Friday, May 21


For those of you who are unaware, the Diocese of Phoenix recently made headlines, but not exactly as you would think.

A young lady was gravely ill and needed surgery without which, according to the medical experts, she would surely die. The operation was an abortion of her 11 week-old foetus. After speaking with the doctors, the patient and the patients family, the administrator approved the procedure. The twist here is that the administrator is a nun at a catholic hospital in Phoenix. Note that there is a specific exception (Directive 47 in the U.S. Catholic Church's ethical guidelines for health care providers) which permits the abortion of a fetus to save the life of the mother. That directive did not, however, save Sister Margaret from being excommunicated from the church by her bishop - publicly.

According to Bishop Olmstead (of Phoenix), the action was an automatic excommunication (latæ sententiæ) and Canon law is clear on the matter (accomplice to abortion (Can. 1329, 1398). Of course, excommunication isn't what it used to be. Despite the connotations of Canossa, it is purported to be a remedial measure rather than a punishment. Sister Margaret is encouraged remain in and participate in the church, other than being able to receive the Eucharist or assist in the liturgy. 24 hours after this story gained national attention, CNN has reported that Sister Margaret is, after reconciliation, in communion once again with Rome.

The situation which Sister Margaret was placed in is certainly unenviable. On the one hand, she could deny a life-saving procedure to a young woman in an effort to protect the faith...and both mother and unborn would die. On the other, she could approve the abortion, save the woman's life and condemn them all. Either way, the child would die and Sister Margaret would be an accomplice to this death.

As I was asked recently about my personal situation 'Where is God in all this?' Where is the loving Divine? What would She do? IMHO, saving the woman and healing her wounds (both seen and unseen) seems the loving and caring thing to do. But what of the foetus? As previously stated, it would have perished no matter what choice was made. For myself, I believe that this child never left the state of Grace, so the final disposition of the unborn is secure.

Sister Margaret chose the path of compassion and of life. In that moment, she decided to follow what she believed was right over what 'the rules' dictated. To this, I will paraphrase today's Gospel reading:

“Margaret, Sister of Mercy, do you love me?”

Sister Margaret was distressed that he had said to her a third time,

“Do you love me?” and he said to her,

“Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.”

Jesus said to her, “Feed my sheep."

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