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Phoenix bishop explains decision; CHA backs hospital in abortion case

Catholic World News - December 22, 2010

At a December 21 news conference, Bishop Thomas Olmstead of Phoenix, Arizona, explained his decision to lift the “Catholic” designation from St. Joseph’s Hospital after hospital officials declined to offer adequate guarantees that they would abide by Catholic moral directives.

Bishop Olmsted said that in an admittedly difficult case, the hospital had violated the Ethical and Religious Directives approved by the US bishops in performing an abortion for a woman whose life was reportedly endangered by her pregnancy. Without disputing the hospital’s finding that the woman (and thus the unborn child as well) would have died if the pregnancy had continued, the bishop explained that it is never justifiable to take one human life in order to save another. The operation performed in the controversial case, he noted, did not address the medical problems of the mother; it only caused the death of the unborn child.

Bishop Olmsted expressed more general concerns about the direction of Catholic Healthcare West (CHW), the California-based corporation of which St. Joseph’s Hospital is a part. He said another CHW institution in Arizona remains a Catholic hospital, but admitted that he has come continuing concerns about CHW leadership.

In a related development, Archbishop George Niederauer of San Francisco said that he plans to “initiate a dialogue” with leaders of CHW—which has corporate headquarters in San Francisco—to discuss the concerns that Bishop Olmsted has raised about CHW policies.

Sister Carol Keehan, the president of the Catholic Health Association, directly challenged Bishop Olmsted’s decision. She argued that St. Joseph’s Hospital had “carefully evaluated the patient’s situation and correctly applied the “Ethical and Religious Directives” in the case that stirred the dispute. Dismissing Bishop Olmsted’s broader objections about corporate policies, Sister Keehan issued a statement praising CHW for a “long and stellar history in protection of life at all stages.”

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Show 2 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: raynearhood3144 - Dec. 22, 2010 9:39 PM ET USA

    Yes it would be good for the USCCB to force the CHA to remove the word "Catholic" from its name. Unfortunately, there are probably still to many bishops who agree with the CHA's progressive position.

  • Posted by: TheJournalist64 - Dec. 22, 2010 7:21 PM ET USA

    This is a critical moment. CHA has thrown down the gauntlet before the bishops, expecting them to collectively back off. I wrote Bp. Olmstead today expressing support and promising prayers for both him and the hospital. That might be a fitting way to encourage the bishops in general to stand firm. Had they done this in Spring 1973, we might not be lamenting now the death of millions of our young. Maybe even Social Security would not be at the brink of catastrophe.

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