Nun Automatically Excommunicated For Approving Abortion

Sister Margaret McBride

[New Updates with Father Zuhlsdorf chiming in]

[Breaking Update at the bottom of this post, more “mercy” killings by Sisters of Mercy]

Bishop Thomas Olmstead of the Diocese of Phoenix has confirmed that Sister Margaret McBride of Phoenix’ Saint Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center had incurred an automatic excommunication or latae sententiae excommunication.  What this means is as soon as the offense is committed Sister McBride was automatically excommunicated by her own actions[1].

Sister Margaret McBride made the decision to kill a critically ill mother’s innocent unborn child because there was a high risk of the mother not surviving the innocent child’s birth.  In essence Sister McBride allowed for an abortion.

The decision was made in an ethics committee meeting due to the urgency of the situation.

The hospital vice president, Suzanne Pfister, said the hospital follows the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services.

“In this tragic case, the treatment necessary to save the mother’s life required the termination of an 11-week pregnancy,” Pfister said.

Pfister issued the four-paragraph statement on behalf of the hospital, its parent company Catholic Healthcare West, and the Sisters of Mercy, McBride’s religious order.

I looked up the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, fourth edition, and it specifically states under Part Four: Issues in Caring for the Beginning of Life, Section 45 that:

Abortion (that is, the directly intended termination of pregnancy before viability or the directly intended destruction of a viable fetus) is never permitted. Every procedure whose sole immediate effect is the termination of pregnancy before viability is an abortion, which, in its moral context, includes the interval between conception and implantation of the embryo. Catholic health care institutions are not to provide abortion services, even based upon the principle of material cooperation. In this context, Catholic health care institutions need to be concerned about the danger of scandal in any association with abortion providers.

Suzanne Pfister may have been referring to and misinterpreting Section 47 which states:

Operations, treatments, and medications that have as their direct purpose the cure of a proportionately serious pathological condition of a pregnant woman are permitted when they cannot be safely postponed until the unborn child is viable, even if they will result in the death of the unborn child.

I believe this means that any attempts at saving the mother that may (secondarily) abort the innocent unborn child before viability is allowed, but Suzanne Pfister is wrong in this application because the hospital purposely procured an abortion because the innocent unborn child was a threat to the mother, ie, the innocent unborn child was treated as a disease.

After learning of the decision and the action of killing the innocent unborn child, the Diocese of Phoenix issued a statement.

“I am gravely concerned by the fact that an abortion was performed several months ago in a Catholic hospital in this diocese,” Olmsted said. “I am further concerned by the hospital’s statement that the termination of a human life was necessary to treat the mother’s underlying medical condition.

“An unborn child is not a disease. While medical professionals should certainly try to save a pregnant mother’s life, the means by which they do it can never be by directly killing her unborn child. The end does not justify the means.”

Olmsted added that if a Catholic “formally cooperates” in an abortion, he or she is automatically excommunicated.


“The Catholic Church will continue to defend life and proclaim the evil of abortion without compromise, and must act to correct even her own members if they fail in this duty,” the bishop said.

Sister McBride has been transferred to other duties within the hospital after learning that she excommunicated herself by her actions.

Sister Judy Carle

Board Chairwoman Sister Judith Carle, apparently unaware of above Catholic teaching, along with President and CEO Lloyd Dean, appealed to Bishop Olmstead.

“If there had been a way to save the pregnancy and still prevent the death of the mother, we would have done it,” the letter says. “We are convinced there was not.”

Basically Sister Judith Carle could have cared less for the innocent unborn child violating Catholic Church teaching, ie, the Fifth Commandment as well as the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services.


(Biretta Tip: Michael Clancy of The Arizona Republic via Lucianne)

[1] As soon as the offense is committed and by reason of the offense itself (eo ipso) without intervention of any ecclesiastical judge.


Update I: Early this morning it has been reported that a self-appointed angel of death, Sister Elaine Stahl, has dispatched more than a half-dozen aging nuns to their deaths in mercy killings at the Sisters of Mercy convent’s mother house and retreat center the in Auburn, California during 2009 A.D.

Last year, six elderly nuns – ranging in age from 68 to 100 – died at the convent.

A Sisters of Mercy spokeswoman have denied these claims of Auburn nun killings or what I call euthanasia.

Update II: Father Zuhlsdorf had these comments regarding Sister Margaret Mary McBride’s automatic excommunication:

[The idea here is that she automatically incurred the excommunication, latae sententiae, by her direct participation in the successful procuring of an abortion.  Some may have questions about how proximate her participation was to the actual abortion.  However, it seems that the bottom line here is that it could not have taken place without her approval.]

257 Responses to Nun Automatically Excommunicated For Approving Abortion

  1. Donald R. McClarey says:

    Little surprise. The Sisters of Mercy went the left-wing loon route long ago. A perusal of their web-site demonstrates that. All the trendy left-wing causes are present while the fight against abortion is absent.

    No doubt Mother McAuley is shaking her head in Heaven over her wayward daughters.

  2. Wonder if the woman in question already had, say, a couple of young children? So you don’t do the procedure, the fetus survives, the mother dies, and you end up with three orphans plus a widower.

    Trying squaring that one with her living children…and with God.

  3. Tito Edwards says:

    God’s plans are mysterious, who are we to judge?

    So you would purposely murder an innocent child instead of allowing this child to live and a chance for the mother to be alive as well.

    All life is sacred period.

  4. Donald R. McClarey says:

    “Trying squaring that one with her living children”

    All of her children were living until one was put to death.

  5. gb says:

    Mr Foster,
    Actually, that’s just exactly what happened with Dr. Gianna Molla, only she had 3 older children when she was advised by her physicians to abort her fourth to save her life. She declined, of course, because she knew she could only save her life by losing it. This proved to be true when her 4 “orphaned” children & her spouse lived to attend her canonization. So I guess we could say that her decision did, in fact, “square with God.”
    With respect, you’re “looking at the world with the eyes of man & not the eyes of God (Mk 8).”

  6. sibyl says:

    As a mother myself, I know how scary it is to contemplate the possibility of dying of pregnancy or labor. What will you not justify when your life is on the line?

    Also, I’m sure that Sister McBride’s decision came out of great compassion and with sadness. So I have sympathy for her too.

    But ultimately, the end can never justify the means. The only reason that it seems easy to justify an abortion here is that the little one who is to be killed is invisible to the outside world. But it becomes quite different when you consider the prospect of a baby and a woman, lying next to each other in bed, and saying, “The baby’s existence gravely harms his mother. The only thing to do is kill him.”

    What an excruciatingly difficult world we live in. But Jesus always promised us the cross. As Christians, to take the world’s answer is to put down that cross. God give me the strength never to put it down, even were it to come to a decision like this.

  7. bearing says:

    What exactly was this condition that required an abortion at 11 weeks? I have not yet found a case where abortion was truly the *only* life-saving option. It might be true that it reduces physical risk for the mother more than non-abortion options, so they might be able to say truly that it is “safest” for the mother… but they never claim that. They only claim that they had to perform an abortion to save the mother’s life. If you dig deeper, I predict you’ll find it’s simply not true; there usually are other options. (And it seems that no journalist ever asks the question, “Were there other options? Why were the other options rejected?”)

    There is only one condition I can think of where you would be hard-pressed to avoid the conclusion that deliberately killing an unborn child was necessary to save a mother’s life, and that is the theoretically possible case of ectopic pregnancy where the embryo had attached to a vital organ (not, as in most ectopic pregnancies, to the fallopian tube, which, when it becomes a “diseased body part” as a result of the pregnancy, can be removed licitly — even if this will, as an unintended consequence, kill the child –without killing the mother.) But I don’t even know if that actually ever happens.

  8. scott123 says:

    Bearing makes a good point.
    The assumption here is simply wrong, the lives of the mother and the child cannot be made to be in competition, and there doesn’t seem to be any imminent life threat from an early 11 week pregnancy. What one probably will learn is that it is a doctor’s prediction that taking the baby to full term may cause a risk.
    This is of course quite a different matter and these SISTERS need to be held accountable.
    They have given their soul over to the liberal modern world and turned their backs on Christ. Hard words but unfortunately the truth.

  9. Elaine Krewer says:

    “The treatment necessary to save the mother’s life required the termination of an 11-week pregnancy.”

    This is just total speculation on my part, but could it be that the mother had an aggressive cancer that required all-out radiation or chemotherapy to stop, and that such treatment would likely have killed the child? Was the cancer spreading so fast that if the mother had refused treatment, she would have died anyway before the child was viable?

    If that was the case — and someone feel free to correct me if I’m wrong — could the Catholic hospital have allowed the mother to receive radiation/chemo anyway with the child still in her womb, even if there was a strong likelihood that it would kill the baby? She would then be treating her own disease but not intervening directly to kill the child.

    If the child happened to die as a result of the treatment, that would be a case of double effect — but it would also leave open the possibility that the child might miraculously survive. (Paging St. Gianna Molla!) However, it would NOT be permissible to, in effect, euthanize the child ahead of time on the grounds that he/she will “die anyway” or be diseased or deformed.

    Also, it’s my understanding that church penal laws (including, of course, those that impose excommunications) are supposed to be strictly construed — that is, if there is any reasonable interpretation of the law under which a person would NOT incur excommunication, that interpretation should be followed. Surely Bp. Olmsted and his canon lawyers know this. If they could not find ANY justifying reason for this action — an honest mistake being made, or a snap decision being made in extreme duress in a life or death situation — then one likely did not exist.

    So I suspect the case in question was not quite as dire as one is led to believe, and it was simply a case of one or more doctors predicting that the mother would die if she carried her child to term, and the “Sisters” accepting their diagnosis without question.

  10. Elaine Krewer says:

    Actually, I should have said “If they could not find ANY mitigating factor in this action…”

    “Justifying reason” was a poor choice of words because while a sinful action can never be justified, the level of guilt involved (mortal or venial sin) could be affected by factors such as mental or physical duress, ignorance of an alternative, etc.

  11. Tito Edwards says:

    …could the Catholic hospital have allowed the mother to receive radiation/chemo anyway with the child still in her womb, even if there was a strong likelihood that it would kill the baby? She would then be treating her own disease but not intervening directly to kill the child.

    I am better than 50% sure that that would be allowed.

    Because you are not purposely killing the baby, only treating the mother (if there were no other avenue that doesn’t kill the baby purposely).

  12. Elaine Krewer says:

    “The Sisters of Mercy went the left-wing loon route long ago.”

    It depends on which Sisters of Mercy you are talking about. For example, check out this story from National Review Online concerning a member of the Religious Sisters of Mercy of Alma, Michigan:

    The Alma RSMs should definitely NOT be confused with the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas — the “left wing loon” group which Don cited.

    I would sure love to know how Sister Prudence (the nun interviewed by NRO) would have handled the Phoenix situation.

  13. saraj says:

    McBride should have excused herself. The patient should have been transferred to another hospital. Catholic hospitals do not perform abortions.

  14. Elaine Krewer says:

    Don, try checking out this link… the difference from the loony RSMs of the Americas site is like night and day:

  15. Tito Edwards says:


    McBride should have excused herself. The patient should have been transferred to another hospital. Catholic hospitals do not perform abortions.

    Well said.

    With the caveat to persuading to keep the baby at the hospital and if the woman balked then transfer her to another hospital.

  16. Tito Edwards says:

    Unfortunately these Sisters of Mercy from Phoenix fit the stereotype of dissident nuns.

    They don’t wear habits and wear short hair.

  17. Two questions (one of which, due to privacy laws, probably cannot be answered)
    1) Was the patient Catholic?
    2) If the sisters and doctors involved had denied the termination and the woman had subsequently died, would St. Joseph’s potentially have been legally liable?

  18. gb says:

    Mr Foster,
    As a NP for the last 20 yrs, let me assure you that neither one of those questions should have in any way influenced the hospital Ethics Comm. Both are irrelevant to the question at hand.
    To my knowledge, its highly unlikely that anyone could carry an ectopic to 11 wks gestation if implanted in the fallopian tube d/t rupture of the FT long before the baby reached that age.

  19. Donald R. McClarey says:

    “Don, try checking out this link… the difference from the loony RSMs of the Americas site is like night and day:”

    Those seem like solid sisters Elaine!

  20. Karl says:

    I am ever grateful that I have not had to face that choice, as clear as it is from the perspective of the Catholic Church.

    We should pray for everyone involved.

  21. Mike Petrik says:

    First, I take at face value the hospital’s statements that the abortion was necessary to save the mother’s life. Without in any way dismissing the earlier comments that cast doubt on the accuracy of these statements, I’m simply not competent to question these statements.

    That said, I agree with most of the comments regarding the moral question, including Karl’s. Catholic teaching is clear; this teaching is a correct application of natural law; and Sister McBride and the hospital failed terribly. Nonetheless, the temptation to take a life that “appears” remote and unknown in order to save the life of a patient or loved one is probably considerable. This temptation is aggravated by the practical reality that the moral difference between (i) undertaking a procedure to save a mother’s life which has the indirect but certain consequence of killing the baby and (ii) undertaking a procedure to directly kill the baby in order to save the mother’s life is more nuanced than most people are likely to grasp. There are indeed theologians, including Catholic theologians, that struggle with this distinction and question its moral validity. While the principle of double effect is well established in Catholic moral theology, it is not at all intuitive for even many very intelligent and well-intended people.

    But. Catholic teaching should not have been mysterious to this sister. She failed in her duties, and the ex communication is inevitable. Like Karl, I pray for her. I would like to think I would have done the right thing under these circumstances, but know with absolute certainty that would not want this high opinion of myself tested.

  22. Tito Edwards says:

    Karl & Mike Petrik,

    I agree. We should pray for all those involved, both hospital staff and family.

    I know I wouldn’t want to be in that position.

  23. Dr. Who says:

    So, if the woman would actually not survive long enough to give birth–which was extremely likely–then 2 people would die. That’s pro life, right? This whole thing reminds me of what Christ said to the Pharisees in Matthew 23:4: They tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders, but they
    themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.  

    I don’t think you’d like nonmedical people telling your doctor how to treat you. Then why are you folks doing so, & why do you think that people should do so simply because they occupy positions high up in the church ?

  24. Randy519 says:

    I know Sr. McBride very well. I worked with her for several years. She always teaches the importance of evaluating all sides of a situation and making the best decision. As noted, the baby would NOT have survived at 11 weeks if birthing had occurred. Also, keep in mind that Sr. McBrie was ONE of several people who made this decision.

    Sr. McBride worked incredibly hard to get where she was going at St. Joe’s and I think it’s a tragedy to see this be the legacy that she carries with her. I think we have many more pressing issues in the diocese which require Olmsted’s attention. But this story gets attention and readers..all at the expense of a nun who must have anguished over this decision before signing off on it.

    I echo everyone’s comments…Prayers to all.

  25. all you people are nuts. This is the 21st century and you still believe in fairy tales? A woman would have died and instead an abortion was done to save her life. An 11 week old abortion, an embryonic cell was aborted. You all need to read maybe…a science book? instead of believing that men lived in a whale for 3 days, women were created from a rib etc….

  26. j. christian says:

    An 11 week old abortion, an embryonic cell was aborted


    You all need to read maybe…a science book?

    You might want to follow your own advice there.

  27. Joseph says:

    I have had some experience with the sisters at Alma, Michigan. Don’t idealize them. By which I mean, Don’t go near them.

  28. Mike Petrik says:

    The fact that the baby is not viable at the time it is killed does not diminish the moral culpability. This is the same reasoning use by all manner of pro-aborts — i.e., the babay is not a human life worthy of respect and protection until vialbility. That is contemptable nonsense.

    Dr. Who:
    I could not find anything in the story that suggested that the baby could not be brought to term. Do you know facts that we don’t know? Did I miss something in the story? I do think you raise a fair point in that if it is a medical fact that the baby would not survive without the mother and the mother could only survive without the baby, the moral issue at least seems much harder. If the only choices are (i) both mother and child die versus (ii) only child dies, then I do speculate whether a wrong is committed under (ii). I’ll let real moral theologians answer that one.
    But that said, the article did not suggest that were indeed the only choices.

  29. Susan Peterson says:

    Let’s assume the in my opinion less likely situation that the woman really would have died without this abortion. I think there is a rare situation in which the woman has something like an allergic reaction to the pregnancy, where this might be the case.

    The Church’s position is that it is always wrong to make a direct attack on an innocent human life. You can remove a diseased organ; a fallopian tube with an ectopic pregnancy, or a cancerous uterus which is also pregnant. In that case the life saving effect is achieved by removing the organ and the death of the embryo is incidental. But the life saving effect can never be brought about directly by the death of the unborn human being, no matter at how early a stage of development. This can be illustrated by the fact that the new tube sparing procedure for ectopic pregnancy in which the tube is flushed with methotrexate, is illicit, because it brings about the desired effect directly by killing the embryo.

    So an abortion at 11 weeks is not permissible even if it means that both the mother and the unborn will die.

    Catholic moral theology is NOT outcome based. It is intention based. Acts are intrinsically moral or immoral, and one can not perform an immoral one to save any number of lives. Newman said, to make this utterly clear, that it is better for thousands to die in agony than for one single venial sin to be committed. Catholic moral theology is not a moral theology for life in this world only. Its aim in not primarily happiness in this life, but eternal happiness. Often the two coincide, but when they don’t, then the world cries out against the Church.

