Excommunication

A nun in Phoenix (a hospital administrator) has been excommunicated for approving an abortion to save the life of a mother.

A report on NPR noted the failure of the Catholic church to excommunicate any of the priests or bishops who have molested children and youth.

Bishop Thomas Olmstead also made headlines once for refusing to give communion to an autistic child.

7 thoughts on “Excommunication

  1. While abusive priests or bishops deserve to be punished, the following points should be noted.

    Anyone who procures, participates in or facilitates an abortion is excommunicated latae sententiae. +Olmsted did not excommunicate her; she excommunicated herself by virtue of her facilitation. He merely announced that fact.

    As for the autistic child, the news report indicates the child could not swallow. What was the bishop supposed to do? Give the child communion and then let it fall out of his mouth on the ground? You may disagree with Catholic doctrine calling the Eucharist the Body and Blood of Christ, but believing that it is necessitates certain precautions and a dignity in distributing it. I don’t see the problem here.

    • The child could have received “under the species” of wine.

      Does Olmstead want two deaths? Is it a virtue to let two die to save one?

      Not a single priest or bishop has been excommunicated, while these people are punished with the extremist form of church discipline–and swiftly.

      • One other point:

        “Is it a virtue to let two die to save one?”

        To save their physical lives, or their divine souls? There’s a reason Gianna Beretta Molla was canonized. She died in this world that she might live in Heaven. And the child still lived.

        The Church’s job FIRST and FOREMOST is to get us to Heaven. We can do everything within our power and God’s grace to make this world a better place, but not at the expense of losing our souls.

        “The Christian life has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult, and left untried.” — GKC

  2. Did the parent ask Olmstead to get the wine? And could he have swallowed the wine? Just pointing out there’s other considerations here. And besides, I seriously doubt Olmstead was standing there holding the chalice as well; you know as well as I do that a layman or a deacon would have been there with it off to the side. If the parent felt confident the child could swallow the wine, she almost certainly had the opportunity to pursue that with the chalice-bearer, who would not have been Olmstead.

    As to the abortion:

    You know the answer to that in Catholic theology; you can’t abort a child to save the mother. The nun was an ethicist, and supposedly a Catholic one. She knew, or should have known, the theology.

    As to whether that’s an appropriate rule: the ends don’t justify the means. The problem of the choice of two evils is not in play here, because the child is NOT A MORAL EVIL. I thought you agreed with that as well, Bill. And if the baby is not at fault, there’s no “second evil” to choose. The doctor can do anything he wants short of aborting the child to save the mother’s life; but he can’t abort the child.

    I don’t disagree with you that the priests and bishops should be punished. And I think (as you’ve pointed out before) that Benedict is fighting on the side of good. They should be punished, and that punishment, whether by secular or ecclesial or divine authorities, will come. But that doesn’t have anything to do with these two cases (and really, there’s only one case of punishment here…the nun).

  3. Certainly there is no greater dignity than that found in taking precautions that allow the least of these to participate in the sacraments.

    There must be other cases of physical impairment hindering normal participation in the sacraments. Or don’t catholic priests give communion to persons in hospitals or slow elderly people in church etc. etc.?

    I have a hard time believing that it was the child’s throat not his autism that offended the Bishop. Rather, I don’t buy it. The kid can swallow or he’d be dead. Priests do offer communion to persons with physical ailments including difficulty swallowing.

    It’s the autism not throat that the Bishop could not accommodate. The latter clearly provides zero practical or theological boundary to communion and the former may be under debate but this much is clear- the Bishop knew his refusing communion to an autistic child due to his being autistic was wrong so he said the kid couldn’t swallow.

    • You might be right, Jack. The only reason I think the child actually could not swallow is that the information in the newspaper likely came from the parents (who else would tell the story?). If they disputed that the child could swallow, I think they would have included that information in reporting the story.

      Are there usually precautions to help others? Of course. I think actually is a good demonstration of why churches should use the thin white Hosts that practically dissolve on the tongue; the thicker, harder ones in use today may be difficult for someone who has difficulty swallowing. But give the thinner one to someone with physical difficulties and it simply dissolves; if for some reason the person can’t swallow and it comes back up, it’s no longer the Body and Blood of Christ.

      • Article at Commonweal: “What Is ‘Abortion,’ Anyway?”

        In the Arizona case discussed in Lisa’s post below, I think it is likely that what took place wasn’t an “abortion” from the perspective of Catholic moral teaching. It was a surgical separation of mother from baby, with the foreseen, terrible, and unwanted side effect of causing the baby’s death. And without the procedure, both mother and baby would die.

        Germain Grisez–whom no one ever accused of being either a consequentialist or a Commonweal Catholic–analyzes the situation more fully and along the same lines in a section of f his three-volume The Way of the Lord Jesus entitled “Is Abortion Always the Wrongful Killing of a Human Person?”.

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