The National Catholic Reporter announced this week (May 18/2010) "A Catholic nun, who was a member of a Phoenix Catholic hospital's ethics committee, was excommunicated and reassigned last week for her role in allowing an abortion to take place at the hospital, according to the Phoenix diocese. The surgery was considered necessary to save the life of a critically ill patient [mother of four].
The surgery took place at St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix. The decision, involving Sister of Mercy Margaret McBride, physicians and the patient, drew a sharp rebuke from Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted, head of the Phoenix diocese. He said abortion is not permissible under any circumstances."
The article brought an overwhelming number of responses (pro and con) from readers who supported or took issue with Bishop Olmstead as well as official church teaching on abortion.
Catholics have not learned (indeed have not been taught) to depend on a direct relationship with their Creator. Perhaps a new sacrament needs to be introduced, similar to a Rite of Passage that finally severs our umbilical cord from the religious institution - we graduate! Catholics as adults need to take responsibility for their own spiritual development including all moral and ethical decisions and responsibilities. Catholics and indeed other Christian religious institutions need to defer to the Holy Spirit that exists within each human being. Does scripture not support this claim: "But the Advocate,the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you." (John 14:26)
The role of the church is to help and assist us in letting go and listen to what our heart is telling us. As adults we must accept that we either trust in the church or we trust in God – but we cannot serve two masters. This is the dilemma we now find ourselves into with regard to many of the issues within the church. We have simply failed to accept responsibility for our own faith development – out of fear we have simply abrogated our faith to someone else. Religion fails whenever it sees itself as the necessary intermediate to God.
Franciscan priest, Richard Rohr has suggested that "a mature adult relationship with God is not possible in the beginning because we fear and avoid intimacy. We settle, instead, for tribal customs, laws and occupations as our identity. Membership in the group will become a gateway to, but often a substitute for personal encounter and inner experience" Interestingly, Fr. Rohr refers to 'non-groupthink' as Universalism and states "the only thing more dangerous than the individual ego is the group ego". Church dogma and doctrine can be helpful but eventually need to point to the greater authority – which can only be found in our hearts. Don't blame your church for something you yourself need to take responsibility!
Many Catholics see official church teachings as the final word on many of the issues facing the world today. These same individuals believe that to be a 'good Catholic' means to accept these teachings without question and without any private or personal discernment- and the need to interpret these teachings against the greater Gospel values.
Stop bickering about who is right and who is wrong. Who is in and who is out. Let us begin by trusting the God within - as I'm sure Sr. Margaret McBride and her patient did make this very private and difficult decision. Grant them and yourself the peace that Jesus confers on them.