Nun, “The Abortion Was a Morally Good Act”

Sister Margaret McBride Could Be
Dismissed From Religious Order

  • Bishop Thomas Olmsted is helping St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center to realize what a Catholic Hospital really is.

(CNA/EWTN News) Phoenix –  A religious sister who was on a Catholic hospital panel that approved a direct abortion has excommunicated herself, the Diocese of Phoenix said on Tuesday. According to the diocese, Sr. Margaret McBride told Bishop Olmsted that she believed performing an abortion in a specific case from 2009 “was a morally good and allowable act according to Church teaching.”

Sr. Margaret McBride, RSM

The abortion took place late last year at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix. The mother was 11 weeks pregnant and was seriously ill with pulmonary hypertension, a condition worsened and possibly made fatal by pregnancy, according to the Washington Post.

An ethics committee which included doctors and hospital administrator Sr. Margaret McBride ruled that the abortion was necessary. Sr. McBride has been reassigned from her job as vice president of mission integration at the hospital.

In a Tuesday “Questions & Answers” document, the Diocese of Phoenix’s Office of Communications explained that Sr. McBride “held a position of authority at the hospital and was frequently consulted on ethical matters.”

The diocese stated that she was excommunicated because “she gave her consent that the abortion was a morally good and allowable act according to Church teaching. Furthermore, she admitted this directly to Bishop Olmsted. Since she gave her consent and encouraged an abortion she automatically excommunicated herself from the Church.”

The diocese added that canon law requires an excommunicated member of a religious community be dismissed from religious life unless his or her superior decides that dismissal is not completely necessary and that correction, restitution of justice and reparation of scandal can be sufficiently resolved in another way.

In addition, the diocese said that in this situation it was “clear” that St. Joseph’s Hospital was “not faithful to Catholic moral teaching” as outlined in the Ethical and Religious Directives (ERDs). Catholic Healthcare West, the hospital system of which St. Joseph’s is a part, has not followed the ERDs in at least one of their institutions, Chandler Regional Hospital.

According to the diocese, Bishop of Phoenix Thomas Olmsted is attempting to work with the hospital to help them fulfill requirements of self-identified Catholic institutions.

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13 comments to Nun, “The Abortion Was a Morally Good Act”

  • Savio Sequeira

    I have read Patrick’s, Catherine’s & Scott’s mails. We all need to bear in mind one fact and that is, that GOD alone is the author of life and if HE has allowed the woman to be pregnant despite her illness, HE fully well knows why and how to bring this little one alive into the world.

    Science has its limitations. Did anyone (at least the nun) involved in that decision to abort the unborn baby (presumably to save the life of the mother) seek Divine help or guidance before taking that decision? I am sure not, for if they had done so, GOD would have shown them a way out of this difficult situation. That is what miracles are – something that science or human logic cannot explain.

    We rely too much on science, human abilities & accomplishments and forget GOD in the bargain. We should all humbly bow our heads in shame and seek GOD’s pardon & forgiveness for this shameful and heinous act. Pray incessantly. We should always remember to seek GOD’s inspiration & guidance in all that we do and we will never go wrong. Take out GOD from your life (decison making et al) and it is a sure recipe for failure.
    GOD Bless.

  • Scott

    Dear Catherine: “What if this baby were the one that God intended to find the treatment of pulmonary hypertension in pregnant women?”

    Then we would have to conclude that God was playing a sick, perverted joke by placing, as part of His divine providence, that baby inside the womb of a woman suffering from pulmonary hypertension, circumstances in which the baby’s prenatal demise was nearly guaranteed regardless of what medical professionals did. Of course, God could always have had the baby born live through a miracle; but God could also have placed the baby in more hospitable circumstances. If he didn’t, but still “intended” that the baby later grow up to treat the disease, then one would have to conclude that God is, frankly, really stupid.

