Catholic sister told Phoenix bishop abortion was allowed by Church teaching

Sr. Margaret McBride and Bishop Thomas Olmsted.
Sr. Margaret McBride and Bishop Thomas Olmsted.

.- 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."

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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