    This may be one of those situations. The bishop spoke precisely and correctly.
    Susan F. Peterson

  30. T. Shaw says:

    When I commit a mortal sin, I have automaticaly excommunicated myself.

    I can cure the problem. I may repent, get to Confession, do penance, amend my life, do good works, glorify God, and there is again Hope.

    I hope Sister Margaret rectifies her situation.

  31. Tito Edwards says:


    Church teaching, ie, Jesus, agrees with Mr. Petrik.

    As Susan says, it is intention based, not outcome based.

    Sister McBride made a gross error in judgement. I’m afraid of the previous errors that were not caught in time and the many innocent life that was murdered because she *thought* otherwise.

    Prayers indeed all around.

  32. pat levi says:

    Can a catholic nun still be a nun if she has been excommunicated from the Catholic Church?

  33. magdalene says:

    This decision was morally wrong even if due to a misplaced compassion. A life was taken. Not just some cell (what a ridiculous thing to say).

    Yes there are difficult situations and St. Gianna Molla had the same one where she postponed treatment to save the life of her child. That was heroic but her life had been one of great faith and she had the grace to make such a decision, leaving the care of her children to her husband and the Providence of a good God. Martyrs such as Felicity and Perpetua also had to leave their babies and young children as they gave their lives in witness to the Catholic Church.

    We are, as a society, so myoptic in our views. We see only this life and not eternity. We see only ‘situation ethics’ and not true moral ethics.

    The modern religious sister should have excused herself as someone said, at the very least. Better would be to uphold true moral ethics.

    I also have known Sisters of Mercy who are in favor of euthanasia and so forth when persons are judged to have ‘no quality of life’. A travesty when our religious have fallen so much into the relativist secular mindset. And then they lead others into it as well. A scandal.

  34. sara says:

    Most often when abortionists claim they are killing the child for “the life of the mother”, they are rationalizing or outright lying. We don’t know the truth about this situation without evaluating the medical case – which will never be presented.

    The secular humanists in the church have done enough damage with the sliding scale moral principal and self restraint. The massive child sex abuse ring is all the evidence Catholics need to know in understanding what happens when these people are left to do their thing in the church without consequences.

  35. Peter says:

    Wonder if the woman in question already had, say, a couple of young children? So you don’t do the procedure, the fetus survives, the mother dies, and you end up with three orphans plus a widower.

    Trying squaring that one with her living children…and with God.

    O.K. then, how about the mother of three who died fighting off a cougar which attacked one of her children (her others were not there). This mother has been called courageous and a hero among other accolades (I agree). By your reasoning, though, she should have let the child get mauled to death by the cougar because you decry the fact that she left behind three orphans and a widow.

  36. Peter says:


  37. sjdawson says:

    @ Peter
    “O.K. then, how about the mother of three who died fighting off a cougar which attacked one of her children (her others were not there). This mother has been called courageous and a hero among other accolades (I agree). By your reasoning, though, she should have let the child get mauled to death by the cougar because you decry the fact that she left behind three orphans and a widow.”

    Sort of apples and oranges. In this case, sacrificing her life would not have saved the child. You seem to forget that the unborn child was only 11 weeks old. Even if the pregnancy wasn’t terminated, the chance of survival was pretty close to nil for both mother and child. The mother had pulmonary hypertension. Look it up, you’ll find that the fatality rate among pregnant women is quite high.

  38. Peter says:

    In this case, sacrificing her life would not have saved the child.

    Mortality rate for the mother is high but it is not a certainty. From what I understand, the risk is by far the greatest after C-section. This mortality rate (one study gives 50% another 30%)is probably better than than the mother’s chance of surviving a cougar attack.

    You seem to forget that the unborn child was only 11 weeks old.

    What does the child’s age have to do with it?

    I know of women who were given death sentences by their doctor if they continued their pregnancy. These women allowed the pregnancy to continue and had successful outcomes. All this being said, I understand the extremely difficult nature of this situation. I am not judging the decision. At this point I am only taking issue with the comment from one of the posters regarding leaving behind orphans and a widower. That poster was putting more value on the life of the post born children than that of preborn children.

  39. Patrick BC says:

    Sister McBride (along with the rest of the ethics committee) had to consider the scientific evidence they had, which was that both fetus and mother “faced a nearly certain risk” of dying of pulmonary hypertension. It is nice to discuss the philosophical theories of double effect and the comparative hair lengths of different orders of nuns, but the urgent, tragic question for Sister McBride was whether the mother would be forced to die along with her 11 week unborn child. I cannot understand how anybody could fault her for letting this woman live.

  40. Susan Peterson says:


    The bishop faulted her because the Catholic principle is that it is always wrong to take an innocent human life, even to save another life. Neither life is more valuable than the other. Did you read my comment above?
    Sin is the greatest evil, not death.

    If the woman involved did not accept this she has the choice to have herself transferred to another hospital.

  41. sjdawson says:

    “Mortality rate for the mother is high but it is not a certainty. From what I understand, the risk is by far the greatest after C-section. This mortality rate (one study gives 50% another 30%)is probably better than than the mother’s chance of surviving a cougar attack.”

    We have sketchy details about the exact circumstances. The patient may have been going into or was in crisis. I am not a medical professional, however, I have been in critical condition in a hospital. Decisions are made on the best available information at the time. You and I can Monday Morning Quaterback to our heart’s content.

    “All this being said, I understand the extremely difficult nature of this situation. I am not judging the decision. At this point I am only taking issue with the comment from one of the posters regarding leaving behind orphans and a widower. That poster was putting more value on the life of the post born children than that of preborn children.”

    How each of us reacts at a time of emergency is different. I will still say that your comparison of the 2 women are apples and oranges. They both made decisions based on the situation that they were in. The woman in the hospital was a least 14 weeks away from any kind of viability for her child, It could be that the treatments that she was going to have to undergo would have harmed her child anyway.

  42. c matt says:

    Dr. Who – you misunderstand the role of the medical staff. Medical doctors have ZERO competence with the moral question involved. They are there only to provide medical advice – the options for treatment and the risks involved in each. The medical staff are no better equipped to answer the moral questions than the patient, and often less equipped.

  43. Phillip says:

    I remember reading a moral philosopher who wrote that the foundational justice of society was that innocent life was not to be directly taken (thus distinctions about guilt and about direct taking in moral philosophy/theology.) Part of the problem is that once one accepts the direct taking of innocent life as a means to an end, then how do you determine what other innocent lives can be used to what particular ends? What sort of society will that leave us with?

  44. c matt says:

    Levi – I would think not. After all, you are excommunicated, so you are outside the Church, thus no longer Catholic. Seems that following that logic, you could no longer be a Catholic nun. That would appear to be the logical outcome, but don’t know for sure.

  45. sjdawson says:

    @c matt

    “Medical doctors have ZERO competence with the moral question involved. They are there only to provide medical advice – the options for treatment and the risks involved in each. The medical staff are no better equipped to answer the moral questions than the patient, and often less equipped.”

    There are a number of doctors who are qualified and competent to answer questions about medical ethics. The surgeon who operated on me had his post-doctoral work in Ethics. He was also Catholic. You might be very surprised at the level that medical professionals act when it comes to ethics committees. To say that they are not equipped simply isn’t true and is misleading. Often, there are several levels of personnel who sit on ethics boards to get as much insight as possible. Clergy are asked to offer expertise, not because medical professionals are ill-equipped to handle ethcial questions.

  46. Sam says:

    Basically, the same exact procedure can be called an abortion in one case and a life-saving procedure with the secondary affect of killing the infant in another, all because of that magical force called “intent”.

    Take an ectopic pregnancy. Same procedure, but in one case it’s an abortion, in another you’re removing the fallopian tube and oops, the baby dies. But it’s okay in the second case, because you didn’t intend to kill the baby, see! It’s just happened to unfortunately occur. Intent is magic.

  47. Maxou says:

    The catholic church is eager to excommunicate when it comes to women’s reproductive choices and abortion. But where were all these bishops when children (who they cheer so much) were violated and raped by other priests? And why weren’t these priests excommunicated?????
    Talk about sexism and hypocrisy!!

  48. Tito Edwards says:


    God is a very forgiving God.

    In the case of the priest homosexual pedophile scandals nearly all the priests (if not all) acknowledged their sins and asked for forgiveness and received it.

    In the case of Sister Margaret McBride she has yet to acknowledge she committed a sin against God and therefore she hasn’t been forgiven yet.

    The sin of pride, it sure is the toughest one to overcome and she isn’t any different.

  49. Mike Petrik says:

    Hypocrisy is the tribute vice pays to virtue. People who espouse the right things frequently do wrong things. It is the nature is sin, and the reason for the Sacrament of Penance. But people who do wrong things believing them to be the right things, while doubly wrong, are immune from the charge of hypocrisy even if they are not immune from the charge of heresy.
    The bottom line is that the Church does not expect Her adherents to be without sin. But She does require us to accept Her teachings.

  50. j. christian says:


    There is a difference between using methotrexate and removing the fallopian tube, and it’s not just “intent.” One might assume that, given advances in medical technology, someday we might be able to save the life of the embryo removed with the fallopian tube. Far fetched though it seems, if it were possible, in that case intent would not be “magic,” but a very real difference of life and death.

  51. Cathy from Oregon says:

    I am not Catholic. I, personally, do not believe in abortion. However, I do have to wonder if I had an 11 or 12 year old daughter who was raped, would I believe in it then? I don’t know. I don’t condemn people for getting an abortion. That is between them and our Savior.

    In this case, however, I absolutely do not believe a 3 month old baby would have survived (maybe it’s possible, but it would be extremely unlikely). So then we have a dead baby, and a dead woman. And that’s okay? If “Mom” would have been 7+ months along, or however many months the chances were good the baby would have survived, I’m sure that she, as would most mothers, give their life for their child.
    I don’t understand the logic that both of them dead is okay. I don’t think my Lord would want that.

    It’s so sad that a nun is ex-communicated for, what I believe, was doing the right thing at the right time.
    Fortunately, circumstances didn’t allow for a one (1) week debate for the church to make their decision. If they had, I would have immediately taken my daughter to another hospital.

    I’m sure this was a hard decision for all involved, and they’re all in my prayers.

  52. j. christian says:

    “I don’t understand the logic that both of them dead is okay.”

    That’s because that’s not the logic at all. The idea is to try to save both lives if possible. I’m sure no one advocated inaction; the difference is between using methotrexate to directly abort, and recepting a part of the fallopian tube. I assume that most doctors opt to abort because (1) it is not as invasive as surgery, and (2) it leaves the fallopian tube intact.

    Whether you’re on board with the principle of double effect is another matter; but to say that someone was in favor of letting both of them die is inaccurate. I don’t know the facts of this case, but I can’t imagine anyone was arguing for that.

  53. Theo says:

    according to that health journal…”We report a successful maternal-fetal outcome with epoprostenol therapy during pregnancy, cesarean section, and postpartum in a patient with PPH. Epoprostenol therapy did not produce any physical or developmental abnormalities in the fetus. A favorable maternal-fetal outcome may occur with a … See Moremultidisciplinary approach. ”

    If you read the rest of the article, there is a treatment/therapy for this condition that would result in both the mother and child surviving. (Article in 3/2001 meaning this isn’t a new experimental therapy because it’s been in use for a couple of years now if now the full 9 years)

    Of course there’s always a chance for it not being successful but that’s in every part of life…if you can’t accept that, than I don’t know what to say..

    There were other options…but they chose the abortion path without considering this other options..

  54. Susan Peterson says:

    Theo, While I think it most likely that there were therapeutic possibilities, it is always possible that the mother had already failed all of them. (I mean, all of them had failed to help her, but what I wrote is how doctors write it in their notes. ) So it is worth considering the moral issues with the case which the hospital says it had.
    Susan Peterson

  55. Lionel Andrades says:

    Could the bishop be asked if the Archbishops of Boston and Washington are also automatically excommunicated.

    The pro abortion politicians are in mortal sin says the American Archbishop who is the Prefect of the Supreme tribunal in Rome. If they are in mortal sin then are not the bishops and priests also in mortal sin who give them the Eucharist in that condition.

    Archbishop Burke does not offend his ‘brother bishops’
    Howver the question still stands: are those who particpate in a sacrilege automatically excommunicated?

  56. Michelle Zhang says:

    @ sjdawson

    And if you look up the stats, for severe cases, even women who have had abortions had the same mortality rate.

    That at this point, the abortion is also a risk, or that the pregnancy is quite a huge risk.

  57. Michelle Zhang says:

    @ Cathy from Oregon

    The nun excommunicated herself with her actions.

  58. Lisa Kaiser says:

    What the Bishop of Phoenix does not understand is that Sister Margaret saved a life instead of losing two lives. If the mother had continued to carry her pregnancy, she and the baby inside her would have both died. The patient has a complex medical condition that would have made it fatal for her to carry the pregnancy forward. The baby would have died with or without the actions of Sister Margaret.

    Why is saving the life of the mother not a pro-life decision? women are made in the image of God and are not just incubators.

  59. Chris M says:


    Is the child not, too, made in the image of God? Then directly murdering her to save her mother (which, btw, we have no certainty of) is as far from pro-life as nuking a city of civilians to win a war.

    Learn what the Catholic faith teaches about intrinsic evil and the principle of double effect. I’m pretty certain the Bishop of Phoenix already understands this.

  60. Chris M says:


    Unfortunately, the one person who was involved but not consulted in the decision making process is the one who wound up dead.

  61. Lisa Kaiser says:

    Of course the child is made in the image of God. And yes there was certainity that the mother would have died (because of the nature of her medical condition)if the abortion ahd not been performed. If the abortion ahd not been performed two lives would have been lost. Saving the mother’s life was the moral and right thing to do. Why is having two lives lost preferable to saving one? If you do not see this then you have become lost in the morass of theology that does not see women as wholly human and made in the image of God.

  62. Phillip says:

    Though as I noted above, once you accept that you can kill an innocent person for the sake of another, even in the womb, what other situations can we kill an innocent for the sake of another?

  63. Mike Petrik says:

    I think it is you who is failing to see the child as wholly human. It is an innocent that cannot be directly killed, even to save multiple lives. The commandment against murder is not subject to an outcomes analysis.
    If a murderer came to your home and said to you that you could either kill your child or he will kill both her and your husband, you would not be permitted to kill your daughter notwithstanding your knowledge that it would preserve the life of your husband and your daughter will die anyway.

  64. Lisa Kaiser says:

    This was medical situation in which both mother and child would have died as a result of the mother’s medical condition. So Mike and Phillip, its better for both to die than for one to live? Its particularly better that the woman should have died (and her 11 week-old fetus) along with her rather than to intervent to save the woman. I think its interesting that men take this stance. If men could get pregnant, I don’t think men would be saying these things or that the all male hieracrch of the Church would take the position that it does. do you not see thatyour stance totally disregards the life of the woman?

  65. Phillip says:

    If women could be fathers they would feel a man’s pain in this situation. Having taken care of that issue, there is also a good chance that the unborn child was a female, I’m not sure why you’re disregarding this violence against an unborn woman.
    Beyond that, do you think it okay to drop the bomb on a city to preserve the life of soldiers who would be called to attack that city? It would in fact save lives.

  66. Lisa Kaiser says:

    Phillip, I worked at the hospital in question, I know the nun in question–who is also an experienced registered nurse. So I am most confident that Sr. Margaret and the St. Joseph’s ethics committee made a determination that the patient’s life was in immediate danger. Real-time medical situations do not alwasy allow for ideal outcomes. Was the outcome ideal here? No. Were two lives lost? No. I do not disregard the life of the child lost. And I do not disregard any husband’s pain in the situation. However, he does not expereince pregnancy and his life is never in danger when a pregnancy becomes medically dangerous and poses a risk to the life of the mother. But why are rooting for two people to die–which what eould have happened given the mother’s condition ofwpulmonary hypertenison. You were not there and unless you were the patient or medical professional invovled in the situation, you have logical or moral basis to decide that the actions taken were wrong.

    In your hypothetical above–this was the decision Harry Truman made in dropping the A-bomb on Japan in 1945. Was it ideal? No. Did it save more live than it took–most assuredly. Would it have been better for the war in the Pacific to have gone on for at least a year or more longer–witht he loss of more life?

  67. Lisa Kaiser says:

    Excuse my typo in the previous statement. Let me restate: Unless you were the patient or a medical professional involved in the situation at the time, you have NO logical or moral basis to decide that the actions taken were wrong.

  68. Phillip says:

    Since this is basic Catholic moral theology, and since that states that one may not directly take the life of an innocent, and since this was done, one can logically say it was wrong. The bishop also has a moral basis, based upon the above, to decide the sister’s decision as well as that of the ethics committe, was wrong.

  69. Milan says:

    I am AGAINST abortion. If Sister Margaret deemed it necessary, I would trust her opinion and the opinion of the others on the ethics committe to make the right decision. I would place my life in their hands.
    The Bishop can allow a priest that runs someone down with his can and goes home to hide his car in his garage to remain a priest but wants to judge Sister Margaret?

  70. Mike Petrik says:

    The moral rule has nothing whatsoever to do with the sex of the parties. It obtains regardless, as my earlier example makes clear. I suppose you might feel it is ok to kill your daughter so that your husband can live since the outcome is better than both dying, but that is simply not morally acceptable.

