New York Times officially opposes stupid rules of Catholic hospitals

December 9, 2013 • 6:00 am

Just a quickie: the editorial column of the New York Times ( i.e., the opinion of the paper’s editors themselves) has come out against Catholic hospitals in the U.S. which, on Church orders, restrict medically-mandated abortions.  The column, “When bishops direct medical care,” rests on a lawsuit filed the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of a Michigan woman whose water broke at 18 weeks. Standard procedure in such cases is to induce abortion to remove the fetus (which is nearly always doomed in such cases) and prevent infection. The Catholic hospital she was in, however, obeyed their bishop’s directive and sent her home—twice.  When she returned a third time, feverish from an infection produced by Catholic “medical care,” she miscarried.

As the Times notes, the interesting aspect of the case is that the woman is suing not the hospital, but the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops—the big guys with the hats who give the orders:

The A.C.L.U. is arguing, on her behalf, that having issued the mandates and made them conditions of hospital affiliation, the conference is responsible for “the unnecessary trauma and harm” that Ms. Means and “other pregnant women in similar situations have experienced at Catholic-sponsored hospitals.”

This is one of those cases, like polygamy, where the need for social cohesion and individual autonomy overrides religious freedom.  I find it horrifying that Catholic doctors and hospitals would rather see a mother and fetus both die than remove a doomed fetus. This would not occur, of course, without the religious dictate that considers a fetus as a full person with a soul. And, of course, mothers and fetuses have died in such situations.  What kind of morality is that?

The Bishops, as usual, make themselves look worse by trying to claim that they’re being persecuted. They should just learn to shut up in such cases:

In a statement last Friday, the president of the bishops’ group, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, said that the religious directives did not encourage or require substandard medical treatment. He also portrayed the case as an attack on religious freedom — the same unpersuasive argument the bishops are making against the new federal health care law’s requirement that all plans include contraception coverage.

The first part of this is, of course, a lie: the directives do encourage substandard medical care—care that endangers two lives instead of one. The second part is misleading, for religious freedom ends when it takes away a woman’s right to live. Thankfully, the Times doesn’t waffle in its view:

Allowing religious doctrine to prevail over the need for competent emergency care and a woman’s right to complete and accurate information about her condition and treatment choices violates medical ethics and existing law.

The bishops are free to worship as they choose and advocate for their beliefs. But those beliefs should not shield the bishops from legal accountability when church-affiliated hospitals following their rules cause patients harm.

It is this kind of behavior that will doom the Catholic church. Unwavering in its dogma, even in light of changing secular morality, and holding stands that are ridiculous (as when they oppose HPV vaccination for women, implicitly arguing that getting cancer is better than having sex), the Church will eventually be forced to alter its stands—or wane to being a small sect. Can there be any doubt that the official stands of the Catholic church are evil and immoral? Those who remain Catholic are complicit in this evil, even if they oppose some Church dogma.

h/t: John

62 thoughts on “New York Times officially opposes stupid rules of Catholic hospitals

    1. In the radio 4 comedy “Old Harry’s Game” (set in hell) the fate of the Popes is to be nine months pregnant for all eternity.

  1. This is why I like to use the word “ayatollah” to refer to the high-ranking clergymen of the Catholic church and other misogynistic, anti-gay Christian denominations. It expresses what they are really all about.

    I think this may even go beyond civil law; we’re talking about so many women dying or getting sick at the hands of these Catholic Ayatollahs. I think criminal charges should be filed, but until then I hope the Catholic Ayatollahs are sued into oblivion.

  2. “…the religious dictate that considers a fetus as a full person with a soul.”

    The woman, of course, is not a person at all, just merely a uterus surrounded by an inconvenient piece of meat. L

  3. I think most churches suffer from a form of punctuated equilibrium. The CC WILL change its dogma, but only when it absolutely must, and then it will remain static in its teachings for another 50 years or so. Many people will suffer and die as a result, tragically; however the CC has a long history of causing suffering and death while preaching that that’s what God wants, so why would it change now?

    Churches in general are in a bit of a pickle at the moment – everybody (including their leaders) knows that their dogma is unethical, damaging, and unacceptable to normal people; but they can’t just change without admitting that they’ve been in the wrong all along. Either way they’ll be hemorrhaging members, which is great news.

    I do wonder, though, why the woman in question didn’t attend a different hospital? Maybe the hospital lied to her, telling her that everything was fine, so she didn’t realise she was another victim of religious and medical abuse. Who knows.

