It is one thing to be pro-life and seek to protect the unborn, and it is another thing entirely to stand by and let a mother die. That is what doctors at St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix discovered when faced with the choice of saving a pregnant woman's life at the cost of her unborn child, or withholding surgery and letting the woman die.
The doctors at this Catholic hospital chose life—in this case the life of the mother. It is a horrible choice to have to make, and regardless of one's position on abortion, one should sympathize with those asked to make it. But Bishop Thomas Olmsted of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix had no such sympathy, and stripped the hospital of its Catholic affiliation.
The hospital was not receiving money from the Diocese, so there is no financial loss, but St. Thomas will no longer be able to celebrate Mass, and can no longer display the Blessed Sacrament in its chapel.
I am not a Catholic, and maybe that alone should cause me to refrain from commenting on this issue, but even if it should, it won't. The reason for saving an unborn child over the mother of that child is theological: the mother has had the opportunity to accept Jesus and be saved, while the baby has not. In other words, the mother can die and go to heaven, but the baby cannot. Can it be that Bishop Olmsted believes that this deceased baby is locked out of heaven? Does he really believe that God's heart is narrowed by the Church's theological imaginings?
I can only assume he does, but I can't. Our ideas about God: what God can and cannot do, and who God will and will not save, are just that—our ideas. God is always bigger than our ideas. Even God says so: "My thoughts are not your thoughts" (Isaiah:55:8).
What religion needs is a little humility, a commodity too few religions have. When forced to choose between saving the life of the unborn or saving the life of the unborn’s mother, let’s not pretend to know the will of God, but rather let’s open our hearts to the struggle of the living to make that decision. Sometimes the mother must take precedent over the baby, and sometimes the baby must take precedent over the mother. And sometimes it just isn't so clear.
So whatever choice is made, let us realize we are always choosing life, and have compassion rather than condemnation for those forced to make it.