A Bishop Says No

By Jeffrey Page

The story from Arizona last spring was strange enough: The bishop of the Diocese of Phoenix announced that he had excommunicated Margaret McBride, an administrator at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center, because she had approved an abortion for a patient.

Not just any patient, but a 27-year old woman, a mother of four, suffering from pulmonary hypertension, a condition that, according to The Arizona Republic, severely limits heart and lung function and likely would kill her if she carried her pregnancy to term. The Republic newspaper also noted that it was the doctors at St. Joseph’s who recommended ending the pregnancy, not the other way around.

And not just any Margaret McBride, but Sister Margaret McBride, a nun of the Sisters of Mercy.

The bishop, Thomas J. Olmsted, had another announcement. The church, he said last month, was ending its affiliation with St. Joseph’s because that’s where the abortion was performed but also because the hospital said it had no intention of eliminating abortions when it came to saving the life of the mother.

I don’t understand Bishop Olmsted’s reasoning.

When he excommunicated Sister Margaret he said that anyone who “formally cooperates” in an abortion is automatically excommunicated. Recently, however, he offered a prayer at the opening of the Arizona Legislature’s new session. His prayer recollected the shooting massacre in Tucson and at one point Bishop Olmsted declared: “We pray for Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and all who were injured and for those who love and care for them.”

Congresswoman Giffords is not a Catholic so of course she can’t be excommunicated. But she has a 100 percent approval rating from NARAL – the National Abortion Rights Action League.

On one hand the pain of excommunication for a nun. On the other a specific mention of a pro-choice politician in a prayer for recovery. Yet it would seem that by the bishop’s definition, both formally cooperated in abortion.

Bishop Olmsted’s absolutism is not limited to the issue of abortion. Four years ago, the bishop refused to give communion to an autistic 10-year old boy who was physically unable to swallow the host.

I thought about that boy and recalled St. Mark quoting Jesus: “Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.” It seemed that what was good for Jesus certainly ought to be good for a bishop. The boy’s father had even offered to grind up the wafer in his own mouth and then transfer some of it to his son. No good, Bishop Olmsted said.

Two years ago Bishop Olmsted took President Obama to task for ending George W. Bush’s straitjacket limits on embryonic stem cell research.

Since the bishop is so uncompromising in his moral stands, can we assume that he carries a card in his wallet stating that in the event of his illness or injury, he automatically declines all medication, surgery or other treatment that has come about as a result of embryonic stem cell research? Moreover, can we assume that he has made such identification cards available to everyone in the diocese, a card each for every mom and dad and one for each child?

I couldn’t find a word about Bishop Olmsted’s carrying such a no-thank-you card.

Jeffrey can be reached at jeffrey@zestoforange.com


One Response to “A Bishop Says No”

  1. Jo Galante Cicale Says:

    and this is why catholics have fled the church or abide to their own values. the church just keeps on losing any credibility. maybe ending celibacy would improve these old men’s temperaments and viewpoints.

Leave a Reply