PHOENIX, December 22, 2010 ( – Despite a bombardment of outrage from media and leftist activist organizations, the bishop responsible for revoking the Catholic status of a hospital that performed a direct abortion says that the backlash matters little to him, as long as he’s being faithful to the teachings of Christ.

In a press conference (see video) announcing his decision Tuesday, Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix explained that his assessment of the situation at St. Joseph’s Hospital was supported by the doctrinal committee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in addition to his own panel of experts, working with the National Catholic Bioethics Center.

It had been revealed earlier this year that, in late 2009, the hospital’s staff directly killed an unborn child as a means of remedying its mother’s pulmonary hypertension, which can be aggravated by pregnancy. After the hospital and its parent company, Catholic Healthcare West, refused to go back on the decision and adhere to the U.S. Bishops’ Ethical and Religious Directives (ERD) for moral health care, Olmsted said he had a responsibility to make it known publicly that the hospital was no longer Catholic.

Olmsted has been under fire from groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union, whose pro-abortion chapter condemned the bishop’s decision and accused Olmsted of “jeopardiz[ing] the health and lives of pregnant women” by his pro-life stand.

But when the bishop was asked during Tuesday’s press conference what his reaction was to the mix of strong praise and derision he has been receiving, Olmsted said, “I really don’t read the blogospheres.”

“I try to pray each day to find my identity in Jesus Christ,” he said. “My identity comes from Christ. Christ is present in his living body the Church. That’s my identity, it comes from that.

“If I’m unfaithful to that, then – if I’m looked at one way or another, if I’m given praise or if I’m given ridicule, it doesn’t matter: what I’m called to be is faithful to Jesus Christ and His Church.”

OImsted also said that he was “very much worried” that the affair would divide the Catholic community and that he would “hope and pray” that the hospital would come back to full communion with the Church. “I’m very sad that this will happen, but it would be unfair to the people for me to make as if an institution was Catholic if it wasn’t following directives that are clearly known to them, given to them to serve them. I owe it to the faithful to know what’s happening there,” he said.

Monsignor Ignacio Barreiro-Carámbula, interim president of Human Life International (HLI), warmly praised Olmsted for his unswerving attention to the equal dignity of both mother and child, and encouraged Catholics across America to pray for and send a note of support to the beleaguered bishop.

“The situation is indeed regrettable, and it is clear how difficult it has been for Bishop Olmsted,” said Monsignor Barreiro. “But this is what heroic, faithful leadership looks like.

“It does not take its cues from prevailing mores, but from the unchangeable teaching of the Church, which holds that every human person possesses not only life, but a dignity that demands our respect and defense, especially when he or she is most vulnerable.”

Click here for Bishop Olmsted’s contact information.


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