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May 27, 2010

Moral Authority in Pittsburgh and Phoenix

Excellent story in today's Post Gazette by Eleanor Chute about Sister Lynn Rettinger, the 5-foot-3 principal of Shadyside's Sacred Heart Elementary School who challenged a thief that had taken a wallet out of a parked car.

The perpetrator, who recognized moral authority and was smart enough to not mess with Sister Lynn, handed the goods over, said he was sorry, and walked away.

From the Post Gazette:
I said to him, 'You need to give me what you have.' That's what I say to children if I know they have something they shouldn't. I say, 'You need to give me what's in your pocket.'

What's the key to delivering the line so it gets results? First of all, Sister Lynn does her homework. She knows she has good reason to suspect there is something. "You want to be pretty darn sure he has it. You don't want to make a fool of yourself," she said.

Sister Lynn doesn't ask whether students have something. "That forces them into a lie. ... I don't want to do that."

With the statement, she said, "If you say it firmly enough, they think, 'She really does know what I have.' " She added, "Nine out of 10 times, it works."

I think there's a tremendous wisdom in her comment that I've highlighted in yellow. What a tremendous presence and moral authority she must have.

Which brings me to today's story in the NY Times (which you'll probably see in the Saturday Post-Gazette.) about Sister Margaret McBride, a senior administrator of St. Joseph’s Hospital in Phoenix who has recently been excommunicated by her bishop.
A 27-year-old mother of four arrived at the hospital in her third month of pregnancy. According to local news reports and accounts from the hospital and some of its staff members, the mother suffered from a serious complication called pulmonary hypertension which created a high probability that the strain of continuing pregnancy would kill her.

"In this tragic case, the treatment necessary to save the mother’s life required the termination of an 11-week pregnancy,” the hospital said in a statement. “This decision was made after consultation with the patient, her family, her physicians, and in consultation with the Ethics Committee.” Sister McBride is on that committee.
Apparently the Bishop interviewed Sister McBride, she explained the situation and the decision, and the bishop informed her of her new status.

Unbelievable. The Catholic hospital and the ethics committee needed to make a judgement call in a terribly complex situation. They made a judgement based on expert medical advice - saving the mother's life required the abortion.

So the question I'm left wondering is, how come a Pittsburgh thief does a better job of recognizing moral authority than a Phoenix bishop?


Anonymous said...

You've never met sister Lynn !!

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