Bishop: Arizona Hospital May Lose Catholic Standing Over Abortion

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Dec 15, 2010   |   1:38PM   |   Phoenix, AZ

Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix plans to declare on Friday that St. Joseph’s Hospital is not longer a Catholic one unless its parent organization changes its stance on abortion.

The hospital has been facing questions for the better part of a year over a 2009 abortion which the hospital’s ethics committee deemed necessary to save the life of the mother.

Olmsted sent a letter November 22 to Lloyd H. Dean, president of Catholic Healthcare West about the abortion after CHW relied on the analysis of . Therese Lysaught, an associate professor of theology and director of graduate studies at Marquette University, to justify the abortion. Olmsted said it is his job, not the hospital’s to interpret and explain Catholic moral teachings on abortion and enforce them within the diocese.

“There cannot be a tie in this debate,” Olmsted wrote. “Until this point in time, you have not acknowledged my authority to settle this question.”

In that letter, he said St. Joseph’s Hospital should align itself with the policies of the National Catholic Bioethics Center or submit to a review of its policies by the diocesan medical ethics board to continue to remain in good standing with the Catholic Church.

“Failure to fulfill these requirements will lead me to decree the suspension of my endorsement of St. Joseph’s Hospital, forcing me to notify the Catholic faithful that St. Joseph’s Hospital no longer qualifies as a ‘Catholic’ hospital,” the bishop wrote.

But he said he doesn’t expect CHW to change its policies.

“Because of this, I must act now,” he wrote, to ensure “no further such violations” take place at the hospital and to “repair the grave scandal to the Christian faithful that has resulted from the procedure.”

Olmsted also blasted CHW in the letter, saying it was operating Catholic hospitals outside of the directives of the Catholic bishops in terms of abortion policy.

“CHW authorizes sterilizations and I know not what other immoral acts. I continue to find this arrangement deeply troubling,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Catholic Culture web site notes CHW president Dean has supported President Barack Obama, his health care policies resulting in taxpayer funding of abortions, and made $10,000 in contributions to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which supports pro-abortion candidates. It also indicates Dean gave $2,300 to Obama for America in September 2007.

The women in the abortion case received one because she had a pulmonary hypertension, a condition that limits the ability of the heart and lungs to function that would be made more difficult or potentially fatal by a pregnancy.

Sister Margaret Mary McBride, the hospital’s vice president of mission integration, was a member of the committee, including patients and doctors, that made the decision. Coming under fire for okaying the abortion, she has been reassigned to new duties.

The hospital has defended its decision saying such decisions are “guided by our values of dignity, justice and respect, and the belief that all life is sacred.”

“We have always adhered to the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services as we carry out our healing ministry and we continue to abide by them,” it added in a statement. “In those instances where the Directives do not explicitly address a clinical situation – such as when a pregnancy threatens a woman’s life – an Ethics Committee is convened to help our caregivers and their patients make the most life-affirming decision.”

The hospital continued, “In this tragic case, the treatment necessary to save the mother’s life required the termination of an 11-week pregnancy.”

“This decision was made after consultation with the patient, her family, her physicians, and in consultation with the Ethics Committee, of which Sr. Margaret McBride is a member,” it said.

At the time, Olmsted warned that Catholics who participate in an abortion face consequences.

“I am gravely concerned by the fact that an abortion was performed several months ago in a Catholic hospital in this Diocese. I am further concerned by the hospital’s statement that the termination of a human life was necessary to treat the mother’s underlying medical condition,” he said.

“An unborn child is not a disease. While medical professionals should certainly try to save a pregnant mother’s life, the means by which they do it can never be by directly killing her unborn child. The end does not justify the means,” he added.

The bishop said faithful Catholics are obliged to defend human life from conception to natural death and reminded that a Catholic who “formally cooperates in the procurement of an abortion” is “automatically excommunicated by that action.”

Bishop Olmsted added, “We always must remember that when a difficult medical situation involves a pregnant woman, there are two patients in need of treatment and care; not merely one. The unborn child’s life is just as sacred as the mother’s life, and neither life can be preferred over the other. A woman is rightly called ‘mother’ upon the moment of conception and throughout her entire pregnancy is considered to be ‘with child.’”

“The direct killing of an unborn child is always immoral, no matter the circumstances, and it cannot be permitted in any institution that claims to be authentically Catholic,” he concluded.