Friday, November 16, 2012

In the Catholic News: Abortion in Ireland, Gay Marriage in Minnesota

I'm sorry to be slow to post today, dear readers.  I'm out of pocket and not finding a lot of time to blog.  But several stories with Catholic content catch my eye, and, since I think they may interest readers of Bilgrimage, I thought I'd at least offer links to them:

1. The story of Savita Halappanavar's death at University Hospital in Galway, Ireland, last month is absolutely appalling.  The story is just now being told by the media. Mirele provided a helpful link to the Irish Times account of this story by Kitty Holland and Paul Cullen several days ago, in a comment about my posting re: Peter Laarman's critique of Samuel Rodriguez.  Sarah Morice-Brubaker offers a good reflection on the theological implications of the story at Religion Dispatches yesterday.  

As you'll see when you read these pieces, this story turns on the refusal of a hospital to terminate a pregnancy when--insofar as I understand--it was clear that the young mother was miscarrying a premature fetus that died in utero.  But by the time the fetus had died, Halappanavar had developed septicemia of which she then died.  The accounts of what happened indicate that she and her husband were told that the hospital could not terminate the pregnancy (even though it seems apparent to me the fetus could almost certainly not have survived, and I have to wonder if the doctors knew this) because Ireland is a Catholic country.

This deeply painful story brings to mind for me how Janice Langbehn was told by Jackson Memorial Hospital in Florida that she could not see her partner Lisa Pond as pond was dying in the hospital after she suffered a stroke when Pond, Langbehn, and their children had traveled to Florida for a vacation in 2008.  Just as Praveen and Savita Halappanavar were told the hospital could not remove the fetus as long as it had a heartbeat because Ireland is a Catholic country, Langbehn was told she shouldn't expect to see Pond because Florida is an anti-gay state with anti-gay laws.

The Irish story also brings to mind the excommunication of Sister Margaret McBride by Phoenix bishop Thomas Olmsted in 2010, when McBride voted with members of the ethics committee of St. Joseph's Hospital in Phoenix to permit the termination of a pregnancy when the medical consensus was that the fetus would not survive and the mother, who had other children, would almost certainly die if she continued the pregnancy.

It's hard to understand the rigid application of Catholic principles (and, in the case of the Galway hospital, law in Catholic countries) in these cases as pro-life in any meaningful sense at all.  I continue to wonder if some Catholic principles would be applied so rigidly (and, let's be honest, inhumanely) if women had as much power to articulate and interpret them in the Catholic church.

2. Another story making the rounds: in Barnesville, Minnesota, 17-year-old Lennon Cihak has been informed by his parish priest, Fr. Gary LaMoine, that he cannot be confirmed because he posted an image on Facebook indicating his opposition to the marriage amendment in Minnesota.  Erik Burgess reports on this story at the Fargo newspaper site Inforum.  Luke Hill has also started a thread about it at the Commonweal blog.

The story raises some serious and disturbing questions about the use of the sacraments by clerics to punish lay Catholics for their political and moral opinions.  It also makes me wonder, frankly, about the kind of reprisal that will perhaps be dished out now in some Catholic communities in more conservative areas of Minnesota against Catholics who voted no on the marriage amendment promoted so hotly by that state's bishops.

I haven't forgotten that a Catholic school teacher in the Crookston diocese lost her job this summer because she supported marriage equality.  In my partner Steve's home diocese . . . where Fr. Gary LaMoine was previously pastor of his family's parish . . . .

The upshot of this ugly behavior is to inform the many LGBT children, brothers and sisters, and aunts and uncles of Catholic families in these parts of the state that they are unwelcome in their own homes and their home parishes.  It's also to inform their own relatives that, when they support their gay and lesbian relatives, they'll be shunned and humiliated by their Catholic communities.

Where Jesus fits into this picture is not at all clear to me.

It is, I think, not a surprise at all that more and more journalists like Andrew O'Hehir, in many cases people raised to be devout Catholics, are concluding, as they survey the behavior of church officials at this point in history, that the Catholic church has little to do any longer with good news for many human beings.

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