Monday, May 17, 2010

When Two Deaths Are Morally Better Than One

Sister Margaret McBride is now ex Catholic Margaret McBride. Funny how the hierarchy can work at light speed when it comes to women and women's issues, but at a snails pace when it comes to their issues.

An Irish nun, a Catholic hospital, a dying mother, an abortion, and...
Father Tim - - 5/16/2010

My friends,

It has not taken long for news of the excommunication of an Irish nun in the misbegotten state of Arizona to reach around the world, even to the far-off mission in which I am blessed to serve.

You can read the whole story here, but in brief: Sister Margaret McBride, a longtime and faithful worker at St. Joseph's Hospital in Phoenix with some pioneering accomplishments helping the poor to her credit, has been excommunicated by local Bishop Thomas Olmsted. Sister Margaret was a member of the hospital's ethics committee, which faced a terrible decision. A patient with an 11-week-old fetus was dying in the hospital from a rare heart condition, in which the strains of pregnancy can tip the balance between life and death. (Because the mother was dying, the fetus was also dying. A major technicality that seems to have escaped Olmstead, but not the medical community.)

Founded in the then-"Wild West" by the Irish Sisters of Mercy, steeped in Catholic tradition and famous for its outreach programs to the impoverished and especially the large undocumented immigrant community, it was a wrenching choice. Doctors and medical experts were unanimous in their belief the mother would die unless her pregnancy was aborted.

Sister Margaret agreed with the hospital committee, and the abortion was performed.

Bishop Olmsted reacted even faster than the medical staff, which was facing an emergency life-and-death decision. Sister Margaret McBride is now Margaret McBride.

"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," the bishop declared. (Except the fetus dies either way, don't you get this? Is the mother then to forfeit her life for nothing?)

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

"The Catholic Church will continue to defend life and proclaim the evil of abortion without compromise, and must act to correct even her own members if they fail in this duty," the bishop said. (Without sanity or compassion as well.)

Although I cannot disagree with the bishop's theology and support the Church's protection of the sacredness of all life, I suspect he needs "medical" treatment himself: a strong injection of reality.

Most important is a simple reality: If the mother of an 11-week-old fetus dies, the fetus will also die. It is too soon in life for the child to survive outside the womb no matter what the hospital might try. That means two deaths. Is there really a morally defensible reason for two innocents to die when one can live? It's a hackneyed phrase, but what would Jesus have done? (No, there is no justifiable moral defense for allowing two innocents to die when one can be saved. To maintain otherwise makes a mockery of any pro life stand because then the stance is not pro life, it is murderous propaganda.)

Over the years, the Church's solid wall guarding all life has allowed an exception or two. For example, while euthanasia and so-called "mercy killing" is condemned, the Church has made it clear that there is no need to use "extraordinary means" to preserve life when, in the best judgment of all and with prayerful reflection, there is no real hope for the patient's recovery. Of course, this does not mean a call to the murderous "Doctor" Kevorkian, but usually the withdrawal of life-support equipment that is filling the patient's lungs with air and his heart with blood in a way that is more mechanical than medical.

In this matter, the Church has taken good counsel from the world of science to make a just and merciful clarification in doctrine. But while there has been considerable debate within the Church about the kind of dilemma faced by St. Joseph's Hospital, no "exceptions to the rule" on abortion have been forthcoming. (If this particular situation pertained to men, you can bet there would be pastoral exceptions. See pedophile abuse scandal.)

It is long past the time to reconsider this. If all life deserves our protection and is sacred to our Creator, then a mother's life is just as worthy as her child's. How has this become lost in the battle over abortion? (My guess is a woman loses her equal innocence the minute she engages in sex and stops being a 'Holy Virgin'.)

Bishop Olmsted is an intelligent and compassionate man. Like most in the religious community, he has spoken out forcefully against Arizona's immoral new "law" that is nothing more than an attack on the humanity of those who have sought a home and a life in America. While all agree that immigration reform is badly needed, human attack dogs and "camps" are not part of the answer. "Illegal" or not, a sick immigrant is welcome at St. Joseph's Hospital, even if the Diocese must foot the entire bill. God's Mandate to love all as one means charity for all.

