Fetuses-aren't-people lawsuit: Bishops to review Catholic hospital's argument

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Colorado's Catholic bishops say they will "undertake a full review" of a lawsuit in which Catholic Health Initiatives, an Englewood-based operator of 78 Catholic hospitals in seventeen states, has argued that it can't be held liable for the deaths of two unborn babies because fetuses are not people. The bishops say the review will examine "the policies and practices of Catholic Health Initiatives to ensure fidelity and faithful witness to the teachings of the Catholic Church."

The lawsuit in question is the subject of this week's cover story, "The Meaning of Life." It involves a man named Jeremy Stodghill, who is suing Catholic Health Initiatives and St. Thomas More Hospital in Canon City for the wrongful death of his wife and unborn twin sons. His wife, Lori Stodghill, was 28 weeks pregnant when she died of a pulmonary embolism at St. Thomas More Hospital in 2006. Doctors decided not to do an emergency Cesarean section to try to save the babies -- which Jeremy believes was a terrible mistake.

Catholic Health Initiatives asked a judge to dismiss the lawsuit. "Under Colorado law, a fetus is not a 'person,'" Catholic Health Initiatives' lawyer wrote, "and plaintiff's claims for wrongful death must therefore be dismissed."

When Westword originally called the Diocese of Pueblo for comment, a spokeswoman referred us to the Colorado Catholic Conference, which describes itself as "a united voice of the three Catholic dioceses (that) speaks on public policy issues." But a spokeswoman for that organization did not return phone calls or e-mails.

Now, the bishops in Pueblo, Denver and Colorado Springs have issued a statement:

The Catholic bishops of Colorado learned recently of the deaths of Lori Stodghill and her two unborn children, which took place at St. Thomas More Hospital in Cañon City, Colorado in 2006. We wish to extend our solidarity and sympathy to Lori's husband Jeremy, and her daughter, Elizabeth. Please be assured of our ongoing prayers.

From the moment of conception, human beings are endowed with dignity and with fundamental rights, the most foundational of which is life.

Catholics and Catholic institutions have the duty to protect and foster human life, and to witness to the dignity of the human person -- particularly to the dignity of the unborn. No Catholic institution may legitimately work to undermine fundamental human dignity.

Catholic Health Initiatives is a Catholic institution which provides health care services in 14 states, providing care to thousands of people annually. Catholic Health Initiatives has been accused by some of undermining the Catholic position on human life in the course of litigation. Today, representatives of Catholic Health Initiatives assured us of their intention to observe the moral and ethical obligations of the Catholic Church.

The Catholic bishops of Colorado are not able to comment on ongoing legal disputes. However, we will undertake a full review of this litigation, and of the policies and practices of Catholic Health Initiatives to ensure fidelity and faithful witness to the teachings of the Catholic Church.

Most Rev. Samuel J. Aquila, S.T.L., Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Denver
Most Rev. Michael Sheridan, S.Th.D, Bishop of the Diocese of Colorado Springs
Most Rev. Fernando Isern, Bishop of the Diocese of Pueblo

Continue for comments from the Archdiocese of Denver's chancellor.

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I came across this information in a local newspaper in ND and was very disappointed that an instuition that claims to be part of a Catholic Health Care system would make a statement that a fetus is not a person. I work in a Catholic Health Hospital and we see posted throught about the mission and this definitely is not what it says and what is stated to us. As Catholic,I have been raised to respect life from time of conception till end  of natual life. St. Thomas Hospital made a mistake in the care of these 7 months old fetuses and now is not accepting the responibility for their mistake. Does the Catholic Church

change their teaching based on financial issues vs moral issues? The news media will have a hayday with this issue if not resolved according to the Churches teachings. I just watched 2 different Masses this last week in Washington, D.C. during the Right to Life week. This situation in Canon City, Colorado makes a makery of what the Right to Life organization is striving to protect the unborn of this country.


More than a decade ago, Catholic Healthcare West (now known as Dignity Health) and the Sisters of Mercy, went before the California Supreme Court to successfully argue that a black nurse ( incidentally born and raised a catholic), employed by their Catholic hospital was, like a fetus in Colorado, not a “person” as defined by law. In spite of Catholic teachings, doctrines, pious statements of Catholic social justice, hospital mission statements and vows espoused by the Sisters of Mercy (among other things dedicated to promote “women seeking fullness of life and equality in church and society” and promising to oppose discrimination against minorities, the poor, and all vulnerable persons), put all principals and religious teachings aside in their efforts to void California's Fair Employment laws.

In that California lawsuit, the “United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and "Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services" was referenced quite frequently. However, it was not used to advance the rights of “persons” or people, but was used as a wordy fig leaf to distract attention from the actions of the church, and to define, expand, advance and codify in law the power and authority of the church.  

Powerful Catholic religious organizations will use religion, not to guide their behavior, but to avoid laws and taxes so they can continue to act with impunity in the operation of their businesses; Leaving patients without a legal path to address malpractice, refusing access to some healthcare services, and to deny protections for the vulnerable, the disabled, the elderly, racial minorities, and those who may not accept or comply with Catholic teachings.

Here, money is religion, and the church, its bishops and priests do not do as Jesus would do.  


What's their official policy on meth and porn shops??

Meth-dealing Priest Purchased Adult Shop in North Haven

BRIDGEPORT - A Catholic priest busted for allegedly dealing crystal meth was suspended after church officials discovered he was a cross-dresser who was having sex in the rectory at Bridgeport's St. Augustine Cathedral.

Monsignor Kevin Wallin was relieved of his duties in May, but the Roman Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport continued to pay him a stipend until his Jan. 3 arrest — the day he was planning to fly to London on vacation.

Now dubbed "Msgr. Meth", at one point, Wallin was selling upwards of $9,000 of meth a week, according to his indictment.

Perhaps there's a future in the Catholic chuch for ex-Sheriff Patrick Sullivan?


Why not pose this question to, "Ask a Mexican?", and perhaps see how much more ridiculous it can really get after ONLY waiting 40 yrs on the church & state ...

DonkeyHotay topcommenter

Comments being auto-deleted by MyVoiceNation software.

Ryan Terpstra
Ryan Terpstra

Now, the bishops in Pueblo, Denver and Colorado Springs have issued a statement: "Oh...shit. We won this case. So yeah, about that line of reasoning we used in court..."

BackOffImStarving topcommenter

@janisgartner You're right.  It's best to let them live so you can take away their welfare and shoot them with your conceal-carry firearms when they are stealing a loaf of bread later in life.

michael.roberts moderator editortopcommenter

@janisgartner Very interesting post, Janis. We're going to make it an upcoming Comment of the Day. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

michael.roberts moderator editortopcommenter

@slcutah Very interesting post, slcutah. Thanks for weighing in.


@Ryan Terpstra 

Like when the Vatican declared the largest rodents in the world to be "fish" so the newly converted savages in South America wouldn't be sinners when they ate it on Fridays.

Flexible "morality".

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