Magisterial Me

Josh rightfully calls special attention to dissident nun Sr. Carol Keehan of the “Catholic” Health Association, who earlier this year disagreed with the Bishops so that she could err in favor of faciliting abortion, and now once again disagrees with a Bishop so she can err in favor of facilitating abortion.

These two Keehan incidents are good examples of the dissident attitude, and our understanding of the situation is enhanced even further by comments from Bishop Vasa earlier this year, which help illustrate how such dissidents are really usurpers of Our Lord’s apostolic authority.

In the present instance, ask yourself: where does the “Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Hospitals” come from?  That’s simple: it’s a guidance document from the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.  They wrote it, they publish it.   

Now Keehan is dead wrong about what the ERDs say–they don’t justify abortions–they prohibit them.  And the ERDs don’t even resolve some extremely precise scenarios, much less do they counsel in favor of abortion and Keehan.  By the way, did you ever notice how dissidents like Keehan and Kaveny and Commonweal always, always, always, ALWAYS disagree with Bishops on abortion by being more anti-child, and never by being more pro-child?  (Again, so much for their supposed belief in the preferential option for the poor and vulnerable.)   

But I digress.  Observe here, that when the USCCB speaks against abortion in Obamacare, Keehan finds it incompatible with her partisan loyalties and so she dissents from them in order to receive worldly acclaim.  Yet when she wants to allege that a decision in favor of abortion is right, she asserts that her position is supported by the Bishops’ ERDs–whose source of authority she herself picks and chooses whether to accept.

The plot gets even thicker.  As a USCCB guiding document, what authority do the ERDs have exactly?  Bishop Vasa, quoting then-Cardinal Ratzinger, explains:  absolutely NONE, except to the extent that the LOCAL BISHOP has adopted them, and the extent to which he interprets them and tweaks their application in his diocese. 

Individual local bishops have canonical, and apostolic, authority over what is done by Catholic entities in their diocese, and how Catholic moral guidelines for those entities are to be implemented.  National Bishops’ conferences, by contrast, “have no theological basis, they do not belong to the structure of the Church, as willed by Christ, that cannot be eliminated.” (So sayeth the man who is now Pope.)  In short, the ERDs are meaningless without the local Bishop’s application of them. 

So here’s Keehan, disagreeing with a Bishop on the basis of her interpretation of a document that is itself irrelevant except to the extent that he adopts and interprets it in his diocese.  What does that make Keehan and similar dissenters?  A self-appointed magisterium.  “A magisterium of nuns,” in this case.  Carol (“Cardinal”?) Keehan says that she gets to decide what sources of overarching guidance apply, and she gets the last word in interpreting them.

This attitude is incompatible with Catholicism.  I think it was St. Thomas who said that even if you agreed with all the teachings of the Church, but you did so only on basis of your own authority and not the Church’s, you wouldn’t be Catholic.  That’s a good definition of how the Catholic left operates on a daily basis today.  It’s wonderful to see some pushback by the real apostles.



  • Laura

    “I think it was St. Thomas who said that even if you agreed with all the teachings of the Church, but you did so only on basis of your own authority and not the Church’s, you wouldn’t be Catholic.”

    Does anyone know where St. Thomas says this? I’d be interested in reading more. Thanks!

  • Matt

    Amazing! What a great analysis of this situation! Thanks for the clarity of thought on this.

  • marv!!!

    It appears that this hospital is not in agreement with with several Catholic policies. I would assume therefore, that they consider the Bishop’s actions as a non-significant event.

    • Bruce



    The women in the photo don’t look like nuns but rather “Roman Catholic Womenpriests ™ conducting of thier nautical “ordinations.” Are they involved in this? Anchors Aweigh!

  • cgfish

    I like this article, but what I find upsetting , is that those who oppose the bishop seem to have successfully made this all about a single medical incident, when in fact as the bishop noted in his statement , it is a resolution in the long going process spanning several years.

    The hospital is carrying many un-catholic practices , including prescribing and passing out birth control.

    I think putting all the focus on this one incident is expecting too much ‘medicine’ from the bishop, when in fact, his problem was with a repeated attitude, and his inability to trust the decision making process , going on at the hospital.

    • Bruce

      Nonetheless, pregnancy is not an illness nor can it be ended in “self-defense” (which is the most ridiculous argument I have ever seen). A child was intentionally killed in a Catholic hospital, which is always forbidden, no matter what the circumstances. It is always evil and always will be. This is really a simple, open-shut case, folks. They murdered a child in their woeful incompetence.



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