Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted Says Nun Was “Automatically Excommunicated”

Shockingly, A Mother Has An Abortion
In A Catholic Hospital Because Of
The Advice Of A  Catholic Nun

  • Sister Margaret McBride Resigns
  • St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center Defends Their Actions


PHOENIX — A nun and administrator at a Catholic hospital in Phoenix has been reassigned and rebuked by the local bishop for agreeing that a severely ill woman needed an abortion to survive.

Sister Margaret McBride was on an ethics committee that included doctors that consulted with a young woman who was 11 weeks pregnant late last year, The Arizona Republic newspaper reported on its website Saturday. The woman was suffering from a life-threatening condition that likely would have caused her death if she hadn’t had the abortion at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center.

Hospital officials defended McBride’s actions but confirmed that she has been reassigned from her job as vice president of mission integration at the hospital. They said in a statement that saving the mother required that the fetus be aborted.

“In this tragic case, the treatment necessary to save the mother’s life required the termination of an 11-week pregnancy,” hospital vice president Susan Pfister said in an e-mail to the newspaper. She said the facility owned by Catholic Healthcare West adheres to the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services but that the directives do not answer all questions.

Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted, head of the Phoenix Diocese, indicated in a statement that the Roman Catholic involved was “automatically excommunicated” because of the action. The Catholic Church allows the termination of a pregnancy only as a secondary effect of other treatments, such as radiation of a cancerous uterus.

I am gravely concerned by the fact that an abortion was performed several months ago in a Catholic hospital in this diocese,” Olmsted said in a statement sent to The Arizona Republic. “I am 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.”

Olmsted added that if a Catholic “formally cooperates” in an abortion, he or she is automatically excommunicated.

Neither the hospital nor the bishop’s office would say if Olmsted had a direct role in her demotion. He does not have control of the hospital as a business but is the voice of moral authority over any Catholic institution operating in the diocese.

The patient, who hasn’t been identified, was seriously ill with pulmonary hypertension. The condition limits the ability of the heart and lungs to function and is made worse, possibly even fatal, by pregnancy.

“This decision was made after consultation with the patient, her family, her physicians, and in consultation with the Ethics Committee, of which Sr. Margaret McBride is a member,” the hospital said in a statement issued Friday.

A letter sent to Olmsted Monday by the board chairwoman and the president and CEO of CHW asks Olmsted to provide further clarification about the directives. The pregnancy, the letter says, carried a nearly certain risk of death for the mother.

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

McBride declined to comment.

P.S. – Would you do Courageous Priest a favor and share this info with your friends on Facebook, Twitter or Email right now? We truly appreciate it. Or leave a comment, we would love to hear what you think.

20 comments to Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted Says Nun Was “Automatically Excommunicated”

  • Marlene Willis

    Yes and also a pregnancy can be terminated with the Catholic Church’s blessing
    Gets pregnant in her tubes. No one has said what was wrong with the woman.

  • […] Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted Says Nun Was “Automatically Excommunicated” […]

  • Ann Ehrhart


  • Gary O

    @David Lorenz
    Thank God For Bishop Olmstead and shame on Sister Margaret. God bless you Bishop Olmstead for your unwavering defence of precious human life. Yes, David it is a life from the moment it is conceived. Killing (to use the same inflamatory gerund, apologies)an unborn baby or what ever you choose to call them IS murder. In the Declaration of Independence it talks about being created equal. We make that the basis for recognition of the basic human dignity of every individual. It also says that we are endowed by our creator with basic rights among them, Life………. It seems like our lawmakers forget that part. There is no right to an abortion. The life inside a womans womb is not hers. She might have the right to do with her body what she wishes, but the life inside her belongs to God.

