Nun Excommunicated After Supporting Abortion To Protect Life of Mother

While the Catholic Church may be criticized for covering up crimes by priests and resisting efforts to discipline offenders, it seems to waste to time with errant nuns. Sister Margaret McBride has been excommunicated for the offense of approving an abortion to protect the life of a mother as a senior administrator of St. Joseph’s Hospital in Phoenix. There does not even appear to be any room for mitigating circumstances in such a case. Bishop Thomas Olmstead (left) immediately excommunicated McBride.

McBride was faced with a case involving a 27-year-old mother of four with pulmonary hypertension. The reviewing doctors concluded that she stood a serious risk of dying in child birth from the condition. As part of the Ethics Committee, Sister Margaret agreed with the medical staff that the abortion was necessary. Bishop Olmstead then promptly ruled that Sister Margaret was “automatically excommunicated.” Where was that automatic provision in the cases of serial child abuse?

For the full story, click here.

37 thoughts on “Nun Excommunicated After Supporting Abortion To Protect Life of Mother”

  1. Henry–

    I agree about the church disregarding the fate of the four children who would be left motherless. Of course, the widower could always find another woman to tend to his children after their mother dies. Just a simple substitution of one woman for another!

  2. It’s not just the life of the mother that the church disregards. It is the four children whom the church would have left motherless. You’d think that the church would at least have given the mother some credit for not using birth control. (I mean that sarcastically.)

  3. mespo–

    I’m not arguing that the mother’s life is equal to the fetus’s in my eyes. I was trying to explain that the church holds the life of a fetus ABOVE that of a mother. That’s what I took away from my years in parochial school. I remember a nun once telling our class that if a doctor was Catholic and he had to make the choice between saving the life of a child being born and a mother giving birth–the doctor would have to save the child. I was about ten or eleven years old at the time. It didn’t seem right to me all those years ago–and it still doesn’t to this day

  4. Elaine M.

    I don’t know if I’d argue that the mother’s life is equal tothat of the fetus here. That seems to be the Church’s position. I think the better point is that there are no black or white answers in most things — a point the Church once recognized but has now rejected.

  5. “An embryo has no rights. Rights do not pertain to a potential, only to an actual being. A child cannot acquire any rights until it is born. The living take precedence over the not-yet-living (or the unborn).

    Abortion is a moral right—which should be left to the sole discretion of the woman involved; morally, nothing other than her wish in the matter is to be considered. Who can conceivably have the right to dictate to her what disposition she is to make of the functions of her own body?”

    “Never mind the vicious nonsense of claiming that an embryo has a “right to life.” A piece of protoplasm has no rights—and no life in the human sense of the term. One may argue about the later stages of a pregnancy, but the essential issue concerns only the first three months. To equate a potential with an actual, is vicious; to advocate the sacrifice of the latter to the former, is unspeakable. . . . Observe that by ascribing rights to the unborn, i.e., the nonliving, the anti-abortionists obliterate the rights of the living: the right of young people to set the course of their own lives. The task of raising a child is a tremendous, lifelong responsibility, which no one should undertake unwittingly or unwillingly. Procreation is not a duty: human beings are not stock-farm animals. For conscientious persons, an unwanted pregnancy is a disaster; to oppose its termination is to advocate sacrifice, not for the sake of anyone’s benefit, but for the sake of misery qua misery, for the sake of forbidding happiness and fulfillment to living human beings.”

  6. This does not surprise me one bit. The church has always believed that women have one role in life, and one role only: Women are only worthy of “bearing fruit.”

    I distinctly remember being taught in the early 70’s that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute, years after it was firmly established that she was not and the church hierarchy confirmed same; I was taught women are to be subservient to the male species; I was taught women are nothing but lustful beings, who are to bear the blame for adultery, and all of society’s ills; I was taught that because women are such sexual creatures that we are to be viewed with suspicion; I was taught that a woman’s menstrual cycle is our punishment for Eve’s picking from the Tree of Knowledge; I was taught a barren woman is God’s punishment for her sinful ways (and what’s God’s punishment for men with erectile dysfunction? Viagra!).

    The church protects the pedophile, yet punishes the compassionate woman – the hypocrisy is stunning, but not at all surprising.

    To this, I say “f*ck tha church”

  7. We will see the Catholic Church sanctioning abortions to save the life of the mother as soon as a woman is named Pope. Maybe then we will also see children finally protected from pedophilia.