It also means forgiveness, in this case, for Margaret McBride. She has spent a long career doing God's Own Work on earth, and even if you believe that she has erred in this heartbreaking moment, I believe her Catholic Ministry should continue.

In a world in which many, if not most people walk past the poor and suffering without a second's thought, Margaret McBride heard God's Call to Love and made answering it her life's work. I pray that Bishop Olmsted will deeply reflect on all Margaret McBride has done in the Name of God and the Church, and reconsider his decision so that the poor may continue to feel the love of Sister Margaret McBride.


Situations like this make me very very angry. It is precisely in this kind of case that pro life theology becomes murderous propaganda at the service of someone other than God.

Sister Margaret McBride may be excommunicated in the eyes of Bishop Olmstead. She is not in my eyes. Her decision and that of the hospital was the pro life decision. To state other wise is to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that one is nothing more that an irrational ideologue perfectly willing to execute mothers for the sake of the ideology. In my book withholding life saving treatment for no reason most certainly qualifies as a form of active execution. In this case not treating this woman would have been murder and undoubtedly left the hospital and it's individual medical personnel open to all kinds of malpractice liability issues. I wonder if Olmstead would have opened his coffers to pay off those law suits. Somehow I doubt it.


  1. The Catholic Church practices massive abuse against women because of its false theology of abortion.

    In Brazil there are 1,000,000 illegal abortions a years. 200,000 are followed by complications. The women can go to hospital for treatment but will face arrest.

    The insensitivity of bishops to the suffering of abused children is of a piece with their insensitivity of the suffering of women.

    They call these women murderers, even though no human life is present to be murdered in the vast majority of abortions.

    Their refusal of dialogue adds a new dimension of cruelty to their behavior.

  2. This really hits the heart of the matter with the hatred, arrogance and bullying of women that goes on in this pathetic Roman Catholic Church, of which I am just beyond angry.

    The idiot moron jackass priest who excommunicated this Sister McBride is indicative of the evil spirit in the Church and the sin that persists against women in the Church. I am beyond angry.

    The Pro-Life choice that Sister McBride made in good conscience was really the ONLY choice that she had to SAVE the life of the woman.

    I am beyond angry at the ignorance and arrogance and hatefulness toward women in the cruel and mechanical and heartless decisions of the RCC Church Priests made against women time and time again. Yet, like you say Colleen, these men prefer pedophiles to women when it comes to the priesthood or in having any say at all. The message us women are GETTING is that women are considered by the Roman CC to be beneath the scum and filth of a male pedophile priest. We get the message from the Romans who are as Christian as the squirrels that live in the trees.

    I truly hate the men in the RCC who have bred so much hatred for women for centuries. Women have suffered enough from this hatred. I am beyond angry. I truly am beginning to hate the word "Catholic" because it is EVIL toward women in every way. The name "Catholic" has become synonymous for fascism, racism, anti-semitism, misogyny, pedophiles, sexual molesters, pompous drag queens who won't admit they are drag queens, and its rituals to glorify its priests.

    It is an EVIL Church that breeds nothing but EVIL.


  3. Butterfly Catholicism is much much more than the men who run it. One can't forget they are as much a product of this system as any of us. Because the system is set up to reward their blindness, it becomes self replicating in it's very institutional genes.
    We need to do some serious gene splicing.

  4. I understand what you are saying, but Catholicism today is EVIL. There is no other way to define it. Why defend this crippling disease that they call a religion to serve Jesus, when in reality it serves no other purpose but EVIL?

  5. There is no place for the Roman Catholic Church to go except for the burning fires of HELL as long as its people support the layers of evil that it can no longer hide. The Roman Catholic laity are all ENABLERS of this system. As long as there are enablers of this system of EVIL who remain in this system of evil, who ALLOW it to continue, who refuse to change it, they too are just as evil as the system.

