Phoenix Bishop Declares Hospital No Longer Catholic

Health Center Violated Church Teaching on Abortion

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PHOENIX, DEC. 22, 2010 ( Bishop Thomas Olmsted issued a decree revoking the Catholic status of St. Joseph’s Hospital in Phoenix, due to its violation of Church teaching in practices such as abortion and contraception.

The bishop of Phoenix issued the decree Tuesday revoking the hospital’s permission to identify itself as Catholic, noting, “I cannot verify that this health care organization will provide health care consistent with authentic Catholic moral teaching.”

In a statement also publicized Tuesday, the prelate noted that “measures will be taken to avoid the impression that the hospital is authentically Catholic, such as the prohibition of celebrating Mass at the hospital and the prohibition of reserving the Blessed Sacrament in the chapel.”

He explained that the hospital, and its parent company, San Francisco-based Catholic Healthcare West (CHW), have violated the Ethical and Religious Directives of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops for health care institutions.

Bishop Omsted stated that he has been working with the affiliated institutions for the past seven years, since he took over the leadership of that diocese.

“I objected strongly to CHW’s lack of compliance with these directives, and told CHW leaders that this constituted cooperation in evil that must be corrected; because if a healthcare entity wishes to call itself Catholic (as in ‘Catholic’ Healthcare West), it needs to adhere to the teachings of the Church in all of its institutions,” he stated.

“In all my seven years as bishop of Phoenix, I have continued to insist that this scandalous situation needed to change,” the prelate reported. “Sadly, over the course of these years, CHW has chosen not to comply.”

Tragic decision

The bishop found out earlier this year that an abortion had taken place at St. Joseph’s Hospital, in direct violation of Church teaching.

He stated: “It was thus my duty to declare to the person responsible for this tragic decision that allowed an abortion at St. Joseph’s, Sister Margaret McBride, R.S.M., that she had incurred an excommunication by her formal consent to the direct taking of the life of this baby. I did this in a confidential manner, hoping to spare her public embarrassment.”

Bishop Omsted noted that since that incident, communication with the hospital’s leadership “only eroded my confidence about their commitment to the Church’s Ethical and Religious Directives for

Moreover, over the past few weeks he learned of various other violations taking place at affiliated facilities, such as contraception counseling and distribution, voluntary sterilizations, and abortions when the pregnancy was the result of rape or incest.

Many of these practices took place as part of a government program called the Mercy Care Plan, which brought CHW and the hospital over $100 million in annual revenue.

The bishop reported that the administrator who reported these procedures admitted that the hospital and CHW “are aware that this plan consists in formal cooperation in evil actions which are contrary to Church teaching.”

Therefore, the prelate decreed that in the Phoenix Diocese, CHW “is not committed to following the teaching of the Catholic Church and therefore this hospital cannot be considered Catholic.”

Bishop Omsted concluded: “For seven years now, I have tried to work with CHW and St. Joseph’s, and I have hoped and prayed that this day would not come, that this decree would not be needed; however, the faithful of the diocese have a right to know whether institutions of this importance are indeed Catholic in identity and practice.”

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