  8. mespo–

    What I find most appalling/troubling is that the life of a human fetus is considered sacrosanct–but not so the life of a mother in a case where she may face death in childbirth.

  9. James M:

    “If so, it isn’t really inconsistent for the church to change its rules after learning that that is not the case.”


    It would be if the Church took cognizance of the modern science or its own institutional doubts on the matter. It’s more a philosophical, than biological, debate for them. Aristotle, as far as we know, first came up with the concept of the “quickening” but the question was actually one of ensoulment as you state. The link I cite gives a fair rundown of the development of the idea. The Church’s problem is that it totally ignores the biology by protecting the 100 cell blastocyst with as equal vigor as the full developed fetus — which most of us concede is worthy of protection due to its undeniably human characteristics. What I find appalling is the Church’s unwillingness to acknowledge its own moral doubts and confusion on the issue as revealed by its history, and its unyielding “bright line” approach which places it in the preposterous position it finds itself in today.

  10. mespo,

    As someone interested in the history of science, it sounds like the Pope Innocent III letter you cite is based on an incorrect assumption about how pregnancies develop. I haven’t done any research, but it sounds like the assumption was that the fetus develops for a time before god “animates” it by adding a soul (presumably at the time the woman can first feel the baby moving around or kicking). If so, it isn’t really inconsistent for the church to change its rules after learning that that is not the case.

  11. rcampbell:

    What’s frustrating is that the Church has not always been so “dogmatic” on issues of abortion. Many Church leaders like Jerome and Augustine countenanced the procedure under certain circumstances. A good summary of the Church’s sclerosis on the issue is found here:

    My favorite story from the past involves Pope Innocent III (circa 1161-1216)who “wrote a letter which ruled on a case of a Carthusian monk who had arranged for his female lover to obtain an abortion. The Pope decided that the monk was not guilty of homicide if the fetus was not ‘animated.'”

    Taking care of your own, brother!

  12. rcampbell–

    I endured twelve years of parochial school in the fifties and early sixties. The church’s policies may be consistent. All that proves is that little has changed–that the church still has little respect for the lives of women. As Alan said–church fathers look at a woman as a “vessel for birthing a child.”

    The church allowed male pedophiles to be priests–but not women.

  13. I am by no means a supporter nor an apologist for Catholic teachings, but having served an eight year sentence in a parochial school in the mid-50’s, I see this as consistant with a very old church policy. One might remember an Anthony Quinn movie from the early 60’s entitled The Cardinal. In it, a Cardinal (Quinn) who would later go on to become Pope, faced the decision of life and death regarding his sister during childbirth. They made a strong point of the church’s view that the child must be protected before the mother. It’s consistant with their anti-choice stance as well. I agree with Mespo that the ex-nun’s excommunication should be cause of celebration rather than consternation.

  14. They call it excommunication. I call it liberation from stupidity.

  15. In the Catholic Church, a woman’s body is simply vessel for birthing a child. That lesson is made clear in the story of the Virgin Mary, who is revered as the vessel for carrying God’s child, and is repeated every time a woman is told she may not enjoy sex, use contraception, terminate an unwanted pregnancy, or have dominion over her own body, and if necessary, she must sacrifice her life for a fetus, even if the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest. As the Church tells us, that is God’s will, and we are to accept that without question, confirmation or independent thought. If anyone, Sister Margaret McBride should have known that, and for her disobedience, she has been shunned, almost as if the Church were some sort of high-school clique.

  16. The blatant hypocrisy of the Roman Catholic Church is breath-taking.

  17. Bishop Olmstead then promptly ruled that Sister Margaret was “automatically excommunicated.” Where was that automatic provision in the cases of serial child abuse?


    You think there’s a contradiction? Here’s the simple answer: Sister Margaret is a woman. Women are second class citizens in the Catholic Church–as they are in many religions!

  18. Out of the main article:

    “The mother’s life cannot be preferred over the child’s,” the bishop’s communication office elaborated in a statement.

    Let us just note that the Roman Catholic hierarchy suspended priests who abused children and in some cases defrocked them but did not normally excommunicate them, so they remained able to take the sacrament.


    There is a contradiction here somewhere. Maybe some better schooled than I can understand what I am saying……

    But then again read the article and you’ll want to rip the Bi-shop’s head off and defecate down his throat…..

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