Bishop Olmsted's ultimatum

by Dennis Coday

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We just posted a story about Phoenix Bishop Thomas Olmsted's ultimatum to St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center: Follow my orders or lose my endorsement.

Mike Clancy, a reporter for The Arizona Republic in Phoenix, broke the story yesterday. He subsequently agreed to write a story for us. We didn't rush to post the story, because we wanted to see if we could get deeper into the story after the initial flurry that inevitably follows the breaking of a story like this.

As the story stands now, the outcome is very uncertain. Watch the Web site over the next days to see what plays out.

I've found two intelligent commentaries of what has transpired:

Over on the Commonweal blog, Lisa Fullam, associate professor of moral theology at the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley, urges the hospital to call Olmsted's bluff and "and let the canonical chips fall where they may."

Over on Bold Faith Type, John Gehring suggests that Olmsted should reconsider his ultimatum:

This is a classic example of why some Catholic bishops have lost the respect of even faithful Catholics, including those who view abortion as a tragedy that undermines the sanctity of life. An imperial style and dogmatic certitude in the face of the messy complexities of ministering to the sick and dying leaves little room for prudential judgment or nuanced analysis. … Bishop Olmsted's black-and-white determination also offers a telling contrast with Pope Benedict XVI's recent statements about condoms, where the pope acknowledged that while the Church teaches condom use is wrong, "in certain cases" contraceptives can be "a first step in a movement toward a different way, a more human way, of living sexuality." This is not situational ethics that violates Church teaching, but practical and humane theology that responds to the world as it is even as we strive to build a world that lives up to our highest ideals.

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