Sunday, June 13, 2010

When being excommunicated is a badge of honor

The Catholic Church may have a new scandal to withstand or at the very least a PR nightmare along with the legitimate questioning of their moral authority while still reeling from an institutionalized child sexual molestation scandal playing out in public.

This involves the excommunication of Sister Margaret McBride a top administrator at St.Joseph's Hospital in Phoenix and someone who sits on the hospital's ethics board.

The incident involved a 27 year old woman who was 11 weeks pregnant with her fifth child and who was admitted to the hospital because the pregnancy was causing her severe health problems.

The woman suffered from pulmonary hypertension and she was told by her doctors at the hospital that if she continued the pregnancy her prospects for dying were close to 100% . She was told that the baby would die also.

Sister McBride conferred with the woman and her doctors and, given the fatal prognosis, decided this was an exception to the code of Catholic health care directives which, as everyone knows prohibits abortion under any circumstances for any reason.

Sister McBride decided this was an exception and gave the go ahead and the abortion was performed. It saved woman's life.

But Phoenix Bishop Thomas J. Olmstead, after finding out about the abortion, ordered that Sister McBride, and the patient who had the abortion to save her life, along with every other Catholic involved with the decision and the procedure, be excommunicated.

Sister McBride, who obviously exercised judgement far superior to Bishop Olmstead, has been reassigned to lesser duties and whether she will continue to work at the hospital remains to be seen.

But aside from the stupefying inhumanity of Bishop Olmstead, and his incredible lack of judgment, it seems to be another example of the church heirarchy caring more about itself than the people its supposed to serve, as the church's attempted cover ups of its serial child sexual abuse has showed.,

That both the woman and the child were sure to die meant nothing to Bishop Olmstead. Church rules, and its power meant everything.

This isn't only about religion per se. One assumes Sister McBride knows as much about the Catholic faith as Bishop Olmsted. And probably more when it came to the ethics governing the situation. What it came down to was a difference of opinion that was about the life and death of a woman and exposed one of the church's most fundamental problems -- a patriarchy that has denigrated women since its inception, accused them of being witches and burned them in the middle ages and hung them in Salem Massachusetts, and shuts them out of every decision making process, essentially saying what they think doesnt matter. It took a Sister McBride to save the life of this woman and a Bishop OIlmstead who would have let her die.

With more incidents like this along with the constant revelations of the church tacitly accepting child sexual abuse and doing nothing to stop it and with charges of negligence that go all the way to the Vatican, the Church's moral standing seems to be not only collapsing but fraudulent. Which leads one to the conclusion given the church's seemingly conflicting behavior on child sexual abuse versus an abortion which saved a woman's life, that if the church cared as much about a child after it left the womb as it seems to while its still there, they wouldn't have a child sex abuse scandal in the first place.

Sister McBride has every reason to be proud of herself and her decision. And the patient, a mother of 5 who is alive today, has McBride and her doctors to thank. And so do her children. Had it been up to Bishop Thomas J.Olmsted, that woman would be dead today and her five children without a mother. Being excommunicated by someone like that should be and is a badge of honor.

And for members of congress who three months ago rejected the Catholic Conference of Bishops and their attempts at interfering with the wording in the health care bill on abortion this should reenforce that they did the right thing. As did Thomas Jefferson and the Founders when they passed the first amendment whose sole purpose was to permanently erect a wall between the church and any and all functions of the government.

1 comment:

kbrowne said...

Olmsted did not order "that Sister McBride, and the patient who had the abortion to save her life, along with every other Catholic involved with the decision and the procedure, be excommunicated." He simply stated that, according to Catholic teaching and canon law, they were excommunicated automatically, by virtue of having formally cooperated in an abortion. He was not obliged to say that, and many Catholics think he should not have done so, but he did not change the situation. They would still have been excommunicated, according to the Catholic Church, if he had said nothing.

Of course Catholic teaching has changed in the past and may change in the future but Olmsted was simply stating what the present teaching is. He cannot be blamed for that.

You say "One assumes Sister McBride knows as much about the Catholic faith as Bishop Olmsted." Yes, I am sure she does. And when it came to the point she could not act according to the teaching of her Church. Will she now have the courage to leave the Church or fight, while excommunicated, for Church teaching to be changed or will she repent and return to obeying the Church. I am guessing the latter but who knows?