Pennsylvania Faith Healing Parents to Be Imprisoned for Death of Son


Two Pennsylvania parents will be imprisoned because the couple relied on faith healing rather than medical treatment for their son, a decision that ultimately led to the infant’s death. A Philadelphia judge ruled today that 45-year-old Herbert Schaible  and his 44-year-old wife, Catherine are responsible for the death of their 8-month old and should serve time as a result.

The Schaible’s son is believed to have had untreated pneumonia, marked by shallow breathing and a poor appetite. Eerily, the couple had already lost a 2-year-old son to the same disease in 2009. In both cases, the couple cited their religious affiliation as the reason they did not seek medical attention for their young children. The couple has said that medicine is against their religious beliefs and that they believe in “divine healing” through Jesus and the power of prayer. Their pastor has been quoted as saying that the reason that the Schaibles lost their children is because of some “spiritual lack” in their lives.

After the death of their first son in 2009, the couple were found guilty and convicted of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to 10 years probation. They were also subject to a court order requiring that they seek medical attention as necessary for their surviving children. The Pennsylvania parents violated that order when they relied only on faith to heal their infant son and will now be imprisoned for their role in his death.

The Schaibles pleaded no contest to the third-degree murder of their infant son. Attorneys for the couple argued that their should be some leniency in their sentencing as no malice was involved and they were operating within the context of their religious faith. Prosecutors were not swayed, however, and requested that the couple each be sentenced to between eight and 16 years in prison. It is believed that they will actually be sentenced to somewhere between three and a half and seven years behind bars. Six of their surviving children have been placed into foster care, one, aged 18, attended his parents’ court proceedings.

While the couple reportedly expressed remorse both for the deaths of their two children and their violation of the terms of their probation, their pastor claims that the couple still would not seek medical treatment for any of their children were they to become ill because their religion condemns it. Catherine Schaible has reportedly said that her beliefs about medical treatment have changed.

The Schaibles are part of a small religious community in northeast Philadelphia known as the First Century Gospel Church and are said to be the third-generation of members in their respective families. They served as educators within their religious community as well.

Prosecutors in the case say that the system failed the couple’s infant son, as his death was foreseeable. A prosecutor involved in the first case says that it was clear that the surviving children were still in danger at that time, as the parents’ beliefs “were so ingrained.” He says that they sought a ruling that a Department of Human Services caseworker be assigned to the family at the time but it was denied. They are not at all surprised to see the faith healing Pennsylvania parents headed to prison for the death of another of their sons.

By Michele Wessel

ABC News

NBC Philadelphia

USA Today