  • […] media frenzy erupted in May after Phoenix Bishop Thomas Olmsted announced the automatic excommunication of a nun who contributed to the decision to go ahead with the […]

  • David Leverenz

    Bishop Olmsted makes the following remarks:
    “An unborn child is not a disease.”
    Since this is a blatantly stupid remark, I presume it is just meant to be flip. I simply point out that a fetus is not a disease either – that is what is under discussion. Nice try at framing the argument as if there were an actual human being(other than the mother) involved.

    “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…”
    Spoken by someone with no medical training. Again – “killing” – use of the inflammatory (and incorrect) gerund. “Unborn child” – I already said I wouldn’t give you that one, pal. The term is “fetus.”

    “The end does not justify the means.”
    True enough. However, YOUR ends (holding human life sacred) -do not justify YOUR means (mistakenly) blaming someone in a position to make a difficult and LIFESAVING decision.
    Thank God for Sister Margaret and shame on you. You should resign. You are of no value to your Diocese.

    • Lynn McCrann

      So, another misinformed making claim it is not a baby in the womb but simply some benign tissue.

      For anyone to argue it is the woman’s CHOICE needs to be reminded that her choice was made the day she had intercourse. The pre-born, is a gift of life; a gift from God just as the mother’s life was also a gift.

      A child in the womb is not a choice but a baby.

      • Blake

        This is shameful. I’m sorry, but there is absolutely NOTHING christ-like about allowing a woman to die due to complications caused by pregnancy… then maybe next time god gives you an infection that could be easily handled by penicillin, you should just go ahead and die. Funny how all those who care so much about gods work are so willing to use modern medicine in EVERY OTHER WAY

  • Niles

    May God Bless Sister Margaret & her vocation as Sister Of Mercy & a
    Registered Nurse. Olmsted & his brother bishops are the one’s who
    are “excommunicated”, due to their culpability in the on-going ,
    now global clergy sex-abuse scandal. By the way, how many
    abusive priests (including Legion of Christ founder, Fr Maciel) &
    bishops were ever “excommunicated” ? As far as I know, NONE!
    As I know longer give money in the collection plate @ church,
    my favorite new charity is Sr Margaret’s community,
    the Sisters of Mercy, Burlingame.

    • Observer

      You are off-topic and in the wrong church. Try a denomination (“church”) that allows you to personally pick and choose Mores substitutes in place of Morality and a personal theology.

      Maybe, the Methodists?

  • JMJ

    There is nothing like a very hard example, like this one, to determine if one is truly pro-life or if one is conveniently pro-life.

    This is especially true for Catholics as we believe that Jesus Christ established the Catholic Church as the pillar and foundation of truth concerning faith and morality.

  • Brandy Lupton

    If the Catholic Church is so concerned about its children, what about the four living children the mother had already produced and had an obligation to care for? Were they not entitled to the presence of their mother to guide them as they grow up? Who knows what shatters a child’s sanity, but one thing is for sure: The loss of a mother at a young age is forever imprinted upon a child’s psyche, and a child NEEDS it’s mother to learn right from wrong! The mother was a good Catholic, it seems, so she would have raised her children to attend Mass and honor the saints. I think in this instance the judgment of the Bishop was hasty and harsh – sometimes there are overriding considerations, and I think the four living children were those considerations. It is my belief that God would NOT want the Nun to be castigated in this way!

    And to Rose in Washington State: Just because that happened to one person is not a guarantee that it will happen in all cases. And sometimes God chooses not to intervene on someone’s behalf. “No” is also an answer.

  • Jo Doyle

    I hope all of the above are never in a no-win position where they have to make a serious moral decision as Sister Margaret did. It is always easy to be “Monday Morning Quarterbacks.” Although we are taught not to judge, it seems that “Catholic” lesson goes by the wayside, more so when the discussion is about nuns rather than priests.

