Herbert and Catherine Schaible made it over the first hurdle: their kids saw a doctor.
The Rhawnhurst couple – members of a fundamentalist Christian church that considers medical care a sin and a lack of faith in God – were convicted of involuntary manslaughter in December by a Philadelphia jury for practicing faith-healing while their two-year-old son sickened and died of bacterial pneumonia in January 2009.
On Feb. 2, they avoided prison by assuring Common Pleas Court Judge Carolyn Engle Temin that their seven children, now 1 to 15, will get regular medical care until they turn 18.
At a status hearing Friday, Temin was told by a probation officer that the Schaible children had visited a neighborhood medical clinic. The judge allowed them to continue on probation without further court hearings unless the probation officer reports a problem.
“Everything is fine, no problems,” said Bobby Hoof, Herbert Schaible’s attorney.
Assistant District Attorney Joanne Pescatore was less pleased, after learning that probation officer had not yet obtained access to the Schaible children medical records.
As part of their 10-year probation, the couple also agreed to submit to periodic checks by probation officers and open their children's medical records, as requested, for inspection. The couple must schedule follow-up doctor visits as recommended and must seek medical care if the children even get a cold.
Herbert Schaible, 43, teaches at a school run by the fundamentalist First Century Gospel Church of Juniata Park. Catherine Schaible, 41, is the daughter of the school’s principal.
At the Schaibles' trial, witnesses testified that for two weeks, Kent had fought what began as a cold, but progressed into bacterial pneumonia. The couple prayed over their son and thought he might be getting well. But on the night of Jan. 24, 2009, they discovered Kent dead in bed. They called their church's assistant pastor, who joined them in prayer and called a funeral director.
The church's teaching has at times put it at odds with civil authorities, notably in 1991, when a city measles epidemic killed eight children. Their parents belonged to either First Century Gospel Church or nearby Faith Tabernacle of Nicetown, which also espouses faith-healing.