  6. First, I think it's good to remember that the Catholic Church,(as well as the [small c] catholic church) includes everyone, the ordained,nuns and laity but also the clerics and prelates who we find are not at all good shepherds. The Church is overfilling with sinners and all of us are in need of God's healing. The moment we think some sinners are less worthy than others (be they popes, bishops, priests or dissenting laity), then we've become part of the problem. HOWEVER>>>that doesn't mean we (the Faithful) shouldn't get angry and do whatever we can to bring about the reform that is needed on many levels. Wake up! Time to get moving and change this stupid system!

  7. "One can't forget they are as much a product of this system as any of us."

    Oh, believe me, I receive daily reminders of the products the Roman Catholic system has created from my own family members. It is not a pretty picture that the Roman's have created. They are arrogant, presumptuous, anti-intellectual, narcissist, materialistic, selfish, mean-spirited, bullies. This is what the Roman Catholic Church has created, yet the spokesmen for all Roman Catholics will never address how their own system, their own EVIL, has created this world filled with filth and evil generated by their own leadership, by their own filthy and evil spirits.

  8. Now a priest who molests a child is NOT excommunicated right? Only removed from the priesthood? And many are just given the chance to retire, keeping their pensions.
    How is Sister to survive without a community, a source of income, a pension? Do they care? Are they going to excommunicate by the hundreds any nun who does not "cooperate" with the investigation? The bishops are really determined to squash any nun who has a thought or opinion of her own-Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Maine, Kansas City and now Arisona?

  9. Colleen,
    I believe that Sister Margaret McBride is still a Sister. The bishop may excommunicate her, but I for one do not recognize his excommunication. I recall that Sister Mary MacKillop of Australia was excommunicated in the 1800s for "insubordination." She was reinstated a year later and in October will be canonized. Another case where hierarchical presumption raises its ugly head. We've seen way too much lately.


  10. Anonymous, to the RCC, women are not really considered persons, are considered a lower form of biological matter since females have no penis, so women are not cared for in the same regard as penis weilding members of the human family. We are judged & can be judged, but our judgement is worth nothing to the RCC. It is my understanding that priests with penis and balls that are pedophiles and/or sexual molesting priests are not excommunicated and some are still priests because they have a penis and balls.

  11. Sounds like Olmsted has been taking his "theology" from Henry Morton Robinson's book "The Cardinal." Like most of the hierarchy, he loves the fetus but doesn't care that much for the woman carrying it.

  12. The way I see it, the Roman Uncatholic Church of male supremacists, who wear the same hats as the KKK did and probably still do in their secret get togethers, are facing an economic crunch. What better targets than women religious for them to pick on unmercifully just when it is time for them to retire.

    How Evil is that?

  13. One more thing and I am ceiling my lips in silence and prayer to the Lord and giver of Life and Love and Liberty and Peace.....

    The Roman Catholic leadership are a brood of vipers!

    Woe to them!! Woe to them! They are cursed with Evil!

    Deliver us from this Evil brood of vipers that dare to call themselves Shepherds of the Lord!

    They are demons from HELL!

  14. Colleen & Butterfly -

    We now have the 'patron saint of abortion': St. Gianna Molla. She is a 'saint' because she would not abort her unborn child.

    ...or at least that is how Opus Dei, et. al.,paints her.

    The reality is that she had a uterine tumor AND was pregnant in 1962, refused to abort or have a hysterectemy (sp?) and died shortly after childbirth.

    Now given the tumor & location, even today such a pregnancy would likely be fatal even today. She died several days later from septic infection. While one could plausibly see altruism from the choice to keep the child, the cold reality is that the pregnancy was a virtual death sentence for her anyway.

    While I cannot find a solid link to 'prove' she was an OD member, that she is hailed as a 'saint of ordinary life' is....'OpusSpeak'.

    But there is nothing ordinary about an Italian woman who was herself a physician, and devoted to the arts, classical music & opera. That has all the earmarks of the elite - not of Christ's poor. So she was OD in spirit, if not in fact. And for one in those eschelons, LC/RC, Fololare, Communion & LIberation are all eaten from the table of the rich man, while ignoring poor Lazarus the beggar.