  71. Phillip says:


    You’re note AGAINST abortion if your trust some people to decide or abortion in certain cases. But you may have to place your life in an ethics committe’s hands some day if you do adopt such a stance and you might not be pleased with their decision.

  72. Susan Peterson says:

    Lisa, the question isn’t just whether one person or two person lives. It is whether anyone TOOK their lives. If they both die, this is the action of a natural condition. If an abortion is performed, a great sin has been committed. A human being took an innocent life.

    In the one case, no sin is involved. In the second case, human beings took an innocent human life, which is a mortal sin. It is a mortal sin because God has forbidden it, in one of His commandments!

    Death is the lot of all of us! It is not the death of the body but of the soul that we need to be most concerned about. And that is the ultimate consideration in the Church’s moral theology. I really don’t think you are considering this.

    A theology which was primarily this world based, even one which acknowledges God, might be willing to make a moral calculation that in this case in which, we are told, the mother’s life was seriously threatened, the mother’s life should be preferred. I believe Orthodox Jewish moral theology does this, even though it is against abortion in every other case.

    However Catholic moral theology exists against a backdrop of the awareness that this life is not all we have, in fact, it is brief compared to eternity. The eternal good of souls is always what is considered first. Sin is the greatest evil, not death.

    Susan Peterson

  73. Susan Peterson says:

    Milan, that bishop resigned as bishop. He, of course, remains a priest forever no matter what the church does, as that is indelible. (Ordination imparts a character to the soul.) The Church could forbid him to function as a priest. But if he has repented, if he has been tried and punished by the civil law, why shouldn’t he function as a priest in certain situations?

    I think you are thinking that excommunication is what should happen for a really bad act. This is not the case. People are seldom excommunicated for sins, strictly speaking. Sin is to be repented of and is forgiven in the confessional. God, and the church, is very gentle to sinners once they have repented. Excommunication is for acts of disobedience to the Church, for acts that show that the person is in rebellion against the Church and does not acknowledge her authority.
    The nun, by her action here, said very publicly that she does not accept the Church’s moral teaching. If she had any kind of an education in Catholic moral theology she had to know that it is not permitted to take one human life to save another one. She chose to disregard this. Whether she did this out of compassion for the patient she could see (while ignoring the one she couldn’t) , or whether she did this because she was in a hard place in terms of legal liability, I don’t know. But she publicly defied the church’s teaching and excommunication is the appropriate result. When this involves abortion, it is automatic.

    She WAS in a hard place legally, because an unstable pregnant woman cannot be transferred to another hospital according to COBRA laws, unless the receiving hospital has facilities to treat the patient which the transferring hospital does not have, and this outweighs the risk of transport. She couldn’t say her hospital didn’t have the facilities to treat this patient. And if she refused to do an abortion, she would be subject to a lawsuit which the hospital might well lose, if, as I suspect, terminating the pregnancy is the standard of care in this situation. (despite what some people have said that the termination doesn’t immediately solve the problem.)

    So obeying the Church’s teaching in this situation might well have been very costly. I am not saying sympathy for the woman didn’t enter into it. but I wouldn’t make her a martyr to “compassion” without considering the rest of the situation.

    Susan Peterson

  74. Elaine Krewer says:

    Let’s not forget that there is a difference — a big difference — between saying that the degree of sinfulness of an action may be mitigated by circumstances such as extreme duress, ignorance, emotional or psychological disturbance, etc., and saying that said action is “ok” or morally justified.

    In a case like Philip’s crazed murderer or a “Sophie’s Choice” scenario, I would argue that the degree of culpability incurred by an innocent person forced to make such a devastating and desperate choice with no time to think about it would be far less than that incurred by a premeditated, unprovoked act of murder. In other words they are not necessarily going to be subjectively guilty of mortal sin or subject to eternal damnation for what they did.

    However, that does NOT mean that what they did was justified or that it was the “right thing to do” — merely less evil and malicious than it might otherwise have been. They still need to ask God’s mercy for what they have done — and it seems to me that most good Christian people forced to make such choices in situations of war, abuse, extreme poverty, etc., spend many years, perhaps the rest of their lives, doing just that.

    I may be going out on a limb here, but the mere fact that Bp. Olmsted has had to confirm Sister McBride’s excommunication and make it public suggests to me that she may not have taken the necessary action to have it lifted, i.e., expressing some kind of contrition or repentance. If she had, I suspect no one outside of her order or the diocesan chancery would ever have known she was excommunicated.

  75. Mike Petrik says:

    What Elaine said. So well.

  76. Mike Petrik says:

    And Susan too.

  77. Micha Elyi says:

    I am not Catholic. I, personally do not believe in abortion. However, I do have to wonder if I had an 11 or 12 year old daughter who was raped, would I believe in it then? I don’t know.-Cathy from Oregon

    I understand your feeling of weakness, Cathy, that you might fall if faced with such a great temptation. Surely our Lord Jesus does also for in the prayer He taught us we ask our Eternal Father that we not be put to the test.

    We are baptised into the one mystical body of Christ our Savior. Those who show strength in the face of temptation strengthen the whole of that body; those who are weak weaken the whole of it. Thus, no ones good or bad choice is purely “between them and our Savior.” Though God alone judges the everlasting fate of our souls, we each participate in building up or tearing down the moral courage of one another.

  78. Roxanne says:

    Peopleget off your high horses and your soap boxes. These nuns deal with life and death everyday. We are not the judge of this world. God is. Yes there. Are rules, moral laws, ethics, traditions but life and death and the struggles with both are not simple they are complex and reach onto every facet of our lives. We as mere people cannot place ourselves as judge.
    Everyone sins and we’ve all fallen and it is only through God’s grace that we can still cone to Him. He is our judge.
    As a mother of two I can only say that dying while pregnant or while my kids are young is my greatest fear and I don’t know the decision I’d make in a case like this. Only God knows the heart.
    Judge not lest you be judged.

  79. Tito Edwards says:


    No one’s judging, we’re all commenting on the fact that this nun excommunicated herself.

  80. Eli says:

    You all seem to be fundamentally confused. Is this really the lesson that you have taken from the bible? That it is a good thing to let both a mother and fetus perish, for the greater sin would be to save the mother?
    If you have forgotten, there are many passages where God finds it just to for a child to be killed by a parent (Abraham and Isaac, Jeroboam, David). If that is required just to prove devotion to Him, then an unborn, unviable fetus could not be worth the life of the mother.
    And if this is a sin, so be it. We are not but sinners, so who are you to judge one as worse than another? Are they not all equal in the eyes of our Lord? If we repent, are they not all forgiven?

  81. Deb says:

    I am so happy that I left the Catholic Church!

  82. Lionel Andrades says:

    Don’t be so glad. Since outside the Catholic Church there is no salvation.

  83. Lisa Kaiser says:

    An aspect of this situation which is not being discussed is the legal aspect. No matter what the Bishop says, medical staff cannot deliberately let a patient die by inaction. This is homicide. If the medical staff had not medically intervened to treat the woman, to try to save her life, a crime would have been committed. So Bishop Olmsted would be willing to serve the jail sentence in lieu of the medical personnel? And of course the hospital, physicians and nurses could be sued for medical malpractice. The bishop would pay these judgments?

    Hospitals, Catholic ones included, are answerable to all civil laws–a lesson the Church should have learned in the pedophile scandal. Catholic hospitals are not exempt from federal and state laws.

  84. Tito Edwards says:

    Lisa K.,

    There is this thing called “Freedom of Religion”.

    I know liberals loathe this thing and wish they could gather all religious together and gas them, but your socialist utopia has been an abject failure with the fall of the Soviet Union.

  85. Jango Davis says:

    I was born and raised a catholic. I was baptised, recieved confirmation, communion, and served as an alter boy. This very situation is why myself and millions, let me repeat, MILLIONS of catholics have left the church. Better to let a woman die in child birth, along with the child, then to ensure one life. Not even if a person’s life is endangered, according to the best medical advice on the case.

    It is decisions like these, along with the new pope’s involvement in not prosecuting child sex fiends within the church, that leaves you all with no creditibility to even tell us what color the sky is.

    The Catholic church is an ancient relic of our past that would be best abandoned and ignored. Getting excommunicated was the best thing to happen to that nun.

  86. Donald R. McClarey says:

    “The Catholic church is an ancient relic of our past that would be best abandoned and ignored.”

    Your playing troll on a Catholic website refutes the argument that you are attempting to make. The Church will be around long after you are dust and whatever passing fads you have embraced as a substitute for the Church are dust.

  87. […] say they would wear it if it were an option [and those that don't wear habits are obviously being disobedient and committing a mortal sin], compared to nearly a quarter of the women […]

  88. Elaine Krewer says:

    I gotta admit that up to a point, I understand where the people who are disgusted with the Church’s stand in this case and say they left the church over stuff like this are coming from.

    After reflecting on this case for several days — assuming that the facts as stated are true, and that the morally correct course of action would have resulted in BOTH mother and child dying instead of the mother at least being saved — this is without question THE most difficult Catholic teaching I have ever encountered. (For the sake of argument, let’s leave aside the possibility that the doctors were wrong or that alternative treatments were available that could have saved both.)

    Try as I might, I have a really, REALLY, hard time believing that the “pro life” thing to do would have been to let two people die instead of one. And yes, it’s enough to make me think — albeit just for a moment or two — “how can you possibly embrace a faith that makes such a cruel and illogical demand of this poor woman? Could you honestly say you wouldn’t have chosen the same course of action? If you can’t, then what business do you have continuing to call yourself a Catholic?”

    However… I also have to ask myself what good would it do to abandon the Church whose teachings I agree with 99.9 percent of the time, over the 0.1 percent that I have a problem with, and over a situation that I and most women probably will never face? It’s easy to lose perspective over these horrendously hard cases, and forget that the Church’s stand against direct abortion has saved millions more lives than it has cost. “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

    We do not and probably will never know all the details of this case. All involved should be prayed for and commended to God’s mercy. In the meantime, let’s not let the rare hard case distract us from the nine times out of 10 when the right thing to do is pretty obvious!

  89. Donald R. McClarey says:

    Too bad Dr. Dianne Zwicke wasn’t consulted:

  90. Susan Peterson says:

    I read the article Mr.McClarey linked to. Aside from the egregious mistake of using “illict” for “elicit” in the first paragraph, it was a good article.

    And what it shows me is that if the Church insists that doctors try to save both the mother and the baby, they will figure out a way to do it. They have done it for just about every other mother or baby situation which used to exist, and they will do it for this one.

    This article also showed that it is likely that the mother wasn’t in imminent danger, but in danger of dying AFTER delivery. So the baby might well have survived.

    Lisa, civil laws can be wrong. No Catholic institution can obey them when they contradict the law of God! Suppose there were laws requiring Catholic hospitals to do abortions or give out contraceptives or tie tubes or do vasectomies? Suppose there were laws requiring hospitals to euthanize patients in certain circumstances? We are very close in this country to where this might be the case. A hospital can’t do any of these things and stay Catholic. The law of God-as interpreted by Christ’s Church, is always above the civil law!
    You have to lose your job, get dragged into court, go to jail, whatever, before you disobey God’s law.
    Susan Peterson

  91. Dr. Who says:

    U asked:
    Dr. Who: Do you know facts that we don’t know? Did I miss something

    All I can say is yes, I do. & I can assure u that what I said was accurate–the only reason that woman is alive today is because of the decision that was made.
    I really do not understand this. A priest abuses deaf boys & dies a priest. Others have done similarly & were never sanctioned. A nun (with medical training, btw) makes a decision, along with other individuals on an ethics committee, that results in a life being saved, & she’s excommunicated. Would some1, as I believe Tom Hanks said in “Philadelphia”, explain that to me in terms a 2-year-old can understand? Please? Cuz I really don’t. & frankly, I doubt I ever will.

  92. Tito Edwards says:

    Dr. Who,

    What does your hatred for the Church have to do with this story of an excommunicated nun?

  93. Chris M says:

    Dr. Who,

    How about: “murdering a baby is always wrong”. I think a 2 year old can understand that concept.

    Your non-sequitur about gay cleric predators is irrelevant to the topic.

  94. Mike Petrik says:

    I agree that this particular circumstance is tough, assuming one takes at face value that the only options available would result in either the death of the child or the death of both the child and mother. But I think the following example, which I provided above, may help crystalize one’s moral thinking:

    Assume a murderer enters your home and says that you have a choice: you can either kill your daughter or he will kill both your daughter and your husband. You would be morally prohibited from killing your daughter even though you know that this decision will not save her life and will also result in taking the life of your husband.

  95. Lisa Kaiser says:

    Mike Petrik:

    Your example is not relevant to the situation being discussed. This was a real-world medical emergency not some ivory tower hypothetical. To not treat the patient in this real-world situation would mean:

    1. both mother and baby would die
    2. Baby at 11 weeks was not viable, so there was option of a C-section or any other procedure to save the baby
    3. Women’s live matter and are not subordinate to the a nonviable fetus.
    Not trating the patient would have been a avioaltion of Arizona’s criminal homicide statutes. yes, sometimes it is right to vilate secular statutes. but not in this case–not when the patient would die without medical treatment. It would be crime and morally and ethically wrong for hosptial staff in an ER to stand by and delibierately let a patient die.

    I have worked at the hopsital in question and know Sr. margaret. She, the ethics committeee, the physicians invovled and the patient correcdtly interpreted the directive invovled. The Bishop has incorrectly interpreted the directive (this is not just my opinion, by the opinion of canon lawyers as well).

  96. Phillip says:

    Do you have a link to those canon lawyers? Do they also know the procedure performed?

  97. Lisa Kaiser says:

    According to reports in various Catholic and non-Catholic press outlets, the canon lawyers know the procedure performed and the directive that Sr. Margaret, the ethics committe, the physicans correctly interpreted.

    No moral or sane person thinks its “pro-life” to let a woman die when her life can be saved. To say otherwise is to descend to Orwellian double speak.

    Bishop Olmsted was wrong in this situation and wielded his crosier like a club.

  98. Mike Petrik says:

    The fact that my hypothetical was not a real situation is irrelevant, as are the facts that you may know Sister Margaret and that the fetus was not viable. I have looked for the reports you cite and cannot find them. Please provide links if you want your claims to be taken seriously.

  99. Lisa Kaiser says:


    You are not looking hard enough. Take a look at Faith and Reason, take a look at NPR, take a look at National Catholic Reporter.

    And Mike, you are not a medical professional, Sr. Margaret is. You were not at St. joseph’s at the time the decision was made, Sr. Margaret was. You are not an administrator in a Catholic hopsital. Sr. Margaret has long experience as such. Neither you nor anyone else who was not there, have no credible basis on which to second guess the decision of the ethics committee and physicians involved.

    Sorry: allowing a death to occur when it can be avoided is not pro-life, no matter how much the Bishops want to spin it that way. Women are made in the image of God and their live are not expendable. And yes, it matters that the fetus was not viable.

    Accept it: You are wrong on this.

  100. j. christian says:

    What does “nonviable” mean, Lisa? A fetus is as viable as it should be at that stage of development. Should we expect something else from persons not at the same stage of development? I have a 9 month old baby; if I were to leave her in the woods somewhere, is it her fault that she is not “viable” on her own? Isn’t ripping a fetus from the womb at 11 weeks and expecting it to be viable an analogous situation?

  101. j. christian says:


    Actually, I think your hypothetical is germane, despite what Lisa thinks. It would be interesting to hear her answer to it. Of course, the 500 lb. gorilla in the room is that Lisa (like most of us who are fallen) find it much easier to sympathize with your hypothetical daughter than the daughter-as-zygote. Our moral thinking is often clouded by sympathies toward the proximate.

  102. Lisa Kaiser says:

    J Christian: I think you may have misunderstood my point. My point is that if St. Joseph’s Hopsital had not taken action to save the mother, two lives would have been lost. The fetus was 11 weeks old. There was not the option of having the mother die and the fetus survive. He/she was not at that point of development. In other words, this was not a choice between mother surviving or baby surviving. The fetus was going to die if the mother died. This was not a situation where the fetus could have survived outside the womb if the mother died.

  103. Mike Petrik says:

    I may be wrong; I often am. I know this because I’ve been married for over 30 years. But please understand that one does not need to be a medical professional to understand Catholic moral teaching. Anyone can question the moral decision-making of another assuming possession of the facts. I am taking the facts as presented by the hosptital’s defenders — i.e., that there was no realistic possiblity of saving either the baby or both the baby and mother, and that the only way to save the life of the mother involved the direct killing of the baby (i.e. the termination of the pregnancy). If these facts are not correct I would be pleased to be corrected. If these facts are correct then one must apply moral rules to them in order to determine moral options. According to Arizona Republic these options were appropiately described in the hospital’s two directives relating to abortion:

    The first says that physicians cannot perform direct abortions under any circumstances, including for such reasons as to save the life of the mother.

    The second states that “operations, treatments and medications that have as their direct purpose the cure of a proportionately serious pathological condition of a pregnant woman are permitted … even if they will result in the death of the unborn child.” This directive is based on the Catholic philosophical principle of double effect, which says that if the treatment sought addresses the direct causes of the woman’s health condition (such as radiation treatment for cancer), but never intends to kill the unborn child (even though that may happen as a secondary, but unintended, effect of the lifesaving treatment), then it is morally licit.

