From a news brief buried in a CNS report over the weekend:
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 provided health care consistent with “authentic Catholic moral teaching.”
“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 church’s ethical and religious directives.
UPDATE: A commenter alerted me to this item in the National Catholic Reporter last month, when Sister Margaret McBride accepted an award and spoke about the experience of excommunication and what led her to reconcile with the Church:
[McBride] related her feelings in the aftermath of the controversy and being excommunicated.
“And in that strange sort of way, it connected me even more to the church, and even more to the suffering church,” she said.
“You know, the word excommunication has a very powerful meaning when you’re sitting in the midst of being excommunicated,” she said. “It’s when you want the Eucharist, it’s when you want to be in the presence of the Catholic community, and when it’s suddenly denied to you.”
She told the audience that she complied with the bishops’ two requests for the excommunication to be lifted. One request was that she had to go to confession to a priest, and the other was she had to resign her position.
“So I want you to know that in my journey I did reconcile with the church,” she said. “The church means something very different to me today. Something has to be taken away sometimes for you to appreciate it even more. So it is now that I believe I am called to do something and I don’t know what that something is, but I pray that through the grace of God to give me that opportunity to know what the next step is for me.”