Except, that is, when it works to their advantage. When it profits them. And this two-tracked approach was illustrated by another recent news story, one that flickered onto and then off the public’s radar more quickly than it should have, and deserves a closer look.
The news story brought to light a wrongful-death suit by a widower, Jeremy Stodghill, in regard to his wife and the twin 28-week-old fetuses inside her when she died in a Catholic hospital, St. Thomas More, in Cañon City, Colorado.
The hospital’s lawyers argued that the woman’s death couldn’t have been prevented. As to whether proper medical attention might have yielded the delivery of two healthy baby boys, lawyers argued that the question was ultimately irrelevant, because wrongful death can apply only to people and, legally speaking, fetuses aren’t human lives.
This isn’t how the Catholic Church is supposed to see things. It’s the opposite. The church staunchly opposes abortion, holding that life begins at conception, and has even raised concerns about the morning-after pill. And the fetuses inside Lori Stodghill, 31, were four weeks past what’s generally considered viability.
Lawyers by nature use the best strategies available to them, in a brutal arena where failing to do so puts clients at a disadvantage. And the Colorado litigation is just one case involving one Catholic hospital, which may not have gotten any green light for its arguments from high-ranking church officials. In fact, Colorado’s three Catholic bishops on Monday released a statement that articulated their objection to the hospital’s legal approach and said it should be abandoned henceforth.
But the hospital isn’t some random outlier. It’s run by Catholic Health Initiatives, which operates 78 hospitals in more than a dozen states. And a habit of clinging to a religious identity one moment and abandoning it the next is visible beyond this case, especially in the church’s management of its child sexual abuse crisis.