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Kevin ClarkeDecember 14, 2011

According to a CNS story I overlooked that was posted earlier this week, Mercy Sister Margaret McBride has been restored to "Catholic in good standing" status. Sister McBride's automatic excommunication was publicly noted by Phoenix Bishop Thomas Olmsted because of her role in approving an abortion procedure for a mother facing a life-threatening illness in May 2010.

The CNS story follows below:

Mercy nun at hospital that allowed abortion 'no longer excommunicated' 

PHOENIX (CNS) -- A Mercy sister who was automatically excommunicated because of her role on the ethics committee that allowed an abortion to be performed at a Catholic hospital in Phoenix in 2009 is back in good standing in the Catholic Church.

In May 2010, officials at St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center publicly acknowledged that an abortion had occurred at the hospital in late 2009. Officials said the woman was 11 weeks pregnant and suffered from pulmonary hypertension, a condition that the hospital said carried a near-certain risk of death for the mother if the pregnancy continued.

It also was revealed at the time that Mercy Sister Margaret McBride had incurred automatic excommunication because of her role on the ethics committee that sanctioned the abortion. On Dec. 21, 2010, Phoenix Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted announced that the hospital could no longer identify itself as a Catholic hospital.

In a Dec. 8 statement, the hospital said Sister Margaret has since "met the requirements for reinstatement with the church and she is no longer excommunicated. She continues to be a member in good standing with the Sisters of Mercy and is a valued member of the St. Joseph's executive team."

The statement, emailed to Catholic News Service in response to a query about her status, provided no more details and the hospital had no further comment.

Sister Margaret is currently the medical center's vice president for organizational outreach.

Last year when Bishop Olmsted issued his decree revoking the 116-year-old hospital's affiliation with the Catholic Church, he wrote that he could not verify that the hospital provides health care consistent with "authentic Catholic moral teaching."

After he learned about the abortion, Bishop Olmsted said at the time, he had met with hospital officials to learn more about the particular case.

"It became clear that, in their decision to abort, the equal dignity of mother and her baby were not both upheld," he said. The baby "was directly killed," which is a violation of the ethical and religious directives.

Throughout the process, St. Joseph's Hospital and its parent organization, San Francisco-based Catholic Healthcare West, maintained that the intention was to save "the only life that could be saved," the mother's, according to the hospital.

"We continue to stand by the decision, which was made in collaboration with the patient, her family, her caregivers and our ethics committee," she added. "Morally, ethically and legally we simply cannot stand by and let someone die whose life we might be able to save."

Bishop Olmsted said it was his duty to strip St. Joseph's Hospital of its Catholic identity because its leadership, as well as that of its parent organization, San Francisco-based Catholic Healthcare West, is not committed to "following the teachings of the Catholic Church."

"I really want to have Catholic health care," he said. "We should be working together, not against each other."

To demonstrate that the hospital was no longer Catholic, Bishop Olmsted prohibited the celebration of Mass on the hospital's campus and had the Blessed Sacrament removed from the hospital's chapel.


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Marie Rehbein
12 years 2 months ago
As I was growing up as a Lutheran, it always seemed that the Catholic young people that I knew felt more free to do things we knew were wrong than I did.  I suppose it's because of being able to do whatever to get oneself reinstated.  The question I have is whether Sister McBride would make the same decision if faced with the same situation today.  If it were me, I would not have made the decision the way she did if I thought it was wrong, and if I were punished by a bishop, it would not convince me that I made a wrong decision if when I made it I believed it was the right thing to do.  However, I am impressed that Bishop Olmstead claims so much medical expertise. 
John Hayes
12 years 2 months ago
Sr. McBride said that the conditions imposed by the Bishop we're 1) that she resign her position and 2) that she confess to a priest. 

Once she had resigned from the Ethics Committee (she continues at the hospital in a different role) my guess is that her confession my have run along the lines of saying that she had authorized a procedure she did not believe at the time to be an abortion and therefore she does not believe that she committed a sin - however she recognizes that the bishop has since taught that that procedure is an abortion and she will follow his teaching if she should be faced with that situation again while stationed in he diocese. 

In other words, to acknowledge his teaching authority and to confirm that she will comply wih his teaching on this matter as long as she is under his jurisdiction. 
John Hayes
12 years 2 months ago
Sr. Mcbride's statement is here:


John Hayes
12 years 2 months ago
Maria Byrd, the article says ''The statement, emailed to Catholic News Service in response to a query about her status, provided no more details and the hospital had no further comment''

The hospital was answerng a question from the news agency about her status. It did not say it had any role in lifting the excommunication. 

I suspect that only Sr. Byrd and her confessor know if the excommunication has been lifted - and the confessor is bound by the secret so he can't say. 
Norman Costa
12 years 2 months ago
In a related story, the BBC reports that an Afghan woman by the name of Guinaz, and her daughter, were both released from jail. She was raped by a relative, but was sentenced to death for adultery. She gave birth to her daughter in jail, a pregnancy that resulted from the rape. Guinaz was spared her life by availing herself of a merciful provision of Sharia law that required he to marry the rapist. However, she was sentenced to 12 years in jail for waiting until after her pregnancy became public to file a charge of rape. 

