Catholic institutions to stop following Catholic principles just because many of the rest of us have different principles.

Then I looked up a story on the medical details. Those who recite that this hospital has a long record of doing many non-Catholic procedures have a point. To condemn the hospital for this therapeutic abortion is, in my seldom humble opinion, pure, unadulterated EVIL. Many have already commented on the pros and cons of "outcome based" consideration. Geoff G was very eloquent on that point.

I don't know how many debates I have engaged in with pro-life people, where sincere Roman Catholics denied that Irish priests EVER used to instruct doctors to save the baby even if it meant killing the mother. The comments here that are most disdainful of the mother's life don't go QUITE that far, but come VERY close. No, you didn't say, kill the mother to save the baby, but you did say, do everything possible to save the baby EVEN IF the mother is likely to die.

As for the examples of the homeless man and the hardened criminal, the very existence of these individuals is not the obstacle that, per se, threatens to bring about the death of the patient. Rather, they are a potential source of a life-saving treatment. There is a difference. A Jewish rabbi who advised that abortion is prohibited in all cases EXCEPT to save the life of the mother expounded that, in Jewish tradition, an abortion in that exceptional case is mandatory. The unborn child is deemed a "destroyer."

Jewish doctrine is not Catholic doctrine, and I don't adhere to either one, but it is a good, morally consistent, counter-example.

There is nothing wrong with Catholic institutions promoting and adhering to Catholic teaching. It doesn't matter if everyone else has markedly different principles. This is, however, one reason it is VERY important that every community also have NON-CATHOLIC hospitals, so those who do not adhere to Catholic doctrine have other options.

In the end, all the bishop has done is deprive the hospital of conducting mass in its chapel, keeping the Sacred Host in said chapel, and calling itself "Catholic." As long as that is true, there is in the end nothing objectionable about the bishop decreeing "This hospital is not Catholic," subject to appeals to archbishops and curia and the Bishop of Rome. But it doesn't speak well for the church's commitment to "life."

Anonymous said...

The Jewish perspective mentioned above parallels another difference between Jewish authorities and Catholics, that of the sacredness of the relationship between the pastoral advisor/confessor and members of the congregation. In Catholic teaching, as I understand it, even if someone confesses to planning a murder, the priest cannot give the name of the person making the threat to police or the intended victim, though he can let them know there is such a threat and do everything within his power to stop the killing short of naming the would-be perpetrator. The sacred nature of the confessional overrides all other considerations.

A Rabbi, OTOH, is required by Jewish law to name the would-be murderer to authorities. The life of the potential victim outweighs every other consideration. so in Judaism, embryonic or fetal life that threatens the mother's life is not "innocent" simply because the child does not intend to harm the mother.

In my Buddhist faith, there is no basis for choosing one life over another. We are not to kill anyone (including ourselves - self sacrifice is not encouraged) to protect another, even if it is a matter of a vicious attack on an innocent child. We should do everything to protect the child, short of killing - or harming in a way that will later lead to death - the attacker. We should stop the attack equally to protect the potential killer from the consequences, to himself and the world, of such a murder as to save the life of the child.

However everyone is responsible for their own karma. Someone who makes the choice to kill will have to deal with the karma inherent in the action and in the circumstances around the action. (Karma is universal the law of cause and effect, from which one only escapes by the elimination of ego-driven thoughts and behaviors - no small task).

This discussion as opened an entirely new door for me. I no longer wish to engage in arguments or discuss the legality of abortion at the margins of hard cases. I want to engage where most abortion happens - where women and girls feel helpless, scared, hopeless or ashamed about giving birth. As an old-school feminist who honors the capacity of the female body to bring forth new human life, I want to help eliminate pressures placed on women to abort, whether the come from other individuals or economic circumstances.

Peace and ease to all.

elizabeth

Catherine said...

If the mother was on death's door, how could she give her consent.
Was it her husband who consented to the procedure?

Anonymous said...

It's too bad the fetus couldn't be 're-implanted' in another womb, because from the initial article it says that uterine hormones interfered with the woman's ability to utilized oxygen from her lungs--pulmonary 'hypertension' which is not the same thing as pre-eclampsia, or the article would have said it was.