    1. As I understand the case, and being in the UK I may be wrong, the reason the woman did not go to a different hospital was that there were no other hospitals which were not operated by the RCC. this is one of the problems in parts of the US, the RCC is a monopoly operator of hospitals.(Do you have antimonopoly laws that could be applied?)

      1. I’d think the RICO statutes would be more appropriate…but, regardless, no DA wants to risk the ire of the Catholic mafia come reelection time by poking his nose in to the Church’s “internal” criminal affairs.


    2. Probably several reasons but in many places there is only one hospital available and the doctors failed to give her full information.

      Note in at least one case a Catholic affiliated hospital did do a life-saving abortion and the local bishop punished the hospital ethicist under his control, Margaret McBride, who allowed it and church affiliation of the hospital was dropped. One advantage of church affiliation is the ability to use the diocese to fundraise for uncovered costs (e.g., patients who cannot pay for their medical care) which can be somewhat important given the disfunction of health care in the US.

      1. I live in Phoenix, and remember that case very well. The ayatollah in question, the despicable Thomas Olmsted, excommunicated Sr McBride for her role in allowing the procedure that ultimately saved the patient’s life. Olmsted’s lack of compassion guarantees he’ll go far in the RCC.

  4. The catholic church is blatantly immoral. However, I don’t expect any quick changes in membership in this god eating, women subjugating cult. The church has always been egregiously assholish and yet tens of millions either honestly love it or manage to delude themselves into loyalty to it despite its plain for all to see depravity.

    I hope you are right though. It is an affront to all decency that an organization like the catholic church has such political power in our society that they can do shit like this, and worse, and get away with it every damn day. People need to wake up.

    1. It’s called a S&M bond: Catholic authority=sadists and Catholic adult rank & file=masochists. Now I have no problem if that kind of thing floats your boat, but please, be honest and don’t pretend that it is instead some high falutin,pure, good, absolutely moral perspective that if everyone embraced the world would be a perfect place.

  5. I had heard some remarkable details on this very sad case. One being that the hospital supposedly did not even direct the woman to a different hospital, and the other is that this woman was not even Catholic–not that that should matter, but for some reason I feel it adds to the total arrogance behind these ‘directives’.
    I was listening to news about the issues of Catholic hospitals on NPR last week. The conversation included some on-air discussants, plus anonymous medical personnel were calling in. The problems are not only that they may not do medically necessary abortions, but they also feel pressure to do inappropriate resuscitation of terminally ill patients. One sad story was of a family who made very clear and repeated instructions to not have their father resuscitated, but guess what happened. Now they have to live with painful memories of their father suffering for even longer.

    1. “Surely the doctors concerned ate not fit to practice and should be “Struck off” by the AMA?”

      And the bishops charged with practicing medicine without a license.

    2. The AMA is not a regulatory or disciplinary organization for practicing doctors. It is mostly a lobbying organization. More than half of practicing physicians are not even members.

      This is a matter for the state medical boards in every state that has Catholic run hospitals.

      Sorry to correct you, but the AMA takes many problematic positions, and the perception that it “watches over” the quality of medical practice in the US is a common misunderstanding that gives it a legitimacy it is not entitled to.

  6. If a licensed physician pulled that kind of shit, the review board would be pulling out the ass-sling.

    For a non-licensed physician to make those kinds of medical decisions…seems to me that it should be the DA bringing charges, not the ACLU filing civil suit.

    Then again, these are holy men, and the laws for mere mortal don’t apply to them. Why, they’re even entitled to rape children and then decide for themselves how many Hail Marys their victims should have to say as penance.


  7. What an amazing thing it would be, to finally hold the Bishops responsible. They have been having it both ways for far too long, making various medical pronouncements without appropriate education and even less accountability when doing so.

    A dogma based medical facility is absolute madness. Why the RCC is still allowed to run such hospitals is beyond me. Our only course seems to be to sue them into the ground for every case of unneeded suffering they cause until they decide the hospital business is not worth it.

    1. See, that’s a perfect demonstration of just how insane America is on the question of health case.

      The answer isn’t to sue the hospitals out of existence.

      The problem is that hospitals never should have been private institutions in the first place. Medical care is no place for either profit or piety.

      The answer is public ownership and administration of hospitals.

      And no need for “faceless Washington bureaucrats” to dictate medical policy! Here in Arizona we have a Corporation Commission, a publicly-elected body, that (amongst other things) sets rates for public utilities. A parallel elected body would be perfect for setting and enforcing suitable standards of care for hospitals.

