Dwelling in Possibilities of Life & Death – UPDATED

We have recently seen pro-life conservatives like Sarah Palin and Ed Morrissey admit that fear of the unknown, and the possibility of complicated outcomes, were brief temptations toward abortion, an option which they rejected, and rejections they pointedly do not regret.

Their acknowledged temptations are something most of us would understand. People want to feel sure of themselves and what is going on in their lives; they want an illusion of control.

An abortion performed at a Catholic Hospital and Medical Center in Arizona, and the subsequent excommunication of the Catholic religious and on-call administrator who approved of the procedure, leads us once again to examine the mystery of faith, the illusion of control, and how much value we place upon each.

On the First Things homepage, I take a look at the world broad possibilities within which we Catholics dwell. Yes, the question I dare to ask is provocative; it is meant to be.

You can’t say I’m boring!

UPDATE: Also, don’t miss Michael Liccione’s piece on excommunication

Related:
The initial story
Successfully treating such patients

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  • Mary

    Of course we can say you are boring. Such are the infinite mysteries of free will.

    0:)

  • http://vita-nostra-in-ecclesia.blogspot.com Bender

    An abortion performed at a Catholic Hospital and Medical Center in Arizona, and the subsequent excommunication . . .

    Unfortunately, the reporting of this incident — precisely what was done, the actual intention behind it, the exact justification given for it, the response of the bishop, and the actual teaching involved — is grossly deficient, so as to lead to much misunderstanding and confusion (example – just go over to Commonweal.com and see what they are saying).

    [well, of course. Go to First Things and read what I wrote! -admin]

  • Chris-2-4

    I think it is important to note the corrollary between the Bishop’s and the Sister’s actions. The Bishop’s recognition of the excommunication is also an agonizing decision that he made for therapeutic reasons to heal the spiritual wound created by the Sister’s actions and restore her to health and prevent others from experiencing the same wound.

  • http://vita-nostra-in-ecclesia.blogspot.com Bender

    The problem is in the use of the ambiguous word “abortion,” as in the cases of “indirect abortion” and “direct abortion.” To be sure, the crucial distinction is between direct and indirect, but the word “abortion” in and of itself typically means what is meant by “direct.” That is, in common usage, the word abortion is meant to describe the intentional killing of the unborn human life.

    When one says “direct abortion,” then there is no confusion because the word “direct” means that the intent is to have a dead baby. But when one starts speaking of “indirect abortion,” that is, an act where the specific intention is not to cause death, but is merely a secondary consequence, then the confusion starts because, again, the word “abortion” is generally held to mean an intent to not end up with a live baby. It is an oxymoron.

    OK smart guy, then what should the right term be? A better term for this situation would be “premature delivery,” where the intent and the act is to attempt to save the life of both the mother and the unborn child, even if, because of the early stage of the pregnancy, the chances of saving the baby are slim. However, that means utilizing a method that has a chance for success, no matter how slight, and would therefore exclude the typical slice-and-dice / vacuum method (that is, an “abortion”), which is inherently lethal to the child, and serves no purpose except to result in a dead baby.

    And then, going beyond the oxymoron of “indirect abortion,” to confuse things further, “ethicists” started coming up with ideas like “double effect,” which only confuse things more. And needlessly so, since there was already well reasoned explanations that were developed over hundreds of years of actual cases in the Anglo-American common law of homicide, murder, manslaughter, etc..

  • Bender’s Cheerleader

    Abortion is a medical term that describes the termination of a pregnancy – the cause is irrelevant to the definition.

    When I worked for Planned Parenthood, the term used to describe elective abortion was therapeutic abortion. Never once was the relief gained from the ‘therapy’ noted in a chart.

    When a pregnancy is lost unintentionally, due to fetal demise or some other condition, the term is not miscarriage, but, spontaneous abortion.

    Just a little f.y.i. there. Bender is correct (duh) – it does help if proper, specific terminology is used – makes things much more clear.

  • http://vita-nostra-in-ecclesia.blogspot.com Bender

    Don’t let it be said that the pro-life cause doesn’t pass up opportunities to confuse the issue and shoot itself in the foot whenever it can.

    Case in point — “partial birth abortion.”

