Christ among the Doctors of the Law



Monday, October 26, 2009

Canonical options in the Sr. Donna Quinn case

Frankly, chances are slim that the Sinsinawa Dominicans will do anything about their Sr. Donna Quinn who publicly and formally cooperates in the death of babies by abortion. Chances are slim that anything will be done about her because, well, such are the times we live in: a Catholic religious can act for years as an abortion clinic escort and cause barely a ripple in her religious community, the local church, or in Rome. History won't believe it.

But a slim chance is still some chance, and the moral poverty of the age is no bar to our doing what we can in response to such conduct. I can at least point out the possibility of canonical consequences for Sr. Donna.

1. Canon 695 calls for the mandatory dismissal of a religious guilty of the delict of abortion described in Canon 1398. A case can be made, I think, that Sr. Donna is an accomplice to abortion under Canon 1329, which, in turn, might bring her within the scope of the dismissal provision of Canon 695. The novelty of nuns serving as murder mistresses at abortion clinics means that there is not much jurisprudence for such cases, I grant, but it is still a theory worth exploring.

If, however, a more direct process is desired, Canon 696 seems a better place to start.

2. Under Canon 696, dismissal from religious life can be imposed against one who gives "grave scandal arising from culpable behavior". This unusually broad language allows superiors to move against a religious whose specific conduct could not have been predicted when the revised Code was being drafted (perhaps, like Sr. Donna's, it could scarcely have been imagined!), but which we now know can be both imagined and committed. So, to the extent that conducting babies to their death is scandalous behavior for a religious woman, Sr. Donna deserves dismissal.

3. Various provisions of penal law, for example Canon 1369 (authorizing a "just penalty" against those who use the means of social communication to gravely injure good morals or to excite contempt against religion or the Church) are applicable, I suggest, in response to the kind of verbiage that Sr. Donna directs from time to time against religion in general and the Catholic Church in particular. But again, all of this seems self-evident.

Or it would, in any other age. +++

Over at AmericanPapist, a good question was posted: "The motherhouse (commonly called 'The Mound') is located in Sinsinawa - the Diocese of Madison. Donna Quinn lives in the Archdiocese of Chicago and the abortion clinic she is 'volunteering' at is located in the Diocese of Joliet. So that leaves a question, Which Bishop should take action?"

Of course, religious superiors should take action regarding a member's basic status, but if they fail to act satisfactorily, arch/diocesan authority can still move in regard to potential delicts. Penal jurisdiction is in the alternative, so all three arch/dioceses would have jurisdiction to proceed here, Madison (because Sr. Donna has domicile there per cc. 103 and 1408), Chicago (because she has at least quasi-domicile there by cc. 102, 103, and 1408), and Joliet (because it is the place of the delict to which she might be an accomplice per c. 1412).

The problem is never one of finding an authority able to act - - canon law can always do that; the problem is finding an authority willing to act.

Post Script, October 29: In an exchange over at Jimmy Akin's website, I posted something that might be of interest to my blog readers. The context is the ridiculousness of Sr. Donna's claim that people need protection from pro-lifers. My comment was as follows:

The most hateful, foul, vitriolic harangue ever -- and I mean ever -- launched on me was delivered by an abortion clinic escort while I stood with literature in the parking lot outside of an abortion clinic, oh, must have been 30 years ago now. As the venom (I have no other word for it) spewed forth, I'd have sworn, I saw EVIL in the woman's eyes. It deeply frightened me. I thought I was in a scene from The Exorcist, facing Satan. Several people who saw it happen ran over to help me walk away. I slumped down on some steps for several minutes, and I couldn't even think. I don't think I have ever gone to an abortion clinic since without asking for the special protection of my Guardian Angel.

Post Post Script, November 2: This, from the Sinsinawa Domincans website: Public Statement of the Sinsinawa Dominican Congregation 11/2/09. Several months ago, the leadership of the Sinsinawa Dominicans was informed that Sister Donna Quinn, OP, acted as a volunteer escort at a Chicago area clinic that among other procedures, performs abortions. After investigating the allegation, Congregation leaders have informed Sr. Donna that her actions are in violation of her profession as a Dominican religious. They regret that her actions have created controversy and resulted in public scandal. They are working with Sr. Donna to resolve the matter appropriately.

Congregation leaders offer the following statement on behalf of members of the Congregation. We as Sinsinawa Dominican women are called to proclaim the Gospel through the ministry of preaching and teaching to participate in the building of a holy and just society. As Dominican religious, we fully support the teaching of the Catholic Church regarding the dignity and value of every human life from conception to natural death. We believe that abortion is an act of violence that destroys the life of the unborn. We do not engage in activity that witnesses to support of abortion.

More news: LifeSiteNews (nov. 3); ChicagoCatholicNews (nov. 4 updates); Carl Olson (4 nov.)