Tuesday, December 28, 2010

I Seek Answers To A Fundamental Question

This is not true for orthodox bishops and Catholic Hospitals and pregnant women.

The previous post precipitated a really good discussion about some of the salient points and questions involved in Bishop Olmstead's decision with regards to revoking the Catholic status of St Joseph's Hospital.  Since the Catholic Health Association has come out in defense of the hospital, I am quite sure we haven't heard near the last on Olmstead's decision.  In the linked article there is mention of a similar situation in Baker, Oregon involving Bishop Robert F. Vasa. The following is taken from Wikkipedia:

In February of 2010, according to a December 21, 2010 Catholic News Service online article about the status of another formerly Catholic hospital, Bishop Vasa had stated that St. Charles Medical Center in Bend, Oregon, located within the Baker Diocese, "had "gradually moved away" from the church's ethical directives and can no longer be called Catholic. As a result of that decision, Mass is no longer celebrated in the hospital's chapel and all items considered Catholic were removed from the hospital and returned to the church. The hospital retained the St. Charles name and a cross remains atop the building."

What I find interesting about Vasa is that he too is a protege of Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz of Lincoln, Nebraska.  Like Olmstead, Vasa is considered very orthodox and places abortion on the pinacle of the Catholic moral pyramid.  He has stated that those who support any form of abortion are guilty of heresy.
It looks as if the proteges of Fabian Bruskewitz have decided their very own personal mission is to take on the Catholic Healthcare system in the US and in the meantime the USCCB stays silent.  I don't find that silence very surprising given they have never censured Bruskewitz in any way for his refusal to adhere to the Dallas Charter.  He is the only bishop who has refused and he was quite snarly and deprecating in his refusal:

Some woman named Patricia O'Donnell Ewers, who is the chair of something called 'A National Review Board for the Protection of Children and Young People,' has said that her board 'calls for strong fraternal correction of the Diocese of Lincoln.' The Diocese of Lincoln has nothing to be corrected for, since the Diocese of Lincoln is and has always been in full compliance with all laws of the Catholic Church and with all civil laws. Furthermore, Ewers and her board have no authority in the Catholic Church and the Diocese of Lincoln does not recognize them as having any significance. The words attributed to Ewers seem to confirm the suspicion that the members of her Board are unfamiliar with Catholic teachings, Catholic ecclesiology, and even the basic rudiments of the Catholic Catechism. Rather than concerning themselves with the Diocese of Lincoln about which they appear completely ignorant, Ewers and her colleagues would occupy themselves in a better way by learning something about the Catholic religion and the traditions and doctrines and laws of the Catholic Church. The Diocese of Lincoln does not see any reason for the existence of Ewers and her organization.

For Bruskewitz, Olmstead, and Vasa the sole issue of importance seems to be their own unchallenged authority in their own dioceses. It doesn't matter what the issue might be, eventually it comes down to their right to exercise sole authority in their diocese.  They are their diocese as is amply evident in the language used by Bruskewitz in the above quote. Too bad there is no such protocol for bishops using the papal "we".

But I have a different question.  It's a question stemming from the discussion on the previous post.  It's about original sin and it's effects.  I was taught original sin was present at conception as a result of the sexual activity involved in conception--hence, Mary was conceived without original sin. However, when I looked it up in the current catechism as it's found on the Vatican website I found that although we are BORN with original sin no one knows how it's transmitted:

403  Following St. Paul, the Church has always taught that the overwhelming misery which oppresses men and their inclination towards evil and death cannot be understood apart from their connection with Adam's sin and the fact that he has transmitted to us a sin with which we are all born afflicted, a sin which is the "death of the soul".

The next paragraph then goes on to say no one knows how original sin is transmitted, but it's most certainly part of human nature.  Which of course means something different than being born with original sin.  This is more like saying original sin is part of our very DNA.  And yet the way these orthodox bishops go on about abortion, placing the fetus in a category of life all it's own, I am led to believe birth somehow triggers the effects of original sin, which up until that point have been dormant or something.  I don't even want to get into the line original sin is the 'death of the soul", but I suspect some day I will.

So it turns out there must have been a change in conceptualization of the transmission of original sin from one described in terms of inheritance to one in which we are unsure of it's transmission but we all suffer it's consequences the minute we draw a breath.  Hence it becomes possible to make a somewhat logical case that the pre born state is somehow more innocent than the born state.  From there it could follow that pregnant women commit heresy if they act on the thought their own lives are equal to the fetal life within them and deserving of the right to continue in circumstances such as in the Phoenix case.

Guess what, I don't buy this at all, but I am beginning to understand why there might be such a disconnect between those of us who were catechized in one notion of original sin and those who are catechized in the current thinking which was published under JPII's authority in 1992--well after the abortion wars started.

