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Excommunicated Nun
Question from Michael Petek on 6/3/2010:

I want to ask a moral question about the case of the nun excommunicated for giving clearance for an abortion. Granted, the intervention by action constituted a direct abortion and a grave sin against human life, and is illicit whoever does it.

On the other hand, it was morally certain that the continuation of the pregnancy would have resulted in the deaths of both mother and baby. Submitted, the omission of action would have been a grave violation of the special duty of the doctor, arising from the doctor-patient relationship, to protect the lives of his patients as best he may. If action could have been omitted without sin then it should have been, without more.

It seems that there is a conflict between two just claims, in which case the weaker must give way to the stronger.

If the conflict is resolved in favour of intervention, then conscience is clear. Yet the excommunication was lawful, because a direct abortion was completed and attracts excommunication whether the abortion was on the facts morally illicit or not.

Should the nun in question have confined herself to instructing the doctor in the moral principles involved, allowing him to make up his own mind according to the facts?

Answer by Judie Brown on 6/4/2010:

Dear Mr. Petek

First of all the facts in this case have never been provided to the public, and so we do not know that "the continuation of the pregnancy would have resulted in the deaths of both mother and baby." That is conjecture based on the comments of those attempting to defend the abortion.

The physician should have acted to do all he could to save both patients, and if in that process he had lost the baby, it would not have been because of a direct act of killing, but rather a sad outcome of his lifesaving efforts. That is where the moral difference resides, regardless of the facts in this case.

No abortion is ever morally licit because by its nature it is a direct act of killing.

Judie Brown



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