The Church Would Rather See the Mother Die?

This was reported in the New York Times, so maybe you’ve already heard about it.

Phoenix – St. Jospeph’s Hospital in Phoenix, AZ has been officially and forcibly stripped of its affiliation from the Catholic diocese there by Bishop Thomas Olstead.

The reason?

The hospital, under the approval of the hospital’s ethicist and Catholic Nun Sister Margaret McBride, terminated a pregnancy to save the life of the mother. This was Sister McBrides first and only exception to allow an abortion under the hospital’s roof. Did she have good reason?  You decide:  The mother in question suffers from severe pulmonary hypertension, a condition so serious that she would probably not have survived the stress on her body from the pregnancy (killing both mother and child), let alone the birth of the new child.  The doctors at St. Joseph’s Hospital, in agreement with their Catholic nun ethicist, felt that a termination was not only in the best interest of the mother, but also in the best interest of the mother’s four other children, who would then have been left without her as a parent.

“Seeking to bully the hospital into submission” Bishop Olstead excommunicated Sister McBride, which in defiance to both the diocese and the Vatican itself, still employs the now-former nun.  The Catholic Health Association, a network of Catholic hospitals around the country has chosen to stand behind St. Josephs in defiance of Bishop Olstead’s decisions.

Hmmm… is stripping the affiliation of the Church from the hospital right in this situation?  Is excommunicating the nun who acted as ethicist just? The Week reported that “McBride has spent decades serving ‘the neediest and sickest among us.’ There’s little doubt about who is the Christ-like figure in this story.”

What do you think? Is all this good Christianity?

First, are any of the positions of Christianity in question here?  Actually, just like in the case of Alabama Governor Robert Bentley, where his personal beliefs about Christianity are not matching of those that Jesus held, no.  Christianity is not in question.  Bishop Thomas Olstead’s understanding of Christianity is CERTAINLY in question, and if the church backs Bishop Olstead’s actions, the Catholic Church and Vatican’s understanding of Christianity is also in question.

In this particular case, the Catholic Church is defending a mindful position of the church based on subjective rules and doctrines set by the Church, not Jesus.  In a case of What Would Jesus Do, I suspect that Jesus might have stepped in and healed the mother of the ailment, making it safe to continue the pregnancy.  But that isn’t an option here for the mere mortals involved.  So would the Catholic Church then only choose to have both the mother and the new baby die to defend their mindful position on abortion (that it’s forbidden in all cases, even in the potential death of the mother and the ultimate destabilization of a large Catholic family)?  In this case, it would seem so.

What’s your opinion?  What decision would you have made about the mother if you were Sister McBride?  What if she couldn’t go anywhere else for treatment?




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  1. By the way… I make the same decision the nun did in saving the one of them, and maintaining stability in the lives of the other four children. At the same time I grieve the loss of the little one.

  2. i’m with you. even with my limited scope of religious knowledge, the idea that *allowing* both beings to die for the sake of a doctrine – when there’s even the remotest chance that one could survive, seems unjust, uncivil, un-spiritual… and the extenuating fact of the four other children makes it even more absurd that they would even think of upholding that rule. Would the church have stepped forward and provided safe haven for the now motherless children?? doubtful. And even if they would have, it’s perverse to think of them being held as saviours for the children when they themselves killed the mother.

    thank everything that people like Sister Margaret exist – and selflessly serve – to maintain some level of sanity in organized religion.

    • Your comments are always very insightful, Kera. How do you do that? 😉


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