Arizona Catholic Hospital Defends Abortion From Bishop’s Letter

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Dec 16, 2010   |   1:13PM   |   Phoenix, AZ

St. Joseph’s Hospital is defending itself from criticism by a Catholic bishop who says it may see its status as a Catholic institution revoked over a controversial abortion it allowed.

Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix plans to declare today whether 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.

“St. Joseph’s and Catholic Healthcare West continue to be in dialogue with Bishop Olmsted and we hope to achieve a resolution. We believe that all life is sacred. In this case we saved the only life we could save, which was the mother’s,” the hospital said in a brief statement.

The Diocese of Phoenix released a statement as well yesterday indicating the two parties appear to be in discussion about the letter Olmsted sent 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.

“The bishop and his staff are working together with Catholic Healthcare West and St. Joseph’s Hospital to find the best way to provide authentic Catholic health care in accordance with the Church’s teaching,” Bishop Olmsted’s spokesman said yesterday.

The diocese described the letter as “private and confidential.”

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.