Nun Excommunicated for Allowing Abortion

By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Staff Journalist

A nun serving as the administrator of a Catholic hospital in Phoenix has been excommunicated after allowing an abortion to be performed on a patient.

NewsCore is reporting that Sister Margaret McBride, longtime administrator at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center, has been excommunicated and reassigned to other duties after allowing doctors to perform an abortion on a woman with a life-threatening condition in order to save her life.

“In this tragic case, the treatment necessary to save the mother’s life required the termination of an 11-week pregnancy,” said hospital vice president Susan Pfister. The statement was issued on behalf of its parent company, Catholic Healthcare West, and the Sisters of Mercy, McBride’s religious order.

Bishop Thomas Olmstead of the Diocese of Phoenix confirmed that Sister McBride had incurred an automatic excommunication, or latae sententiae excommincation. This means that as soon as the offense was committed she was automatically excommunicated by her own actions.

In addition to being “gravely concerned” about an abortion taking place in a Catholic hospital in his diocese, Bishop Olmsted said he was further concerned “by the hospital’s statement that the termination of a human life was necessary to treat the mother’s underlying medical condition. An unborn child is not a disease. While medical professionals should certainly try to save a pregnant mother’s life, the means by which they do it can never be by directly killing her unborn child. The end does not justify the means.”

Section 45 of the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, clearly states that abortion, defined as the direct intention to terminate a pregnancy, is never permitted in a Catholic hospital. An exception based on life-threatening circumstances is explained in Section 47:  “Operations, treatments, and medications that have as their direct purpose the cure of a proportionately serious pathological condition [emphasis added] of a pregnant woman are permitted when they cannot be safely postponed until the unborn child is viable, even if they will result in the death of the unborn child.”

However, these clear instructions did not stop Sister Judith Carle, also a Sister of Mercy and Board Chairwoman at Catholic Healthcare West, from appealing to Bishop Olmstead.

“If there had been a way to save the pregnancy and still prevent the death of the mother, we would have done it,” she wrote in a letter. “We are convinced there was not.”

Excommunication forbids the person from participating in church life, bars them from reception of communion, and can only be remedied through an appeal to the Vatican.

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