By Peter J. Smith
HINSDALE, Illinois, November 3, 2009 (LifeSiteNews.com) - A congregation of US Dominican nuns has publicly apologized for the scandal caused by one of its members acting as a volunteer escort at a Chicago area abortion facility, who now faces severe canonical penalties including excommunication and the possibility of dismissal.
LifeSiteNews.com (LSN) first broke the story about Sr. Donna Quinn, O.P., a Dominican nun who is outspokenly in favor of legalized abortion, who had been identified by pro-life witnesses as an escort for the ACU Health Clinic.
Sr. Quinn's religious community, the Wisconsin-based Sinsinawa Dominican Congregation, admitted in a press release posted on their website that they were informed of the allegation several months ago, and, after having completed a period of investigation, the Congregation's leaders have informed the pro-abortion sister that "her actions are in violation of her profession as a Dominican religious."
The congregation reports that its leaders "are working with Sr. Donna to resolve the matter appropriately" and regret the public scandal caused by her actions.
The Sinsinawa Dominicans took the opportunity to re-affirm unequivocally their commitment to the Catholic Church's core teachings, as well as the necessity to witness to the sanctity and dignity of all human life from conception to natural death.
"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," read a statement issued on behalf of the congregation.
"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."
ChicagoCatholicNews.com reports that three Catholic hierarchs are meeting to discuss what remedial action must be taken to correct Sr. Quinn: Cardinal Francis George of the Archdiocese of Chicago, Bishop J. Peter Sartain of Joliet, Illinois and Bishop Robert Morlino of Madison, Wisconsin. An anonymous aide to Morlino said the three were involved since Sr. Quinn's motherhouse is located within Bishop Morlino's territory, but Sr. Quinn resides in the Chicago Archdiocese, while the abortion clinic where she gave formal assistance to abortion as an escort is situated within Sartain's diocese.
Formal cooperation with abortion is considered a grave sin in the Catholic Church that carries an automatic penalty of excommunication or excommunication latae sententiae as it is called within the Church's canon law (Canon 1398). Earlier in July, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith reiterated the penalty of excommunication applied to all parties formally cooperating in abortion, emphasizing that the penalty was an act of mercy, because in that way the Church "makes clear the gravity of the crime committed, the irreparable harm done to the innocent who is put to death, as well as to the parents and the whole of society."
All three prelates will have to take that matter into consideration when they consult, but canon lawyer Edward Peters on his blog says that Sr. Quinn faces the possibility of dismissal from her order if matters are not reconciled.
"Canon 695 calls for the mandatory dismissal of a religious guilty of the delict of abortion described in Canon 1398," writes Peters. The case would be made that Sr. Quinn is an accomplice to abortion under Canon 1329, which would then make Canon 695 applicable.
"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," Peters remarked.
Another possibility would then be Canon 696, Peters continues, "dismissal from religious life can be imposed against one who gives 'grave scandal arising from culpable behavior.'"
That leaves either Sr. Quinn's superiors or the three bishops with the option to pursue Sr. Quinn's dismissal in the Church's courts. With American Archbishop Raymond Burke as the head of the Apostolic Signatura, the Church's supreme court of appeal for canon law cases, it is doubtful that Sr. Quinn could acquit herself of the charges in light of long-standing evidence regarding her support for abortion.
Chicago-area pro-life witnesses informed LifeSiteNews.com that Sr. Quinn has acted as escort for "six years, at least" and they were finally able to identify her after her picture appeared in an article for the Chicago Tribune.
Sr. Quinn has also spoken out in favor of legal abortion for decades and is a coordinator of the National Coalition of American Nuns (NCAN), an organization which opposes the Catholic Church's position on abortion, homosexuality, contraception, and the male priesthood.
See previous coverage by LifeSiteNews.com: