December 23, 2010 | Posted By John Kaplan, PhD

There are some strange things going on in Phoenix Arizona between St. Josephs Hospital and Bishop Thomas Olmstead. The scenario began in November 2009 when the pregnancy of a woman with malignant pulmonary hypertension was terminated to save her life. At that time the Bishop responded by excommunicating a member of the ethics committee which had authorized the procedure. Fast forward to November 22, 2010 when Bishop Olmstead sent a letter (read it here) to the President of Catholic Healthcare West, St. Joseph’s parent corporation threatening to strip St. Joseph’s of their Catholic identity unless they concurred with several conditions that include acknowledgement that they were wrong and he is right.  Click on the picture of St. Joseph's below to see coverage.


Read the letter-the hubris is palpable. Now the Bishop has followed through on his threat and St. Joseph’s has stated it could not ethically and legally comply with the Bishop’s demands. Essentially the Bishop has behaved as a bully and taken the position that you either play my way or I will take my ball and go home. Now he has taken the ball. Fortunately St. Joseph’s, the largest teaching hospital in Arizona and a significant provider of care for the poor and indigent seems poised to continue without the Bishop.

2 comments | Topics: Bioethics in the Media , Religion


Richard R. Pesce, MD,MS,FCCP,FACP

Richard R. Pesce, MD,MS,FCCP,FACP wrote on 02/01/11 10:25 PM

The Bishop should be asked why the moral authority of the office is applied so unevenly. The Arizona incident saved a woman's life and allowed a dying fetus to die, the ethics committee religious representative was excommunicated but yet pedophile priests are not excommunicated. The bishop certainly acts like one without compassion or representation of the love promulgated by his religion. Instead he uses a presumption of authority as a sledge hammer in an attempt to cower good people into submission. A religious representative who does this is not a good representative of a religion that has mercy, love, and compassion at it's core.
John Kaplan

John Kaplan wrote on 02/10/11 3:23 PM

Good points Richard. There does seem to be some inconsistency here.

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