Kathryn Lopez

"One little man wrote this letter. And he can just go to hell."

Elisabeth Hasselbeck, one of the co-hosts of ABC's "The View," was talking about William Donahue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights. Donahue happens to be a knight of a man with a fearless courage of convictions. A man who loves and defends some of the most beautiful women among us. Ones who don't tend to have the megaphone that comes with starring on a daytime talk show.

The ladies of "The View" were understandably on the defense, having been criticized by Donahue in a press release after a recent show. They had expressed outrage about the excommunication of a religious sister who served as an ethics adviser at St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix, Ariz. The excommunication was not new, but it was in the news again because on Dec. 22, after extensive negotiations, Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted announced that St. Joseph's is no longer a Catholic hospital. The breaking point for this identity issue was a direct abortion that took place there in 2009 with the consent of the sister.

Hasselbeck, who is no stranger to life-defending moxie, was very clearly motivated in her anger, as some of the other women seemed to be, out of a sense of compassion. But in expressing their anger, they glossed over the details of the situation. In explaining the new status of the hospital, Olmsted said that "in the decision to abort, the equal dignity of mother and her baby were not both upheld; but that the baby was directly killed." That action was "a clear violation" of Catholic ethical and religious directives. In this painful case, "there was not a cancerous uterus or other grave malady that might justify an indirect and unintended termination of the life of the baby to treat the grave illness." But that "the baby was healthy and there were no problems with the pregnancy; rather, the mother had a disease that needed to be treated. But instead of treating the disease, St. Joseph's medical staff and ethics committee decided that the healthy, 11-week-old baby should be directly killed. This is contrary to the teaching of the Church."

"I thought they made exceptions in the case of extreme circumstances," Hasselbeck said during one of the now two segments on the issue. Absolutely, there is as much compassion inside a Catholic operating room as anywhere for the pregnant mom whose life is in danger. And she can absolutely be treated. But when the second patient is directly taken out of the picture, you don't have to call Rome to realize we have a problem.

Kathryn Lopez

Kathryn Jean Lopez, editor of National Review Online, writes a weekly column of conservative political and social commentary for Newspaper Enterprise Association.