On the Mirror of Justice blog, see http://mirrorofjustice.blogs.com/mirrorofjustice/2010/05/agree-with-sr-margaret-mcbrides-decision-or-not.html#tp, Michael Perry links to a story about Bishop Olmstead, who informed a Catholic nun that she had incurred the canonical penalty of excommunication for her role in approving an abortion. I don’t intend to enter into the canon law aspects of the case.
The underlying moral issue is, though, of utmost importance. The Catholic nun, Sister Margaret McBride, approved the abortion on the grounds that the abortion was necessary to save the life of the mother. There is some doubt about whether this was in fact the case but assuming that this were true, what do folks think of the moral issue?
In my view, the abortion here (even under Sister McBride’s understanding of the facts) violated the moral principle that one may not directly intend to take the life of an innocent human being. That principle holds even when there is a good reason (eg., saving the life of another) for such an act. When the basic moral principle is undermined, we are, as John Finnis noted some years ago, all in jeopardy. For our own life would then depend on someone thinking that no greater good would be accomplished or greater evil avoided by killing us. (For a discussion of this point in the context of assisted suicide, see http://www.uffl.org/vol11/myers11.pdf.