      I can hear the whines already — “socialized medicine!” But we already have socialized police, fire, air traffic control, food and drug safety maintenance, military…what’s so special about health care that it should be privatized while all those other much-less-vital functions should be socialized?


      1. I was already thinking of the ‘socialized medicine!’ argument before I got to your 3rd paragraph.
        Sure, and maybe we can move in this direction in a decade (I am being overly optimistic). This of course would be a huge issue, and a complicated implementation that would involve transferring oversight from a huge and very profitable private sector to the government.

        1. We have had socialized medicine for decades, too. What else would you call the VA system, Medicare, and Medicaid?

          What is truly nauseating about Catholic hospitals is that the church provides almost no financial support for these institutions, yet feels perfectly justified in directing policy – and these are hospitals are all providing an essential public service and accepting public monies.

          Imagine an atheist organization donating less than 1% of the operating budget of a hospital, yet feeling innately privileged to deny services to Catholics. I’ll bet Bill Donohue might have something to say about that.

          They might as well be making the argument that the Catholic Church has the right to burn Catholics at the stake on public property that they rent at 1/100 of the normal fee.

          1. That’s why I’ve been opposed from the start to Obamacare — a government requirement to do business with corrupt private middleman corporations that themselves provide absolutely nothing of value, something only a fascist could love — and long supported Medicare for all.


          2. Ben, I agree with you, but my rhetoric would be a little milder, like let’s get rid of the fat-cat middle men. No offence to cats of course.

      2. Good point. You have more optimism in what the US can accomplish than I do, I suspect. I very much want a single payer system, but I worry that there are a lot of old paranoid people that hate government more than anything that have to die off before we can look up and follow the example of all the countries that have passed us by in medical care.

        1. Some have suggested that Obamacare is a baby step towards a single-payer system. I don’t buy that. Or, if it should be true, you can bet that the same corporations will still manage it and still take their guaranteed 20% profit margin while still providing nothing whatsoever of value; they’ll just be paid with tax dollars instead of from private pockets.

          Still, I’ll grant that, if there’s any remaining hope of a modern healthcare system for this country, that’s the path it’ll have to take.

          We really should have just gone with Medicare for all and been done with it.


          1. I agree that we should have. I’m not convinced we could have given political reality in Washington. Still, I would have liked to have tried.

  8. Polygamy does not have to override individual autonomy, nor does it need to be religious motivated. It might complicate matters but we shouldn’t restrict people’s ideals of family on the grounds we might them difficult to accommodate.

      1. In relation to this sentence.
        “This is one of those cases, like polygamy, where the need for social cohesion and individual autonomy overrides religious freedom.”

          1. That’s why I want the State out of the marriage business entirely.

            Whenever questions of gay marriage or plural marriage or whatever come up, there’s always a huge backlash from certain liberal quarters who cite Moron-style polygamy. And they’re absolutely right, that the Morons have royally fucked up notions of family and marriage. So? The rest of their lives are equally fucked up, too.

            The fact that Joe Smith wannabes want harems of disposable teenaged girls is utterly irrelevant to, say a middle-aged trio of office workers in midtown Manhattan who share not just an apartment but a bed and a couple children.



          2. Though it gets tricky concerning obligations between everybody involved and the larger society. I’m not for a state-imposed conception of marriage necessarily involving exactly two differently-gendered parents, but see problems (esp. where children are involved) in a contract-free marriage situation… life and death kinds of problems (unforeseen mental or other illness, e.g.). So not sure if there can be contractual conditions, yet not have the state involved somehow. Haven’t thought that far ahead. But the Moron-style (and Sharia-style) religiously-inspired crap has definitely no place in a civil society, in my book.

          3. You’ve actually identified the key word: “contract.”

            Make marriage entirely a matter of contract law. And people can form corporations (even with shareholders) for the tax stuff. And there would undoubtedly be boilerplate services that make it no more of a burden than creating a will for those who don’t need or want anything fancy. For those who do, they can go wild — as already happens with “prenups.”

            One of the most heartbreaking regular “features” of states without marriage equality is a lifelong couple denied even simple hospital visitation rights. Well, there’re plenty of non-romantic personal bonds that should be similarly protected, too. If we were to get the State out of the marriage business, we’d also dispense with the silly notion that only the one-and-only person you have sex with should be the exact same one-and-only person you’ve got any sort of deep and lasting bond with.

            Don’t get me worng: people who want traditional marriage absolutely should have it. But they’re not the only ones who should have those rights, and those rights have no business being tied to marriage…and the State has no business in the marriage business at all.