    So, Gianna dies in 1962 & is 'sainted' in 2004 by a mind altered JPII who likely did not know what day it was......ditto for Jose Maria Escriva - died 1975, canonized in 2003.

    It's magic!!!

    Whilst Joan of Arc had to wait some 500 years.....Damian of Molokai 120 years.....and the little seers of Fatima are kept on hold.

    Anon Y. Mouse

  15. Butterfly-

    "The Roman Catholic laity are all ENABLERS of this system."

    Agreed - but with a qualifier:

    Those Catholics who remain spiritually blind - those who 'will not see' (refuse to) - are the ones who are the enablers. This runs the gamut from the plain stupid who continue to put $$ in the plate as if nothing is wrong, to the rabid fanatical supporters of their 'controllers'(the bishops).

    By contrast, those who awaken & See....and Hear.....are not enabling them. Thus not responsible.

    ...any more. I add that, as we all (at one point) supported them, as we did not know any better in the past. The 'waking up' or conversion may be overnight, or take years; as each soul is different.

    So, you are correct - but when you think about it, it is a matter of degree. I truly pity those who Will not See, as they will share in the Judgment which will be meted out on the Princes of the Church.

    Anon Y. Mouse

  16. Colleen-

    You may find it interesting to note that, during the tenure of John Cardinal "Abortion is our greatest moral enemy" O'Connor......

    ...that Catholic hospitals either directly under his aegis, or indirectly in Suffragen Dioceses over which he was the Metropolitan.....were performing abortions in the 80s & 90s.

    Quietly on the side; usually at off hours.

    For real.

    I have no reason to believe that this changed under 'Fast Eddie' Egan...... You know...the pompous snob who sounded like Bullwinkle the Mooth.

    (misspelling intention to mimic speefthch defecth)

    Anon Y. Mouse

  17. Olmstead is a cafeteria catholic. He picks and chooses the issues he supports. Unfortunately he's another right wing jerk who's happy to be played as a political fool.

    Here's his pussyfooting around the issue of the Iraq war in 2006:

    Thou Shalt Not Kill’: A Just War

    You can read it for yourself. Be sure to compare and contrast with the JP2's thoughts on the world being duped by Bush into a war against a country that didn't have anything to do with 9/11.

    From 2003: Pope condemns war in Iraq

    From 2007: Pope condemns the continuing slaughter in Iraq and hunger in Africa

    He doesn't mind waffling on the issue of war. He didn't condemn the Iraq war even though he knew the pope did.

    "Is the present war on terror just?

    It is difficult to give a definitive answer to this legitimate and important question. A large segment of the international community strongly supported the war in Afghanistan; a smaller but significant segment supported the war in Iraq. Just prior to the Iraq conflict, Pope John Paul II strongly urged the United States and its allies to refrain from any pre-emptive military strike and to refrain from military engagement until there was greater international consensus about the need for such."

    Was the decision made by the ethics committee not a "legitimate and important question"? If we were to apply his logic to the case of Sr. McBride ...

    Why am I flapping my gums? I should be reading Dante to find out which circle of hell is reserved for Olmsted.

    God Bless you Sister for having the courage to serve on the ethics committee. Thank you for wrestling with the legitimate, serious and difficult questions a bishop would prefer to avoid.


  18. p2p Maybe I'm looking at this decision differently, because I don't see it as a difficult decision. From the released information there was never an issue of a full term viable baby. The mother would die long before the fetus was viable.

    This should have been a no brainer, but under current abortion law apparently brains are not allowed.

  19. Colleen,

    I agree with your analysis.

    Although I can be a good writer I fall prey to the temptation to be quick and post without full consideration of all my words. So I sometimes get it out but not quite the way I would if I took a little more time in the editing process.

    I'm sure the ethics committee took some time to deliberate and examine the case from every angle. Although the decision may seem obvious to us I'm sure they took their responsibility seriously. It probably wasn't easy if they knew the predilections of Olmsted to consider a woman's life to be without worth or merit. Two innocents dead... outrageous.