One of my class' beloved first-year professors used to say 'the human body is a marvelous instrument with a tremendous capacity for healing itself'. The year our class graduated pharmacy school, his newly pregnant wife developed idiopathic pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH). When she died, the school established a memorial scholarship. I believe the fetus survived and was born as his first son. Someone obviously made a choice about who was to live and who was to have an early death.

Ironically, one of the successful agents used in treatment of PAH was discovered after extensive application of medical research for treatment for erectile dysfunction more than a decade later.

Zircon

eulogos said...

Siarlys-

Someone may disagree with me, but I think the Catholic committment is to "not killing" as in "not sinning" rather than to biological life per se. Human life is a value even in the midst of struggle and suffering, but for an individual to preserve his or her life at all costs is not a Catholic value. The martyrs lost their lives rather than burn a pinch of incense to the emperor.
And, my worst nightmare when my children were small, but one could not renounce Christ even to prevent one's children from being killed or tortured. In this case there is clearly a higher value than life.

Not to kill the innocent is also a higher value than life. Jews may regard the unborn as an aggressor, but Catholics do not do so. It doesn't have the moral status of willing the aggression, after all.

The Jewish position is embedded in a value of living a full, rich, and honorable life in this world; not a hedonistic or selfish one, but a truly good one, whose value is primarily found in the life itself. (Even so, there are things Jews may not do even to save their lives.)

The Christian position, while not explained in these terms primarily, is clearly embedded in a world view in which this life is not the end and has its value primarily in its meaning for the world to come. In such a world, sin is clearly the greatest possible evil. To lose one's life in order not to sin by taking an innocent life is a no brainer within that world view.

I don't know what "Irish priests" used to say. But I do know that before C sections became relatively safe as they are now, before antibiotics and good ways of giving IV hydration, which period extended well into the 20th century, there were cases (although not so many as you would think from the number of C sections done today!) in which a woman had been in long labor and simply could not deliver the infant. In those cases, the alternative was to kill the baby by evacuating and crushing its skull,(similar to what is now called a 'partial birth abortion') or to do a C section which the mother might not survive. In the late 1800's C section was about 50% fatal; those numbers improved, but did not improve to a reasonably small risk for the mother until after antibiotics came into use after WWII. And it is true that the Church did not permit these destructive operations to be performed on infants. It required that a C section be done, and every effort then be made to assist the mother to recover successfully from it. In some cases, when the mother had been laboring long, was dehydrated and the water was long broken, making her vulnerable to infection, her chance of survival was very poor, and even in these cases, the destruction of the infant was not permitted unless it was already dead. The church was villified for this until medicine caught up to her and was able to save both. I don't believe that if we were in this situation again; for instance if most infectious organisms developed resistance to all known antibiotics and C sections and other surgeries again had high death rates from infection, that the Church could possibly ever approve these destructive operations on the baby.

I suppose this case was in a way worse, because in this case, if what we are told of it is true (and we don't really know) if the direct assault on the baby did not occur, they both would die. But one cannot do evil that good may come of it. One can't do the evil of killing an unborn baby even if the good of the mother's living (for a while longer in this case) would come of it. We are not judging the morality of the act by whether no people or only one of two people are alive at the end of it, but by the intrinsic nature of the act of killing an innocent human being. The "outcome" being considered, if one must speak of it that way, is that no one is damned by what he or she does or consents to in this situation.

Susan Peterson

eulogos said...

Siarlys-

Someone may disagree with me, but I think the Catholic committment is to "not killing" as in "not sinning" rather than to biological life per se. Human life is a value even in the midst of struggle and suffering, but for an individual to preserve his or her life at all costs is not a Catholic value. The martyrs lost their lives rather than burn a pinch of incense to the emperor.
And, my worst nightmare when my children were small, but one could not renounce Christ even to prevent one's children from being killed or tortured. In this case there is clearly a higher value than life.

Not to kill the innocent is also a higher value than life. Jews may regard the unborn as an aggressor, but Catholics do not do so. It doesn't have the moral status of willing the aggression, after all.

The Jewish position is embedded in a value of living a full, rich, and honorable life in this world; not a hedonistic or selfish one, but a truly good one, whose value is primarily found in the life itself. (Even so, there are things Jews may not do even to save their lives.)

The Christian position, while not explained in these terms primarily, is clearly embedded in a world view in which this life is not the end and has its value primarily in its meaning for the world to come. In such a world, sin is clearly the greatest possible evil. To lose one's life in order not to sin by taking an innocent life is a no brainer within that world view.

