Let a loved one die over a technicality?


Regarding the columns on the Bishop Thomas Olmstead decision carried in the Feb. 24 edition of The Messenger, I will concede one thing to George Weigel:  his analysis of Catholic ethical principles governing such situations is technically correct.

Having said that, picture your wife, mother or daughter in this situation: your pregnant loved one is dying, and can be saved only through termination of the pregnancy, which is at such an early stage, there is no possibility of the child surviving outside the womb.  By refusing to terminate, you add perhaps an hour or so to the child’s life. The price of that extra hour is the life of its mother. Now think hard about this: how many of you out there are going to allow your loved one to die so that a legal technicality won’t be violated?

In civil law, if you murder someone who has seriously threatened your life, a jury will acquit due to mitigating circumstances.

What bothers me most is the absolute rigidity and lack of compassion of Bishop Olmstead. Aren’t there mitigating circumstances involved here that would justify overlooking the rules? Are excommunication and removal of designation as a Catholic hospital truly necessary? The biggest losers are the innocent Catholic patients who are now deprived of a chapel and the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. The only winners are organizations like NARAL and Planned Parenthood whom have been handed a splendid propaganda tool by Bishop Olmstead.


If you look at history, you’ll see that the Church itself has many times violated “the end doesn’t justify the means” rule when it has served its purposes. This tragic episode proves once again that the Church needs to rely less on condemnations and excommunications and rely more on the compassion, forgiveness and understanding that are truly Christian.

Richard O’Neill

Rock Island, Ill.


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