The case of Sister Margaret McBride, who was excommunicated By Bishop Olmsted of Phoenix after permitting an abortion taking place in the Catholic Hospital of St. Joseph, Phoenix, Arizona, is well-known and the issue of Sr. McBride’s excommunication has been widely discussed on the blogosphere in the past. This hospital is part of a series of structures called Catholic Healthcare West (CHW).
In the last days, a new element of the controversy has appeared as the Bishop has now revoked the right of the entire system of medical structures CHW to call itself “Catholic”. This is therefore not a single hospital being singled out, but an entire net of structures found so deficient that the adjective “catholic” cannot be applied to anyone of its components anymore.
You find the statement of the Bishop here. I assure you it is worth the reading. I limit myself to comment as follows:
1) The action of the Bishop is highly commendable. Still, one remains with the uncomfortable impression that in this day and age a Bishop can be ignored for seven long years before action being taken. Years, not months. One understands the need to be somewhat gentle, but if gentleness is perceived as indecisiveness it is no surprise that the bishop’s admonitions are ignored.
2) Bishop’s Olmsted action has, as it appear from the statement, been precipitated by the information about an abortion having taken place. I don’t want to think how long it would have taken for the Bishop to take decisive action if the news of the abortion hadn’t reached him.
3) From the statement it would also appear that on closer scrutiny a series of further infractions have been discovered, which had gone on unchallenged for years. In particular, sterilisations and even abortions have been practised with regularity under the very nose of the diocese, whose ability to know what was happening appears to have been rather impaired. One reads such news and shivers at the thought at what happens every day in the “Catholic” institutions of the rest of the country.
4) By all the justified criticism of the slowness and softness of the Bishop’s past action, what is evident here is the extremely clear tone of the communication. By reading it – particularly if accustomed to the exercises of our local bad shepherds like Archbishop Vincent “Quisling” Nichols – I could scarcely believe that this was an official statement of a Bishop. This is a man who has understood that his inaction led to the loss of human lives and has decided to put an end to it – as far as he can – in the most decisive way. You can read here a further statement released two days after and which is a further example of a brutally frank communication style.
Kudos, then, to Bishop Olmsted for his certainly belated, but nevertheless courageous action. Let us hope that his example will soon be followed by his colleagues and the adjective “Catholic” before a hospital’s (or university’s) name will soon mean something again.