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Catholic Health Initiatives Argues in Court Against Personhood of the Unborn


UPDATE: The bishops are on it! Hat-tip @MBartoloAbela

Alternet‘s Kaili Joy Gray has written a trashy and vile hit piece against the Catholic Church – “A Fetus Is Not a Person if it Costs us Money, Says Catholic Church.” Catholic Health Initiatives attorneys have, unfortunately, given Gray and other anti-Catholics an opportunity for gross misrepresentation of the Church by arguing against the personhood of the unborn in a malpractice suit.

From The Colorado Independent:

Catholic organizations have for decades fought to change federal and state laws that fail to protect “unborn persons,” and Catholic Health’s lawyers in this case had the chance to set precedent bolstering anti-abortion legal arguments. Instead, they are arguing state law protects doctors from liability concerning unborn fetuses on grounds that those fetuses are not persons with legal rights.

As Jason Langley, an attorney with Denver-based Kennedy Childs, argued in one of the briefs he filed for the defense, the court “should not overturn the long-standing rule in Colorado that the term ‘person,’ as is used in the Wrongful Death Act, encompasses only individuals born alive. Colorado state courts define ‘person’ under the Act to include only those born alive. Therefore Plaintiffs cannot maintain wrongful death claims based on two unborn fetuses.”

These attorneys are not “the Church” speaking. It is Catholic Health Initiatives attorneys speaking and they need to be fired immediately. I have to say, though, that I was shocked to learn that this argument was actually made over two years ago, in 2010. In the first ruling handed down on the case, on behalf of Catholic Health Initiatives, Judge David Thorson wrote (.pdf):

The defendants argue that to be a ‘person’ one must at some point have been born alive.

“The defendents” are John Barry Pelner, M.D., Catholic Health Initiatives Colorado d/b/a St. Thomas More Hospital, and Pelham Porter Staples, III, M.D.

Jesus said:

My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. — John 10:27

“The defendents” are not hearing the voice of Jesus here.

There are ignorant people in the Catholic Church just as there are brilliant people. There are saints and there are “bad Catholics” in the Church. There are competent people and incompetent people. The wheat and the weeds grow together, but the teaching of the Church is always consistent, despite the failures of human beings. Arguing against the personhood of the unborn child is not “Catholic,” no matter who is doing it. Any reasonably intelligent and educated person should be able to reason that out, so there is no excuse for these attorneys to be making that argument and there is no excuse for anyone to claim that this argument is “the Church” speaking.

There are two problems going on here. One is that these attorneys seem to be of the opinion that civil law trumps Church law when the two conflict. When an unjust law saves us money, it is not okay to agree with the unjust law. The second problem is that anti-Catholics like Gray use such failures as this to accuse “the Church” of hypocrisy, or of being interested primarily in money or, in Gray’s case, both things.

A woman and her two babies died, leaving behind a grieving father and daughter. The Church needs to settle this case in a manner where the family is taken care of in the way Jesus would want us to. We should all pray for this family and for everyone involved in this case so that this can happen as soon as possible. Meanwhile, it seems clear to me that lessons should be learned here, both in the area of preventing death and in ensuring attorneys representing Catholic institutions are not throwing the proverbial baby out with the bath water in our courts.

Photo: Georgia Right to Life

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