          4. Agreed… but I guess I’m not enough of a lawyer to have understood contractual law. I thunked contracts were inextricably boundified by the state they were drawn up in. (and/or the country). Am now dealing with emigration issues, and finally going to have to get around to having to have the state deal with my nuptial affairs. Pain in the donkey, it is.

          5. That’s already the case with marriages. Both during the era of miscegenation laws and today with same-sex marriages, there are lots of states that won’t recognize the marriages of certain couples married in another state.


          6. To Ben Goren

            The idea that contract law is some sort of pristine alternative to messy government is naive in the extreme.

            The government is deeply involved in setting standards for, and enforcing contracts.

            You cannot sell yourself into slavery, or buy human organs, or hire someone to commit a criminal act, or agree to pay 100% interest on a loan etc. etc. And rightly so.

            Because of it’s shameful history used almost exclusively as a tool to oppress women and children, polygamous marriage is rightly banned as another type of contract that inherently favors one party over the other to an extent that rises to criminality.

          7. Woah…how the hell did we get from legal frameworks for pair bonds into slavery and human organ trafficking and usurious interest?

            Are you suggesting that marriage is slavery? Or that an alternative to marriage based in contract law wouldn’t have the same legal protections as other contracts? I don’t see how either would be even remotely applicable.

            And I’m curious. You would outlaw polygamy. Would you also outlaw polyandry — one woman with more than one husband? What about a marriage of three women and two men?

            Why should it be legal for a man and a woman to marry as well as (increasingly) for two women to marry or two men to marry, but not for two women and two men to marry?

            Or would you be okay with any form of group marriage so long as it included at least two men? If so, what happens when the next-to-last man divorces or dies?

            (I should add: I’m not married, have never been married, and have no goals to get married. If I ever did, it would be to just one woman. But I’ll be damned if the fact that my desires aren’t held in check by unjust legal barriers should stop me from supporting equality for all consenting adults who wish to live their lives as they see fit.)



  9. With regard to the vaccine issue, it is disconcerting how Catholics seem to be !*searching*! for reasons to oppose this vaccine (sometimes grasping at straws)that makes them uncomfortable because it raises the hydra-headed monster of teenage sex.

    A Google search suggests that Catholic reasons for opposition to the vaccine are divergent and inconsistent, and the “official” statements are vague. (Albeit the saving grace/bright side of this is that it makes it easier for a few brave Catholic officials and/or laity to buck the trend as in the case of the Archdiocese of the Port of Spain where there is a LOT of STD

    Most vile is this fellow who is upset that this medicine “removes the consequences of sin”, even if he only mentions it on the side without making it the pivot of his argument. (This is much less salutary than the other link.)

  10. > This would not occur, of course, without the religious dictate that considers a fetus as a full person with a soul.

    No no no no no! It’s because imperialistic secularists took away almost all of the vatican state – they were brutally oppressed! Didn’t you hear that religious fundamentalism always has political reasons?

  11. Sounds so much like the case of an Indian lady who died in somewhat similar circumstances in Galway, Ireland last year.
    I can only wonder if anyone there thought of going this route.

    1. It is the same. The difference is that the woman in Ireland developed a fatal infection before she miscarried.

      The woman in the US was lucky. She could easily have followed in the other’s footsteps.

  12. It’s such a disgrace. How can physicians tolerate that nonsense as well? Obviously some care more about pompous asses who claim to be buddies with a fairy than they do about their Hippocratic oath and the wellbeing of their patients.

  13. The last sentence of this post is indeed the very reason why I left the RCC in April 2012 in the first place after some of their nastier practices came to light and I learned about how my church fee was being put to use – only to discover after the fact that their teachings, which I basically ignored for the better part of my life despite being Catholic, are (at best) utter nonsense as well.

    @madscientist: I’ve become careful with refering to the Hippocratic Oath because in the original version there are some statements that don’t match today’s medical practices either. Additionally, I’m not sure if medical practitioners are required to swear this oath at all. When discussions like this arise, I prefer to refer to something along the lines of “modern medical standards” over risking to shoot myself in the foot with the Hippocratic Oath should my dialog partner be familiar with its text.

    1. I believe it was the only one in the region.

      Remember, the US has absolutely the most fucked-up medical care system in the developed world. Second-world countries like Mexico, and even some third-world countries, like Cuba, have saner medical systems.

      Don’t believe me? Look at all the Americans who buy their prescription drugs in Mexico because that’s the only place they can afford to get them. Lots of medical tourists from the US get procedures done in Mexico, too — again, because it’s the only place they can afford it.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *