Intent to Confuse?

Judie Brown
June 25, 2010
Reproduced with Permission

One would think that the pro-Sister McBride forces would soon get so sick of beating a dead horse that they would finally let up on Bishop Olmsted and his honest, caring message about the intended abortion that occurred last year in a Catholic hospital in the diocese of Phoenix, Arizona. No such luck. These communicators of false information are up to their eyeballs in bad theology and are wreaking so much havoc that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Doctrine issued a carefully worded document for the bishops during their meetings of this past week.

The document sets forth the ethical principles that clearly define the difference between a direct abortion and a medical intervention, intended to save the mother's life, that unintentionally results in her preborn baby's death. As the USCCB makes clear,

This distinction appears in nos. 45 and 47 of the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services. ERD Directive no. 45 states: "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." Direct abortion is never morally permissible. One may never directly kill an innocent human being, no matter what the reason.

What Bishop Olmsted's critics have failed to note in their shrill denunciations is that (1) the intention of the medical staff in this Catholic hospital was to abort the baby, and 2) by signing off on the direct abortion, Sister McBride actually excommunicated herself; Bishop Olmsted did not excommunicate her.

But ignoring or twisting the facts is the game some writers play. This is why columnists such the New York Times' Nicholas Kristof opine in ways that undermine Catholic teaching and create scandal among the faithful. A good example is this flip comment: "The excommunication of Sister Margaret McBride in Phoenix underscores all that to me feels morally obtuse about the [C]hurch hierarchy. I hope that a public outcry can rectify this travesty."

Kristof not only maligns the bishops by suggesting they are stupid but intentionally confuses the matter by disregarding the facts. He apparently refuses to analyze the difference between intending to kill and being saddened by an unintended death.

Such a biased perspective is shared by Jesuits James Martin and Ladislas Orsy, as well as others willing to disavow the truth. What a shame!

For my money, I will continue to believe Pope Pius XII, who explained almost 50 years ago - when addressing the same question Bishop Olmsted addressed, "[T]o save the life of the mother is a very noble act; but the direct killing of the child as a means to such an end is illicit."

In closing, may I suggest you take four minutes to view an outstanding television-quality YouTube presentation on Bishop Olmsted's position. You simply cannot beat the much-maligned-by-dissident-Catholics video titled "Abortion, Dissension, and Excommunication," produced by American Life League. The animation alone makes this well worth your time. Not only that, but you will find no intent to confuse.