    By calling this procedure an “abortion,” rather than what it is, infanticide, the pro-life cause nearly lost the battle before it began because it placed the whole fight in the arena of abortion law, rather than long-standing homicide law, and by calling it an “abortion,” it needlessly called into question the otherwise undeniable personhood of the child (which even under Roe applies to those who are “born”).

  • RS

    Actually, my understanding (from my OB-GYN mom) is that “stillbirth,” “miscarriage,” and “spontaneous abortion” all have medical definitions. “Stillbirth” is distinguished from “miscarriage” by the stage of the pregnancy when it is terminated, “miscarriage” applying to 13 weeks, I think, and “stillbirth” applying thereafter. “Stillbirth” is also a recognized legal term, usually matching medicine’s pregnancy-stage distinction, but is also applied where medicine would not use “spontaneous abortion” or “elective abortion,” for example, stillbirth resulting from an assault on the pregnant mother. It looks like the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists uses “spontaneous abortion” as the genus to cover stillbirth and miscarriage caused by infection, disease, etc. (i.e., not elective abortion, assault, etc.) Let me see if I can post a link in another comment.

  • RS

    Uh-oh. I can’t find Mrs. Scalia’s instructions on hyperlinks in comments, and I have to go home soon. I was looking at “ACOG Education Pamphlet AP090 – Early Pregnancy Loss.” Interested readers can find it on ACOG’s web site.

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  • Joe

    There is no easy answer to this. It is heartbreaking. I am not comfortable with the Church’s position on this type of situation. To let nature take its course risks two lives. The abortion one. While I respecting trying heroically trying to save both, I can’t criticize those who decide to save one.

  • Peggy Coffey

    As I said before, I do not understand how the Catholic church can excommunicate these people, who made this most difficult decision and allow Nancy Pelosi and the pro choice people to call themselves Catholic. It’s disgusting.

  • http://theblackcordelias.wordpress.com/ Nan

    Joe, thou shalt not kill. The line of demarcation is in deliberately killing the child.

  • Joe

    Nan, I do not disagree with you. But when one kills to save a life, even if the person killed is innocent, it is not necessarily murder. I can understand the Church saying it is wrong. I cannot say it is right. But excommunicating those involved after what must have been an agonizing decision?

    And the commandment is actually thou shall not murder (in the original Hebrew). And there is a difference. And under necessity, self defense, war, and other limited proscribed conditions, Catholics kill and do so without sin.

    And Peggy Coffey makes a good point above. Why does the Church seem to have a different set of rules for leaders and the powerful? It has been that way since Henry VIII. I suspect it is because the Church wants to avoid schisms.

    And I am not necessarily even criticizing the Church for making choices like that. But I suspect Christ would show a family who made a most difficult choice such as the one described here with compassion (even if arguably they lacked faith).

  • Joe

    Nan, Michael Liccione’s piece above is very thought provoking. I do not pretend to have the answers or know what I or my wife would do under such a horrible circumstance. But it is a close enough call that I would leave this one to God.

  • http://vita-nostra-in-ecclesia.blogspot.com Bender

    And the commandment is actually thou shall not murder (in the original Hebrew). And there is a difference.

    No, it doesn’t say that. And it is not possible to say that.

    The word “murder” is derived from old Anglo-Saxon, not Hebrew, and the definition of “murder” is only a few hundred years old, to wit, the intentional killing of a human being with malice aforethought.

    Although the Commandments are timeless, they did not reach three thousand years into the future to use a word (“murder”) that did not then exist. And even if it did exist back then, can anyone rationally and reasonably argue that if you do not commit murder, but only commit manslaughter, which by definition is not murder, that it is not a violation of the Commandment? Even the very idea is absurd.

    In any event, the Church says the Commandment is “thou shall not kill.” Accordingly, THAT is what the Commandment says.

  • http://vita-nostra-in-ecclesia.blogspot.com Bender

    And before the Anglo-Saxon, the word “murder” is related to the Latin “morte,” meaning “death.”

    So even if the Commandment were “murder,” the stem of that word is “morte,” meaning “death,” that is, “thou shall not cause death.”

    So, in the end, either way, it means “thou shall not kill.”