    According to the Arizona Republic, hospital officials claimed that they were following the second directive by aborting the baby. This is a critical claim and one must investigate the facts to know if true. I have no idea, but the claim is not consistent with the following report from the National Catholic Reporter:

    “In a statement, Suzanne Pfister, a hospital vice president, said that the facility adheres to the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services. But, she argued, the directives leave some gray areas. ‘In those instances where the Directives do not explicitly address a clinical situation — such as when a pregnancy threatens a woman’s life — an Ethics Committee is convened to help our caregivers and their patients make the most life-affirming decision,’ she said. ‘In this tragic case, the treatment necessary to save the mother’s life required the termination of an 11-week pregnancy.'”

    Unless Ms, Pfister’s statement is erroneous, then the hospital’s action was not an application of its own second directive but appeared to violate the first directive.

  104. Lisa Kaiser says:

    J Christian: Let me repeat: The real world situation where two lives would have been lost without medical treatment of the mother, the decision that was made was a pro-life decision. Sorry, but letting two lives die via inaction is not pro-life. It is Orwellian, immoral, unethical and totally disregards the lives of women as human beings.

    Sorry you all are just wrong on this. Sr. Margaret as the experienced medical professional, as the experienced Catholic hospital administrator, as the person who was there consulting with the ethics committee and physcians invovled with the patient, made the right and the pro-life decision.

    You all can Monday morning quarterback all you want. but you were not there and you have no credible reason to second-guess the decision.

    The Church through its history has been wrong many many times on many many issues. The Church has not been a pro-life institution–in the Inquisition and in other situations caused amny many needless deaths. This is one more situation where the Church is wrong. And if the Bishop cannot admit that–then he displays the historical and ongoing arrogance of a hierarchy that does not recognize it is accountable to God and to the people of God.

  105. Jay Anderson says:

    “… if the Bishop cannot admit that – then he displays the historical and ongoing arrogance of a hierarchy …”

    Arrogance is an interesting choice of words coming from someone who believes herself to be in a position to authoritatively and definitively state that the magisterial wisdom of a 2000+ year old institution, instituted by God Himself and embued with His authority to bind and loose, is “wrong”.

  106. Paul Zummo says:

    Sorry you all are just wrong on this.

    Arrogance, Jay, what arrogance? With such a fine example of indisputable logic and reasoning, who can possibly question Pope Lisa?

  107. Lisa Kaiser says:

    Jay, I am not being arrogant. I am stating the facts. The history of the Church is full of examples of its errors, its sins, and yes, its arrogance. Sorry, the Church is not and has never been an infallible institution. Read any Catholic or non-Catholic history/historian of the Church. The history of the Church is res ipsa loquitar (it speaks for itself).

  108. Lisa Kaiser says:

    Paul, you mean as opposed to Pope Paul Zummo?Are you saying that the Church has never made mistakes or that its Popes, Cardinals and Bishops have nvever been wrong and/or abused their authority? Have you read any history of the Church? have your ead any of the Church’s own documents? And to state an obvious example of the Church’s errors and arrogance, have you heard of Galileo?

  109. j. christian says:

    Argumentum ad Galileo? I expect a violation of Jay Anderson’s Law in 3, 2, 1…

  110. Mike Petrik says:

    You are out of your league here. After reading, you should research the difference between papal impeccability and papal infallibility. You have a lot to learn. Good luck.

  111. Lisa Kaiser says:


    I do know the difference. You miss my point. To clear it up for you–I am just saying that there is no reason to believe that the Church and Bishop Olmsted are correct in their handling of this situation. The Church and its hierarchy have been and are a group of men who over the course of 2,000 plus years have made many errors and have committed many sins. The Church is not institution free from error and sin.

  112. Mike Petrik says:

    It is true that the Church and Her lay and clergy members commit all manner of error, but She does not teach error. This does not mean that every bishop handles every situation perfectly or even correctly. But you seem to think that it is permissible to directly terminate the life of an unborn child in order to save the life of the mother if that child would die anyway. I do not think that such a belief is not compatible with Catholic moral teaching. If you think that it is then you need to explain your reasoning by reference to Catholic moral theology, not just feckless assertions about the competency of physicians.

  113. Lisa Kaiser says:

    Mike, again you have not read your Church hsitory. The Church has most certainly taught error–again Galileo and the Church’s mistaken teaching re astronomy. The Church’s teaching re Jews and its execution and forced conversion of Jews, Native Americans and others. Its Crusades to retake Jerusalem from from “infidels”. The Inquistion and all its associated activities. The schism that led to simulaneous popes in Rome and Avignon. The schism that led to a Catholic Church in Rome and the Orthodox Catholic Churches (either Rome is wrong or the Orthodx are wrong–but somebody is wrong in their Catholic teachings)

    My assertaions are not feckless. Sr. Margaret and the hopsital’s ethics committee took a hard look at the directives and made the right interpretation.

    And again, any decision that leads to needless death, as Bishop Olmsted advocates in this situation, is not a pro-life position. It is by its nature a pro-death psoition. That is the Bishop is saying that the Church advocates death for both mother and child in a situation where the child cannot be daved. That is pro death.

  114. Mike Petrik says:

    Leaving aside your twisted understanding of Church history, the Galileo episode, and the interplay with moral theology, what exactly do you mean by “hard look”? Did she take a hard look and ignore them, or take a hard look and apply them? If the former, then it is hardly surprising that she would be repremanded for knowingly disregarding Catholic moral teaching. If the latter, then her position must be that the hospital did not directly terminate a pregnancy in order to save the mother’s life but instead undertook medical treatments necessary to save the mother’s life which indirectly (though inevitably) resulted in the termination of the pregnancy. This is an important distinction. The hospital’s statement, however, does not seem to support this position. Instead, the hospital’s position *seems* to be that they are permitted to ignore the directives in “close cases” and replace them with whatever “life-affirming” moral rules they choose. Fine, but don’t pretend to be a Catholic hospital and don’t expect agreement from your Catholic bishop.

  115. Mike Petrik says:

    “Any position that leads to needless death is not a pro-life decision.”

    Lisa, you really must study up on the error of consequentialism, because that is exactly what you are advocating.

  116. RL says:


    You’re really missing the boat here. Aside from your misunderstanding of historical events, you need to differentiate between what Church teachings are matters of faith and morals and which aren’t.

    You obviously have your own sense of morality that is informed independently of the Church’s moral teaching. That’s your perogative, but Catholics believe that the Church is the pillar and bulwark of Truth – and that when She teaches on faith and morals She cannot err. Every single member of the Church could be an adulter, but that would not negate the objective Truth of the Church’s teaching that adultery is immoral.

    Likewise, the Church teaches it is never okay to intentionally kill an innocent person even if you perceive some greater good from it. If you don’t believe a baby in the womb is an innocent person, fine, but the context here is within the Catholic understanding of life.

  117. Lisa Kaiser says:

    Mike, my understanding of Church history is not twisted. Just stating the facts–ie the Church can be wrong in how it approaches morality. It teaching on morality are what led to the Inquisition to the Crudades, to executions and forced conversion of Jews, native American, and others. A recent example of error on the part of the Church is the Church’s position on grace. In a recent agreement with the Lutheran Church, the Roman Catholic Church has backed off the Council of Trent position that salvation is the result of grace and good works. Now the Roman Catholic Church has formally agreed (in writing) with the Lutheran Church that it is by grace alone that God offers us salvation.

    So either the teaching of the Council of Trent was in error or the current teaching of the Catholic Church is in error. Either way, someone was wrong.

    By ‘hard look”, I obviously mean that the Sr. Margaret and the ethics committee looked at the directives governing th situation in a Catholic hopsital. They intepreted the directives correctly in and made the correct pro-life decision in light of the directives.

    Just because the Bishop, who is another Mondy morning quarterback and not a medical professional, disagrees, does not mean he is right. He is wrong, has abused his authority, and his used his crosier like a club.

    St. Joseph’s remains a Catholic hospital. It is pro-life, not pro-death (as the Bishop would advocate)

    Sorry Mike, any way you want to spin this, the Bishop by his own statements, advocates death in a situation like that seen at St. Joseph’s. He can call himself pro-life all he wants, but when he says let a woman die needlessly, do not provide her witht he the medical care that will save her life–then the Bishop is a pro-death advocate.

  118. Lisa Kaiser says:

    Wow RL, you have a grave misunderstanding of the Church. It has made errors in its teaching of morality. And if you don’t believe that then you have not looked at the Church with any kind of analytical thinking. Sorry, the Church is not a bulwark of Truth. It has made errors in it teaching of morality. If you do not beleive that, then you have no unerstanding of the history of the Church.

    But my main point is that, the Bishop has incorrectly interpreted the directive that governed St. Joseph’s response in the situation we are talking about. Sr. Margaret and the St. Joseph’s ethics committee correctly interpreted it. Yes, Bishops can be wrong.
    The Bishop is pro death advcate. Sr. Margaret is a pro-life advocate.

  119. Lisa Kaiser says:


    How can Church and it Bishop call themselves pro-life and advocate death? I am not advocating consequentualism. I am advocating life. you are advocation death to hopelessly try to support the twisted logic of some Bishop who thinks its moral to allow someone to die when her life can be saved. Sorry, women are not subordinate to their biology. Women’s lives are lives. It is pro life to save the life of a woman.

  120. Paul Zummo says:

    you are advocation death to hopelessly try to support the twisted logic of some Bishop who thinks its moral to allow someone to die when her life can be saved.

    Babelfish must really be on the fritz.

  121. Mike Petrik says:

    Yes, Paul it trying still to invince ignorance.

  122. Tito Edwards says:

    Pope Lisa

    Please no name calling.

    Let the discussion continue as long as everyone is respectful of each other.


    P.S. Work on those gravatars if you have time.

  123. j. christian says:

    “It has made errors in its teaching of morality”

    According to whom? Your personal magisterium? Excuse me if I’m unimpressed by your argument.

  124. Joe Hargrave says:

    Lisa K,

    “It teaching on morality are what led to the Inquisition to the Crudades”

    Yeah. So?

    The Crusades were just wars. It was right and good that they happened. I don’t apologize for them, I celebrate them.

    As for the Inquisition, it is simply a historical fact that physical punishments and executions for heresy were ordered by the secular rulers of society, not by the Church. In fact, most suspected heretics welcomed a chance to appear before the Church as opposed to the secular courts, precisely because the latter almost never shed blood.

    Don’t confuse what the Spanish crown did with what the Church did.

  125. Joe Hargrave says:

    And as for this:

    ” The Church has most certainly taught error–again Galileo and the Church’s mistaken teaching re astronomy.”

    You have no conception of what the debate was about. Did you read that silly play by Brecht or something?

    The Church did not “teach error” – the Church simply insisted that Galileo a) not make claims about the relevance of his findings for theology (which he did, loudly and obnoxiously), and b) that he present his theory as a hypothesis, not a proven fact (which he refused to do). In other words, the Church wanted Galileo to act like a real scientist and not a prophet.

    You really just know nothing about the Church’s role in science, the fact that it encouraged and promoted the sciences and even debate therein, the fact that the Pope during the Galileo affair was initially very sympathetic with him and only took umbrage after he publicly insulted him.

    Read a book before you say such things.

  126. Lisa Kaiser says:

    Sorry guys–the Church did teach error. Again do your reading. And for a recent example look at the Church’s backing off the teaching of the Council of Trent re grace. The Council said that slavation is accomplished via grace and good works. Most recently, the Church ahs agreed with the Lutherans–that salvation is accomplished via grace alone. So either the Council of Trent was wrong or the recent aggreement with the Lutheran Church is wrong.

    And Joe, the fact that you are proud of the Crusdades–the murder of Jews, Muslims, other Christians just speaks volumes about how you view life and how you support the arrogance of the Church. The Crusades were not noble–just a medieval Christian version of jihad that wasted lives and accomplished nothing.

    And yes, the Inquisition was an activity of the Church. Forced conversions and the murder of Jews, Native Americans and others were committed by and approved by the Church.

    And J. Christian, you do not need to be impressed by my arguements–I don’t care if you are or are not. just read your Church history.

    Tito Edwards, I engaged in no name calling.

    You guys can sit in your ivory towers and count how many angels dance on the head of a pin, but the rest of us moral and sane people will work actively to save the lives women, children, and men wherever and whenever possible. That’s what it means to be pro life.

  127. j. christian says:

    …And you “sane people” will continue to murder others by the millions at the same time. This isn’t an ivory tower, Lisa: It’s a guard tower, and we’re trying to keep

  128. Lisa Kaiser says:

    I don’t advocate the murder of others. The pro death message is coming from Bishop Olmsted and those who agree with him.

    The Church is not a guard tower. Remember Pope John XXIII? He convened Vatican II to throw open the windows of the Church and to let fresh air in.

    A mind and, I would argue, the Church, are like a parachute–it only works when it is open.

  129. Joe Hargrave says:

    Ivory towers?

    No one despises academia more than myself.

    The Crusades were noble. Do you know anything about them? Do you know anything about the 400 years of Islamic and Turkish aggression that preceded them? About the desperate plea of the Eastern Greek Christians to Latin Christendom for military aid? About the murder of Christian pilgrims in the Holy Land by the Turks?

    The Crusades were not a “jihad.” They were not waged to convert Muslims to Christianity. That’s the biggest lie. Only a few sporadic and unsuccessful attempts at conversion were ever made. The object of the Crusades was to reclaim the Holy Land for Christianity and to protect the Eastern frontier for Christian society from a ruthless and aggressive foe.

    Unfortunately they failed and Southeastern Europe fell entirely to the Turks for the next 7 centuries or so. My ancestors, the Maronite Christians of Lebanon, were nearly genocided by them.

    “And yes, the Inquisition was an activity of the Church. Forced conversions and the murder of Jews, Native Americans and others were committed by and approved by the Church.”

    The Church reigned in the Spanish Inquisition, first of all. In the second place, you are absolutely wrong – in the 13th century the Papacy formally proclaimed that forced conversions of Jews were not acceptable, and denounced the blood libels against them. Christians were not to persecute Jews on pain of excommunication. You know nothing of Church history. You’ve been taught lies, and you are repeating lies.

    Read something for once:

  130. Lisa Kaiser says:

    Remeber J Christian, that women are created in the image of God. Women’s live are as holy, sacred, precious, and worth protecting as is any unborn child’s.

  131. Lisa Kaiser says:

    So I guess I go back to the beginning. It was not possible to save both live in the situation at St. Joseph’s. That does not mean it is OK to to withhold medical treatment so that both lives are lost. That is a pro death, immoral, criminal and unethical position. .

  132. Donald R. McClarey says:

    Lisa, a good short item to read to help cure your obvious bone ignorance regarding the Crusades:

  133. Susan Peterson says:

    Remember Lisa, the unborn baby is created in the image of God, and her life is just as sacred. We human beings do not have the right to take a human life even to save another human life. That the baby was not viable is what makes this situation difficult. It isn’t something that makes it right to kill the baby.
    If both die because medical knowledge is not advanced enough to save them, no sin has been committed. Something very sad has happened, which is part of human life. People get sick and die and sometimes there is nothing we can do about it. In this case, there apparently , if what you say is correct, nothing which could be done about it except kill the unborn child, and that is something no Catholic should even consider. Nor is there ANY double effect situation here. This is just plain, kill the baby to save the mother, which has always been forbidden.
    Face it, you are wrong here. The bishop is correct and he is doing his job.
    Susan Peterson

  134. Susan Peterson says:

    And Lisa, people have mentioned that you are ignorant about the Crusades and the Inquisition. I don’t think anyone called you on the Trent thing. I have read Trent on Justification and I have read the Joint Declaration. And I can tell you that the Joint Declaration only tries to explain the Catholic position on Justification in terms more understandable to Protestants. Some Protestants do say, “Oh, then, if that’s what you meant…” But the Protestants who are most serious about Sola Fide don’t buy it at all. They say, “You have just tried to make this sound good to us by using some of our terminology, but underneath it is Trent all over again. ”
    The Church has not changed its position. It still believes in infused grace by which we are enabled to do truly meritorious works, although of course it is Christ working in us and all the merit is His.
    Susan Peterson

  135. Lisa Kaiser says:

    Donald, so you think the Crudades accomplished something? You think ti was a good thing to try to retake Jerusalem by killing Jews, Muslims, and other Christians? Talk about a pro death position.

    As much fun as I have in these exchanges, I see that most of you have had too much of the pro death anti woman Catholic hierarchy kool-aid.

    Hve fun out there with that.

  136. Donald R. McClarey says:

    “Donald, so you think the Crudades accomplished something? You think ti was a good thing to try to retake Jerusalem by killing Jews, Muslims, and other Christians? Talk about a pro death position.”

    If you weren’t so abysmally ignorant on the Crusades Lisa, I doubt you would ask such a foolish question. By bringing Western military power against Islam the fall of Constantinople to the Turks was delayed until 1453. The Byzantine Empire had suffered a severe defeat at the battle of Manzikert at the hands of the Turks in 1071. They were no longer able to hold the line in the East against Islam and were desperate for military aid from the West. Absent the Crusades I doubt if Constantinople would have survived much beyond 1150. This would have led to Islam taking over the Balkans three centuries before it did historically. These three centuries were crucial in that by the time the Turks marched against Vienna in 1529 the West was already beginning to surpass Islam technologically. Vienna besieged in 1229 might have been the beginning of a process that would have seen the conquest of Europe by Islam. The fact that you are not forced to wear a burka, and are free to leave snotty posts on a Catholic web site, you probably owe to the Crusades you deride.

