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Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted

Bishop who barred Irish nun refused autistic child communion

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Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted

Thomas J. Olmsted, the Catholic bishop at the center of the abortion excommunication controversy once refused communion to a 10-year-old child with autism.

He refused to allow the child, who could not swallow, to take communion.

Olmsted, of Phoenix, Arizona, also tried to shield his archdiocese from clerical sex abuse suits by incorporating the local parishes individually.

Tellingly, he did not speak out on behalf of the victims, preferring to protect the financial interests of the Church.

Olmsted, described as a "hardline Catholic," is drawing major fire after his decision to excommunicate a nun who approved an abortion to save a pregnant woman's life.

Olmsted condemned Sister Margaret McBride, a Catholic nun and a long time administrator at St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix, after she backed the ethics committee's decision to terminate an 11-week pregnancy to save the mother's life.

Olmsted said she had to be "automatically excommunicated."

The patient concerned had a rare and often fatal condition in which the pregnancy can cause the death of the mother.

Suzanne Pfister, a hospital vice president, defended the hospital's action.

"In this tragic case, treatment required the termination of an 11-week pregnancy," Pfister said.

Olmsted disagreed.

He said he was "gravely concerned" by the hospital's decision and said, "I am further concerned by the hospital's statement that the termination of a human life was necessary to treat the mother's underlying medical condition.

"An unborn child is not a disease. While medical professionals should certainly try to save a pregnant mother's life, the means by which they do it can never be by directly killing her unborn child. The end does not justify the means."

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