I can't help but wonder if the addition of a huge grey area in original sin was purposely done in order to promote a theology which places a woman's life subordinate to fetal life in order to strengthen the Catholic abortion case.  Wouldn't be the first time such a thing has happened and I doubt it will be the last, but in the meantime women are at risk and the disconnect between the Catholic medical community and Episcopal authority will only get wider.


  1. Coleen, The Church originally approved the use of Cesarian Section so that a Baby would have a chance at baptism, even if the surgery killed the woman. I think there has been continued attempts by the conservative curia to prove that Humanum Vitae was correct.

    The principal effect of most birth control pills is prevention of ovulation. There is also a secondary side effect with some pills causing the uterus to be less likely to implant a blasocyst. The church in the 1960's and 70's taught that the use of the BC pill was wrong because it violated the natural law, but by calling it an abortant they try to make their case much stronger. It is interesting that many things will cause a uterus to be less likely to implant including, vigorous exercise, depression and other mental conditions, food deprivation, many drugs including most cancer drugs etc. The church does not see these situations as causing abortions as they do BC pills. They have no answer when it is pointed out that over 60% of blastocysts in nature do not implant. You see just like my once young son, these men hate to be told that they are wrong.

    The other effect of humanum Vitae that many do not realize is that the Bishops in each diocese now demand to license "Catholic" theologians that teach in Universities in their diocese. Perhaps it was because over 100 Theologians, mostly from our own Catholic University came out with a full page add in the front section of the NY Times after Humanum Vitae declaring it was OK to use the pill and still consider yourself a good Catholic.

    It was bad enough that Paul refused to use the consensus of not one but two Vatican Commissions composed of the best of the Catholic worlds theologians and scientists finding that the Church should OK the BC pill. The Conservative curia have been attempting to "prove themselves right" ever since and no moral Catholic Theologian will speak up because it means that they are either declared a non catholic theologian or that they have excommunicated themselves if they go further and say that there are some conditions that even abortion is OK. This is why the idea of Academic Freedom and a Catholic Hospital’s right to form ethics committees go hand and hand.

    These three Bishops may force the hand of some Catholic Universities. I have often made the point that Catholic Universities can only be catecatical centers if they allow Bishops to license theologians and academic freedom to seek truth is important because many other academic fields other than theology like medicine were involved. No Academic study could seek truth if a Bishop had to approve what was thought by theologians and or historians, scientists or philosophers. You can see with the Phoenix Hospital situation, bishops and some conservative theologians believe that they also know what is best concerning the medical treatment of patients. This omniscient belief of some current conservative theologians and Bishops has now eclipsed the serious problem that the Church got itself into with Galileo for we now have bishops telling scientists when life begins and what cells can be used for the development of new treatments for disease.

  2. Ye olde Augustinian "logic" (if that word can be used here) on original sin was this- It's transmitted through *the sperm* even though Eve was the one who ate the forbidden fruit, but then again everyone knows those Female Women thingies don't give any real contribution to making a baby, right? *Facepalm*

    This also makes Mary's case more than a little odd for a couple reasons. Firstly, Mary was not herself a virgin birth, which would have to be the case to escape the evil of her paternal bloodline. And secondly, if God could miraculously hold back this contagion in Mary's case w/o need of a savior, then why not do that for the rest of humanity as well?

    The whole thing just makes no sense, and seems to be deeply related to this age old misogynist sperm worship thing we've sen so often before.


  3. The fact that most blastocysts fail to implant, as Dennis mentioned, is the Achilles heel of those who oppose abortion-under-any-circumstances, especially when it's on theological grounds (which it probably always is). A 60% failure rate is a very conservative estimate (an embryology professor once told me 75% was "probably a conservative estimate"!).

    I've always assumed that the theology underlying the "preferential option for the fetus" had much to do with the fact that the fetus hasn't had the opportunity to experience the magic of baptism, and thus be cleansed of the "stain of original sin." Fourth century superstitions don't mesh well with the ethical demands of 21st century, unfortunately.

    Contemporary Catholic theologians have moved well beyond that magical view of baptism and original sin, but old beliefs die hard. When Cardinal Ratzinger had the audacity to call the traditional justification for infant baptism "unenlightened" (which was putting it politely) he drew intense criticism from traditionalists. Google "Ratzinger," "baptism," and "unenlightened" sometime and you'll see what I mean.

    But that's the big problem with Catholic tradition: Nothing ever gets thrown away. New truths aren't allowed to displace old errors. You can't call yourself infallible one day and try to correct your previous errors the next. (Someone should ask Olmsted if he still believes in "limbo.")

    It appears to me that the only real consequence of the Phoenix hospital losing its official Roman Catholic affiliation is that they can no longer have Masses there. If that means getting out from under the thumb of someone like Olmsted, that's a pretty small price to pay.

  4. Kallisti,

    Firstly, Mary was not herself a virgin birth, which would have to be the case to escape the evil of her paternal bloodline.

