Critique of Bishop Olmsted’s Response

Bishop Olmsted, responding to blogger criticism of his decision to remove the “Catholic” designation from St. Joseph’s hospital because it took the life of a child in defense of the life of the child’s mother, stated:

I really don’t read the blogospheres. I try to pray each day to find my identity in Jesus Christ. I start my day, every day, with an hour of adoration. I celebrate the Eucharist. I pray morning prayer, mid-day prayer, evening prayer, and night prayer. 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 whether I’m looked at one way, or another – if I’m given praise or whether I’m given ridicule – it doesn’t matter. What I’m called to be is faithful to Jesus Christ and his Church.


A few responses:

1) He’s not going to win any bonus points from me for blowing off the blogosphere. Obviously, though, he’s under no moral duty to read what people write on the Internet or in the newspaper, or what they say on TV or over the radio. Whether the media is old or new, he’s not under a moral duty to take any interest in what other human beings have to say about things.

2) For someone who really thinks it doesn’t matter, he looked rather nervous and he sounded quite defensive. Perhaps, however, the nervousness had some other source, such as what his fellow bishops will be saying about his decision.

3) His mention of his adoration, Eucharist, and daily prayers is a reference to the fact that he is required under the canon law of his church:

Can. 663 §1. The first and foremost duty of all religious is to be the contemplation of divine things and assiduous union with God in prayer.

§2. Members are to make every effort to participate in the eucharistic sacrifice daily, to receive the most sacred Body of Christ, and to adore the Lord himself present in the sacrament.

§3. They are to devote themselves to the reading of sacred scripture and mental prayer, to celebrate worthily the liturgy of the hours according to the prescripts of proper law, without prejudice to the obligation for clerics mentioned in ⇒ can. 276, §2, n. 3, and to perform other exercises of piety.

§4. With special veneration, they are to honor the Virgin Mother of God, the example and protector of all consecrated life, also through the marian rosary.

§5. They are to observe faithfully an annual period of sacred retreat.

And again:

Can. 276 §1. In leading their lives, clerics are bound in a special way to pursue holiness since, having been consecrated to God by a new title in the reception of orders, they are dispensers of the mysteries of God in the service of His people.

§2. In order to be able to pursue this perfection:

1/ they are first of all to fulfill faithfully and tirelessly the duties of the pastoral ministry;

2/ they are to nourish their spiritual life from the two-fold table of sacred scripture and the Eucharist; therefore, priests are earnestly invited to offer the eucharistic sacrifice daily and deacons to participate in its offering daily;

3/ priests and deacons aspiring to the presbyterate are obliged to carry out the liturgy of the hours daily according to the proper and approved liturgical books; permanent deacons, however, are to carry out the same to the extent defined by the conference of bishops;

4/ they are equally bound to make time for spiritual retreats according to the prescripts of particular law;

5/ they are urged to engage in mental prayer regularly, to approach the sacrament of penance frequently, to honor the Virgin Mother of God with particular veneration, and to use other common and particular means of sanctification.

I bring this up simply to note that what he says he is doing is simply what canon law requires him to do.

4) These requirements are not as rigorous as the requirements for those in monastic life, but they do impose a significant daily burden on a person. The various hours require not just a quick “Hail Mary,” but reference to the books that dictate the particular prayers, hymns, and readings for that particular day and hour (there’s a great deal more discussion here, for those interested).

5) It’s easy to believe that the bishop has found his identity in this, which he has (exceedingly sadly) confused with Christ. A life of daily attendance on these requirements is a disciplined life that adheres to rules. Those who have been in the military may have seen men like this who found a sense of identity in the rules and regimes associated with that life. The prayers at regular intervals from a book that requires simply obedience, not thought, provide a regime that can be followed and give one a sense of belonging.

6) Such discipline is (in itself and without consideration of the end to which it is being put) a good thing. God has created men to obey. Indeed, it is even good to be regular in praying to God – not so that it will become a rote chore, but to be in the habit of turning to God to seek His aid, thank Him for His gifts, confess our sins, and praise Him for His greatness. Rome further perverts the matter by including all sorts of mariolatry into the regime, but that’s neither here nor there.

7) Rome, however, uses this as a yoke to place on the shoulders of their priests (bishops are priests too). It becomes a duty that they must do to please the Church and (it is implied) God. But God has not asked for this – God has not said that this is what will please Him.

8) I have to admit that when I heard this short speech, many verses flooded into my mind. The first passage was this:

Luke 18:9-14

And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: “two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.’ And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, “God be merciful to me a sinner.’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.”

When questioned about his decision, this bishop put down his critics and exalted himself, based on his rituals. But he’s missing the point, what God desires is not the rituals, but the contrite heart:

Psalm 51:17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.

What this attitude of following the rules of religious life in the Roman religion misses is what Jesus himself taught:

Matthew 5:20 For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.

9) A final passage also came to mind as fitting the situation.

Matthew 23:23 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.

Here’s a bishop talking about going through his rote prayers – the minimal requirements of his clerical office, and yet he has just condemned a hospital that made the very difficult decision to use lethal force to defend the life of a woman from her child. Was that decision right? Ultimately God will judge, but normally lethal force is permitted in defense of life. If, in fact, the situation is as it has been reported, it appears that the woman had the right to defend herself.

10) I was also struck by the fact that the bishop’s stated identity was not Christ alone, but “Christ and the Church.” What he considers to be faithfulness to Christ is faithfulness to the rules of his church. However, in following the rules of his church, he’s not following God’s law. I’m not simply talking about his failure to allow self-defense to be a justification for killing in this case, but about the fact that he offers worship (hyper-dulia) to Mary, engages in idolatry (in the latria of what is truly bread), and seeks to be right with God (evidently) through faithfulness rather than by faith.

– TurretinFan

P.S. I was also a little surprised he didn’t mention Mary. But don’t worry, there’s an image of Mary based on the Guadalupe idol behind him.

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