  20. Hi Colleen, I recently found your blog and feel that you are a very important voice in a church that needs change. There is so much I love about the RCC. I even enjoy some of the more archaic practices such as saying the Rosary and laying flowers at the feet of statues of Mary (who has become a substitute mother to me). However, I think the RCC's treatment of women, children, and gays is shameful. I hope to see changes in the future, but I doubt they will happen in my lifetime. In the meantime, you are one of those on the vanguard of reform. Please keep posting!

  21. This is such a tragic story. How is the mother doing? Did they safe her life? It had to have been so traumatic for her. Some of the comments here are really sad. From what I have read Bishop Olmstead isn't a big fan of women or gays. I have also read that sexual abuse of children has been a major problem in the Diocese of Phoenix. With the bishops that they have had there the poor lay people must have whiplash.

  22. More on Omsted,

    I read your earlier articles on Olmsted, his cowardly absence from the politics of immigration in Arizona, his chumminess with notorious sheriff Arpaio, and his contribution of $50,000 to the anti-gay marriage campaign in Maine. He's pretty quick to condemn Obama and other Catholic Democratic politicians.

    What a piece of work. He's another right wing Republican sycophant, ill suited to the job he holds.

    He doesn't seem to have a lot of empathy for the issues of his Hispanic flock. I'm puzzled by his seeming aloofness. His writing seems rather "Ivory Tower" academic. Does he speak even Spanish?

    Here in Canada we have a multi-party system. The one party that best reflects the entire teachings of the church is the Christian Heritage Party. They ran candidates in 59 of 307 ridings and received 26,475 votes of the total 13,800,000 votes cast. None were elected.

    When bishops consider becoming involved in politics they should consider becoming candidates themselves. I suspect they wouldn't get very much farther in the US than they have in Canada, and we're a predominantly Catholic country.

    Incidentally Catholic priests, mostly progressives, have been elected to our federal and provincial parliaments. But as you know, priests have not been permitted to run for office since JP2's order of 1980.


  23. I've often wondered if JPII's 1980 order was specifically designed to keep progressive liberation theology type clerics out of governments not friendly to such folks. Especially priests who had serious connections with voters of a certain block of laity, like most of the poor, who do after all, seriously out number the wealthy. Paying for votes might not have gone very far if poor people actually got the idea their vote was actually worth more than what ever the going rate was.

  24. Welcome aboard Ann. Feel free to comment. Nice thing about the margins of Catholicism is there is a whole lot more elbow room than at the center.

  25. It has always seemed to me that while the Catholic Church teaches 'turning the other cheek' is better, it has also never denied a human being the right of self-defense. In a case such as this, clearly the woman should be allowed an abortion if it is the only way to save her own life - particularly in a case where the fetus would die with her.

    This so-called Catholic, pro-life attitude of this bishop, for this very reason, clearly shows how contemptible he finds women. They don't have the simple human right of self-defense in his view. I fail to understand why any woman with an ounce of integrity and self-respect would remain. Including me.

    I can't tolerate attending Mass; it is so caustic to my very soul to hear to the constant degradation of women in the weekly anti-abortion sermons and announcements/notices. I don't offer financial support of any kind. And yet I just can't find it in myself to find another church. I've come to the angry but reluctant conclusion of better the evil I know... At the same time, I sometimes think I had been providing that financial support just so I can withdraw it again when I come across this sort of priestly arrogance.

    I am so appreciative of this blog. It is helpful and comforting to know I'm not the only one feeling very much outcast by the Church's priest caste.

  26. Anon, I wonder if some of these rabid anti abortion clerics spend too much time pondering the question "What if my mother aborted me?" and it's a question which truly personally scares them.

    Uhhhmm, this has a couple of answers which make it a fairly silly question: A) you wouldn't consciously be around to know you were aborted, or B) You would have still been born, under perhaps different circumstances as God wills your life, but you wouldn't know that either.

    The problem is both of these questions deny the uber importance of the questioner's unique ego "I" and people tend to be far more afraid about the death of their self aware ego "I", than they are of the death of their physical body.