    The biggest problem is the excommunication of Sister Margaret. This same Church allowed and still allows pedophile priests to remain priests and even moves them so they can continue or so they cannot be prosecuted. Cardinal Law was the first member of the Catholic hierarchy shown to have actively covered up clergy abuse. Was there swift excommunication for Cardinal Law? Of course not. Instead, Law was swiftly moved to Rome where he was named an archpriest of the St. Mary Major Basilica and serves on Vatican boards (Doesn’t that seem to be a “reward”?) The Church must follow its own laws in every instance. Its decision to pick and choose who must follow its laws is the reason many Catholics can no longer look to it for guidance. Sister Margaret deserved better not only from Bishop Olmsted but also from the Church.

  • Mark Smith

    A quite incredible decision by the Bishop. Another example of the complete irrationality and hypocrisy of the Church. It is no wonder that the pews are emptying so fast. This must have been an agonizing period for the nun involved, but thankfully her common sense took charge.

    • Interesting comment Mark! I found this comment puzzling though.

      “It is no wonder that the pews are emptying so fast.”

      Did you know, history proves that when Catholics follow the teachings of the Church, the attendance sky rockets. And when they don’t the pews empty fast. A great example would be our religious orders. The orders that are growing have remained in that “obedience of faith,” while the others are diminishing. Remember what Jesus said about the branch cut off from vine? It withers and die.

      Just food for thought.

      May God bless you Mark and please pray for us as we will you.

      John Quinn

  • Matthew Burns

    Before blindly reading the article upon us, use some common sense and think about it before judging it. I have read several articles on this topic and guess what? It’s the fault of the Nun and Mother if it’s a serious catholic. It’s the fault of the hospital, Nun and Mother if you’re a lessor Catholic (this way the blame get spread around more and it doesn’t seem so bad).

    If you read the several stories that I did you will see that maybe the church just doesn’t belong. After all, does the church govern the exact hour that one uses the bathroom, has intimate relations, I could go on but my point is that the church really doesn’t have the right to tell when or what to do about a lot of things. In this case, in other articles the Mother had almost 100% chance of death and the baby would die as well if the Mother died. Pretty smart Bishop, condemming a Mother to death as well as her baby, maybe we should excommunicate you or better yet draw and quarter you. I bet if men naturally could have babies this discussion would never have come up, after all the Catholic church does consider women weaker of the sexes, they can’t be priests or anything higher, is that fair, I think not but I’m not prejudiced enough to be a practicing Catholic. Ask yourself if you were this Nun and Mother if you thought that you were treated right. Best wishes.

  • You should add Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas to your list of courageous priests. He is brave, he is strong, he is faithful, and he is truly a Catholic gentleman. Please honor him too.

    • Thanks Joe,

      Reading your comment, I was thinking he was already featured on here. Boy I appreciate you bringing that oversight to my attention. The good Archbishop Naumann will, without a doubt, be a focal point for Courageous Priest. What a combo you have with Archbishop Naumann and Bishop Finn! Our family was very fortunate to get to meet him while he was in St. Louis.

      What a hero he is to all of the innocent babies hoping their Moms acknowledge that they are real people.

      If you can do use a favor, I would appreciate it if you notify us when he deserves the recognition. We will do our best to feature him.

      Your prayers are appreciated and needed.

      God bless you,
      John Quinn

  • Rose, Washington State, USA

    I’ve also heard of a case where they thought the Mother would never live long enough to deliver the baby, but she was determined to have her baby and then she got well too!

    Before many advances in medicine and maternity care, many women died in child birth & in some cases the child would die. All in my parents families were born at home with mid-wives in the early nineteen hundreds.

    • Red Cardigan left this comment on Creative Minority Report

      Gerard Nadal has an interesting look at this on his blog, here:

      Interestingly, he says that pulmonary hypertension (if that’s what the mother had) is NOT resolved by abortion–that is, ending the pregnancy doesn’t provide an improvement in this kind of hypertension as it does in other kinds.

      Which is not to say that the pregnancy wasn’t a complication to the mother’s physical condition–it’s just that the “life-saving abortion” aspect of this as reported in the media appears to be wildly overstated.

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>