  137. Mike Petrik says:

    In this case “abysmally ignorant” may be awfully close to “invincibly ignorant,” I’m afraid.

  138. Todd says:

    Lisa, I admire your tenacity on this. I confess I would have declared myself the winner and moved on to the next thread long ago.

    That said, I’d say that this whole misadventure in Arizona points out the lack of consistency in the Church’s approach here. A person decides on separating the embryo from the mother so the mother may live: excommunication. Not so for a man who rapes a pregnant woman and kills both, or for an unwanted baby born alive who is murdered after premature delivery.

    Five months after the fact, do we know Bishop Olmsted was really working with all the facts? He seems pretty okay with forgiving a hit-and-run driver who killed a pedestrian. The man doesn’t exactly exude credibility. Lots of confusion to go around, it would seem, and really, what was the point with this excommunication anyway? It has the whiff of republicanism–these guys have been hanging around too many Karl Rove disciples.

    For the record, a better approach to excommunciation would be to include a repersentative group from a community of confessors, people in religious life, and those with a spiritual gift for reconciliation and discernment. Lets assess something is really appropriate matter for separation from the Christian community and not an excuse for hierarchy vendettas.

  139. Jay Anderson says:

    You would have declared yourself the winner, huh?

    And by doing so, you would have been just as wrong as you are on virtually every other topic on which you take a position.

  140. Todd,

    That various other serious sins do not incur automatic excommunication does not in any sense mean that they are not mortal sins would could, if unreprended, cause the sinner to suffer eternally in hell. How much more serious than that do you really think the Church needs to be?

    I would imagine that the reason that there is penalty of excommunication placed on abortion but not on rape and murder is that there is no dispute as to whether rape and murder are wrong. Excommunication is, after all, not a statement as to the gravity of sin, but rather a means of teaching and correction.

  141. Lisa Kaiser says:

    Jay, I did not say I would have declared myself the winner. See Todd’s post above–dated May 26

    I think there are no winners here. A lot of heat and no light was generated in these discussions re Sr. Margaret.

  142. Chris M says:

    I find it hideously ironic, but not at all surprising that this statement:

    “A lot of heat and no light was generated in these discussions re Sr. Margaret.”

    followed this statement:

    “I see that most of you have had too much of the pro death anti woman Catholic hierarchy kool-aid.”

    (not to mention the irony of someone who thinks murdering a helpless child can be a pro-life solution to a problem)

  143. Mike Petrik says:

    There was plenty of light generated. Sorry you didn’t notice.

    You are correct, of course, and Todd is well aware of it, which makes his comment all the more disingenuous.

  144. c matt says:

    So when the going gets tough, the tough toss away moral principles? Life is difficult, that is precisely why we have moral principles to guide us with difficult decisions.

    As for ethics panels, I have come across a few in my hospital dealings. Most are concerned about and focus on medical-legal issues, not moral issues. Most medical ethics education is likewise focused on what is legal rather than what is moral.

    Additionally, pulmonary hypertension can be treated through various nonsurgical modalities up to 20 or so weeks without significant increase in risk to the mother, but with higher likelihood of viablity for the fetus. It is the demands of later pregnancy and labor itself that put the heaviest burdens on the circulatory and pulmonary systems (most studies with high maternal mortality rates involved term fetuses). So I am suspect that termination was necessary at 11 weeks.

    Putting all that aside, even assuming termination at 11 weeks was necessary to save the mother, the moral question based upon Catholic teaching is rather straightforward – is the taking of one innocent life justified to save the life of another? Or, can a good end justify using evil means? The answer is clearly “no.”

    But having a clear answer does not make the decision to follow it any easier. I do not doubt it was a difficult decision for all involved, including the Sister. Unfortunately, her sympathies seem to have clouded her judgment (understandable in these circumstances). The purpose of having clear teachings is to give us the right path to take precisely when our judgment is clouded by sympathy, feelings, difficult circumstances, etc.

  145. Lisa Kaiser says:

    Matt C: I will say again what I have been saying: its easy to be the Monday morning quarterback. You were not at St. Joseph’s when this patient came in, you did not see what Sr. Margaret, the ethics committee and the physicians were seeing. You cannot judge or condemn the actions taken bbecause you do not know the facts.

    Knowing Sr. Margaret and knowing St. Joseph’s–here is what I know: this decision would not have been and was not made without serious thought about what the Catholic healthcare directive say re abortion.

    For all you folks you are so certain that it would be OK to let let the mother die with her baby rather than save her life: I want you to go an ER in any hospital in your city, to see what goes on there and then tell medical staff that they have to let a young woman die because dying is a pro life thing to do. Put your money where your mouth is, so to speak. If you have never been in the ER to see how this works in large urban hospital, then you are in no position to judge Sr. Margaret.

  146. Todd says:

    Mike, working both within and outside of the Church, I’m aware of the reasons why excommuncation is applied, but also how it is perceived by both non-Catholics and ordinary believers. I reject your suggestion of my being disingenuous. We Catholics always have to be on the lookout for scandal–in this instance the perception of harshness and the disconnect between the gravity of sin and the Church’s use of excommunication.

    I’ve not seen anything publicized about the medical situation, so while some of us have some background in general medical care of pregnant women, it doesn’t appear any of us have the full story.

    We might conclude that if a medical decision suddenly became necessary at 11 weeks, this case was probably outside the norm, and as such, resulted in a higher level of difficulty for those involved.

    Still, the whole episode is curious. I have to point out the general level of distrust among pro-life Catholics.

    And a final poke at this quote:

    “Basically Sister Judith Carle could have cared less …”

    Leaving aside the lack of charity in presuming any of us can discern another’s compassion from a second-hand quote addressing another issue entirely, the quote as taken literally is probably correct. If you want to insult someone, write, “she couldn’t have cared less.” The way this statement was typed literally means Sister Carle had a significant level of compassion, therefore she *could* have cared less.

  147. Lisa Kaiser says:

    Matt C: there are 4 other things you should know about the situation at St. Joseph’s

    1. St. joseph’s has been a Catholic hospital in Phoenix since 1895 and takes it identity as aCatholic hospital very seriously.

    2. There are 2 healthcare directives in place in Catholic hospitals that concern abortion. under one of those directives abortions are permitted to performed in Catholic hospitals under certain conditions. That is why this is not a black and white/straight forward situation. That is why there are 2 directives on this issue in place in Catholic hopsitals. This why Sr. Margaret and the ethics committee ahd to look at that directive and interpret it.

    3. The ethics committee at St. Joseph’s is concerned with following Catholic teaching–see #1 above. It is not all about medical-legal issues. At St. Joseph’s it is about fidelity to being a Catholic hospital.

    4. Sr. Margaret did not make the decision alone–she is just the public face of the decision. The decision was made by the ethics committee, Sr. Margaret, the physicians caring for the patient and the patient herself.

  148. Lisa Kaiser says:

    Canon lawyer Fr Thomas Doyle has a written an article that sets out the moral complexities faced by Sr. Margaret and St. Joseph’s Hopsital. It can be found on the online verion of National Catholic Reporter.

    It is called Shades of Gray in a World of Apparent Absolutes. It discussed the Catholic health service directives regarding abrotion in Catholic hospitals and other issues.

    Before you condemn Sr. Margaret read it.

  149. Joe Hargrave says:

    “And by doing so, you would have been just as wrong as you are on virtually every other topic on which you take a position.”


    Point to Jay.

  150. Mike Petrik says:


    You are still being disingenous. Aside from presuming, without any evidence whatsoever, that the Bishop may have been cavalier about the facts, you knowingly tender inapt comparisons and now try to justify them by suggesting you were only pointing out how it all might *seem* hypocritical to the uninformed. Your passive-agressive dissembling is embarrassingly ineffective.

    That said, I do agree that any statement that presumes to judge Sister Judith’s level of compassion is out of line (notwithstanding your insufferable pedanticism). Moreover, as I and other comment contributors have already noted, Sister Margaret was in a very difficult situation and good people often do bad things in such situations. But your assertion that we don’t know all the facts, while not entirely unture, is exaggerated. The problem with this assertion is that the Hospital’s own statement admits that a pregnancy was terminated in order to save the mother’s life. An honest person would take the time to look it up before speculating otherwise. Admittedly, it is possible that the Hospital’s statement was inaccurately crafted, but in such a case a clarification would certainly have been subsequently offered. Indeed, I am unaware of any knowledgable party claiming that the Hospital did not directly kill the child. Instead, the claim is simply that such killing should be considered justified relying on the reasoning set forth by Sister Judith.

    I am sympathetic with Sister Margaret, I truly am. And I acknowledge that I do not know what I would have done under such circumstances. We often choose to do the wrong thing when the temptation is great. But Sister Margaret’s precise job was to ensure that the right thing is done in hard cases, and she failed. And this failure was not small matter. While to my knowledge she has not commented on this episode, the Hospital’s statement suggests that the direct termination of a pregnancy can be morally justified if it is sufficiently “life-affirming” or some such thing. That is not Catholic teaching. Period. Full stop. I have no doubt that the excommunication will be promptly lifted the moment Sister Margaret admits her error and expresses remorse; indeed, I speculate that the excommunication’s public declaration would never had occured if Sister Margaret had done so at any time during the intervening months.

  151. Lisa Kaiser says:

    Mike, for a viewpoint from a canon lawyer take a look at the artcle found on the online edition of National Catholic Reporter.

  152. Mike Petrik says:

    You seem to have no idea what the two directives you reference actually say. They are two perfectly compatible rules. The first makes it clear that an unborn child, as an innocent, cannot be *directly* killed. Ever. The second clarifies that the death of an unborn child as the *indirect* result of the medical treatment of the mother (i.e., not an abortion) can be justified under the described circumstances even if such death is understood as inevitable or predictible. A termination of a pregnancy (i.e. an abortion) is never permitted under that second directive. None of the statements issued by the Hospital or its board members attempt to argue that a direct abortion was not approved. Instead they argue that the approval of the direct termination was morally licit because the baby was going to die anyway. This explanation cannot be squared with either directive and cannot be squared with Catholic moral teaching.

    It is, I suppose, conceivable that Sister Margaret simply did not have a proper understanding of Catholic teaching and the related moral directives. Such a possiblity is hard to believe given her specific duties at the Hospital, but it more or less is the point being made by Fr. Doyle. Doyle does not really try to defend her action as such, but goes on and on about how excommunication (or at least its public declaration) may have been inappropriate given the extreme pressures she was under, which pressures may have reduced her culpablity to the point where excommunication was inapt. Perhaps, though such an argument would be more convincing if was corroborated by Sister Margaret by word or action. Simply playing the part of the silent victim securing all manner of perverse accolades from the secular (and dissenting Catholic) media is hardly consistent with Fr. Doyle’s theory.

  153. Lisa Kaiser says:

    Mike, yes I do know what the directives say. I have read them

    As for Sr. Margaret “playing the silent victim”–that is an assumption n your part. I think it is more rreasonable to beleive that the hospital, the Sisters of Mercy, and Catholic Healthcare West have asked, perhpas ordered Sr. Margaret to remain silent until a resoultion can be worked out with the Bisohop and/or until the Sister of Mercy decide on whether Sr. Margaret remains in the order or not.

    You misread Fr. Dayle in respects and merely dismiss the canon lawer as ‘dissenting” how convenient, since his explanation does not fit into your world of absoultes. It si clear from the Fr. Doyle’s article that the situation is not a matter of absolutes.

  154. Phillip says:

    I have to agree with Mike. Nowhere does Fr. Doyle argue that an abortion was not performed – that is, that there was not the direct taking of an unborn life. This is further supported by the quote Fr. Doyle notes:

    “What she did was something very few are asked to do, namely, to make a life-and-death decision with the full recognition that in order to save one life, another life must be sacrificed,” Garvie said. “People not involved in these situations should reflect and not criticize.”

    Clearly, what was done was directly taking one life to save another. That is clearly contrary to the Ethical and Religious Directives for Health Care Services of the USCCB.

    This is distinct from a situation where a drug was given to the other to reduce pulmonary hypertension but, as a foreseeable but unintended consequence, resulted in the death of the unborn child. But again, you can’t say that from the available information, that Sister McBride and St. Joseph’s acted in accord with Catholic directives.

  155. Phillip says:

    But I believe Lisa accepts that one can take a life to save anther. She seems to accept the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. She should also accept the Bush Administration’s enhanced interrogation techniques.

  156. Mike Petrik says:

    The fact that you read the directives does not convince me you understand them. After all, you presumably read my comment somehow accuse me of dismissing him as “dissenting.”
    That said, I agree that it is possible that Sister Margaret’s silence is imposed. Are you suggesting that if it were not imposed she would be claiming that while her decision was morally wrong it should be understood to have been understandable given the pressures she was under?

    In the end I’m not all that interested in Sister Margaret, or her excommunication. What I am interested in is upholding Catholic moral teaching. And that teaching does not allow for the intentional direct taking of a human life, and the directives you claim to have read make that clear. Whether excommunication occured latae sententiae is a matter of canon law (not moral teaching as such) and whether it should be declared publically is a matter of the Bishop’s prudential judgment. What is not debatable, however, is the principle that a direct killing of an innocent homan life is never permissible. Ever. The Hospital’s statement suggests it believes otherwise, as does Sister Judith’s letter. And apparently you believe so too. We are all entitled to our beliefs, but the belief that an innocent life can be directly and deliberately killed in order to save the life of another is simply not compatable with Catholic moral teaching. That is true even if that life is going to die anyway, though I certainly concede that the outcome is tragic. But Catholic moral teaching is not simply outcome driven. This is why Catholic theologians generally agree that the Hiroshima bombing was morally impermissible even though it is generally accepted to have saved many more lives than it took.

  157. Lisa Kaiser says:

    Nobody is saying that an abortion was not performed. If read the article from the canon laywer he says that the situation placed Sr. Margaret in a position of “moral powerlessness” and “that Norm 47 interjects a shade of grey that pits the absolute up against the often painful, uncontrollable and unpredictable circumstances of life. The canonical criminality of the choice made by the sister and the others is by no means as cut and dried as it may have seemed to the bishop and his advisors. The canon law on abortion is quite clear. What is also clear is that the same canon law recognizes that real-life situations can be agonizingly complex. In this case the full recitation of the facts (to use the stark canonical terminology) seem to argue for the protection of the sister, the mother and all others involved from the harshness of excommunication rather than for their condemnation.

    He says, “The canonical criminality of the choice made by the sister and the others is by no means as cut and dried as it may have seemed to the bishop and his advisors.”

    If you guys are canon lawyers then you may credibly dispute this. Otherwise you have no credibility in disputing this conclusion. Even the Church’s canon lawyers see this as situation that is not absolute.

    Or as a friend of mine once said: Jesus died to take away or sins, not our brinas.”

  158. Lisa Kaiser says:

    Sorry about thetypo in the last sentence ther. Let me restate” Or as a friend of mine once said, “jesus died to take away our sins, not our brains.”

  159. Lisa Kaiser says:

    Sorry guys, you still lack credibility to dispute what the canon lawyer has said.

    Other than that your comments do not warrant my taking time to respond to your silliness.

  160. Phillip says:

    The Fr. Doyle piece I found at NCR does not reference any Canon Law exemptions to abortion. Perhaps you can link your source.

  161. Mike Petrik says:

    You can appeal to authority till the cows come home, but then you have to acknowledge that a Bishop trumps a canon lawyer, especially one who knows less facts than the bishop. Moreover, you continue to misread Doyle. Doyle is not suggesting that the decision is morally defensible — he’s too careful to do that. He’s making the case that the situation was so difficult and agonizing that she is not sufficiently morally culpable for excommunication to be proper. Read it carefully.

  162. Donald R. McClarey says:

    I can’t believe that anyone is taking anything Father Doyle says with any seriousness.

    Here is a recent quote from him:

    “FATHER TOM DOYLE: It’s unfortunate that it takes this type of destruction to move it towards change, but that’s what has to happen, I believe. I’m not one anymore to mince words and be diplomatic and fart around with this. I mean, this is it. I’ve spent 25 years talking to people who’ve been ruined because of this stuff, and you know, the whole damn thing, they ought to sell the Vatican to the Mormons or to Disney or something and go out and start all over again.”

    Then there was the time back in 2004 when he lost his job as an Air Force Chaplain because he didn’t much like saying Mass:

    Doyle has become a joke.

  163. Lisa Kaiser says:

    Donald, there are two sides to every story. that being said, Fr. Doyle is a canon lawyer and you are not. He his education and experience as such give him the credibility to say what he says on the subject of Sr. Margaret. You on the other hand, do not have such education, experience or credibility.

  164. Phillip says:

    It seems Mike is correct again. Fr. Doyle in no way is saying an abortion was not performed. Rather. his complaint is that Sr. McBride was excommunicated. Of course his ire is raised by the clergy sex abuse scandal. This from an NPR interview:

    “But according to the Rev. Thomas Doyle, a canon lawyer, the bishop “clearly had other alternatives than to declare her excommunicated.” Doyle says Olmsted could have looked at the situation, realized that the nun faced an agonizing choice and shown her some mercy. He adds that this case highlights a “gross inequity” in how the church chooses to handle scandal.

    “In the case of priests who are credibly accused and known to be guilty of sexually abusing children, they are in a sense let off the hook,” Doyle says.”

