abortion2

It’s easy to have a field day with that Catholic hospital in Colorado arguing in court that it is not responsible for the death of two seven-month fetuses on the grounds that they were not persons. So bishops will go to the mat to be able to keep their hospitals from performing abortions and covering contraceptive services for their employees, but come a lawsuit and all of a sudden canon law is out the window. What hypocrisy!

Over at NCR, Michael Sean Winters cautions against such umbrage. After all, lawyers are supposed to do the best they can for their clients, and since Colorado law doesn’t recognize fetuses as persons, why should a Catholic hospital play by different rules?

There’s an answer to this, however. It’s that every now and then you ought to demonstrate your bona fides by acting on principle against your material interests. Especially when the principle is leading you to accuse the government of conducting a war on religion. Call this the put-your-money-where-your-mouth-is principle.

Categories: Beliefs

Mark Silk

Mark Silk

Mark Silk is Professor of Religion in Public Life at Trinity College and director of the college's Leonard E. Greenberg Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life. He is a Contributing Editor of the Religion News Service

9 Comments

  1. Nanabedokw'môlsem

    Let’s not get too simplistic here about “person.” Whether a given state of development of a baby in the womb, or for that matter, whether one fertilized egg safely embedded in the wall of the womb is worthy of regard as human life vis a vis an absolute right to be born, is an entirely different question from whether that is a person for purposes of Colorado wrongful death act or Colorado tort common law, and an entirely different question from whether an corporation is a person for purposes of federal right to free speech. Person is a term of art. A lawyer would be opening his path to having to pay the judgment personally, if he or she failed to raise an issue of personhood for purposes of a wrongful death act or common law tort of personal injury resulting in death.

  2. You missed the author’s point, Nan: the hospital should have admitted guilt and settled out of court, even if it meant paying a large settlement. Once they learned that the hospital made no effort to save the babies, it should have offered to settle. Now they have seriously compromised their claim that personhood begins at conception, since they are now agreeing with the state that personhood begins at birth.

    We are witnessing the catholic church’s love of money, which the Bible tells us is the root of all evil.

    • Nanabedokw'môlsem

      An entity free to make gifts which would make such a gift to a father who has lost a wife and 2 expected children in one sad situation and thus has suffered a great loss, would have done a nice thing, no argument there. So if you’re just saying that and no more, I agree fully.

      While I have a JD degree and have been admitted to practice in two states, neither is Colorado. Thus I am speculating. With that stated, let me say that Colorado will surely regulate what a corporation of the type which the hospital was may or may not do with its funds. Making substantial gifts is not generally permitted to business corporations, let alone charitable ones to persons not falling within the class of beneficiaries the charitable corporation was formed to serve. Thus it may be that the hospital was not free to make such a gift as you suggest. It would then be malpractice for the attorney to recommend such be done.

      As noted it may well also be Colorado law that a wrongful death action cannot be brought on behalf of a not-yet-born child. It would then be malpractice not to assert that defense. Any collusion on part of hospital and patient’s spouse to transfer funds in a court setting that could not be transferred as an express gift, would also violate applicable statute(s).

      A real opinion of law respecting who could lawfully do what under the circumstances would involve at least two or three hours in the Colorado statutes and court decisions, and maybe a whole lot more. One thing is always clear: the court cannot accept Catholic doctrine as guiding principle for a court decision not related exclusively to internal Church affairs, and courts don’t see many of those.

  3. How are the Catholic bishops being hypocrites? They are not part of the law suit. Silk’s comment is just another example of his bigoted attacks on anything Catholic.

  4. Carolyn Disco

    Talk about negligence! The doctor was supposed to be on call and did not answer the page. So where was she? Certainly not available to help the patient.

    After the father lost the first round in lower court, the hospital passed on its legal bills of $118,000 to him when he refused to cancel his appeal of the decision. He entered bankruptcy when the hospital wanted to garnish his wages and he lost his house in the process. He struggles to provide for his 9-year old daughter.

    I hope he wins big on appeal and nails the hide of those who play scorched earth legal games. Bishops have authority over Catholic hospitals in their dioceses, BTW.

    I surmise the bishops are so embarrassed over this case that they will settle, while demanding a confidentiality agreement. Too risky for the bishops on too many fronts. Either they win the case by asserting fetuses are not persons (Vatican won’t stand for that) or lose and pay huge damages. Better to settle quietly. Bet this never goes to trial.

    That Mr. Stodghill has had to endure so much is an outrage.

    • Nanabedokw'môlsem

      If they win the case they will win it because Colorado state law says the circumstances do not merit an award, except for the death of the mother perhaps. The Bishops could argue until they are blue in the face that fetuses are people, but if Colorado law says fetuses are not people, then for this case fetuses are not people.

      In Court the State’s law applies, not the Bishops’ to-us-correct statement about fetal life.

  5. I don’t understand Ms. Disco’s and Mr. Silk’s positions.

    First, contrary to Ms. Disco’s statement, the bishops do not control Catholic hospitals. They only control whether a hospital calls itself “Catholic” and thereby considers itself in communion with the Church.

    Secondly, the bishops and the Church are not part of the law suit. Why are they being brought into the discussion.

    Finally, are Ms. Disco and Mr. Silk actually agreeing with the bishops and Church teaching in that a baby in the womb is a person? It is the state that is saying the baby is not a person, not the bishops and the Church. If the state followed the teachings of the Church, this whole situation of Colorado state law would not have been raised.

    Are Ms. Disco and Mr. Silk arguing that the Catholic Church is correct? Or are they just venting anti-Catholic bigotry?

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