I don't know what "Irish priests" used to say. But I do know that before C sections became relatively safe as they are now, before antibiotics and good ways of giving IV hydration, which period extended well into the 20th century, there were cases (although not so many as you would think from the number of C sections done today!) in which a woman had been in long labor and simply could not deliver the infant. In those cases, the alternative was to kill the baby by evacuating and crushing its skull,(similar to what is now called a 'partial birth abortion') or to do a C section which the mother might not survive. In the late 1800's C section was about 50% fatal; those numbers improved, but did not improve to a reasonably small risk for the mother until after antibiotics came into use after WWII. And it is true that the Church did not permit these destructive operations to be performed on infants. It required that a C section be done, and every effort then be made to assist the mother to recover successfully from it. In some cases, when the mother had been laboring long, was dehydrated and the water was long broken, making her vulnerable to infection, her chance of survival was very poor, and even in these cases, the destruction of the infant was not permitted unless it was already dead. The church was villified for this until medicine caught up to her and was able to save both. I don't believe that if we were in this situation again; for instance if most infectious organisms developed resistance to all known antibiotics and C sections and other surgeries again had high death rates from infection, that the Church could possibly ever approve these destructive operations on the baby.

I suppose this case was in a way worse, because in this case, if what we are told of it is true (and we don't really know) if the direct assault on the baby did not occur, they both would die. But one cannot do evil that good may come of it. One can't do the evil of killing an unborn baby even if the good of the mother's living (for a while longer in this case) would come of it. We are not judging the morality of the act by whether no people or only one of two people are alive at the end of it, but by the intrinsic nature of the act of killing an innocent human being. The "outcome" being considered, if one must speak of it that way, is that no one is damned by what he or she does or consents to in this situation.

Susan Peterson

eulogos said...

Sorry for the double post. It told me it wasn't posting it. Red Cardigan, please dump the extra one. I don't see the little garbage can symbol for doing it myself, thanks!

Siarlys Jenkins said...

Eulogos, your argument is logically consistent, and therefore has a certain integrity. I respect your right, in the event you are pregnant, and your life is, as we have been discussing, in danger, to decide according to the standards you have outlined here.

Where I draw the line is if you were ever in a position of authority, and decided for another woman that she MUST make the same decision, because YOU know that this is best for her immortal soul. That decision is between her and God, not between her and you and God. Although I know a woman cannot be a priest, bishop, archbishop, or Bishop of Rome, I draw the same line between each woman and all of the above.

If you are right, she may be endangering her soul - but by her own hand. Besides, if a man commits adultery merely looking at a woman in lust, surely a woman who even desires an abortion - albeit she is prevented from having one - would still be just as guilty as if she had not been restrained.

As for me, I do not share your premises, so naturally I arrive at different conclusions. I will never know for what I would lay down my life, unless I am presented with the imminent necessity to do so, or decline out of whatever cowardice or other venal consideration. But it will be a virtue only if I make the right decision.

romishgraffiti said...

If you are right, she may be endangering her soul - but by her own hand.

Women don't abort by their own hand. They have accomplices.

One does not have to believe in God to know that deliberately killing an innocent human being is wrong.

John Thayer Jensen said...

@Siarlys:

Where I draw the line is if you were ever in a position of authority, and decided for another woman that she MUST make the same decision, because YOU know that this is best for her immortal soul. That decision is between her and God, not between her and you and God. Although I know a woman cannot be a priest, bishop, archbishop, or Bishop of Rome, I draw the same line between each woman and all of the above.

To accept your "the decision is between her and God, not between her and you and God" would be simply to agree with her that she has the right to kill her child.

If I see you about to kill a shopkeeper, because you believe that your need for his goods outweighs his right to life, I am not going to say that the decision is between you and God alone, Siarlys.

jj

Siarlys Jenkins said...

So you would kill the mother to prevent an abortion? That was a cynical tongue in cheek John. I do mean to point out that the analogy is not perfect, but you have hit (as is your wont) on the reason it is so difficult to carry on a civil debate within any framework of common law.

When one person says "This is a human being," and the other person says "No, it isn't," premises could not be much further apart.

One distinction is, we both agree, and if we don't, almost any jury of twelve peers would agree, that the shopkeeper IS a human being, and IS entitled to life.