    If you believe that God is neither stupid nor playing a perverted joke on us, then the this is probably not God’s intention for the baby. In any case, suggesting that the question of the legitimacy of this abortion rests in any way on the child’s possible future contribution to human well-being smacks precisely of the instrumentalist view of personal value, treating people as means to ends, which Catholic moral teaching claims to reject. Or is this just a view that is endorsed when convenient, rejected when not?

  • Catherine

    Dear Patrick,

    Thank you for linking to Fr. Doyle’s article at the National Catholic Reporter. I admit that I am not a theologian nor am I a canon lawyer. I am providing you a link to, canon lawyer, Dr. Edward Peters’ response to Fr. Doyle’s article.

    As you can see, Dr. Peters’ has taken time to research the sources Fr. Doyle cited. In all cases, those sources which Fr. Doyle cited say that necessity can never be used as an excuse to perform an intrinsically evil act which goes against the natural law.

    Dr. Peters also addresses if the excommunication were latae sententiae or ferendae sententiae. Again, as I am not a canon lawyer I do not know all of the specific areas of canon law to research and quote. Once we get into actions and the intent, it seems a bit Machiavellian.

    I wonder what this little baby thinks of all of this…. What will he say to his mother and the ethics board at their judgments? Will he tell Sister McBride that the action of recommending his abortion was necessary to save his mother’s life and that it’s OK that he had to die because of said recommendation?

    What if this baby were the one that God intended to find the treatment of pulmonary hypertension in pregnant women? I guess we will never know the answer to these questions. May this little child intercede for our conversion and trust in God’s Divine providence and Mercy.

  • Patrick

    I agree with the vital question you ask. But I differ with your answer. To me based on the facts known to the public the operation was performed with the intent to save the mother. While it was known the child would die as a result, but that was not the INTENT.

    Because of this the same rules of self defense should apply. The intent in my scenario is not to kill the mentally ill child; rather, it is to save the crowd, which is why the catechism instructs that the act is not murder. The same rules should apply to the unborn.

    As for your support for Bishop Olmsted’s statement that all parties excommunicated themselves latae sententiae, I invite you to read Fr. Thomas Doyle’s (an expert on canon law) article in the National Catholic Reporter where he stated “The canonical criminality of the choice made by the sister and the others is by no means as cut and dried as it may have seemed to the bishop and his advisors.”

  • Catherine

    Dear Patrick,

    The defense that you gave is a perfect example of the case for self-defense of homicide. However, it is not applicable to this case. The issue here falls under the principal of double effect, which deals directly with this exact situation. In the case of this poor woman, she was diagnosed with a medical condition while pregnant. Unfortunately, this medical condition is aggravated by her pregnancy. However, that still does not make this child a perpetrator and no longer innocent.

    Holy Mother Church has taught definitively that the only way the taking of this child’s life would not be morally problematic is if the child died as a result of treating her pulmonary hypertension. Again, please refer to Section 2268 in my previous post, “The fifth commandment forbids direct and intentional killing as gravely sinful.” It also goes on to specify infanticide as especially grave because of the natural bonds it breaks.

    In this case, the disease was not treated. The purpose of the procedure killed the baby. In violation of the principle of double effect, the baby was killed directly by the sin of abortion.

    Patrick said, “strict reading of the catechism killing an unborn child to save the mother is self defense, not abortion.” A strict reading of the catechism does not support this statement. You must treat the disease and in treating the disease if the baby dies than the rule of double effect applies. Instead of treating the serious disease and the baby dying as a result, sadly they chose the second option of terminated the pregnancy to improve the chances. This is not allowed. This an incredibly tough and moral dilemma case where the only outcome that is we desire is life.

    Consequently because of the decision, all parties involved excommunicated themselves latae sententiae by the very act of the abortion (Canon 1398). Strict interpretation of the Catechism, Bishop Olmstead merely affirmed the fact that Sister McBride had excommunicated herself by the act of facilitating this intentional act of abortion.

    The vital question to ask is, “was the operation performed with the intent of killing the baby?” This a yes or no question. Whether or not it saves the mother’s life is a secondary factor.