    That's a good point. We might put it a different way: If it was theologically necessary for Mary to be "immaculately conceived" in order to conceive a sinless Jesus, why wasn't it necessary for her parents to be so conceived? And her parents' parents, and so on? Something other than logic was operating the day that doctrine was dreamt up.

    And secondly, if God could miraculously hold back this contagion in Mary's case w/o need of a savior, then why not do that for the rest of humanity as well?

    Also a good point, though I would put it differently. Traditionally, it has been argued that Jesus was responsible for his own mother's immaculate conception--in other words, there was still need for a "saviour" in her case. But your basic point is still valid. The traditional doctrine of original sin wasn't accepted because it made sense, but because it served the ideological ends of the cultic priesthood.

  5. Prickliest your last sentence surely does seem to be the main impetus for the illogical theology surrounding original sin. It's pretty obvious the insistence on mandatums for theologians and adherence to bishop interpreted ERDs for Catholic hospitals is also all about promoting and protecting the cultic priesthood with it's absolutely essential place in Catholic salvation.

    When Benedict more or less described limbo as a theological conceptualization that Catholicism no longer held near and dear I was somewhat floored. I couldn't help but think of all the parents who suffered a great deal of angst over the idea their unbaptized baby was not in heaven as they buried their child outside the fences of consecrated cemeteries.

    How long oh Lord must your people put up with the machinations of the cultic priesthood? How long will it take us to grow up and get over the whole notion?

  6. I have said a few times on this board, the priesthood of baptism is the important one for Christian believers. There are many European theologians educated in Catholic Universities and mostly priests who say that for a person to consecrate the Eucharist, it just takes a group to select that person. No nonsense ordinations by a Bishop or nonsense consecrations of Bishops.

    This bit of knowledge, indeed, would be too frightening for the typical Bishop to consider. It would be considered not catholic theology by the holy inquisition. The punishment for its theological utterance would be the murdering of a carrier, unless the theologian went to a non catholic university. dennis

  7. Curious to know if anyone at the hospital will be inviting any of the Churches of the Union of Utrecht to celebrate Mass now.

  8. Perhaps the original sin is a two step process similar to baptism/confirmation or ordination as a priest vs. elevation to a bishopric. In the case of original sin it is transmitted at conception and finalized at birth? I don't know but it would explain some things. It really seems to me they are splitting hairs and I have to wonder why so much effort must be expended in the exercise.

    I personally don't see it as a case of original sin vs. the Purity of God. I see it more as the difference in being temporal and limited vs. timeless and all-powerful. We in this life have no perfect answers. And every possible answer has side effects whether intended or not. We must make choices. But at least it also explains how we can thank Adam in liturgy for committing that original sin without which we would not be human.

  9. Veronica, you make and interesting point. Had Adam not eaten from the tree of knowledge, we as a human race would be left as children. When Adam and Eve Ate the Fruit, they moved on to a life of pain, growth and development. They became human. So yes, we should thank them for their curiosity to begin human creativity! dennis

  10. "The Diocese of Lincoln does not see any reason for the existence of Ewers and her organization."

    Pot meet kettle.

    I found this interesting: Evolution, Evil and Original Sin

  11. Dennis, I can't tell you how utterly shocked I was the first time I really HEARD that part of the Good Friday/Easter services. After all the exhortations about avoiding sin, the damning of original sin and the need for baptism/conversion, the need of penance and repentance for committed sin, fear of fire and brimstone, etc, etc... It was one of those moments in life for me. It took some real pondering and thinking to sort it out. Not sure that I have sorted it yet, but I'm closer I think.

    Still, if I recall correctly, it was Adam and only Adam thanked. Eve was left out.

  12. "The Diocese of Lincoln does not see any reason for the existence of Ewers and her organization."

    I didn't notice this the first time I read it; it's one thing to say that you don't "see any reason for the existence of" an organization. But the diocese sees no reason for the existence of Ewers herself? Well, that's not very nice, is it?

  13. Veronica, I like to think life is all about personal growth and development and kindness to others. The woods are dark, lovely and deep, I have things to do and people to see before I sleep. I am not so worried about personal evil as I am about loss of personal creativity. dennis

  14. With the provision that one person can not gain so much power in society as to unleash something like a holocaust, I am not so concerned about personal evil either. I see the journey through this life as more one of growth and development which by definition requires change. We make mistakes - either deliberately or unintentionally - and we learn from them to better ourselves and the lives of those around us. I know I personally have learned far more from my mistakes than I ever did from getting it right the first time.

    But there are also times when either choice made can be the right one. And either choice made can mean something less than kindness to others. This is where I see things not as evil/innocent but as the temporal and limited in power vs the timelessness and all-powerful attributes of God.

  15. Veronica, you are so right particularly when you realized that an ignorant authoritarian can be in fact evil and that personal choices can not always be kind. There are times that creativity and or lack of self understanding cause us to make choices that in fact are hurtful or in a better circumstance seemingly hurtful to others. You are further right that in the best of circumstances we and others will learn from these choices. dennis