  • http://www.zazzle.com/shanasfo shana

    In Hebrew, the word for “kill” used in both Exodus and Deut. for the Ten Commandments is “ratsach”, which means ‘tear to pieces’ or ‘dash to pieces’.

    There are a number of Hebrew words which mean, in essence, “To Kill” – one meaning ‘to smite with deadly intent’ (harag) God chose one that is graphic and violent in nature.

    Peggy: Pelosi et al ARE under this same excommunication in fact, and refuse to acknowledge it and their bishops and pastors are not enforcing it. The bishop whose diocese Sr McBride’s hospital is in is enforcing canon 915, which is a good thing.

    What is a horror and sorrow is that as they receive Holy Communion under this excommunication that they refuse to obey, they are ‘eating and drinking’ judgement upon their heads’, and the responsibility of that falls secondarily on the shoulders of their bishops and pastors. Jesus doesnt’ sound very pleased with goats in Matt 25, when all is said and done.

    I cannot think of any worse punishment than that. Pray, fast and do penance.

  • Joe

    In any event, the Church says the Commandment is “thou shall not kill.” Accordingly, THAT is what the Commandment says.

    Then Bender, we should all be pacifist, like the Amish. But we are not (not that I have anythng against the Amish, but we do live in a dangerous world). The Church recognizes many examples of killing other human beings as not being sins.

    As for what the Church says the commandment says, there is an interesting discussion of the King James translation. It is very difficult to determine where what is meant by murder and killing, when the words go from Hebrew, to Latin, to English. But before you go off with certainty of what is right and wrong, I would strongly suggest you read Michael Liccione’s piece linked above. This is really not a clear cut issue, even among conservative Catholic scholars and leaders.

    There is no comparison to a family facing such a horrible decision and the hypocrisy and cravenness of Pelosi and Kennedy. That is why I am cautious on increasing their pain further, even if arguably they made the wrong decision under Church doctrine. I would leave this one to God.

  • Joe

    This is an interesting discussion of the King James translation of this commandment. It is very difficult to determine where what is meant by murder and killing, when the words go from Hebrew, to Latin, to English. But before you go off with certainty of what is right and wrong, I would strongly suggest you read Michael Liccione’s piece linked above. This is really not a clear cut issue, even among conservative Catholic scholars and leaders.

    There is no comparison to a family facing such a horrible decision and the hypocrisy and cravenness of Pelosi and Kennedy. That is why I am cautious on increasing their pain further, even if arguably they made the wrong decision under Church doctrine. I would leave this one to God.

  • Joe
  • Joe

    There is no way to 100% translate a Hebrew word to English. Murder is an approximation. So is kill.

    I would encourage you all to read the Michael Liccione’s piece above. There is no easy answer here.

  • Joe

    sorry, I did not think the posts were posting, and then suddenly they all popped up at once.

  • B. Durbin

    I am fascinated by the doctor with the great track record in saving pregnant women’s lives. Her methods should be studied and widely distributed, because I am sure many women out there are terrified by the verdict of a likely death sentence when pregnant with pulmonary hypertension, and they need to know that it can be avoided.

  • Gordon

    I see that many of the people who disagree are using semantics as a reason. “This word means this, this word means that”. The bottom line is that a woman, assisted by one or more Catholic health care specialists, killed her baby. That is the reality. It never should have happened at that hospital. I commend Bishop Olmsted, for his calling a spade a spade. I pray and I believe that we in the Church are finally getting the Shepard s we need and seek.
    Peace and God Bless, and may Christ be the Center of your life.

  • Bill

    In this specific case, it was not merely a matter of swollen legs or shortness of breath, but an immediate life-threatening condition.

    In other words, Zwicke’s techniques could not have helped – the point of crisis had already been reached.

    The choice was: do you let both the mother and child die, or end the child’s life to hopefully save the mother?

    Here, that was the only choice.

    Waiting would have meant the certain death of both.

    It is disappointing to see in your full article that you infer another choice was possible, that somehow the child could have survived as well.

    Unfortunately, that outcome simply wasn’t possible.

    The moral question condenses nicely to: is a mother obligated to die in order to avoid an abortion?

    I would appreciate your specific thoughts on that question.


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