Last week, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Phoenix made the sort of morally outrageous decision that we've come to expect from the celibate male hierarchs who govern that battered church.
Nicholas Kristoff captured the absurd moral reasoning of the Rt. Rev. Thomas Olmsted in a column last week, but just to review: Sister Margaret McBride, a member of the ethics panel of a Catholic hospital concurred with other panel members when they decided that an abortion was morally permissible in the case of a mother with three children 11 weeks into a pregnancy that would likely kill her. For her pains, she was excommunicated.
The diocese's explanation of its position is here. Read it while keeping in mind that had nature taken its course, as Bishop Olmsted would have preferred, the pregnant woman and her not-yet-viable fetus, would both probably have died, leaving three motherless children behind. The bishop evinces no concern for those children, writing: "It is not better to save one life while murdering another. It is not better that the mother live the rest of her existence having had her child killed."
Kristoff notes the harsh and immediate sanction imposed on Sister Margaret in comparison to the strategy to evasion and postponement that the Church has employed in dealing with clergy who rape children. His point is valid, but not what interests me here.
This incident is the latest is a string of statements and revelations that indicate just how lightly many Catholic hierarchs value the lives of the people who sit in their pews and drop their money into the collection basket. The willingness to inflict pain--and in this instance quite possibly death--on the faithful in the name of doctrine is a form of sadism. My concern is that we as Episcopalians are a) either too polite, or too concerned about ecumenical relations to say so, and b) far too timid in reaching out to our Catholic sisters and brothers with the good news that there is another church in which they would feel liturgically at home and would no longer be dictated to by a celibate hierarchy that does not have their best interests at heart.
We needn't be shy about this. The Vatican has done its best to woo Episcopalians who don't believe that all of the sacraments of the church should be open to women, gays and lesbians. We should be no less open in our invitation to Catholics who have come to realize how morally debased the leaders of their church have become.