Around the blog bend...and that Catholic church

Dateline: Thu 03 Jun 2010

Thank you all for sticking with me...or not.

The last few weeks have been a bit draining on a personal level. But mainly, I've decided to focus more on creative writing, since two book projects have been sitting on a shelf. Like all artists -- this was said of choreographer Jerome Robbins on a recently viewed Public TV Masterpiece show -- I have, as did Robbins, a healthy dose of self-loathing. Hence it is sometimes all too easy to go down that rathole.

But why? Enough with the navel business. Time to get back to current events...such as that nun in Phoenix who was excommunicated by the bishop there, because she advised that a gravely ill pregnant woman should undergo an abortion in order to save the mother's life. The woman -- who suffers from pulmonary hypertension and whose risk of mortality was "100 percent," according to a hospital document -- had four other children and was 11 weeks pregnant with this baby.

The nun, Sister Margaret McBride, an Irish Catholic member of the Sisters of Mercy order and from all appearances a team player, an older woman, prsumably not "a radical," and a member of the ethics committee of St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center, got her excommunication orders from Bishop Thomas J. Olstead. He declared her"automatically excommunicated" because "she consented in the murder of an unborn child," said the Rev. John Ehrich, the medical ethics director for the Diocese of Phoenix, according to National Public Radio. She did not, of course, act alone; her decision involved consultations with doctors and others.

My introduction to this story was in the form of a very angry phone call from a longtime friend.

"I am DONE with the Catholic church," she announced, in a loud, clipped, furious voice. "I am no longer a Catholic."

This friend, always a nun loyalist, believed, as I do, that historically, the nuns were the backbone of the Catholic church. They were and are, those left anyhow, the workers who toil quietly in the backdrop of schools, hospitals, nursing homes, missions, etc., while bishops, cardinals and priests got all the glory (and all the cool red and black skirts and big hats).

To think that this good woman, who made a principled decision that allowed a mother of four to live, should be dealt such severe punishment within the church she serves was unbearable to my friend. "It's not like it was a late-term abortion," my friend argued. "She was 11 weeks pregnant, for God's sake."

But the bishop hath spoken. His reputation as a pro-life leader preceded and formed his decision, and done was done.

Except, of course, for the public outcry once this story was reported.

My friend, still churning with anger by the second day, called another friend, a priest in Evansville.

Here's where the story gets good -- and please, you can rest assured I too was pretty much in despair over this decision by "my" chuch, which can't get its act together these days, or so it seems...

The Evansville priest, 74 years old, still active, had not even heard of the nun's excommunication.

He doesn't watch the news; he's too busy helping the poor, sick and elderly -- performing the duties of the real church.

"The church has always treated women badly," he told my friend, which made her laugh, because it's true. It was as if he was  saying, "what else is new?"

Then, just to put perspective on the whole moral issue of turning the nun away by the degree of excommunication, he added,

"She was not excommunicated. Nobody can excommunicate you from the church. You are the only one who can excommunicate yourself."

In other words, her relationship is with a higher power, and she and that Being have their own agenda to work out.

So no doubt the storm and fury will contiinue over this news story and all its fallout. But just for the record, I agree there is a bigger picture here. Once again, sadly, it seems the leadership of the Catholic church is blind to that bigger picture...but others are not, mercifully.

And if you read this far, thank you.







hendy [Member] said:

Leonard Cohen has a great song regarding the Sisters of Mercy:

Oh the sisters of mercy, they are not departed or gone.
They were waiting for me when I thought that I just can't go on.
And they brought me their comfort and later they brought me this song.
Oh I hope you run into them, you who've been travelling so long.
Yes you who must leave everything that you cannot control.
It begins with your family, but soon it comes around to your soul.
Well I've been where you're hanging, I think I can see how you're pinned:
When you're not feeling holy, your loneliness says that you've sinned.

Well they lay down beside me, I made my confession to them.
They touched both my eyes and I touched the dew on their hem.
If your life is a leaf that the seasons tear off and condemn
they will bind you with love that is graceful and green as a stem.

When I left they were sleeping, I hope you run into them soon.
Don't turn on the lights, you can read their address by the moon.
And you won't make me jealous if I hear that they sweetened your night:
We weren't lovers like that and besides it would still be all right,
We weren't lovers like that and besides it would still be all right.

Sister McBride can join my church anytime. It's called the Church of Catholics in Exile.