    Note again, he does not say that an abortion was not performed (and which is contrary to the Ethical and Religious Directives which St. Joseph’s was obliged to follow.) And he does not say that abortion in this situation is right. In fact his juxtaposing the abortion and clergy abuse points out that he thinks both are wrong. Fr. Doyles point is that he believes the penalty of excommunication was not warranted.

  165. Lisa Kaiser says:

    Phillip, everyone agrees that an abortion was performed. There is no dispute about that. The issue is that excommunication should not be the penalty for saving a life when losing two lives would have been the result if the mother had not received medical treatment as it was dtermined that she was in imminent danger of death.

  166. Chris M says:


    That excommunication IS the penalty for direct abortion (aka willful murder) should not be in question (and is not, in the case of faithful Catholics). What should be in question is “what were the licit alternatives for the health care providers that were not taken, and why?”

  167. c matt says:

    “agonizingly complex”

    I agree it was an agonizing and emotionally difficult decision. But it really was not that complex. The options were rather straightforward: kill one to increase the chances of survival for the other, or kill neither and treat both as best you can.

  168. Lisa Kaiser says:

    Chris: the canon lawyer Fr Doyle says that the Church’s own laws do not call for excommunication in this situation. Please read his article posted on the online edition of the National Catholic Reporter.

    Also, Chris, there wer no other options, licit alternatives. The physicians determined that the patient who came into the hopsital was in imminent danger of death due to the her medical condition, and that immediately terminating the pregnancy (the fetus was 11 weeks old and would not have survived outside the womb and would not have survived the mother’s death) was the only option. Without immediate medical intervention, both mother and fetus would have died. So the choice was lose two lives or perform an abortion and save one life.

  169. Phillip says:


    The way you were presenting it was that St.Joseph’s was following the Ethical and Religious Directives for a Catholic Hospital. Those state that abortions may not be done under any circumstances. But since you agree that an abortion was done, St. Joseph’s wasn’t acting in accord with the Directives.

  170. Lisa Kaiser says:

    Matt, the choice was complex. The physicians determined that the patient was in immineent danger of death when she came to the hospital Ther was no option to “treat both as best you can”. The only options were to let the woman and her 11 week old fetus both die (at 11 weeks the fetus could not have survived outside the womb and would not have survived the death of the mother). Or save the patient’s life by performing an abortion. If there were options to treat both, this situation would not have arisen.

  171. Mike Petrik says:

    Exactly, Phillip. Doyle never even suggests that an abortion did not occur or that such abortion was not morally wrong. He instead argues that the situation was so difficult that the penalty of excommunication may not have applied given that Sister Margaret may have subjectively viewed her options as impaired. This requires a level of subjective analysis that frankly does not interest me, even though I concede it may be warranted. Sister Margaret deserves to be treated fairly, of course. And that means that the real world pressure she was under must be taken into account. But what cannot be accepted is any disagreement as to the validity of Catholic teaching, which plainly does not permit the direct termination of a pregnancy even to preserve the life of the mother and even if the unborn child would die without the mother. People sin. In many cases in very understandable ways. It seems reasonably clear to me (any lack of certainty has to do with facts I have not bothered to study) that the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were morally wrong even though they saved lives. That said, I can’t say that I believe that makes Truman a bad person. The choice he made was quite understandable, and presumably quite forgivable, given the terrible circumstances and options. The same is almost certainly the case here. And in all honesty I cannot say with certainty that I would not have made the same decisions as President Truman and Sister Margaret. It is the nature of being a sinner. But while Sister Margaret’s personal and subjective moral culpability can be understood to be both uncertain and diminished by circumstances, the objective moral nature of the act is not. The Bishop has an obligation to teach clearly and he has satisfied that obligation. Whether such obligation could have been better satisfied without declaring the excommunication is likely a prudential question on which reasonable people may differ. But Sister Margaret did not live up to her obligation to apply Catholic moral teaching with integrity. While the failure was certainly understandable given the circumstances, her defenders would do better to concentrate on why those circumstances suggest mercy and understanding are in order rather than try to justify a killing that cannot be justified.

  172. Lisa Kaiser says:

    Mike, you are way off base about Sr. margaret. She has always served God, the Sisters of Mercy, St. Joseph’s Hospital and Catholic Healthcare West with integrity. I know her. You do not.

    She and the ethics committee interpreted the Catholic healthcare directives correctly, as permitting an abortion in the situation that they were presented with. This was done with integrity. Saving a life is a pro life position. Allowing both to die would have abeen a pro-death, immoral, unethical and criminal act.

  173. Mike Petrik says:

    I think the issue is about more than just the excommunication. I’ll let the bishop sort that out with canon lawyers, especially since applicable rules require some analysis of subjective intent, etc. The real issue is whether the abortion in question is morally justified. Fr. Doyle carefully avoids even suggesting it was. The reason for that is simply that it cannot be justified under Catholic moral teaching. Your posts suggest that you believe that the abortion was morally acceptable given the choice of outcomes. Fr. Doyle never said that, and I suspect he never would, for the simple reason that he does not dissent from this teaching. He simply believes that excommunication may be the wrong penalty under the circumstances.

  174. Mike Petrik says:

    Those directives do not permit an abortion. Period. If you think they do then you simply cannot read.

  175. Phillip says:


    Mike is correct again. Go to page 26 of the Directives item # 45. Abortion is never permitted.

  176. Lisa Kaiser says:

    Mike and Phillip, its you all who cannot read. You cannot stop at Directive 45. Directive 47 says this ( a direct quote for USCCB Ehtical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services):

    “Operations, treatments, and medications that have as their direct purpose the cure of a proportionately serious pathological condition of a pregnant woman are permitted when they cannot be safely postponed until the unborn child is viable, even if they will result in the death of the unborn child.”

    This is the directive that used at St. Joseph’s in November 2009 to decide the situation we are discussion.

  177. c matt says:

    Lisa, to quote you:

    “So the choice was lose two lives or perform an abortion and save one life.”

    Putting aside the accuracy of that statement in presenting the viable choices, that is not a complex decision – kill one to save the other, or don’t kill one and do the best you can. That is not complex – it may be emotionally difficult and agonizing, but we are talking about a rather clear application of moral decision making. Its not like you are trying to evaluate seven different courses of interlocking decisions – it’s kill one to save the other, or don’t.

  178. Mike Petrik says:

    You need to read more carefully. Directive 47 is perfectly consistent with Directive 45, which obviously it has to be. While Directive 45 states that the direct killing of a fetus (abortion) is always morally prohibited, Directive 47 explains that other medical procedures (i.e., non-abortions) can be used to treat a pregnant mother even if they cause *indirectly* (as a double effect) the death of the unborn child. For example radiation used to cure a pregnant mother’s cancer may be permissible even if it is understood that such radiation will be lethal to the child. Directive 47 is merely an expression of the doctrine of double effect which has been an element of Catholic moral theology since first expressed by St. Thomas Aquinas. It is well established that Directive 47 does not permit a direct termination of a pregnancy. I do not dispute that the Hospital has claimed to rely on Directive 47, but such reliance is misplaced if used to justify a direct abortion as any Catholic ethicist can tell you. While I can fully appreciate the pressures felt by Sister Margaret when confronted with such horribly difficult circumstances, her decision simply cannot be justified by reliance on Directive 47 assuming that decision was to permit the direct taking of the life of the baby. Further, it strains credibility to believe that she could actually think so, given her resonsibilities regarding Hospital ethical matters.

  179. Lisa Kaiser says:


    In his article on the subject, Fr. Daoyle called the decision “agonizingly complex”. It his, as a canon lawyer, characterization of the situation

  180. c matt says:

    I am beginning to wonder if English may not be Lisa’s first language, and therefore she is having difficulty applying the two directives in conjunction with each other. Dir 45 is an overriding statement of clear position that abortion cannot be done regardless of circumstance. 45 therefore sets the limits on consideration of what operations, treatments and medications can be allowed that may result unintentionally in the death of the fetus, which is directive 47. She is reading things backwards in a sense – she interprets 47 as abrogating the restriction of 45, when the opposite is true – 45 is a limitation on 47 (you can do the other operations, treatements and medications as long as they are not abortions, ie., the intentional direct killing of the fetus). In other words, you could use chemotherapy directed at attacking cncerous cells in the body, which foreseeably but unintentionally, also kill the fetus. But you could not do a chemical abortion, which its only object is to kill the fetus, not other tissue.

  181. Mike Petrik says:

    c matt,
    You are right, of course. What makes this case more difficult (though not more complex) is the apparent claim that “doing the best you can” would have lead to two deaths rather than one, as opposed to more typical cases which involve only one death or perhaps more uncertain outcomes. But while agonizing and difficult, the morally correct answer is perfectly clear.
    As I explained above, a person is not morally permitted to shoot an innocent person in order to save two lives, even of one of those lives is the innocent he would shoot. This is not to suggest that the decision to not sin in this case is easy. To the contrary it would be exceedingly difficult, but the moral calculus is easy.
    Good people can choose to sin for good reasons. But sin it still is. I am not morally permitted to shoot a dying comrade on the battle field, even if he cannot be saved and is in horrible agony. Knowing that, I still might do it. I’m fallen and weak, which is why I need God’s mercy. But I would never doubt the sinfulness of my act.

  182. c matt says:

    As a canon lawyer, his characterization of the moral complexity of the situation is not much better than anyone else’s, except perhaps with the canon law issues presented (and the only cannon law issue presented, as far as I can tell, is whether Sr. incurred LS Excommunication). If he was referring to “agonizingly complex” with respect to the canon law issue, he may well be correct, but I am not as interested in that aspect.

  183. Mike Petrik says:

    A canon lawyer has no special charism in the area of Catholic moral teaching. Rather, he or she deals with the Catholic legal system, which is why Fr. Doyle addressed the legal issue of excommunication rather than the morality of the abortion.

  184. c matt says:

    I don’t want to get too hung up on the concept of “complex.” My only beef with using the term “complex” is that, as Mike states, the correct moral position is clear, and using “complex” implies that it isn’t. It may be difficult and challenging to accept or follow, there may be legitimate doubts about the extent of culpability, but it is clear.

  185. Lisa Kaiser says:

    Yes, Englsih is my first language. The issue here is that Directive 47 allows oeprations or treatment that may result in the death of afetus. In the situation at St. Joseh’s ther was only one oepration/treatment available to save at least one life–that was to terminate the pregnancy. That is why it was interpreted that way it was at St. Joseph’s in November 2009. You guys are looking at thing too simplistically. And no canon lawywers have no special charism in the area of moral teaching. But they know more about it than you do, Mike.

    And once more, I will say that allowing two lives to die is a pro-death position. To save the life of the mother in this situation was a pro-life, moral (because saving a woman’s life has moral value), ethical, Christ-like decision. And like Christ, Sr. Margaret is being crucified by a heartless, out-of-touch, immoral, imperial, imperious hierarchy.

    As one commentator has stated, Sr. Margaret’s biography more closely resembles that of Jesus than does Bishop Olmsted’s.

  186. Mike Petrik says:

    Invincible ignorance.

  187. Donald R. McClarey says:

    “In the situation at St. Joseh’s ther was only one oepration/treatment available to save at least one life–that was to terminate the pregnancy.”

    Quite untrue:

  188. Phillip says:


    Let’s say directive 45 said that murder is never permitted. Let’s say directive 47 said that one can use sufficient force to stop an attacker and that, if in the course of the use of that force, one killed the attacker, then that would not be murder. One cannot then say that if one murders that article 47 clears the way for that.

    Murder in this case is directly taking an innocent life. Self-defence is protecting one’s life with appropriate use of force. What is directly intended is using force necessary for stopping the unjust attack. If in the course of the use of that force, one kills one’s attacker, that was not directly intended and is licit.

    In abortion, all abortions, one is directly taking the life of an unborn child. When one uses medications or surgeries that treat an illness, such as using chemo or hysterectomy for a cancerous uterous, one in the former may and definitely in the latter will cause the death of the unborn child. But in those cases it is not directly intended. The intention is to treat a disease with the medical means necessary that secondarily results in death.

    Thus 45 prohibits all direct forms of taking the life of an unborn. 47 allows medical procedures that do not do so directly and are licit treatments for the disease in question.

  189. Susan Peterson says:

    “Sr. Margaret’s biography more closely resembles that of Jesus…”

    Oh for goodness sake. None of us are the second person of the Holy Trinity! Furthermore, this isn’t a holiness contest. And if it were, neither you nor I would be the judge.

    I don’t have a problem with the idea that you personally feel that Sr. Margaret’s decision was the morally correct one. I think, for instance, that Orthodox Jewish moral teaching would agree with you, and that is a body of moral teaching which I respect.

    What I do have a problem with is that you don’t see, or seemingly won’t even try to consider, that according to the standard Catholic moral teaching this was not the correct decision.

    I think you are thinking of “pro-life” as meaning that we have to do what brings about the most life for the most people, with life being an absolute good. But that is not quite right. Being “pro-life” means that we are against the unjust killing of human beings by other human beings. The most important thing is not that no one should die, but that no one should kill. The question moral theology asks is not “Did anyone die?” but “Did anyone sin?”

    Behind this is clearly the understanding that are lives in this world are brief in any case, but our souls are immortal. Catholic moral theology does not make a calculus of the relative amount of suffering to be caused by one decision or another, or at least it does not do that until way down on the ladder of criteria; the first criteria is whether the act considered is in itself objectively allowed or forbidden by God. God forbids us deliberately to kill the innocent. What was being contemplated was a deliberate, direct act, of killing an innocent human being. NO intention can make this licit. And the moral calculus stops right there. The outcome may be sad; it may cause suffering in this life, but we aren’t entitled to decide that this overrules God’s command.

    I think I see how you are reading the two directives. You are taking them as 1. a general principle, and 2. an allowable exception.
    That is not how they were intended. They are 1. an absolute principle, and 2. other situations -not exceptions to the principle, to which there are none- but different kinds of situations which do not fall under the principle. Number two is there for the situation in which you start chemotherapy to cure a woman’s cancer even though this will incidentally kill her developing baby. The ACT of starting chemotherapy is not intrinsically immoral. The saving of the mother’s life is brought about by the action of the chemotherapy against the cancer NOT by the death of the unborn child.

    I can see how reading these two directives, just as words not written in the context of a tradition of moral theology, could be taken the way Sr. Margaret says she took them. But for her to have done that in good faith she would have to have been ignorant of their context in Catholic moral theology. She would have had to be ignorant that the second directive was invoking double effect, and that double effect clearly states you cannot bring about a good end by an intrinsically evil act, and specifically, in mother/baby situations, that you cannot save a mother’s life by directly taking the life of the unborn child. It is difficult to believe that she could be ignorant that this is what traditional Catholic moral theology teaches. However, perhaps she was ignorant. Perhaps she really did not grasp the concept of an intrinsically evil act which cannot be redeemed by ANY intention or by ANY set of painful circumstances. Your reaction shows that this is a foreign idea to some people in these times. If she acted in good faith, although wrongly, she would not be morally culpable for her decision. Perhaps in that situation the latae sententia excommunication would not apply. But when her bishop advises her that it was the wrong decision, explains what the Catholic moral teaching is, and she refuses to say, “Oh, well, then, I was mistaken, then she becomes culpable. In which case perhaps a direct excommunication at that point would be more appropriate. That we will leave to the canon lawyers.

    I’d just like to get you to see that there is more than one set of moral paradigms which can be applied in a situation, and that the one you are using, and that I suspect Sr. Margaret was using, involving letting the most people live, and bringing about the least suffering in this life, is not the one that the Church uses. The Church asks if an act is sin and she is first of all concerned with the eternal destiny of the soul. I’d really like to get you to see this point, even if you disagree violently!

    Susan Peterson

  190. Susan Peterson says:

    ” OUR lives in this world” My brain incresingly is doing this to my with homonymns.

    Susan Peterson

  191. Susan Peterson says:


  192. Mike Petrik says:

    Well said, Susan. Very well said.

  193. c matt says:

    The problem is “allowing the death of a fetus” is a completely different moral act than “killing the fetus”. 45 prohibits the killing of a fetus; 47 does not allow the killing of a fetus.

    Perhaps this is the issue you (and others) seem to have – you are unable to distinguish between the moral significance of “allowing the death of” and “directly killing”.

    Actually, there are probably many moral first principles upon which we do not agree, and therefore further attempts to discuss the matter are likely to be fruitless. Such as

    1. one may not do an evil act to bring about a good end

    2. some acts are always and everywhere evil, regardless of why you do them.

  194. c matt says:

    Yes, Susan, very well said.

    And on top of all of this, there is the difficulty of distinguishing between knowing what one should do in these situations, and the obvious sympathy one has for what someone would do in these situations.

  195. c matt says:

    Yes, English is my first language.

    I hope you did not take offense to my asking, I was sincerely inquiring as you never know from where commenters hail.

  196. Lisa Kaiser says:

    Again you all espouse a pro-death position. Wishing that the patient involved had died–because this would be “good” and not recognizing the moral value of avinga woman’s life.

    A double standard is applied by the hierarchy to women and this is a case in paoint–in regard to Sr. Margaret, the decision at St. Joseph’s, and the patient.

    The old Lord Acton truism, “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely” applies in spades to the Catholic hierarchy. You all are drinking the kool-aid from an absolutely corrupt pool. The hierarchy has not moral credibility.

