Po-Life has to be PRO-LIFE
As Catholics we need to deeply reflect about the meaning of abortion and the morality of pro-life
It appears that many in the Catholic reform movement are more than squeamish about discussing the morality of abortion. They don’t want to antagonize bishops, nor do they want to be labled as “pro-abortion.”
I am 100% pro-life and I am not “pro-abortion.” …… Nevertheless, the current U.S. Catholic bishops’ intransigence about any discussion about the morality of abortion and abortion-related issues provides no helpful guidance for ethical decision-making.
Our bishops’ abortion position is particularly ironic when some of the most outspokenly anti-abortion U.S. bishops are at the same time outspokenly pro capital punishment, strongly supported U.S. war-making in Iraq, and have even justified the use water-boarding and other forms of torture. If we are pro-life, we are pro-life.
The widely publicized excommunication of Sister of Mercy Margaret McBride by Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted, Bishop of Phoenix, is an excellent case study for a serious and sincere discussion about the morality of abortion.
Margaret McBride, an influential member of the ethics committee at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix, was excommunicated and reassigned in early May because of her role in allowing an abortion to take place at the hospital. The surgery was considered necessary to save the life of a critically ill patient.
The decision for the abortion, involving McBride, physicians and the patient, drew a sharp rebuke from Bishop Olmsted. He said abortion is not permissible under any circumstances.
Charles E. Curran, Catholic priest and moral theologian, commenting about this case and simlilar cases, wrote recently in the Tablet:
“These cases show how recent teh teaching on direct abortion found in U.S. ethical directives is; and they also indicate that such a position cannot claim a high degree of certitude….
The whole Church, the hierarchcal Magisterium and theologians must listen to the Holy Spirit speaking in the lives of Christian people — the sensus fidelium….
In my judgment, the strong reaction by many Catholics to the action taken by the Bishop of Phoenix could well indicate the sensus fidelium….
It is clear that many theologians and some bishops have come to the conclusion that an abortion to save the life of the mother is a moreally good act.
Listening to the Holy Spirit and the sensus fidelium
My friend and Roman Catholic womanpriest, Eileen DiFranco, sent me the following poignant narrative. It speaks powerfully about the need to listen to the Holy Spirit speaking through the sensus fidelium.
Mommies in Arizona
“Chancery Office, Mrs. Kearney speaking.”
“Chancery Office, this is Jose. Me and my wife Maria have five children. Maria, she’s pregnant again because we’re good Catholics so we don’t practice birth control.”
“Jose, how can I help you.”
“Maria, my wife, she’s dying.’
“How can the Chancery Office help you, Jose? Take her to the hospital so the doctors and nurses can help her.”
“My wife is in St. Joseph’s Hospital. The doctors and nurses are trying to help her. But she’s dying.”
“Jose, I think you have the wrong number.”
“No, wait, Mrs. Kearney. I need to talk to Bishop Olmstead. Maria, she’s not breathing well. We have five little ones at home. The oldest is only eight. I already work two jobs. Maria takes care of the children.”
“Jose, the bishop is a very busy man. I’m sure he’ll pray for your wife.”
“Mrs. Kearney, tell the bishop to call me. The doctors said that the baby is making my wife sick. The baby is killing my wife. If they take the baby, Maria will live. My other babies will have a mother. I’ll have my wife.” Jose is crying now. “I can’t manage without Maria, Mrs. Kearney. There’s no one else, just me and her.”
“Jose, what you are suggesting is a sin. You must put Maria in the hands of God. God will decide whether Maria will live or die.”
Jose is sobbing and hangs up. He goes back to his wife’s room in the Maternal Intensive Care Unit. Maria has an oxygen cannula in her nose. Her brow is damp with sweat. “What are the doctors going to do for me, Jose,” she whispers, out of breath, thrashing her head from side to side. Jose thinks that the area around her mouth is beginning to look blue. He calls the doctor who looks at the pulse oximeter on her left ring finger. “Jose, Maria’s oxygen level is dropping. We may have to put her on a ventilator to help her breathe.” “I called the Chancery Office and asked to speak to the bishop,” Jose said, holding Maria’s sweaty palm. “I wanted to tell him what you said. That if the baby was 23 weeks, you would deliver him and put him in the intensive care nursery. He might weigh a pound. Chances are really slim, but he might live. But now, he’s only the size of a kidney bean and to deliver him means instant death. But my Maria. She’s only thirty. And I have five babies. If Maria dies, the baby dies, right? So why not save one of them?” His head hurt. He thought Maria’s finger nails looked blue too. “That lady at the Chancery Office told me Maria is in the hands of God.” He looked at his beloved wife, whose eyes suddenly rolled back into her head. “Doctor, quick, look!” he screamed. The doctor yelled, “Code Blue” and a nurse came running in with a crash cart. Another doctor pulled out a tube and inserted it into Maria’s throat. Her oxygen level was reading 70%. Jose stood horrified as a doctor suddenly climbed on to Maria’s bed and began pushing on her chest. Jose thought he heard Maria’s bones cracking. They worked and worked and worked on her. Sweat poured from their brows. They gave Maria drug after drug to get her heart to start beating again. But her face just got bluer and bluer until it looked purple. And still they tried to save a 30 year old woman with five children and a loving husband. Suddenly, a nurse burst through the door. “Bishop Olmstead just called. He said that a baby is not a disease and Mrs. Colon is in the hands of God.” The doctor pressing on Maria’s chest stopped. She looked at the clock and said, “Time of death, 3:04PM, God’s time.” They had all forgotten about Jose. He began to scream and scream and scream. One doctor said that she would hear his screams until the day she died. As for Bishop Olmstead, he went to bed with a clean conscience. God had made His choice.