Saturday, December 18, 2010

Lessons From Sherirff Arpaio: In Olmstead's World It's All About His Authority

Bishop Olmstead receiving lessons in dictatorship from Sheriff Arpaio, a man Olmstead has never questioned publicly and who runs a veritable concentration camp for supposed illegals.

It sure does seem that Bishop Thomas Olmstead of Phoenix is addicted to the adrenaline rush of controversy---and exercising his authority.  I've been out of touch this week as I worked the GVD shift at my new/old job, so I missed out on Omstead's latest controversy with the Catholic hospital which opted to save the life of a mother of four by the therapeutic abortion of her fifth pregnancy.  Olmstead thought it was more Catholic to let both mother and child die. As I read through his letter to the hospital, it strikes me that from Olmstead's position the controversy has absolutely nothing to do with correct medical ethics and everything to do with his authority to rule all things in his diocese.  Olmstead is waging a sort of a small scale version of the large scale battle the Vatican is waging with China over who has the authority to appoint real Chinese bishops.

As a Catholic though, I am completely befuddled by some of the latest 'teachings' of my American leadership.  I keep thinking about Archbishop Broglio, head of our Military Archdiocese, babbling on about the rights of Catholic chaplains when it comes to DADT in the military. Did he forget this same military is engaged in two unjustified wars? Seems to me DADT would be very small potatoes for a Catholic Archbishop in his pastoral duty to over see the souls of Catholic military who are actively engaged in two wars declared unjust by Pope JPII. After all this same Archbishop certainly overlooks the fact military personnel are issued condoms like candy, so it can't be the illicit sex on his mind with his DADT obsession.  Hopefully there is something else, otherwise I will be forced to conclude Broglio is another publicity seeking episcopal hypocrite, but I digress.

I wonder how as a Catholic I am expected to tolerate the moral muddle of Catholic priests serving a military institution dedicated to killing in a war which JPII declared unjustified, while at the same time I'm expected to support Olmstead's authority in one very grey medical case. I can only determine that the over riding issue has nothing to do with the teachings of Jesus Christ, or reason applied to faith, and everything to do with mindlessly supporting the rights of tin pot dictator bishops to interpret Christ and Catholicism in any way they see fit.

Olmstead actually says his chief complaint is the hospital's refusal to recognize his authority. Unfortunately for Olmstead, his isn't the only authority to which a hospital or it's employees have to answer. It is not Olmstead who issues professional liceneses to practice medicine.  It's the state.  The state has it's own notion of appropriate medical care.  Allowing a woman and her fetus to die when one can be saved is not considered ethical medical practice.  It's considered malpractice.  Maybe Olmstead doesn't understand that most professionals would rationally determine their licensing board has more authority to decide a professional course of action than a non trained religious figure. Even Archbishop Broglio does not tell the US military how to wage their unjust war.  He just over sees the sacramental and pastoral availability for military personnel engaged in that unjust war.

Maybe the Military Ordinariate represents the solution.  Instead of having any hospitals define themselves as Catholic, hospitals could apply for pastoral and sacramental support from a specialised diocese or archdiocese.  If individual Catholic practitioners had a moral issue with a hospital they would have the same options Catholic military personnel have: confessing or finding other employment.

The issue which really gets to me is that Olmstead is waging his war against this particular hospital over notions of what constitutes murder.  This same issue NEVER comes up in the Military Ordinariate. Sacraments are not refused, Masses are still said, pastoral care given no matter the circumstances, and chaplains don't tell other officers how to do their job, much less demand those professional officers accept their opinions on how to wage warfare.  Why is the hospital system and the practice of medicine different from the military system and the practice of large scale unjustified warfare?  Please, don't tell me it's all in the name --as in Catholic Hospital. Medicine is medicine and regulated by the state, no matter the name on the hospital.

Until someone can give me a real reason for this bizarre discrepancy in the application of the fifth commandment with regards to hospitals vis a vis the military, I will continue to put my own conscience ahead of blind obedience to the USCCB or the Vatican.


