Phoenix: Mercy Sister excomm’d for abortion decision at Catholic hospital no longer excomm’d?

Did anyone notice this little story in the “briefs” at CNS?

Mercy nun at hospital that allowed abortion ‘no longer excommunicated

PHOENIX (CNS) — 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. [NB:] 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.” [Has there also been a statement from the Diocese of Phoenix?] 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. [I hate to bring this up, but there is an old adage: “Gratis asseritur, gratis negatur.“] 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.

I am always happy when erstwhile errant person returns to Communion in the One True Holy Catholic Church.  But this is a little fuzzy.  If there was a public statement made confirming that the excommunication was incurred, shouldn’t there be a public statement confirming that the censure was lifted?


Think about this.  In November she was given an award by Call To Action for what she did.

There is a video in which she effectively mocks the Church concerning the censure.  Is that the attitude of someone who is going to be reconciled?

Am I missing something?


Okay, I am ready to believe that Sr. McBride has been reconciled.  GREAT!  I am happy for that, as all Catholics ought to be.

What I am wondering about is this: If there was a public statement from the diocese giving a confirmation of the excommunication, in justice shouldn’t there be a public statement from the diocese stating that it was lifted?


Don’t forget Dr. Peters’ excellent and affordable book on excommunications. HERE.

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  1. William says:

    Three letters that spell hogwash = CNS!

  2. Dr. K says:

    Didn’t Sr. McBride receive the “2011 CTA Leadership Award” but one month ago for her deplorable actions at St. Joseph hospital?

  3. disco says:

    Yes Dr K I thought the same thing. Seems a bit odd that she should be welcomed back into communion so easily and without need of public repentance.

  4. Dismas says:

    Did everyone see the CBS Sunday Morning Report aired 12/4 on this story? If you missed it you can view it here (scroll down):

  5. HyacinthClare says:

    St. Joe’s has about as much authority as I do to reinstate Ms. McBride. They can say it all day long and it ain’t so.

  6. Legisperitus says:

    CBS= Catholic Bashing Season

  7. jhayes says:

    Sr. McBride said she went to confession and resigned her position as required by the bishop.

    She 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.”

  8. Andy Milam says:

    I’m not so sure about the public repentance. I’m not sure there needs to be an expression of public repentance on her part, BUT there does need to be a public statement from the Diocese of Phoenix, in Arizona.

    I have been scouring the web looking for some such document with +Olmsted’s signature. I can find none. I also find no mention of the lifting of the excommunication, which was made public.

    If this statement is true, the hospital and Sisters of Mercy would have no issue with releasing said statement as a matter of transparency AND as a support to the veracity of their claim.

    Until such time as I hear of her public admission back into Holy Mother Church from the competent ecclesiastical authority, I shall continue to keep her in my weekly prayers for those excommunicated and in need of repentance.

  9. CNS need to feel relevant.

  10. trad catholic mom says:

    Why wouldn’t there need to be public repentance when she publicly accepted an award for her actions?

  11. Andy Milam says:

    @ trad catholic mom;

    Because the sin is hers. We should not be interested in seeing her penance, that is between she and her confessor . I am however waiting patiently to see that she has reconciled with the Church.

  12. mike cliffson says:

    Poor soul howsoever in the public gaze, but

    Just what IS outreach?
    Let alone organizational outreach?
    Meeting halfway?

  13. Fr.Z wrote: I hate to bring this up, but there is an old adage: “Gratis asseritur, gratis negatur.”

    Nothing wrong with that point, it should have been part of the original announcement. See my

    I grant that in the video she still seems to be confused but, on the whole, I take her statements to be headed in the right direction. Pretty much.

    [Okay! I will revisit the issue and think it over. And you are the go to guy about excommunication, aren’t you! EVERYONE: Here is a link to Dr. Peters’ book on excommunication.]

    Dr. Peters

  14. Thank YOU for the always kind words. My take on her remarks aren’t deeply held; she is the product of her times when it comes to articulating things in ecclesiastically sound vocab, ie, not impressive. But she makes some seemingly genuine assertions about the negative experience of being separated from the Church, and about her membership in the rsm being at risk (which was my guess some time ago), so, there’s enuf there, I’m thinking, to support a finding of rehabilitation. Like you tho, I too VERY much think the announcement should come from the cea (competent ecclesiastical authority) and not employer.

  15. Viewing the diocesan website ( because somebody had to), there does not appear to be a statement on the matter. However, it appears that the bishop releases a regular communique around the middle of each month. One might look forward to seeing a clarification in the next week. That, or just bite the bullet and call them up. If they have a statement, they’ll probably read it to anyone who asks. If they don’t, they won’t.

  16. trad catholic mom says:

    @ trad catholic mom;

    Because the sin is hers. We should not be interested in seeing her penance, that is between she and her confessor . I am however waiting patiently to see that she has reconciled with the Church.

    Yes, the sin is hers, but her actions have brought public scandal. How many have been led into confusion about the Churches teaching on abortion as a result of what she did? Her public repentance would at least hopefully mitigate some of that.

  17. Nicole says:

    Funny enough, I asked someone on this…and was given the answer that since the diocese (by the authority of the Bishop) was only confirming that Sr. McBride had incurred the penalty of a latae sententiae excommunication, and not laying a sentence on her as the conclusion of a singular judgment of her Bishop, that her rehabilitation and reconciliation was a matter of the tribunal of the confessional…and therefore would be bound by the seal of the confessional. Sr. McBride could then speak of the result of the lifting of the excommunication, but her confessor could not.

    I was also told that she was likely anathema due to heresy already…as well as likely unrepentant of such, so lifting an excommunication for the abortion would not have an effect on her eternal status with God and the Church.

    A lot of food for thought…

  18. Mrs. O says:

    Doesn’t this all stem from the ‘automatic’ excommunication? All that is required is confession to lift this, unless I have missed something. I’m also guessing you take her word for it because you can’t very well drill the priest/confessor! I also think this is why many do not like the ‘automatic’ excommunication as a penalty for some things.

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