    To date Bishop Olmsted has excommunicated one priest and zero nuns. He is not perfect, but in this situation he followed the teachings of the Church.

    Is there a time when a mother was beatified for aborting her baby in order to save her own life? It is a tragedy. By the grace of God this mother was called and given the chance to sainthood. And instead she was advised to undergo a procedure with the purpose of abortion.

    Let us remember our purpose in this life is our eternal salvation. No matter how regrettable it is that in this circumstance the mother, without Divine intervention, could have died. She would have done so achieving the purpose of her creation and that of her unborn child.

  • Patrick

    First, let’s make no mistake about this, the mother suffered from an imminent life threatening situation. Her medical team had assessed that there was a 100% chance she would die if the pregnancy was not ended. If you remove that fact from the moral calculus you cannot honestly assess the situation which all the parties operated under.

    As for the child being innocent. Unfortunately the catechism does not provide a definition of the word “innocent.” I looked. So we are left to other devices to determine the meaning of the word innocent. However, innocent like many words has many different meanings. One meaning of the word is ‘free from moral wrong, without sin, pure.’ I would agree a child is innocent under the terms of this definition but with a caveat – original sin excluded an unborn child is innocent. Most dictionaries provide another definition for innocent which I find to be applicable here ‘not causing phyical or moral injury.’ Now the question is in this sense is the unborn child innocent? And the answer is no.

    The moment a medical diagnosis can be made that should a mother go through with a pregnancy she will die the unborn child is no longer innocent in the sense that its life infringes on the mother’s right to life. However, in such a case the mother is allowed to defend herself even if it means the unborn child dies.

    You may find a simple analogy to be of assistance. Take for instance, a mentally challenged boy get his hands on a loaded firearm, and he takes that gun to a crowded location and begins to randomly fire into a crowd. Under the cannon the boy is unable to appreciate the gravity of his actions due to his mental infirmity – so in that sense he is innocent. However, his actions threaten the lives of other people – so in that sense he is not innoncent. In such a scenario I venture you would agree that a police officer would be morally justified in taking the life of the young boy to save those in the crowd.

    So how is this different? In my scenario a decision is made to save the lives of others which resulted in a young man being killed. And in the present scenario a decision was made to save the life a young mother of 4 which resulted in the death of an unborn child. Neither decision was easy, and neither decision was to kill. Rather in both situations the ultimate decision was one of life, the police officer chose to save the lives of the bystanders, and the mother chose to save her own life.

    We can both agree that murder is wrong, but the Catechism teaches that killing in self defense is not murder. Likewise we can both agree that abortion is wrong, but under a strict reading of the catechism killing an unborn child to save the mother is self defense, not abortion.

    As a final note, because I know we will not come to an agreement on this, you remind me the authority of our leaders comes from God. I would like to remind you that while their authority may come from God, they are men and their decisions can be influenced by the devil as the Vatican’s Chief Exorcist has recently observed.

    Simply put moral authority of the bishop of the dicoses of Phoenix is undermined when he excommunicates a nun for offering what he determines to be incorrect ethical advice. Yet he has not excommunicated one priest, or bishop for that matter, for the sexual abuse which has occurred in his diocese, and the facilitation of that abuse by the former bishop. (Before you point out the excommunication of Fr. Dale Fushek keep in mind Bishop Olmsted’s office stated the reason for Fr. Fushek’s excommunication was for holding non-demoninational religious services)

  • Catherine

    Dear Patrick,

    I find it incredible that you would use parts of the Catechism of the Catholic Church which refer to the legitimate defense of oneself (sections 2263 and 2264) to support your belief in the right of a person to take an innocent life. It is a shame that you stopped at 2264 and did not continue reading sections 2268 and 2269 on intentional homicide. Even more regrettable is the fact that you cited nothing from the sections regarding abortion itself, 2270 through 2275.