  1. Compare and contrast:

    Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a public letter condemning our federal government's proposed changes to immigration law, Bill C-49.

    "This legislation risks creating serious obstacles to sponsorship and family reunification. Furthermore, it authorizes the detention of refugees for long periods and restricts the right of appeal, which would be contrary to sections 31(2) and 32 (1) (2) of the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees signed by Canada.

    In our Pastoral Letter on Immigration and the Protection of Refugees released on 15 January 2006, the Episcopal Commission for Social Affairs of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops stated that “it is a fundamental inversion of values, according to Catholic teaching, when laws and policies place national interests and security before human dignity.”

    Leaders like Olmsted illustrate that the American RC Church has completely lost direction. I feel badly for you, my American cousins, that your country has fallen so far.


  2. I think Archbishop Broglio should be more focused on the large failure of ministry that the lack of Catholic priests is causing in the military than on the DADT issue.

    The least he could do is get permission to permit married permanent deacons to serve as Catholic chaplains. Asking other bishops to release their very scarce priests is hardly a solution.


  3. Another very good article. You made good points here.

  4. The interesting point about Olmstead is that he is commanding a hospital to give him triage responsibility in emergent (and non emergent) medical cases. No hospital or physician can practice safe medicine under such conditions. The case of a woman with increasing pulmonary hypertension at 11 week gestation is a medical emergent situation. Had the nun decided not to do the case at her hospital and something happened to the patient in transport, her hospital would be legally and ethically responsible. They would also be violating a number of federal regulations regarding taking adequate care of sick patients. Any doctor that would be willing to practice at this hospital should it give in to this megalomaniac Bishop, will also be placing himself in a non defensible legal and ethical situation. This would simply make the place unsafe for patients to go for their medical care. I wonder if Bishop Olmstead is ready for not only sexual assault suits but medical malpractice suits in which the doctors, hospital, he and his diocese would be named. I think the hospital must understand this and therefore has not given in. I think all are trying to find a way for Olmstead to save face with the deadline extension, but I wonder if Olmstead’s megalomania is too much for him to find a way out. He has already lost face no matter what eventually the hospital decides.

    Bishop Olmstead has placed himself in a big muddled mess of his own making. I think unless he finds a way to back down, the hospital will have to let his anger continue to rage. The fact that he has threatened to not allow mass or communion at the hospital show the mindset of a tantruming child. The hospital may have no choice but to declare themselves catholic but not Roman Catholic.

    Perhaps some real good can come of this with the recent denunciations of theologians at Creighton University who dared to write about marriage issues, gays and sexuality as a whole which the Bishops denounced. They were also not clerical theologians just as doctors and hospitals do not depend financially on the Church for any help. These theologians have their own social security and probable retirement plans, something that priests often do not have. They are much safer in binging to light truth than are priests who must answer to megalomanic Bishops. Perhaps what most Catholic Hospitals and Universities should tell the public is that they are inspired by two thousand years of Catholic thinking and belief but they are not tied to the magisterium or any current bishops. I think that society is about ready to understand why this is needed and both types of Institutions can the thrive in a way that is not possible under the thumb of the empty miter. The Bishops are wedging themselves against segments of the laity that will not give into there demands and many catholics will understand the valid reasons to ignore the Bishops. Others in the laity will then begin to ignore them more than ever before.

    Coleen, you make very good points about the military, but I hope tantrums like Olmstead's will have real fall out on the Bishops attempts to license theologians at "Catholic" Universities. dennis

  5. p2p Your Canadian bishops may have written this sentence in regards to immigration, but it can be applied in reference to a whole host of issues, including the relative authority of a bishop. All one need do is replace 'national interests' with episcopal interests and the statement accurately describes my thinking about Olmstead and Broglio:

    “it is a fundamental inversion of values, according to Catholic teaching, when laws and policies place national interests and security before human dignity.”

  6. Dennis, you may be prescient about how Catholic hospitals and colleges will define their connection to institutional Catholicism--that of being inspired by rather than conforming to the tradition.