    Donald McClarey: You were not at the hospital when the patient came in. Her physicians who were present determined that she was in danger of imminent death and that the only way to save her was via termination of the pregnancy. You have no right or credibility to second guess the diagnosis or the judgment of the medical professionals involved.

  197. Phillip says:

    Actually I would say vincible ignorance, as she clearly has the opportunity to learn. Just that the current culture has numbed her conscience.

  198. Susan Peterson says:

    I think until we have more facts we have to leave aside the possibility that the doctors were wrong about the medical situation, and consider the moral situation if they were right.

    Lisa, did you even TRY to think about what I wrote?

    I think you should stop saying “The hierarchy” and start saying “The Church.” This is not a position of particular bishops as individuals, but a position developed by moral theologians in the church over a long period of time. In fact…can you even begin to imagine that any of the fathers of the church would have approved a direct abortion for any reason?

    No one said it would be “good” that the woman died. We are saying that it would be worse for someone to commit the sin of killing the unborn child.

    Why do you keep bringing in the ‘women’ thing? Do you imagine that this principle would be applied differently to men? Men don’t get pregnant but there are lifeboat situations …which are not just hypotheticals; people have experienced them. For instance; there are too many people for the supplies in the lifeboat and if all stay in the lifeboat, there is no hope it will get to land before all the men in it die of thirst. If two are chosen by lot to be thrown overboard, the remaining six will live, otherwise all will die.
    It isn’t permitted to kill those two men to save the lives of the other six. And the result is 8 dead rather than six alive, two dead. Would you call this a “pro-death” position? Would you say that throwing two men overboard was a prolife action? With modern search and rescue by air this sort of thing is less common just as mother vs baby situations are less common, but they have occurred and could still occur. I really think you need to drop the hermaneutic of feminist outrage!

    Susan Peterson

  199. c matt says:

    To answer the moral question, we do not need to second guess the medical judgments, we can take them at face value (although in our legal system we ask jurors of 12 complete laymen with no medical experience to second guess medical judgments of doctors all the time).

    And medical judgments are just that, judgments. Even within the medical community, they disagree all the time. It would not be surprising that considerations of legal fallout (particularly for the physicians) played a not inconsiderable role in making the determination.

  200. Donald R. McClarey says:

    “Donald McClarey: You were not at the hospital when the patient came in. Her physicians who were present determined that she was in danger of imminent death and that the only way to save her was via termination of the pregnancy. You have no right or credibility to second guess the diagnosis or the judgment of the medical professionals involved.”

    Baloney. 28 years practicing law has taught me that neither attorneys nor doctors are God. Both attorneys and doctors make plenty of mistakes and keep the courts busy as a result.

    There is evidence here that alternative treatment existed by which both the child and the mother might have lived. Those who support the killing of the child have a burden to establish that there was no alternative to save both mother and child, before they make the argument that it was either the life of the mother or the life of the child and that it was not possible to save both. No evidence has thus far been brought forward to indicate that any treatment was even considered before the hospital’s “ethics” committee approved the slaying of the unborn child.

  201. Lisa Kaiser says:

    c. Matt: re the physicians: If they ahd let the patient die, that would have beena criminal act under AZ homicide statutes and it would have been medical malpractice–and of course it would have been immoral.

    In medical malpractice trials, jurors weigh evidence based upon testimony from expert witnesses. since we are delaing with a trial, we have to beleive that physicians involved could recognize that the patient was in imminent danger of death.

    Donald, I am also an attorney and of course MDs make mistakes. But you have no basis on which to assume that one was made in the situation we are discussing.

    Susan, I say hierarchy because it is the hierarchy that makes decision re Church teaching. It is not the Church as a whole. And as for “woman thing” or the hermaneutic of feminist outrage”: Sorry you are uncomfortable with the truth. What was done to Sr. Margaret is grossly unjust. Have you not been paying attention to how the hierarchy operates? Women are second class citizens in the Church. Double standards are always applied to Catholic women by the hierarchy. Shutting women out of the Vatican has resulted in a corrupt hierarchy, unhealthy/immature attitudes re sexuality, a foucs on retaining feudal/medieval privelege. The hierarchy does not value women. That is why it has an obsessive focus on how on pregnant women should behave. If men got pregnant, we would see the hierarchy singing a different tune–becaue that is the pattern.
    When the hierarchy spends as much time and energy on making certain no child in the world does go to bed hungry as it does on on oppressing women and sexullay abusing children, hiding it, lying about it, refusing to be accountable for it, then I will believe the they have some moral credibility. Until then, the idea that it is “good’ and “moral” for a woman to die along with her unviable fetus is just wrong, wrong, wrong and pro-death.

  202. c matt says:

    Lisa, you have jumped the shark.

  203. Lisa Kaiser says:

    C Matt: nope, just stating the obvious facts.

  204. Susan Peterson says:

    Ok, I tried to reason with Lisa, I tried to get her to see that there is more than one moral framework which can be applied here, and the Church’s is different from the one she is using.

    She has never once shown that she has apprehended a single thing anyone here has said to her. She hasn’t shown that she has tried.
    I just hope that she is not typical of the type of moral reasoning which is practiced by the ethics committee at this hospital.

    My conclusion is “not amenable to reason.”

    Susan Peterson

  205. j. christian says:

    Afraid you hit the nail on the head, Susan. “Just stating the obvious facts,” it’s clear that Lisa is not amenable to reason. That she thinks spouting anti-Catholic platitudes unworthy of Rosie O’Donnell is somehow profound and will sway our thinking is laughable.

  206. Lisa Kaiser says:

    How very harsh and judgemental of you Susan! Are you related to Bishop Olmsted by chance? Or have just shared some kool-aid with him lately?

    The moral framework I am using is not put place by a corrupt hierarchy that tries to convince pepole it speaks for God. My moral framework is a pro-life not a pro-death framework, ie it is the basic Judeo-Christian moral framework that says life is the highest good.

  207. Jay Anderson says:


    I doubt her purpose here is to be amenable to reason. I doubt she’s interested in being open to what you have said. Her purpose here is to advocate on behalf of a viewpoint at odds with Catholic moral teaching, and part of said advocacy is to paint that teaching and the Bishops who espouse it as morally degenerate.

    She obviously knows Sr. Margaret personally and is obviously primarily concerned with rehabilitating her at the expense of the Bishops, Catholic moral teaching, and, indeed, the truth. In that regard, she paints the Church’s moral theology as twisted, uncaring, and, in fact, really “pro-death”; meanwhile, evil is called good and abortion called “really pro-life” in an effort to absolve Sr. Margaret (and, it seems, herself) from any culpability.

    And now, having already dragged out the Galileo card, and having hinted around the edges of argumentam ad pedophilium, she pulls out the last refuge of the theological left: the “judmental” card. Almost as pathetic as it is predictable.

  208. Susan Peterson says:

    No, Lisa, I am just a Catholic.

    I am only judging the quality of your thought processes as displayed here.

    Catholics do believe that the magisterium of the Church speaks with divine authority in certain specifically defined areas.

    “the basic Judeo-Christian moral framework” -a lot of people deny that there is sufficient commonality to justify the term “Judeo-Christian” and there are most certainly different, as witness the difference between Orthodox Judaism and Catholicism on this particular issue, but OK, we’ll let this one pass

    “that says life is the highest good.” Are you reading what you write?
    Christianity most certainly does not say that life is the highest good!
    Did the Christians who suffered torture and death rather than burn a pinch of incense to the Roman emperor believe that live is the highest good?
    Luther, in the Reformation standard, “A Mighty Fortress is our God’
    “Let goods and kindred go/ this mortal life also/ the body they may kill/ God’s truth abideth still/ His Kingdom is forever. ”

    Fr. Faber, in “Faith of Our Fathers” ” Our fathers chained in prisons dark/ Were still in heart and conscience free/ Happy would be their children’s fate/ If we like them/ could die for thee. ” (He was writing about the English martyrs under Elizabeth. )

    GOD is the highest good, and for human beings, union with Him. The good for which we are made is the Beatific Vision.

    Why did God make me? He made me to know, love, and serve HIm in this life, and to be happy with Him forever in the next. Are you too young to remember that? Just an old catechism, but a great truth to memorize, helping to keep priorities straight.

    As for Judaism, I can’t speak with great knowledge about it, but I do know that Orthodox Jews are taught that there are some actions which one should die rather than do.

    Yehareg ve’al ya’avor (“Let him be killed rather than transgress”) refers to the requirement to give one’s life rather than transgress a law. Although ordinarily one is permitted to transgress halakha when a life is in danger, certain situations require one to give his life.
    Three exceptional sins
    There are three sins for which one is always required to die rather than transgress:
    sexual misconduct such as incest, adultery, and homosexuality (see sexual immorality prohibited by Torah)
    The above three are ruled as being exceptions by the Talmud. In tractate Sanhedrin 74a, the Talmud records: “Rav Yochanan said in the name of Rav Shimon ben Yehotzadak: ‘It was decided by a vote in the loft of the house of Nitezeh in Lod: For all the sins in the Torah, if a man is told, ‘Transgress and you will not be killed,’ he should transgress and not be killed, except for idol worship, sexual relations and bloodshed.’” A Jew must sacrifice his/her life rather than transgress the above-mentioned sins.

    So even for Judaism, life is not the highest good.

    Susan Peterson

  209. Susan Peterson says:

    “there are most certainly differences” why can’t I proofread until I have posted! i think I do …

  210. Phillip says:

    Lisa’s moral framework, whether she wishes it or not, is one in which the innocent can be killed for the sake of another. That includes, as she has admitted, that the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are justified. She may not wish to admit it, but there is not reason to reject the Bush Administration’sw interrogation practices or for that matter, to limit enhanced interrogation techniques to what was done. If fact, and what she will not admit to or not be able to see, her moral framework allows just about anything to be done if the right reason can be found.

    She will decry this as silliness. But she will not be able to say why it is so.

  211. RL says:

    Umm, are we overlooking that Bishop Olmsted has a doctorate in canon law? Not that I would expect anyone to dismiss a bishop’s teaching because he wasn’t a canon lawyer, but since some give more moral weight to a canon lawyet, I would think a canonist who has teaching authority from the Church would carry a tad bit more influence.

  212. Jay Anderson says:

    “… Bishop Olmsted has a doctorate in canon law …”

    Please don’t confuse people with facts that contradict the so-called “obvious facts” that are, apparently, “obvious” only to those completely uninterested in what the Church actually teaches.

  213. Chris M says:


    To add to your salient point re: Judaism, I’d add the Battle of Masada, where the remaining Jews chose to die by each others’ hands than on Roman spearpoints. (while this differs with Catholic teaching, obviously, it serves to support your point that life is not always considered the highest good)

  214. c matt says:

    Abraham, Isaac, the Maccabees, and countless other Jews in the old testament, certainly did not value life as the highest good. I don’t know where she is getting that from.

  215. c matt says:

    In fact, even many pagans recognized that mortal life itself was not the highest good – death with honor, making it to Valhalla or the Elysian Fields or wherever. Even they had a sense that the after life was more important than the mortal one.

    Only an athiest, it seems, would have such a view of things. And then, only if he ascribed to the nonsensical concept of “good” in an athiest world.

  216. c matt says:

    sorry, that s/b atheist.

  217. Joe Hargrave says:

    Well, I’m going to say this: Lisa Kaiser has earned my respect. I’ve never seen anyone argue with this many people for this long, except me.

    She’s a com-box warrior.

  218. Tito Edwards says:

    I echo Joe’s sentiments.

    Though she is woefully wrong on most points, she certainly has the stamina to engage with so many.

  219. Mike Petrik says:

    I disagree. Stamina to argue is an overrated value. She has no appetite to listen, and that is far more valuable.

  220. Todd says:

    On the other hand, Lisa’s opponents have tried often enough turn this thread into a discussion about her. Staying focused on the issue is certainly not an overrated value.

  221. Chris M says:

    I’m with Mike on this one. Stubbornly clinging to error after it’s been refuted is no virtue.

  222. Lisa Kaiser says:

    I don’t know if I have stamina or not–I am just an old litigator who like many attorneys does not believe in accepting anything at face value. And that includes blind adherence to man-made rules. In Jewish Scripture there is only one reference to induced abortion–and that only is a discussion of legal penalties for hitting a pregnant woman that results in the death of the fetus. For killing the fetus, the perpetrator pays a a monetary fine to the woman’s husband. If the woman dies also as a result of the blow, that was considered a capital offense.

    The Gospels are of course silent on the issue. As are Acts, the Epistles and the Book of Revelation.

    Jewish theology/medical ethics see the life of the woman and fetus as equal and in most cases, there is preference for the life of the woman.

    And I will stick by my assertion that that in Judeo-Christian theology the highest good is life. I thinks its illogical that some of you who post here and consider yourselves pro-life argue against this. The first commandment that God gives people as a whole is to “be frutiful and multiply.” God created life and this Genesis continues (the astrophysicist Edwin Hubble tells us that space continues to expand–so who know what other life may be out there?). And in the Hebrew, what is often translated as in the Beginning God created..” can be translated in the Hebrew as “in the beginning of God’s creating…”.

    The Church can create its rules, but that does not mean that these rules are God’s rules or that these are right. to blindly accept them with out critical analysis is negating God’s gift of intellect. And it does the Church as whole no good. I just do not believe that the Church is without error. Only God is without error. Popes, cardinals and bishops (or canon lawyers or moral theologieans) are not God.
    If the Church is to be a living entity–then it must have light and fresh air and it must change. Living things changes. Only dead things or inorganic things do not change. To refuse to change is to die–that is true of all living species of cretures on earth and it is true of institutions. The Church’s refusal to see moral value in the life of women, its near idol worship of the unborn, its resounding indifference to children after they are born, its secrecy/living in darkness, its insistence on preserving feudal/meieval privelege for the hierarchy, etc, etc, has and will continue to empty the pews. If the Church continues like it is, refusing to cahnge–it will cease to be a living entity.

  223. Phillip says:

    Actually, it was the use of the intellect by men and women over hundreds of years that have developed this teaching. One which you have consistently refused to address besides using tired pro-abortion rhetoric. Unfortunately, if Sister McBride thinks as you do, the bishop was most certainly correct.

  224. Lisa Kaiser says:

    Phillip, I am not pro-abortion. My position is that is an oxymoron for the Church to say it is prolife in advocatiing that the moral thing to do was to let both mother and baby die in the situation we are discussing. That is pro-death. Sr. Margaret made a pro-life decision in saving the life of the mother in a situation where both mother and baby could not have been saved. Saving the life of the mother in this situation was the moral, pro-life thing to do.
    Death, as advocated by Bishop Olmsted and others, is not pro-life.

  225. MarineBrat says:

    >>to blindly accept them with out critical analysis
    >>is negating God’s gift of intellect.

    Translation: If I don’t agree then you’re stupid.

  226. Lisa Kaiser says:

    MarineBrat, Since I don’t know you, I cannot comment as to whether you are stupid or not.

    I will jsut repeat what I said in an earlier post,

    Jesus died on the cross to take away our sins, not our brains. Man-made laws are should always be subject to critical analysis and revision. Blindly adhering to something is just being a mindless drone. And does honor God’s givt of intellect.

  227. Phillip says:

    Again, you haven’t engaged the substance of the posts above that point out why the Church’s position is pro-life and yours is pro-abortion. Yes, if you advocate for abortion in some circumstances, you are to some degree pro-aboriton.

  228. Lisa Kaiser says:

    Phillip–by that logic, when you advocate for death in some situations,as does Bishop Olmsted and the Church, then you are pro-death.

    Sr. Margare is pro-life because she advocated for saving a life rather than losing two lives. I think that is a pretty clear statement of my position.

    The Church’s “rule” that would advocate for both other and baby to die in the situation we are discussing is NOT pro-life. It IS pro-death. Advocating death is being pro-death.

    I can’t be any plainer than that. It is not pro-lfe or aoral to let both die when one can be saved. The mother’s life is a life and it moral to save her. That is being pro-life Th baby in this situation could not have been saved per the assessment of the medical professionals who actually were present with the patient, saw her and knew what the medical situation was at the time.

  229. RL says:

    So if we have two patients in the same hospital ward, one diagnosed with terminal cancer and the other with terminal heart disease. Nothing known can prevent the death of the cancer patient, but the heart disease patient could certainly benefit from a heart transplant. As fate would have it the cancer patient’s blood and tissue match the heart patient. Under Lisa’s reasoning if after a lot of hand wringing it would be a pro-life decision to kill the cancer patient to harvest their heart so that the heart patient may live. The object is the same, directly killing one innocent person to save the life of another.

    I suspect Lisa will be repulsed by that idea, as she should. However, if one considers a child in the womb as having the same dignity as those outside the womb it is the same thing.

  230. Phillip says:

    Nope Lisa, we are allowing death and not causing it. A big difference.

  231. Lisa Kaiser says:

    Phillip, sorry but “allowing” death when a life can be saved is not being pro-life. And is it legally and morally culpable homicide in the case of medical professionals in a hospital. In the istuation we are discussing, not treating the mother is causing a death of a human being–her death. Inaction is not justified when a life can be saved. And again, saving the life of the mother has moral value!!!!!

    RL, you are incorrect. My position is NOT that that it would be moral to kill the cancer patient. In the real-world situation we are discussiing, which is different from your hypothetical of 2 independent lives, only one life could be saved. That of the mother’s. If left untreated she and the baby (11 weeks in utero) would have died. Again, there is nothing pro-life about allowing 2 deaths, when one could be saved.