    Truthfully women have the primordial choice about an individual's initial physical life or death. This fact is even pointed out in the Incarnation when Mary is given a choice. Even Jesus is not materially forced on His mother. Jesus does not appear to have had the addiction to his ego "I" the rest of have, which is why He was really teaching us about a deeper death than the physical one, and that's the death of the illusion of the permanence of the self aware neural construct known as the ego "I".

    In order to keep that you need to be willing to lose it. Pro lifers seem to confuse the two ideas of personhood. The anti abortion effort to me is very ego centered, which is why pro lifers never seem to want to extend their concern to other life issues. They are too stuck on that scarey notion of "What if mommy had aborted precious me?"

  27. Colleen-

    I am glad you mentioned JPIIs 1980 "let's get the Liberation Theology crowd out" missive. I had forgotten about this - and its interesting timing on the world stage.

    JPII was literally surrounded with OD types long in Krackow. The anti-Commie rhetoric would have appealed to him, knowing his & Poland's history. So....he was ripe for the plucking. And it worked! They got him to mentally eqaute Liberation Theology with Stalin.

    ...thus dooming millions of Latin Americans to even more fascist regimes, with Opus Dei as the unseed & smiling controller.

    AND...I had never previously made any connection between Olmstead & that uber-fascist sherrif Arapaio!

    Now I do & am feeling great sorrow for those poor prisoners he is literally (and subtly)torturing.

    But then given the OD connectivity, Arapaio is 'their man'....

    Anon Y. Mouse

  28. Use the search function on the blog for more info on Olmstead and Arpaio. It's interesting.

  29. In Canada the clergy don't seem to be quite as obsessed with abortion, although it does feature more prominently than other "life" issues.

    My mother, who is 85, complained that when she and my dad went to Mass in Florida all they heard about was abortion, and there wasn't a woman present who was under 60!


  30. "Truthfully women have the primordial choice about an individual's initial physical life or death. This fact is even pointed out in the Incarnation when Mary is given a choice. Even Jesus is not materially forced on His mother."

    Beautifully said and something I never considered.

    A little while back (I think it was here) someone commented that maybe all the heretics commenting here would be more comfortable in the Anglican Communion. Any more actions like those of Chaput and Olmsted and I'm going to concede that point.

  31. Scripto I personally think Benedict offered their own rite to the wrong bunch of Anglicans. Had he offered such a rite to the progressive wing it would have been such a healing move.

  32. Quoting colkoch: This fact is even pointed out in the Incarnation when Mary is given a choice. Even Jesus is not materially forced on His mother.

    Oh, absolutely AGREED. And yet I've never heard this even whispered about. The Blessed Virgin was given the choice by God. Clearly. Unequivocally. And yet the hierarchy would have us believe the a human institution [either church or government or both] ought be granted the authority to take this very choice from other women. Ignoring the example that God Himself is for those imperfect and human institutions. They only seem able to consider the example of Mary in her faith and obedience accepting the role God offers. As if God had no other options if she had refused. They can't, don't or refuse to see that this view very clearly limits God. Because every single sermon I've ever heard on The Incarnation made the point that if Mary had refused, there could have been no Redemption. But nothing restricts God from offering the role to another woman at another time.

  33. Is there any way to contact Sister McBride to offer our prayers and support?

  34. Abortion and the excommunication of Sister Margaret McBride - a contrast in religious law by Canadian law professor James C. Morton

    "An interesting contrast to this view is presented by Jewish religious law which would have required the abortion in these circumstances.

    Under Jewish law where the mother's life is in jeopardy because of the unborn child, abortion is mandatory.

    An unborn child has the status of "potential human life" until the majority of the body has emerged from the mother. The Talmud says quite bluntly that if the foetus threatens the life of the mother, you cut it up within her body and remove it limb by limb if necessary, because its life is not as valuable as hers. Note, what is required is a mere threat to the life of the mother -- a standard far lower than that facing Sister McBride. Further, abortion, in such a case, is not only permitted -- it is required.

    In a similar (but less graphic) approach Islam generally permits abortion up to 120 days following conception where a woman's life is endangered. Note, however, the abortion is not required but merely permitted."

    We discussed this quite some time ago but I thought this article was worth recording here for the record.