In a recent New York Times column, Nicholas Kristof attacked Catholic Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix. Olmsted did something that Kristof considers unconscionable. He made a moral decision that was consistent with the Bible and the teachings of his Church-and he had the audacity to act upon it.
In late 2009 a pregnant woman suffering from pulmonary hypertension went to St. Joseph's Catholic Hospital in Phoenix for treatment. And part of the treatment was an abortion.
Now it is true that pregnancy can be a mortal risk for a woman with pulmonary hypertension. But from the bishop's point of view, St. Joseph's did not demonstrate that the abortion was strictly required to save the woman's life-the only morally acceptable reason for terminating a pregnancy.
After an investigation, Bishop Olmsted announced last summer that Sister Margaret McBride, who approved the abortion, had excommunicated herself. In December he announced that for performing the unwarranted abortion and for other deviations from Church teaching, St. Joseph's was no longer a "Catholic" hospital.
This led Kristof to proclaim a battle of "two rival religious approaches." "One approach," he writes, "focuses on dogma, sanctity, rules and the punishment of sinners. The other exalts compassion for the needy and mercy for sinners-and, perhaps above all, inclusiveness." (As if one excludes the other).
Kristof then wrote that "Jesus might sue the bishop for defamation." For someone who so easily and flippantly invokes Jesus, Kristof appears to have a stunning ignorance of what Jesus actually said and did. He forgets that the same Jesus who offered "compassion for the needy and mercy for sinners" was very specific about doctrinal truth, the need for sanctity and obedience, and the threat of eternal damnation.
But then, this isn't about Jesus. It's just another example of calling good "evil" and evil "good." That was the first and fatal temptation in the Garden. Satan labeled good-obedience to God-a restrictive evil. Then he labeled evil-disobeying God-an unmitigated good. How little things have changed particularly in matters of sexuality and life.
We see the same thing in Apple's rejection of the Manhattan Declaration app. The Manhattan Declaration simply restates age-old Christian teaching about life, sexuality, marriage, and freedom. Apple, however, makes the dubious claim that as a result of the declaration's rejection of homosexuality it is "likely to expose a group to harm" and is "objectionable and potentially harmful to others."
All this despite the declaration's affirmation that gays and lesbians possess a God-given, "profound, inherent, and equal dignity."
And by the way, Archbishop Olmstead is a steadfast proponent of the Manhattan Declaration.
The goodness of a culture is measured by how that culture-its institutions, laws, and habits-measures up to the natural law, that objective and unchanging standard of good and evil God has written into the universe and into our consciences.
Inverting good and evil led directly to the first sin and to the human habit of repeating that sin over and over again.
The solution for Christians is to affirm the truth about good and evil when it's popular and even when it's not. And no matter what the New York Times may say about it.