When St. Joseph's Hospital, Phoenix, gave the nod to an abortion which would be accomplished inside its walls, an epic battle began. Sister Margaret McBride, who had been sitting on the ethics board of St. Joseph's, gave her permission to go forward with the abortion and soon after was excommunicated from the church by her bishop, Thomas Olmstad, who, at the same time, stripped the hospital of its Catholic affiliation because the hospital performed the abortion.
The ethics board gave its approval, the abortion went forward, the mother lived, the Bishop excommunicated Sister McBride and withdrew church support--which basically means disallowing the traditionally Roman Catholic hospital to offer mass.
If you look at Bishop Olmsted and Sister Margaret as the protagonists in this battle, one of them truly seems to me to have emulated the life of Jesus. And it’s not the bishop, who has spent much of his adult life as a Vatican bureaucrat climbing the career ladder. It’s Sister Margaret, who like so many nuns has toiled for decades on behalf of the neediest and sickest among us.That's a compelling argument, but so is the Bishop's position on life.
Those on both sides who don't recognize that the St. Joseph's story offers two categorically different, practical definitions of justice on one hand, and mercy the other, are probably too deeply invested in the politics that has arisen around the question of abortion ever since Roe v. Wade.
Seems to me that we can all agree on one take-away here--sometimes things aren't as simple as we would like to believe they are.
And then there's this, a sermon for any Sunday, the words of Marilynne Robinson, in Home, where she gives the line to old Rev. Bouton:
People say to understand is to forgive, but that is an error; you must forgive in order to understand. Until you forgive, you defend yourself against the possibility of understanding. If you forgive, you may indeed still not understand, but you will be ready to understand and that is the posture of grace. . .