    I could certainly use that notion of being 'inspired by' to describe the kind of relationship I personally have with Catholicism at this time in my life. I may even adhere to much of the Catholic ethic in how I live my life, but that is not a matter of obedience, it's a matter of reasoned choice. I could care less what a given bishop thinks other than it's effect on the entirety of the Body of Christ.

    You might find this interesting. A friend of mine described the Olmstead's of the Catholic world as 'executive sociopaths'. I find that a really apt clinical description.

  7. rdp46: That was a power comment. Thanks for sharing. Bishop Olmstead sounds somewhat scary. Does he have a political agenda?

  8. Mareczku,

    Bishop Olmstead's political agenda is to be recognized as THE TEACHER of his diocese. This has become true of many JP II and Benedict appointees to the Episcopate in the United States. We are now seeing that by THE TEACHER, they do not mean just theology in which many have a poor resume compared to the many theologians at the Universities in their diocese, but also they want to be THE TEACHERS when it comes to medical decisions when it comes to women's fertility, birth and old age. They believe that without a resume, they have some special connection (to Whom) to know THE ANSWERS to many questions that face modern man. They also seem to claim to know history better than historians etc.. This is the mark of authoritarian thought. This type of mind can not be welcomed on a hospital ethics committee!

    JP II has left a legacy of a litmus tested Episcopacy that have turned out to be not only poor leaders but have convinced themselves that they really have powers that they have no right to claim. This is a megalomanic claim of omniscients ("creeping infallibility") that they feel that they should be recognized as omnipotent leaders. When professionals of the laity can not recognize them as a true authority, Bishops such as Olmstead send threatening letters and excommunications. This comes from a very weak personality structure that the manifest as a supposed omnipotents. In other words, they assume the mind set of the tantrum. It has become pitiful!

  9. Insightful writing and thoughtful commentary keep me coming back for more. Thank you Colleen and Dennis, you really put Olmsted's mindset in focus. He's not concerned about scripture. It is all about power.

    Generally speaking I think he misunderstands the concept of "teacher" too. Authoritarian teachers can compel behavior in the context of class but what is their effect on the person? The resentful students make faces behind the teacher's back. They chuck their books in the garbage at first opportunity. They watch the clock waiting for the time they can run out the door.

    Jesus was a great teacher. It wasn't all about his authority because as an itinerant preacher he had no formal authority over his flock.

    Colleen, thank you for understanding my earlier comment, which on its own, might be considered to be off-topic. You got my meaning.

    There's another aspect to teaching that's worth mentioning. That's the content in context. I hope there will be a post about the Pope's statement today. I'll just mention one thing to link it to this discussion, while hoping for more discussion later.

    "But he said the crimes of the priests also had to be looked at in today's context, where child pornography, drug use, sexual trafficking are to some degree considered normal even though an entire generation of children is being harmed."

    No. Child pornography is not normal. It is among the most serious crimes in society. In the prison population child abusers have to be isolated from the other prisoners because they will be beaten and killed. That's how seriously criminals take child abuse. (I speculate that quite a few prisoners themselves were victims of child abuse and would love nothing more than to get some revenge.)

    Not really. Most illicit drug use and abuse is heavily punished and carries serious social consequences. It is not considered normal. If Benedict is referring to marijuana then perhaps there is more acceptance than previously despite an enormously expensive, wasteful and destructive "war on drugs". If he is referring to abuse of prescription drugs, then perhaps he might have a point. It would be worth discussion.

    No. Sexual trafficking is as illegal and reprehensible as ever. It is not considered normal.

    But look at the context here. He views the world as just dripping with evil. Worse, he thinks, most people seem to think it is normal. I do not accept this premise. In fact, civil law has done a better job than the church in addressing these problems. And education does an even better job than the law in instilling morality and civil behavior.