2010-06-03 11:03:08

Ellen McKinney [unverified] said:

i'm curious about this:

"She was not excommunicated. Nobody can excommunicate you from the church. You are the only one who can excommunicate yourself."

i think that the priest means that only you can "divorce" god. which makes sense spiritually.

but that misses the temporal point: assuming that someone who's excommunicated can't remain a nun, what's to become of sister margaret? being "fired" as a nun is a lot more than losing a job, isn't it? wouldn't she automatically lose her home (provided by the order) and any provisions for health care and eventual retirement?

i don't know whether the sisters of mercy take a vow of poverty; i also don't know whether sister margaret has a college degree. since she works in a hospital, i'm hoping she is a nurse. if she is, i suspect that any noncatholic hospital will be HAPPY to hire someone who has common sense and love in her heart.

oh -- and i'm wondering how many child-molesting priests bishop olmstead has excommunicated.

eta: i belatedly googled and found out that sister margaret still has a job in the hospital. so now i'm even more confused. but i'm happy that she's still there.

st. joseph, btw, was where my sister received wonderful care for an illness that would have been fatal in 5-10 years, rather than 6 months, if her abusive husband had not forced her to refuse any but palliative treatment. (her doctors and other caregivers were heartbroken, as were we).

2010-06-03 11:10:58

swen [unverified] said:

Catholics have misread the Bible for centuries. In Exedus 22:21 it says that if two men "strife," and a pregnant woman miscarriages, the man that struck her must pay a fine. NOT be put to death. Therefore, the fetus does not have the same rights as the mother. In this case, the pregnant woman had more rights to her life than the fetus.

2010-06-03 12:43:22

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

First of all Ruthie dearest, so glad to have you back. We were forming a search party. But, as noted, we gathered at Ill.St., and the Emporium food was so good, we forgot why we gathered, and ate ourselves into a blissful stupor.

Navels need contemplating from time to time. My 22-year-old daughter just pierced hers. I almost threw up when I saw it.

I marvel at the Catholics. I really do. When Grandpa was really, really sick, he asked to be taken to St. E's Hospital in Lafayette. "Because I feel closer to God with all the nuns walking around. They take good care of this sorry-assed Methodist" They were wonderful to him. It was 1975, and Hoosiers weren't really all that familiar with "hospice" yet, but those nuns instinctively knew what to do, without the fancy hospice title.

He was there five weeks. The insurance company--he was a GM retiree--denied anything past day 30. The nuns knew his end was near, and they "lost his paperwork" for a week, so he could die there in peace. That hospital ate one week of palliative hospice care. Where in the hell would that happen today? Lots of morphine and hand-holding from those nuns and the nurses.

The offending Bishop in the abortion case will have to meet his Maker one day. We all know what will happen. So does Sister Margaret. But she's likely too much of a lady to say anything.

Cyber roses to you good Sister, wherever you are. Peace be with you.

Pray for forgiveness for this wicked Bishop. Ain't it a gas, that a man who's supposedly never enjoyed the (ahem) closeness of a woman, can nonetheless dictate what she should do with her body, all in God's name?

And pray for deliverance for all of us, from religious "leaders" who pimp the Bible for their own cause(s). A pox on their house.

2010-06-03 19:29:38

Tom Greenacres [unverified] said:

We should be grateful for hubris, because it exposes and brings down the High Assholes among us.

The Bishop clearly is in that category, wearing his hubris like a religious icon.

The CEO of BP has now likewise joined the ranks, exclaiming he "wants his life back" because the calamity his company caused is requiring too much time of him.

If not for hubris we might not have seen the malfeasances of AIG and Enron exposed. And my goodness absent hubris we might never be able to thrown various political rascals from office, yes you Gov Blago.

So, the Bishop's unChristian and reactionary Catholic condemnation of a compassionate nun will probably lessen his authority and influence, and that will be a Good Thing. He just got too big for his britches.

2010-06-04 09:09:30

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

Tom he too often wears robes. Not sure if there are britches underneath.

After the Catholic Church's criminal neglect of the young men their priests abused for decades, no bishop should dare poke his head above the horizon regarding merciful servants like Sister Margaret. How dare him.

2010-06-04 15:35:26

Christian Louboutin [unverified] said:

wonderful share, great article, very usefull for me...thanks

2010-06-12 12:34:51

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