The ultimate end of your logic is that Scott Roeder had every right to kill Dr. Tiller. I know you don't go to that extremity. Neither does Erin, and Gerard Nadal wrote a most eloquent condemnation of Dr. Tiller's murder.

So, it is right to intervene and not let me kill the shopkeeper, even if necessary to kill me to save the shopkeeper, but it is not right for Scott Roeder to kill Dr. Tiller to prevent him committing any further abortions.

What is the difference? Well, respect for law allows the one intervention and not the other. Even when we are morally repelled, we have to respect the law. History teaches that acts of civil disobedience, where the actor willingly runs the risk of breaking the law, can earn respect, while acts of vengeance generally do not.

Going back to our original starting point, you can TELL the woman that what she contemplates is a sin, you can URGE her not to do it, but you cannot kidnap her, bind her, and at present you cannot threaten her with a prison sentence. If there is ever a time when you could slip the fetus out of her womb, and implant it in a willing womb, I wouldn't strenuously object.

Oh, romishgraffiti, you missed the point. If the woman desires in her heart to procure an abortion, her sin is no less if you succeed in stopping her -- just as (like I said) a man commits adultery in his heart if he lusts after a married woman. The fact that she requires an accomplice does not dilute her sin (if any) either.

John Thayer Jensen said...

@Siarlys:

So, it is right to intervene and not let me kill the shopkeeper, even if necessary to kill me to save the shopkeeper, but it is not right for Scott Roeder to kill Dr. Tiller to prevent him committing any further abortions.

Haven't said what I would do - being a major coward, I would probably sneak away somewhere and then call the cops :-(

But my point was that no matter what, I wouldn't treat either the decision of the woman to abort her baby nor the decision of the putative murderer to kill the shopkeeper as something simply between the woman or murderer and God. It is very definitely something between me and God - I mean, my action in the situation. If I could prevent the abortion without doing something else evil - and obviously killing either the mother or the abortionist is evil - and if I could muster the courage (doubtful) - it would be my duty to do so.

One may not do evil that good may come. You understand that very well since you know that case with the woman who was dying of whatever it was in the Catholic hospital and whose baby was aborted. There are few circumstances in which one may justly kill to prevent another killing. I would find it almost impossible to imagine one, either in the shopkeeper case or the abortion case. But that is not what I was saying.

You are moving on to what I would think I should do to prevent an abortion. Not even remotely what I was saying.

jj

c matt said...

But Catholic ethics is not "outcome based." It has to do with the intrinsic nature of acts.

This sounds dangerously close to a tenet of liberalism...as long as your heart was in the right place, who cares if your actions do more harm than good?


No, it is not the same as "right intentions" cover all faults. It is the premise that you may not do evil so that good may come of it - the ends do not justify the means. Intentions do not come into play until after one has determined that the act/means itself is not evil. Thus, the deliberate taking of innocent human life is wrong, regardless of the intention/reason for doing so. The best of intentions cannot make the act good.

It is not likely that there would ever be agreement on this issue if the above premise is not shared (that ends do not justify the means). Unfortunately, in this current culture, it seems a large majority would agree that the ends can justify the means (both on the issue of abortion and torture).

@Siarlys

Your shopkeeper example would be more on point if, rather than you killing the shopkeeper to get his goods, you were requiring one of us to join you in killing the shopkeeper. Clearly, it would be morally wrong for us to join you in that endeavor regardless of your own opinion of the morality of that act. Therefore, the Diocese was correct to yank the Catholic designation of the Hospital because allowing the designation to remain would be acquiessence and approval of the abortion.

What may have been done, and would not have been afoul of Catholic teaching, would have been to treat the PH medically (i.e., by medication), even if that may have resulted in the loss of the baby.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

John, it seems then that being a major coward, if you heard about an abortion going on you would sneak away and call the cops... except unlike the situation with the shopkeeper being held up, the cops have no authority to intervene.

c matt, I don't really disagree with you on this point. As a matter of freedom of association, the diocese has every legal right to yank the designation "Catholic" from the hospital. I think even on strictly Catholic moral grounds, its a close call, but I'm not Catholic, so my voice is merely that of an outside observer. Many devout pro-life Catholics have also opined that this is not a run-of-the-mill right-to-life set of facts.

The shopkeeper wasn't my example, it was John's. Again, I agree that withdrawing endorsement is a legitimate act, even if intervening to restrain the perpetrator is not.