  232. MarineBrat says:

    Touche Lisa. Nice one. But you’re wasting your time if you think the Church is going to follow your special wants and desires. That’s what Universalist churches are for. Anything goes there, and you can meld your religion to your dictates.

  233. Phillip says:

    It may be so legally but not according to Catholic morality. And that is what is in question here. And since Sr. McBride violated that morality, she was properly excommunicated.

  234. Lisa Kaiser says:

    MarineBrat, I certainly do not think the Church is going to change its rules. My opinion (and that of a lot other folks as well) is that in this isntance the Church is wrong and is acting in a wrongful manner toward Sr. Margaret.

    She has been a long-time and faithful servant of the Church and of the Sisters of Mercy. And while upholding his interpretation of the rules of the Church, Bishop Olmsted could have been compassionate and expressed his regret and sorrow re the situation. Instead he wielded his crosier like a club. You may want to take alook at the Web site of the Diocese of Phoenix tosee exactly how harsh the Bishop was.

  235. Lisa Kaiser says:

    Phillip, my point is that theat the man-made law of the Church has resulted in an unjust result in what was an untenable situation for Sr. Margaret, the ethics committee, any any other Catholic involved.

    The Torah called for the stoning of adulerers. But when Jesus came across a crowd looking to stone a woman caught in adultery, he stopped it because it was unjust.

    As Lord Acton remind us, power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. That is what we are seeing in the Church hierarchy today. Today’s hierarchy would not have stopped the stoning. As we have seen, they are the first to throw the stones.

  236. Phillip says:

    The penalty may be man-made (and easily remedied by Sr McBride repenting) but the prohibition against actively killing is God’s law. This is not a matter of power corrupting, it is the Church being faithful.

  237. Lisa Kaiser says:

    Phillip, the penalty is man-made and could be changed by the hierarchy recognizing that saving the life of the woman in this case is being pro-life!! That her death would have been a case of actively killing her. You ignore that 2 lives were involved here.

    And of course we do not know what Sr. Margaret has done or not done since all this has come to light. And really, only God knows the state of her soul.

    And yes, this all one more manifestation of the hierarchy being corrupt. it picks and chooses what rules it want to enforce and with whom to enforce them. Part of the problem here is that priests and bishops have actively committed grave moral and criminal offenses against children and have not been excommunicated–when they could have been and should have been. this is the hierarchy coming down hard in a bad istuation to deflect criticism re its sytematic moral turpitude in the treatment of children in the US and in other nations.

    The hieriarchy is concerned about maintaining its priveleges and its power–that is why it insists on orthodoxy re its man-made rules. Its why the Jesus who stopped the stoning of the woman, despite the rule in palce about it, would not recognize these guys who wear miters and carry crosier as His followers.

  238. Phillip says:

    The man-made penalty could be changed, the moral truth that one cannot directly take a life cannot.

    But the penalty is in force now and Sr. McBride knew it. Thus she incurred the penalty. Easy enough for her to get out of it also.

  239. Lisa Kaiser says:

    Again, Phillip, not treating the woman would have been taking her life. The church’s rule is pro-death and unjust in this situation.

    If Sr. Margaret has not repented, why should she? Why should she cooperate with the Church’s injustice in this instance? FYI, this a rhetorical question. The obvious anser, is that hoepfully she would not cooprate with the Church’s injustice in this situation by repenting a n action was pro life and not pro death.

  240. Susan Peterson says:

    Broken Record

    I read Bishop Olmsted’s statement, and heartily concur. Is someone still giving Episcopal Spine awards? He deserves one!

    Susan Peterson

  241. Susan says:

    I am the mother of five beautiful children and one angel in heaven. After the birth of my first child, I experienced excruciating pain and my blood pressure began to drop. Ectopic pregnancy. Truly, both my baby and I would have both died had I not had surgery to remove the baby and fallopian tube.

    My husband consulted our priest who advised that I should go ahead with this operation so I could raise our young child.

    My child’s life was not sustainable. The fallopian tube had burst — an environment in which the baby could not have grown and thrived –and I was bleeding–I lost two pints of blood and would have bled to death.

    Please don’t judge this ethics committee. Like me, when there is an ectopic pregnancy, both mother and child can die.

    I will pray that Sister Margaret forgives those who judge her. This was not a ‘pro-death’ decision. I went on to have four more children who are beautiful and bring God’s love to this world.

  242. Joe Hargrave says:

    Lisa’s still fighting!

    Keep your chin up 🙂

  243. pplr says:

    I think murder is much more serious that rape, even child rape-which is what molestation is.

    That said, if both mother and child were truly going to die without any action on the doctor’s part than choosing to have an abortion seems to be the only moral choice.

    Choosing not to have an abortion would not have saved the baby’s life in this cause and thus does not appear to be Pro-Life.

    I know this is not an easy situation to deal with but when faced with an industry that makes a profit by embracing and causing the death of the unborn it makes little sense to demand that both unborn and mother die instead.

  244. pplr says:

    RL an interesting analogy.

    But let me point out that the life of the cancer patent was not in the process of causing the death of the patent with heart disease.

  245. Susan Peterson says:

    So the life of the baby was in the process of causing the death of the patient with heart disease? This almost sounds as if it is the baby’s fault so it deserves to die! I am guessing though that you don’t mean that. But no, it was the heart disease was causing her death. Pregnancy was an increased strain, showing that heart disease had progressed to the point that her body could not sustain a normal female life function.

    In any case, this is PRECISELY what you cannot do-save one life by taking another. In any circumstance, lifeboat, starvation, two people trapped in a caved in building, or a mother baby situation, you can’t bring about a good end by an intrinsically evil act.

    Susan, the situation of an ectopic pregnancy in a fallopian tube has traditionally being treated as a double effect situation; the tube is considered a diseased or defective organ which can be removed, incidentally and unfortunately resulting in the death of a human embryo. This reasoning breaks down if methotrexate is used to flush the tube, or if the embryo has implanted elsewhere as it sometimes does, and the situation becomes unclear, but the reason the priest said this was acceptable is that double effect has traditionally been used in this situation. Your life was (most likely)saved by removing the tube, not by killing the embryo. This is why the procedure was licit.

    I am glad everything turned out so well for you and your family. Perhaps someday they will figure out how to reattach the embyoes in tubal pregnancies to a place where they can grow; I think that solution would be ideal.

    Susan Peterson

  246. Mike Petrik says:

    Susan Peterson,

    You are absolutely correct, of course. The principle here is that it is never morally permissable to directly and intentionally take an innocent human life. Most people accept this until the consequences become unappealing. At that point they will either (i) question whether the life in question is innocent or even human or (ii) resort to reasoning from consquences (i.e., consequentialism).

    Unappealing outcomes are not hard to find, and the outcome options in this case were indeed quite tragic. It is telling that our irrepressible Ms. Kaiser has steadfastly avoided opining on the hypothetical I shared earlier in which mother must choose whether to shoot and kill her innocent daughter or allow a gunman to shoot and kill both her innocent daughter as well as her innocent husband. Instead, she just ignores it. The truth is that the only possible distinction between the hypothetical and the instant situation is the distinction between the unborn innocent child and the born innocent child. Ms. Kaiser insists she is pro-life, but I strongly suspect that she does not see the unborn child as fully human. In addition, Ms. Kaiser has already shown, via her commentary on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, that she is a consequentialist. Fair enough. She has admitted that murder of innocents is acceptable if for sufficient reason, and such reason is judged via outcome. This is not peculiar point of view. It is widely held and often expressed as the ends justifying the means. Implicit in this view is the idea that no means are intrinsically evil; but that instead the moral nature of the means cannot be evaluated without examining the ends.

    One cannot reason with consquentialists, not because they are illogical as such — actually their moral system is grounded in its own internally consistent logical — but because it premised on moral assumpions that are simply incompatible with those of us who adhere to a morality grounded in natural law.

    While for some strange reason Ms. Kaiser seems reluctant to admit it, her logic is actually very straightforward. Life is the ultimate good and we ought do whatever it takes to preserve as much life as possible. When pressed she will have to admit that not only may the mother in my example kill her innocent daughter, such an act is morally required since it saves one net life. Morality is a utilitarian calculus, that’s all.

  247. Lisa Kaiser says:

    Mike, you are correct about my not commenting on your hypothetical. I have not commented I suppose because it pales in comparison to the real-world situation we are discussing.

    I think your viewpoint is very contemporary Catholic. But that viewpoint may or may not be a correct one. Only God knows for certain. No moral system created by human beings can be perect or error free. As I commented yesterday–Jewish medical ethics/theology would offer a different viewpoint. That is, the life of the mother and fetus are equal and that in most cases where a choice has to be made to save one or the other–the preference is generally for the mother. Jews have an even longer (much longer)experience with and tradition of sorting out the hard moral questions. And as I mentioned yesterday–the place in Scripture where abortion is even vaguely hinted at is in the Torah. And that reference refers only to legal penalities. If someone hits a pregnant woman and that blow causes the death of a fetus–then the perpetrator must pay a monetary penalty to the woman’s husband. If the blow also causes the death of the woman, that was considered a capital offense.

    I certainly believe that a fetus is fully human life. But I do not believe that in the situation we are discussing, that two deaths are preferable to one. That is just not a pro-life position. And to say that it is, is Orwellian.

  248. Mike Petrik says:


    Simply asserting that my hypothetical “pales in comparison” to the instant situation is not addressing it at all. The reason for your reluctance is obvious. There is no logical distinction and you know it.

    Yes, my viewpoint is contemporary Catholic, but the word “contemporary” is a bit deceptive, no? After all, the Catholic moral principles that relevant here are are not remotely new.

    Yes, Jewish moral tradition may reason differently — I wouldn’t know. But Sister Margaret’s task was not to employ Jewish moral reasoning, or Taoist moral reasoning, or Islamic moral reasoning — it was precisely to employ Catholic moral reasoning; and in this she failed.

    I certainly can appreciate that you do not agree with Catholic moral reasoning, but I cannot understand why you don’t just come clean and own up to your consequentialism and utilitarianism? It isn’t hard. You’d be in good company. This fellow for instance:

    What I find really remarkable is not that your moral reasoning is grounded in utilitarianism and not Catholic, but that you would expect a Catholic hospital to make moral decisions using reasoning that is grounded in utilitarianism and not Catholic. It is really quite odd.

    Finally, I honestly can understand your position that pro-life means anything that saves the most lives; there is an intuitive appeal to such a view. But I doubt that is what most pro-life people mean by the term; instead they mean that people should not directly and intentionally kill innocent human beings and that enforcing this component of natural law is an important and legitimate role of government. The axiom that it is ok to murder innocents as long as more lives are saved is certainly a point of view, but I seriously doubt most pro-lifers share it, including those who first helped coin the term. Indeed they would consider the notion that pro-life means that it is morally good to murder innocents if the result is fewer lives lost to be Orwellian.

  249. c matt says:

    Well then Jewish ethics seems to be inconsistent. If the life of the mother and fetus are equal, why the preference for the mother? That is saying the life of the mother and fetus are equal, except when they are not. It offers nothing.

    It is also not so different from your view that the Church is wrong on this issue. You keep saying that only God knows which position is correct, yet, very coincidentally, “God’s” position seems to line up with yours. You seem to imply that you, Lisa Kaiser, know God’s position, while hurling accusations against the Church’s teaching for being presumptuous about speaking for God. Ironic.

    I still have not seen whether you agree with the proposition that you cannot do an evil act to bring about good results. If we disagree about that, then there is really no point continuing discussion, as there is a fundamental disagreement on first principles.

    To say mortal life is the ultimate good from a Judeo-Christian perspective simply ignores the abundance of Scripture which completely contradicts such statement (not the least of which are Christ’s own words that you must lose your life to gain it, and what does it profit a man to gain the world and lose his soul). The Old Testament is replete with figures who would rather die than commit the sin of blasphemy or idolatry. The ultimate good is eternal life with God. Mortal life is a secondary good, and it must give way when preserving mortal life costs your eternal life. That is what the Church teaches in this situation, and I find it hard to believe God would disagree.

  250. Lisa Kaiser says:

    Mike, OK, I am not really interested in addressing your hypothetical. Its jsut a hypothetical and I am not interested in addressing it.

    And yes in actholic hospital, Catholic treaching is applied. My point is that that teaching can be in error , wrong, etc. and I think that is the case here. My only point in mentioning Jeiwsh medical ethics/theology is that people of faith can arrive at different conclusions. And that since the Jew have been figuring out morality for about 5,000 years that perhaps Catholicism can learn from Judaism in this instance. The hierarchy of the Catholic church does not have a corner on truth. The hierarchy is fallible.

    You keep talking about “innocent life”. The Catholic teaching, by using such a term, denigrates life. Human life is human life. The mother is a human being and protecting her life in this situation is being pro-life. The Church used the term “innocent life” as means to devalue the lives of women. The hierarchy does not value the lives of women.

    It is not moral to allow two deaths, when a life can be saved. Sr. Margaret, a woman, saved the life of a woman and the hierarchy is afraid this will catch on! That Catholics will start believing that women are made in the image of God!

  251. Lisa Kaiser says:

    C Matt:

    Just to clarify: I don’t presume to know God’s position on the situation we are discussing.

    Re the Scriptures: Jesus was using a metaphor in saying you must lose your life to gain it. He was refering not to physical death, but to setting aside your old life/self and embracing God and God’s commandments–committing to a new life. Not death. What profit a man if he gains the whole world, but loses his soul is also not a reference to physical death. It is reference to how human regard for material wealth or earthly status may blind us to living as God wishes us to live. Empahsis on the living.

    As to Jews dying rather than commiting idolatry, ,etc refers to the exceptions in Jewish theology that permit a person to commit suicide. Life is the highest good, but Jews are permitted to kill themselved in 3 instances and 3 instances only–3 very extreme instances. The fact that suicide is permitted in only 3 extreme instances highlights the value placed on life, rather than indicates that life is not the highest good. You misread or misunderstand or misinterpret the ideas presented in Scripture.

    At to what the hierarchy teaches–again Jesus died to take away our sins, not our brains! The hierarchy is not infallible and the hierarchy has no regard for the lives of women. So in situations that involve the Church saying that pregnant women have to die in favor of a nonviable fetus–my thought is that the hierarchy is very very wrong and misguided.

  252. Susan Peterson says:

    The term innocent life has nothing to do with “devaluing the lives of women.” It is used in discussion of life issues to distinguish the abortion situation from the issues of killing combatants in war, from the death penalty, and from self defense situations in which someone is trying to kill you and you can stop him only by killing him. The traditional argument is that the soldier of an unjust aggressor [although he may personally have had no choice in the matter], the person who has committed a capital crime, or the person who is trying to kill you, have all forfeited their “right to life”, that is, their right not to be killed. Therefore it isn’t strictly speaking true that “human life is human life.” That is a mistake people make when they try to equate war and the death penalty issue with abortion. But it has nothing to do with devaluing women. The mother of course has the same right not to be killed as does the unborn child.

    However no one, you know, has a right not to die!

    We have a right not to be killed by our fellow human beings, who have a moral obligation not to kill us. That is what “right to life” means!

    (Not directly pertinent to this discussion, but tangentially pertinent; this is why the ‘right to life’ doesn’t mean people have a right to be fed by the government, or a right to have health care provided by the government, because that promotes their living longer! We might decide-or we might not-that for the government to help people get food, such as with food stamps, or for the government to pay for health care, is a good idea. But the ‘right to life’ does not imply that people have a right to what sustains their lives. It would be more accurate to call it a “right not to be killed,” just as the right to liberty is a right not to be imprisoned or enslaved. )

    And if you are a Catholic, you do believe that the Church was given the authority by Jesus Christ to teach in matters of faith and morals. If you are not a Catholic, fine. But don’t criticize a Catholic bishop for doing exactly what a Catholic bishop is supposed to do!

    Hopefully we will be seeing a lot more of bishops behaving in this way!

    Susan Peterson

  253. Susan Peterson says:

    I just read where you said, “Not treating the woman would have been taking her life.”

    First of all, there is a distinction between killing and not treating. For instance, if someone needs an expensive form of chemotherapy and can’t afford it, a hospital which refuses to administer it without being paid, or an insurance company/ medicaid which according to the terms of its contract will not pay for it, and the person dies that hospital/company/agency has not killed the person. Cancer has killed the person.

    More importantly,directly taking the life of an unborn child is not treatment!
    Or if you insist on calling it treatment, it is a form of “treatment”
    which a Catholic, or Catholic hospital, can never engage in.
    If someone dies of natural causes because I refuse to do something immoral, I have not killed that someone.

    It is more important that no one sin, than that no one die.
    But we have gone over this ground before.
    You just don’t agree with the Catholic teaching.

    Susan Peterson

  254. Joy R. says:

    Regardless of my opinion on this matter, the lack of civility, the name-calling and snide remarks for this post detract from the message.

  255. George Martin says:

    If somebody has bias, he or she can’t solve a problem correctly. Instead of solving the problem, why do some want to attack the Church? You may attack the Church. You have your own right. But be aware of the fact that the Church was attacked since it was instituted by Christ. Thou shall not take God’s name in vain. We should not use the name of God to support our idea. Susan Peterson is genius. I personally like your way of thinking and appreciate your faith. Sometimes because of some critical situations our faith becomes stronger and stronger.

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