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Thomas Olmsted is an American prelate of the Roman Catholic Church, serving as Bishop of Wichita, Kansas from 2001 to 2003, and as Bishop of Phoenix, Arizona from 2003 to 2022. He is a controversial figure whose hardline positions, particularly on abortion, have drawn national attention.
Firing of Church employee over civil wedding
In January 2005, under Olmsted's watch, Jenny O'Connor was fired from her position as head of the Phoenix diocese's Office of Child and Youth Protection (tasked with cracking down on child sexual abuse within the Church) because she married her boyfriend in a civil ceremony, believing there was not enough time to plan and hold a Church wedding because he was dying of cancer.
Requiring couples to take marriage courses
In 2006, Olmsted began requiring all couples in the Phoenix diocese wishing to have a Church wedding to first take a full course in natural family planning, also known as the rhythm method. In 2010, the length of the courses couples are required to take before marriage increased from six months to nine, and a course on the "theology of marriage" including propaganda about the alleged ills of same-sex marriage was added to the curriculum.
Denial of Communion to autistic child
In 2006, Olmsted refused to give Communion to Michael Moran, a ten-year-old autistic boy unable to swallow food with certain textures. In a letter to the Moran family, Olmsted stated that Michael cannot take Communion until he can "actually receive the Eucharist, actually take and eat." The Morans say Michael had previously received Communion without issue in Pittsburgh by having the host placed in his mouth briefly and then removed by his father before he spit it out.
Opposition to medically-necessitated abortion
In May 2010, Olmsted declared Sister Margaret McBride excommunicated after he found out that in November 2009 she had authorized an abortion at St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix. The patient, a 27-year-old mother of four, was 11 weeks pregnant and suffering from pulmonary hypertension, which her doctors determined put her risk of death at "close to 100 percent" if the pregnancy continued.
On December 21, 2010, Olmsted stripped St. Joseph's of its Catholic affiliation because hospital officials stood by their decision to provide life-saving medical treatment. According to Olmsted, doctors should have adhered to archaic Catholic dogma, rather than to try to save their patient's life and prevent her four children from growing up motherless:
“”It is not better to save one life while murdering another. It is not better that the mother live the rest of her existence having had her child killed.
Olmsted apparently also believes that religious dogma can trump federal laws which require hospitals to provide emergency care to anyone who needs it.