“The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath,” said Jesus [Mark 2: 27]. One of the primary objectives of Jesus’ mission was to raise man above legalism to the plane of compassion. However, the church that was founded in his name made more and more rules and imprisoned the believers in the straitjacket of those rules.
The latest example of the Church’s inhuman legalism comes from Phoenix, USA. Bishop Thomas Olmsted stripped St Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center of its affiliation with the Roman Catholic diocese. The reason is that the hospital had terminated a pregnancy to save the life of the mother. The 27-year-old woman, a mother of four children, would almost certainly have died otherwise. Furthermore, Sister Margaret McBride, who had been on the hospital’s ethics committee and had approved of the decision, was excommunicated by the bishop. [The details can be read in the New York Times article, Tussling over Jesus]
The Catholic Church is stringently opposed to abortion. Abortion is certainly an evil, unless there is no other alternative. Abortion is murder. The embryo [strictly speaking, the period from the end of the second week of conception to the end of the second lunar month is the embryonic period, after which it will be the foetus] is already a miniature human being. All the essential features of the body, both internal and external, are established. The embryo is a living ‘individual’. Abortion is the murder of that individual.
I agree with the Catholic Church up to that. The problem is when the Church stands in absolute opposition to abortion. There are occasions, like the one mentioned above, when abortion becomes unavoidable. How can the Church penalise a hospital and its religious staff for carrying out an abortion in order to save the life of the mother? What the Church shows here is its draconian attitude of placing the law above humanity.
Let us recall an incident from history. In 1858 Pope Pius IX allowed a 6-year-old Jewish child Edgaro Mortara to be snatched from his parents by the papal police because he had allegedly been given secret Catholic baptism by a maid when he was ill. This happened in Bologna, Italy, 8 years after the Pope had the walls of the Jewish ghetto in Rome rebuilt. There were worldwide protests against the Church’s treatment of Edgaro and his parents. Even Napoleon III and the Emperor Franz Joseph intervened on behalf of the beleaguered Jewish parents. Nevertheless, the Church did not budge. It stubbornly chose to give the boy a Catholic upbringing. Eventually he was even ordained a priest.
The ignominious lack of concern for people is the hallmark of the Catholic Church. Nothing is more important to it than allegiance to the Law. It is high time that the Church learnt the plain message of Jesus that the law was made for man and not vice-versa.