    Please explain your logic as to how the baby’s mere existence takes away its innocence and changes it into a perpetrator. You are correct in the fact that the mother’s right to life does not cease to exist the moment she becomes pregnant. Neither should the child’s equal right to life cease to exist because she has a serious medical condition. She should receive proper medical treatment for her condition, provided it does not take the life of that innocent little child.

    Please refer to section 2268 of the CCC:

    The fifth commandment forbids direct and intentional killing as gravely sinful. The murderer and those who cooperate voluntarily in murder commit a sin that cries out to heaven for vengeance. Infanticide, fratricide, parricide, and the murder of a spouse are especially grave crimes by reason of the natural bonds which they break. Concern for eugenics or public health cannot justify any murder, even inf commanded by public authority.

    Or perhaps this line from section 2272 would be a good one to keep in mind: “…The Church does not thereby intend to restrict the scope of mercy. Rather, she makes clear the gravity of the crime committed, the irreparable harm done to the innocent who is put to death, as well as to the parents and the whole of society.”

    Rules exist for a reason. Holy Mother Church gives us these rules so that we can can live up to our whole reason for existence, to be happy with God forever in Heaven.

    It is unfortunate that this mother suffered from this condition, which could have been life-threatening. However, we will never know what the outcome could have been if she had carried this child to term. Perhaps, she could have given the heroic witness to life that St. Gianna Beretta Molla gives us. However, because of an “ethics” board’s lack of faith and trust in God and His Divine Providence, this particular mother and child were robbed of their chance to be instruments to show His glory.

    This whole case is a sad commentary on how far we, as a society in general, have fallen away from trusting in God and His infinite Mercy. It is no wonder that Jesus laments:

    I say to you, that he will quickly revenge them. But yet the Son of man, when he cometh, shall he find, think you, faith on earth?

    Indeed, it is becoming more and more difficult to be a Catholic these days. However, it is because of society, not because of the leaders of our Church. Remember, their authority comes from God, not us. If we have something wrong with the Church’s teachings, the problem lies in us, not those to whom God has given its care. Sadly, though, it is far easier to blame someone else rather than make the appropriate changes within ourselves.

  • Patrick

    Father Fitzpatrick,

    When I heard this story it simply made me ill. You contend Bishop Olmsted is right. However, in your statements I see you must have slept through Catechism class alongside Bishop Olmsted.

    Section 2263 of the Catechism reads as follows:

    “The legitimate defense of persons and societies is not an exception to the prohibition against the murder of the innocent that constitutes intentional killing. ‘The act of self-defense can have a double effect: the preservation of one’s own life; and the killing of the aggressor. . . . The one is intended, the other is not.”

    I would also like to direct your attention to Section 2264 which provides:

    “Love toward oneself remains a fundamental principle of morality. Therefore it is legitimate to insist on respect for one’s own right to life. Someone who defends his life is not guilty of murder even if he is forced to deal his aggressor a lethal blow.”

    Fr. Fitzpatrick you say “it is always wrong intentionally to kill a baby.” And I agree with your statement. But that is not what was done here. The pregnant woman’s intentional act in this instance was to save her life which is recognized in sections 2263 and 2264. The death of the child was a known effect of the mother’s action, but not the intended effect. The mother’s right to life does not extinguish the moment she becomes pregnant. Moreover, the moment it is realized that if the child is born it will cost the mother her life the child is no longer “innocent” and the mother has every right to chose to save her own life. Moreover, if the mother has other children it could be argued she has an obligation to save her own life, even if it costs the life of the unborn child.

    Your narrow world view of an extremely ethically complex situation simply has no support in ethics, logic, or even the church’s teachings. Bishop Olmsted is wrong, you are wrong, and the Vatican is wrong if it does not reinstate Sister Margaret.

    It is really becoming more and more difficult to be a catholic in the institutional sense these days. And its not because of society it is because of the actions/inactions of those who are supposed to be lead the church.

