Irish nun excommunicated for sanctioning an abortion

An Irish nun was excommunicated after she sanctioned an abortion to save a woman’s life in a Catholic hospital in Arizona in 2009. She was later allowed to return to the Church if she went to confession and resigned her position in the hospital. The local Bishop also said that the hospital could no longer identify itself as a Catholic hospital. The hospital had been affiliated with the Catholic Church for 116 years.

It is simply not credible that the new Maternity Hospital at Saint Vincent’s will carry out abortions, if our abortion laws are relaxed, as long as an order of Catholic nuns will have a presence on the Board. The nuns will automatically excommunicate themselves if they concur with any decision that would allow an abortion to be carried out in the hospital. It is surely unthinkable that they would ever agree to this.

Sister Margaret McBride was Vice President of Mission Integration, and was also on the hospital Ethics Committee, in Saint Joseph’s Hospital in Phoenix Arizona, which is owned by Catholic Healthcare West. She concurred with a decision to sanction an abortion for a woman whose life was in danger.

The local Bishop, Thomas Olmsted, stated that Sister McBride had automatically excommunicated herself from the church by concurring in the hospital Ethics Committee’s decision to abort the pregnancy. A diocesan statement said that Sister McBride “held a position of authority at the hospital and was frequently consulted on ethical matters.”

The Bishop added that: “Every Catholic institution is obliged to defend human life at all its stages; from conception to natural death. This obligation is also placed upon every Catholic individual. If a Catholic formally cooperates in the procurement of an abortion, they are automatically excommunicated by that action. The Catholic Church will continue to defend life and proclaim the evil of abortion without compromise, and must act to correct even her own members if they fail in this duty.”

The Catholic Church attaches the canonical penalty of excommunication to anyone that is involved in an abortion (Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 2272). This penalty is imposed by virtue of Canon 1398: ‘A person who procures a completed abortion incurs a latae sententiae excommunication.’

Sister McBride was later reinstated into the Catholic Church, after fulfilling two requirements: that she go to confession before a priest, and that she resign from her position in the hospital. She returned in a new position as the hospital’s Vice President for Organisational Outreach.

Sister McBride later met the woman again, when the woman returned to the hospital after taking street drugs. The woman thanked Sister McBride for saving her life and apologised for the problems that she had caused for the nun.

Sister McBride said “If I were to say where I thought I was going to get my healing, it would have been from the church. But the healing really came from the woman, who graciously told me that her life had been changed because of me, but that now she felt guilty that so many things had happened to me.”

Bizarrely, Sister McBride said of her excommunication that: “in that strange sort of way, it connected me even more to the church, and even more to the suffering church.”


“Bishop Thomas Olmsted” by patentboy is licensed with CC BY-NC-ND 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit

Atheist Ireland


  1. Avatar
    Emmanuel April 30, 2017

    Atheist Ireland giving out inaccurate news to push their Anti-Catholic Rhetoric!

    • Avatar
      Derek Walsh May 03, 2017

      Hi Emmanuel,
      Accuracy is important to us, and we do not believe that it is either ethical or expedient for us to spread inaccurate information.
      Would you mind explaining which parts you think are inaccurate, so that, if needed, we can update the piece?