By Hilary White

April 2, 2009 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Katherine Hancock Ragsdale, an openly lesbian minister in the American Episcopal Church, has caused a stir on the internet with a sermon, posted to her weblog, in which she called abortion a "blessing" and called for the suppression of rights of conscience for health care workers.

In her sermon, titled, "Our Work is Not Done," she wrote that there should be no restrictions whatever on abortion: "If we were to find that, while we were here, Congress had acted to insure that abortion would always be legal, that would be a very good thing; but our work would not be done."

"If we were suddenly to find a host of trained providers, insuring access in every city, town, village, and military base throughout the world, that would be a very good thing; but our work would not be done."

Rev. Ragsdale, a director of a left-leaning think tank, Political Research Associates, was appointed on March 30th as the next president of Episcopal Divinity School (EDS) in Cambridge, MA. She was the unanimous choice of the School’s Board of Trustees and will begin her duties on July 1, 2009. Catholic Online news service reported that she has previously served on the boards of NARAL Pro-Choice America and the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice.

She posted the sermon, given in Birmingham Alabama in 2007, in August last year, but it has flashed around the "bloggosphere" in the last 24 hours after it was linked to by two of the most popular American Catholic bloggers on the internet, "Diogenes" and Fr. John Zhulsdorf.

The sermon was removed from her blog earlier today after 59 commenters urged her to repent of her support for abortion.

In her sermon, Ragsdale denied the assertions of some "progressive" clergy who call abortion a "tragedy," saying abortion is instead a "blessing." "When a woman finds herself pregnant due to violence and chooses an abortion," she said, "it is the violence that is the tragedy; the abortion is a blessing."

She described various situations in which "abortion is a blessing", including in cases of foetal "anomalies," rape or incest, material poverty and "lack of social support."

"When a woman becomes pregnant within a loving, supportive, respectful relationship; has every option open to her; decides she does not wish to bear a child; and has access to a safe, affordable abortion - there is not a tragedy in sight—only blessing."

Rev. Ragsdale described the "heroic" actions of abortion workers in keeping the local abortion facility running during a protest by "Operation Save America."

When a woman can receive an abortion at any stage, and for any reason or no reason, Rev. Ragsdale wrote, "our work" in the abortion lobby "will be done."

She said that although "we in the religious community" have a history of defending rights of conscience, the situation of health care workers and pharmacists who object to abortion is not analogous.

"There’s a world of difference between those who engage in such civil disobedience, and pay the price, and doctors and pharmacists who insist that the rest of the world reorder itself to protect their consciences," she said. If a doctor or pharmacist objects to abortion or dispensing contraceptives, she wrote, they should "choose another field."

The news that a virulent supporter of abortion has been appointed to a prominent leadership position in the US Episcopal Church has jumped the Atlantic with coverage by the UK’s popular Catholic blogger, Damian Thompson, who writes for the Daily Telegraph newspaper’s website.

Thompson wrote, "Do not, please, make the mistake of assuming that she is an unrepresentative extremist: liberal Anglicans in America are among the most fervent supporters of abortion in the world, outstripping even atheists in their enthusiasm for this gruesome procedure."

The extremely popular pseudonymous blogger, "Diogenes," wrote on the Catholic Culture website that the presence of such pro-abortion clergy in the Episcopal Church is ultimately due to the failure of leadership in the Anglican Church as a whole, and specifically the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams.

"Doctor Williams’ ‘big tent’ approach to doctrinal deviance has earned him the congratulation of the media (and the deviants)."

"At some point a man has to make a choice: he can either be a critic—aloof, sceptical, ironic—or he can commit himself to the battle. But Williams wants to have it both ways, watching the game from the sidelines and then trying to crowd into the team photo when it’s over."