Response to article on excommunications in Phoenix abortion case-NCR 18 May 2010
This case is an example of how incorrect language leads to incorrect actions. The phrase "unborn child" was--apparently--used by the religious authorities to justify the excommunication of Sr. McBride and others who concurred with the termination of the pregnancy. There is no such being In either canon law or civil law as an "unborn child". An embryo or fetus only becomes a "child" upon birth; until then it is human tissue and does not qualify--either in church or civil law--for the status of being a "person". Only "persons" are subject to the law and its protections. Bishops, priests, lawyers, judges, and others involved in making critical decisions such as the one at issue in this case have a moral obligation to make "informed" recommendations in such cases. The use of the term "unborn child" reveals a level of ignorance--at best--or deliberate obfuscation that serves no one except ideologues.
The circumstances in Roman Catholic moral theology in which the death of an embryo or fetus is morally acceptable as a result of an allowable medical intervention are arcane at best and certainly beyond the expertise of most of the people engaged in the kind of emergency decision making required in most such cases. The excommunication of Sr. McBride and all others who participated in advising or performing the termination of pregnancy in this case--including the pregnant woman!--is a prime example of the kind of second guessing and uncharitable arrogance and lack of basic Christian concern for the welfare of others that characterizes many of those who are in leadership positions in the church.
Would it really have been a better expression of the Christian message to allow the pregnant woman to die along with the 11-week old embryo?