PHOENIX — A Mercy sister who was automatically excommunicated because of her role on the ethics committee that allowed an abortion to be performed at a Catholic hospital in Phoenix in 2009 is back in good standing in the Catholic Church.
In May 2010, officials at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center publicly acknowledged that an abortion had occurred at the hospital in late 2009. Officials said the woman was 11 weeks pregnant and suffered from pulmonary hypertension, a condition that the hospital said carried a near-certain risk of death for the mother if the pregnancy continued.
It also was revealed at the time that Mercy Sister Margaret McBride had incurred automatic excommunication because of her role on the ethics committee that sanctioned the abortion. On Dec. 21, 2010, Phoenix Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted announced that the hospital could no longer identify itself as a Catholic hospital.
In a Dec. 8 statement, the hospital said Sister Margaret has since “met the requirements for reinstatement with the church and she is no longer excommunicated. She continues to be a member in good standing with the Sisters of Mercy and is a valued member of the St. Joseph’s executive team.”
The statement, emailed to Catholic News Service in response to a query about her status, provided no more details and the hospital had no further comment.
Sister Margaret is currently the medical center’s vice president for organizational outreach.
Last year when Bishop Olmsted issued his decree revoking the 116-year-old hospital’s affiliation with the Catholic Church, he wrote that he could not verify that the hospital provides health care consistent with “authentic Catholic moral teaching.”
After he learned about the abortion, Bishop Olmsted said at the time, he had met with hospital officials to learn more about the particular case.
“It became clear that, in their decision to abort, the equal dignity of mother and her baby were not both upheld,” he said. The baby “was directly killed,” which is a violation of the ethical and religious directives.
Throughout the process, St. Joseph’s Hospital and its parent organization, San Francisco-based Catholic Healthcare West, maintained that the intention was to save “the only life that could be saved,” the mother’s, according to the hospital.
“We continue to stand by the decision, which was made in collaboration with the patient, her family, her caregivers and our ethics committee,” she added. “Morally, ethically and legally we simply cannot stand by and let someone die whose life we might be able to save.”
Bishop Olmsted said it was his duty to strip St. Joseph’s Hospital of its Catholic identity because its leadership, as well as that of its parent organization, San Francisco-based Catholic Healthcare West, is not committed to “following the teachings of the Catholic Church.”
“I really want to have Catholic health care,” he said. “We should be working together, not against each other.”
To demonstrate that the hospital was no longer Catholic, Bishop Olmsted prohibited the celebration of Mass on the hospital’s campus and had the Blessed Sacrament removed from the hospital’s chapel.