Both mother and daughter lived together in jail until this release.

I am wondering if Guinaz has been reinstated into the her mosque as a woman who did not commit adultery, or if she is still a sinful adulterer but had confessed her transgressions that brought shame onto her family, her failth, and to her community. I wonder if Guinaz was a member of a woman's group at her mosque before her adultery. Did she have to resign from that group as a condition of being reinstated to freedom outside jail?

Maybe the Christian critics of Islam are right - that Allah is a false God and in league with Satan. A loving Allah would not treat women and children this way. Satan, on the other hand... 
Norman Costa
12 years 2 months ago
@ Maria:

You said, ''This seems odd.'' In time, your observation will seem prescient and understated. 

I've been around institutions and corp speak for too long to miss the signs of a deal that let the bishop off the hook of admitting a big mistake, [or maybe further analysis could exonerate Sr. Margaret and then the bishop has to back track so let's put this puppy to bed] and sounding like he won, hands down.
Jim McCrea
12 years 2 months ago
"I suspect that only Sr. Byrd and her confessor -"

That may be true, but we are discussing Sr. McBride here.

Maria - be sure to let John Hardon know that you have taken the veil.

(Tee hee)
david power
12 years 2 months ago
I feel like I should be paying tuition fees when I read what Norman writes ,so good are his comments!!!
Jim, would that Maria had taken the veil.
I look on this article in two ways.Either the hospital and those working within it have lost their humanity and are impervious to the needs of the unborn child or Bishop Olmsted is simply an example  of automism.
Wield the hammer!!
As for David Smith's comment on the textbook, who wouldn't want to live in a textbook? I would love it. Not having to think when I wake in the morning.No discernment  is my personal definition of paradise.
 I have known enough Muslims to know that I would prefer an abyss of nothingness and eternal blackness to Allah.
Christendom may be a disaster as Kierkegaard says but Christ is still  a winner.    
Norman Costa
12 years 2 months ago

Update on convicted and jailed Afghani adulterer:

The BBC is reporting that Gulnaz was pardoned by Afghani President Karzai. She is free to marry whomever she wants, and does not have to marry her rapist. The pardon, like all pardons, does not change her criminal record. Gulnaz is still a convicted adulterer and a criminal woman-come-lately for not reporting her rape until after the birth of her child. 

Thankfully, clerics, government, and men still have the final say of life, death, and freedom over women and children. 

Back in the US, a Catholic bishop, a number of decades ago, ran a paedophile and child porn ring, financed by the Gambino crime family. The Gambino mob provided 90 percent of the child porn to Europe at that time. Many of the children, supplied by the bishop, were subsequently murdered, mutilated, dismembered, and disposed of. 

Here's my question. Would Bishop Olmstead have excommunicated the offending bishop and the other priests, seminarians, and lay people in his group, if the activities of this ring were disclosed to him in his diocese? Of course, this is a rhetorical question. There was and is no provision for instantaneous excommunication of men who perpetrate the most vile of evils upon the most innocent and vulnerable of God's creation. One of the functions of the ring leader bishop was to give absolution to the members when it was all over. By the way, there is no provision for instantaneous excommunication for that, either.

Thankfully, clerics, government, and men still have the final say of life, death, heaven and hell, and freedom over women and children.
Bruce McCaughey
9 years 11 months ago
I am sorry that I am so late to respond. 1. There is some question, surely, of the liceity of a bishop excommunicating a fellow bishop (a minor point, I admit). 2. The reference to a "paedophile and child porn ring" where children were "murdered, mutilated, dismembered" sounds like part of the Child Ritual Abuse mania of the 80's and 90's, long since discredited. Any other information about this? 3. If one considers an unborn child as among the most innocent and vulnerable, then there is indeed a Church provision against those who would violate him.
Marie Rehbein
12 years 2 months ago

The curious thing is that there appears to be a hand of God at work undoing the work of men and comforting the victimized.  I'm sure it galls the men in question that there is a greater power.  This is why women and children are such targets, I think.
Bill Taylor
12 years 2 months ago
The real issue with the good bishop is authority.  This is the real issue with most of the hierarchy in general and Rome in particular.  They want people to knuckle under to their authority, which is outside the conscience of the person making the decision.  They want to be the conscience.  What is happening more an more is internal authority.  I listen respectfully to the voice of the Church and all other wise voices, but in the end, I have to make up my own mind.   This drives the hierarchy bonkers. 
Des Farrell
12 years 2 months ago
Hi Norman,
Re post 11,
I have looked online for the name of the bishop who was involved with the gambino child porn ring and cant find it. Perhaps you could let me know?
You can email me if you prefer.
John Hayes
12 years 2 months ago
''That may be true, but we are discussing Sr. McBride here.''

My abject apologies Maria.

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