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“Excommunication” of Nun in Arizona Very Troubling

May 17, 2010

This is a statement from Jon O’Brien, president of Catholics for Choice:

The news that a nun who works at a Catholic hospital in Phoenix, Arizona, was excommunicated following her participation in a decision to permit an abortion to take place is very troubling.

According to the local bishop, Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted, head of the Phoenix Diocese, Sister Margaret McBride was “automatically excommunicated” and reassigned to other duties.

Apparently, the abortion took place late last year when a woman, who was 11 weeks pregnant, was diagnosed with a condition that meant she would not survive if she continued the pregnancy.

While not all the facts are available, it is clear that the Vatican’s hard line on abortion led to this terrible situation. Sadly, we see situations like this time after time, both here in the US and abroad. The Vatican’s outright ban on all abortions is insensitive and reflects an unwillingness to acknowledge the reality of women’s lives, including the difficult decisions that often have to be made during a pregnancy.

It is also unclear whether Sister McBride in fact met the criteria for an “automatic” excommunication. A Catholics for Choice publication, Notes on Canon Law No. 1, outlines the conditions that need to be met, according to the Catholic church’s law.

It is not immediately clear why Sister McBride’s counsel was sought in this matter, but it is heartening to know that despite the Vatican’s opposition to all abortion, local staff at a Catholic hospital made a conscientious and compassionate decision to save this woman’s life.

Reasonable Catholics the world over acknowledge that access to abortion is sometimes necessary, and our polling and that of other organizations shows that a large majority of Catholics reject the Vatican’s outright ban on all abortions.