27 December 2010

My Letter to the Phoenix Arizona Archdiocese

(Clicking on the title of this blog will take you to Bishop Olmsted's rather disgusting letter to the president of Catholic Healthcare West.)

The Phoenix Archdiocese is taking punitive action against a "Catholic" hostpital for electing to save a the life of a mother and spare several children and her husband a great deal of emotional devastation. For a fairly comprehensive page full of links to commentary and news sources on the whole Catholic hospital debacle Richard Dawkins Foundation for Science and Reason is a good place to begin. Ophelia Benson reviews the Olmsted's letter to Catholic Healthcare West on her blog Butterflies and Wheels. Medical News Today, reviews details of the case in the most succint way possible I think. And NPR can introduce you to the nun who was excommunicated for saving a life.

One letter certainly has no chance to move such cloistered out of touch people to review their own stances critically. So I hope many of you reading will take the time to contact the bishop in your own way. Here is how you can connect him with your own observations, your wicked wit and your general contempt for his desire to maximize human misery in his Archdiocese. Below all that contact information you will find my letter to Bishop Olmsted.

By phone and fax:
602-257-0030 (voice)
602-354-2427 (FAX)


Diocese of Phoenix
400 East Monroe Street
Phoenix, Arizona 85004-2336

To: Mr. Thomas Olmstead
I find your decision to castigate, so severely, St. Joseph’s Hospital has rather confirmed my suspicions that the leadership of the Catholic Church is callous in the face of real pain and tragedy. I am probably not alone in coming to this conclusion. On the dubious proposition of an afterlife you would condemn children to be motherless and a husband to be without a wife. The stance you take, that which you and the Roman Catholic Church would call moral, strikes no one possessing independent faculties as moral. It is at once inconsistent, and silly. A surgical process that saves the life of a mother, but by incidental action kills a fetus is okay, yet an in intentional termination of the pregnancy (and one for which there was no hope in the actual case) for the same ends is not? That this makes little sense is obvious to everyone who doesn’t wear a Roman collar. These policies can do little but lead to actual, real suffering in the here and now. Suffering and reality seem like they are pretty alien concepts in the world you inhabit, filled as it is with imaginary friends, and supernatural powers. But this insensitivity and arrogance really is par for the course for an organization with so odious a history of disregard for actual, living humans.
Your letter to the president of Catholic Healthcare West betrays this arrogance in stunning and unapologetic fashion while at the same time sidestepping your commitment to killing both mother and child, and laying emotional waste to surviving family members in such unfortunate situations as the one that prompted this controversy. It remains a bizarre fact of your organization that its leadership has no real family life of which to speak. You have no healthy contact with anything sexual, no kids, or wives of your own that they can see so negatively affected by such callous policies. So the effects of such things are really unexamined by you. They will never hurt a priest the way they would have that woman’s husband and that woman’s surviving children. The likelihood that Catholic leadership could be a credible authority on family, love, healthcare or the ethics surrounding such things is preposterously laughable, and that makes your particular (not terribly unique) arrogance on these matters even more contemptible.
Consider also that not all of the patients who find themselves under the care of St. Joseph’s are there of their own free will, and are probably not all Catholic and may not agree with the bioethical stances laid out by your medieval institution. Consider the case of some woman rushed into the ER of St. Joseph’s, dying perhaps and pregnant. Is it right for her, to be denied the best treatment available on the dubious authority of a bunch of family-less, virgins? Maybe our hypothetical patient is an atheist, or a Catholic who disagrees with you, or she is a Jew who finds herself in your hospital by an unlucky chance. Heaping suffering on people is not healthcare. Heaping suffering on people though is something at which the Roman Catholic Church seems to excel. Whether it is prevaricating on condom use in Africa, the massive deceit concerning child rape by priests, the expenditure of Church capital to oppose gay/lesbian/bi/transgender rights, or your confused, and I must repeat, callous approaches to bioethics your Church acts too often in such a way as to increase suffering in the real world. I am very glad to have left my Catholicism in my past, discarded for the petty, uninformed mythology masquerading for wisdom that it was and is.
Your removal of the imprimatur the Phoenix Archdiocese may well be a very good thing for the hospital. I can well imagine that this controversy served to discourage many promising and talented doctors from pursuing careers and residencies at St Joseph’s.

Very sincerely,
Max Driffill II