Nun Excommunicated Over Abortion

The Arizona Republic is reporting that a nun at a Catholic hospital was disciplined and excommunicated for allowing an abortion that saved a woman’s life:

A Catholic nun and longtime administrator of St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix was reassigned in the wake of a decision to allow a pregnancy to be ended in order to save the life of a critically ill patient.

The decision also drew a sharp rebuke from Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted, head of the Phoenix Diocese, who indicated the woman was “automatically excommunicated” because of the action.

The article goes on to say that “The patient had a rare and often fatal condition in which a pregnancy can cause the death of the mother”, and that pulmonary hypertension was involved.

“In this tragic case, the treatment necessary to save the mother’s life required the termination of an 11-week pregnancy,” [hospital vice president Suzanne] Pfister said.

So. Fetus poses a clear and present danger to the life of the mother. First trimester of pregnancy, so the fetus isn’t viable outside the womb. Throw in some rape or incest (which may conceivably have occurred, but the patient’s identity hasn’t been released, for privacy reasons) and you’ve got the textbook description of a justifiable abortion, it would seem.

But still, the Catholic church — run by a bunch of people who’ll never never be put in this predicament themselves, what with not having a uterus — prefers to dogmatically maintain that abortion isn’t acceptable, even under these circumstances, not even as a regrettable but necessary evil.

The article doesn’t say what this policy is based on, save that the fetus is “a human life”. But given the Catholic church’s history of encouraging and abetting the termination of human lives — Saracens, Jews, heretics, Protestants, etc. — there’s got to be more to it than that. Unfortunately, I suspect that the “more to it” is “a bunch of our ivory-tower mental masturbators derived it from our magic book.”

I also can’t help noting some sexism: for decades, men in the organization rape and abuse children, and they get a slap on the wrist before being shuffled off to another parish to avoid embarrassing the church. But now a woman authorizes an abortion — due to, I assume, compassion for the mother — and is immediately reprimanded and kicked out of the club. Would you like to super-size your standard and make it a double?

I remember reading an article about attitudes toward gays in the Catholic church. The investigator found that policymakers in the upper echelons were a lot harsher on teh gays than were priests who dealt with gays in their parishes and heard their confessions. It’s easier to condemn someone when you never have to meet them.

I suspect that something like this happened here. McBride, the nun who was disciplined, made her decision in large part out of compassion for the patient. The bishop who excommunicated her never had to meet the patient beforehand.

If my suspicion is true, then that means that the morality formulated by the higher-ups may look good on paper, but were the rubber meets the road, the rank and file don’t abide by it. That’s a sign of an impractical morality in bad need of a reality check. Unfortunately, if the Catholic church had any interest in reality, they wouldn’t believe in gods and miracles.

Update, Mon May 17 14:10:29 2010: Fixed a missing in a sentence.

4 thoughts on “Nun Excommunicated Over Abortion”

  1. And they wonder why the Church’s moral authority is eroding faster than a beach in a hurricane. How many child-raping priests have been disciplined with the same speed and decisiveness? Zero, to my knowledge.


  2. arensb said:

    It’s easier to condemn someone when you never have to meet them.

    I would classify this as, “human nature.” I envision there’s a whole sliding scale of condemnation humans apply, ranging from friends at one end to faceless entities one is probable to never interact directly with at the other.

    A key difference is most of the rest of us don’t have a ready-made highway of excuses, external validation, or forgiveness for our actions. We are expected to own our mistakes and accept the consequences of our deeds and words. IMO this is an ethical failing applicable to organized religion as a whole, not just the Catholic Church.


  3. Good for you, Sister Margaret. Having been excommunicated, you are in good company. Although I’m in my mid-eighties, Olmsted “Ex’ed” me several years ago for voting for Kerry. However, since he also excommunicated God, I feel that I am in the best of company and I welcome you to the club.


  4. You wonder why millions of educated people keep believing in fairy tails, and then you have to wonder why they keep following these men who hate half the human race. A good, non-abusive, compassionate man will never make it into the high ranks and women….why they should just keep walking, the RCC is an old boys network out of control.


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