  • Fr. Vincent Fitzpatrick

    Dear Mr. Chuchman:

    When bishops are wrong, they should be criticized. The WAY in which they are wrong should be pointed out. Rational, factual arguments should be made.

    But merely flinging the sins of bishops (and they are many, and grave) in their faces, as though that proves them wrong on every occasion–that’s neither rational or fair.

    In this case, Bishop Olmsted is simply in the right. It is always wrong intentionally to kill a baby. Always. In all circumstances. No matter what the “reason” or “need” or “justification.”

  • Catholic person

    Ethical & Religious Directives for Catholic Health Service (5th Ed.) from the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops state (Directive 47) “Operations, treatments, and medications that have as their direct purpose the cure of a proportionately serious pathological condition 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”

  • Mr. Churchman, we as individuals are not authors of Truth. We can only be servants of the Truth, and what is the Truth, Jesus Christ. We as individuals are not able to determine what is good and what is evil without the guidance from Magisterial teaching.

    This is how Christ ordained it from the beginning when he said to Peter in, Matthew 18, “You are Peter, which means Rock, and upon this Rock I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to heaven and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

    Jesus did not just say these words to Peter, but to every Pope and Bishop in union with him. Jesus has given sole authority to the Pope and the Bishops in union with him to teach and preach the truth. The way we know if we have the gift of the Holy Spirit is by our obedience to the Pope and Magisterial teaching. Like it or not, the truth cannot and will not change, because God cannot and will not change. It is true that the church is full of sinners, and many within the clergy and hierarchy have committed truly horrible crimes, but the church as an institution is divine and it is truly guided by the Holy Spirit regardless of the sins of its members. So when the Pope speaks on matters of faith and morals, he is speaking through the power of the Holy Spirit, and scripture also tells us in, 1 Timothy 3:15, that “the Church is the Pillar and Foundation of Truth.”

    Mr. Churchman, do not let the devil continue to drive you further from Truth because of the sins of some of his members. Pray the rosary Mr. Churchman, and let Our Lady guide you back into the loving arms of our Savior so that he can love you and heal your wounds.

    Please pray for this sinful layman as I will pray for you too.


    Jeff Gares
    Courageous Priest

  • Butt out, Olmsted. Catholic Bishops, by their own immoral actions, have relinquished any moral authority they thought they wielded over people.

    • Wow, Mr. Chuchman!

      After reviewing your website, I want to thank you for all the hard work you do for those suffering with grief. I am also sorry to read that your beloved son Mark died at such a young age. That must be such a big cross for you to bear. May God have Mercy on his soul and grant him peace.

      As a rule, I normally do not publish such rude comments. This being such a heated topic, I am certain you hit publish before you allowed the Holy Spirit to convict you of such a scandalous comment.

      Reading your comment, one is immediately struck with your passion. What a blessing that is! I am sure you already know how God feels about lukewarm souls.

      The second evident passion you possess is your disdain for hierarchical authority. This would be confirmed on your website with the following comments . . .

      “Why do I get so excited about Organizations like Call to Action and Voice of the Faithful?” Excerpt From your book I Love My Church, BUT, OH MY GOD! During your research, you must have missed that those organizations support abortion as a regrettable yet necessary option.

      And your retreat topic concerning the Church, “Effective Dissent; Dissent is essential for growth, if effective.”

      Your retreat topic I find very revealing as your dissent-laden comment lacked the charity essential for growth and your disrespect for the bishops rightful authority as revealed and established in the Gospels. I am sure during your Church retreat topic that you, as a faithful Catholic, divulge that disobedience on faith and morals to the Magisterium is a grave sin leaving one devoid of the Holy Spirit.

      My dear brother, as a fellow Catholic, although a sinful one in great need of God’s Mercy and your prayers, I implore you to be open to the Holy Spirit concerning the authority of the Catholic Church established as the bride of Christ.

      Please pray for me! I need your prayers and penances.

      May God bless you Mr. Chuchman,

      John Quinn, Courageous Priest

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