  10. I wonder when Olmstead will start using technology to enforce his role as THE TEACHER for his diocese. For example, he could set up ALL CCD classes for all ages online. Several things get relieved this way:
    1. No more trusting other people with HIS sacred office. And hey, he accumulates all the brownie points for doing the teaching with Heaven to himself alone.
    2. No need to vet people to act as CCD instructors at the parish level. And think of the savings on insurance premiums.
    3. People, including children could take the classes at home so more money/resources can be saved that way for the parish and diocese
    4. People in this kind of isolation don't have as much chance to network and find ideas/opinions among themselves counter to what he wants.
    5. He could record his homilies for use at ALL Masses too, just to ensure his ideas are the only ones put out.

    We could go on and on here I'm certain. Who needs a Catholic laity or even priests to perform services like this when the bishop can do it all.

    And I sure hope my tongue-in-cheek attitude is coming across...

  11. Until someone can give me a real reason for this bizarre discrepancy in the application of the fifth commandment with regards to hospitals vis a vis the military, I will continue to put my own conscience ahead of blind obedience to the USCCB or the Vatican.

    Following your own conscience? Expecting consistency in edicts? Gracious, woman, where DO you get such absurd notions?

    "Over the pope as expression of the binding claim of ecclesiastical authority, there stands one’s own conscience which must be obeyed before all else, even if necessary against the requirement of ecclesiastical authority." - Joseph Ratzinger, Commentary on the Documents of Vatican II, 1967

    Well...that's just the Pope talking. It's not like it's the words of Christ.

    "Why don't you judge for yourself what is right?" (Luke 12:57)

    Well...that's just Christ talking. It's not like it's the words of the Pope. hrmm...

    You know, if you keep that sort of talk up, they'll call you an Ecumenical Catholic and refuse you communion. Just ask archbishop Chaput about that.

  12. p2p, you got your wish, I did post on Benedict's comments today. I was writing the post while you were writing this comment.

    Veronica, Bishop Morlino has forced all his priests to use a CD of his as a sermon. I'm sure more will be coming from Morlino.

    In some respects EWTN already serves the functions you describe, just not formally. I bet it's coming though, I really do--and I won't find it funny.

  13. Tim stop it, you might confuse me and then I will have to email Chaput to get straightened out...Er what ever.

  14. Bishop Olmstead is late to the party. For more than five years, Archbishop Chaput has been towing the party line, shutting down parishes and trying to enforce that pre-V2 'you will respect my authority' (said in that Cartman from South Park voice) catechism with helpings of old-school fear and guilt.

    For myself, I'm ridiculously pleased. That sort of heavy-handedness was the final straw sending a lot of faithful catholics, lay and ordered, to build a new catholic structure outside the bounds of Rome.

    No longer a matter of individuals being disaffected and wandering off to become 'recovering catholics', the rabble is becoming organized and collectively finding that the grace of God and the joy of sacramental life can, in fact, exist outside of Roman rule.

    To paraphrase Princess Leia Organa,
    "The more you tighten your grip, Chaput, the more parishes will slip through your fingers."

  15. Believe me colkoch, there are more tears on my side than laughter. Once I was done typing the first part of my comment I realized just maybe somebody would think I was offering serious recommendations.

    Actually, the only thing they would have to do to take a giant leap in the technology direction is to authorize the fulfilling of the obligation to assist at Mass under ordinary circumstances by 'joining' a Mass sent out over radio/TV/Internet. And you can prove you've fulfilled your obligation by way of your Paypal contributions.

    At one time I had a parish priest who specifically said that EWTN was a bad thing. I wonder how far he'll be able to get in the priesthood with that attitude.

  16. I so agree with you Tim. The rabble is getting organized and I too secretly cheer every time an executive sociopath like Olmstead or Chaput or Burke goes off. It's guaranteed I will post on it and spread their words as much as I can. Let there be light.


    It looks like the inspired by Catholicism is going to be the way to go.

  18. One of the most trusted Arizona medical malpractice attorneys I know relentlessly chase doctors responsible for medical injuries because it is the right of the victim to a medical treatment that is not influenced by religious beliefs. It should be centered on the quality of life of the individual.